A couple of months ago, I wrote the follow words on my Facebook page:
Here’s a lesson I’ve learned about myself In the past 72hrs: I’ve spent more time defending myself against the small number of personal attacks made by mean-spirited people than I’ve spent saying “thank you” to the hundreds of well-meaning folks who’ve shown their love and support. I can argue for 5 hours with a total stranger, but can’t find 5 minutes to reply to a message from a lifelong friend. Isn’t that interesting? You can be literally surrounded by immeasurable love and still feel like you’re on a battlefield because of the behavior of one or two trolls. So much of life’s quality depends on how and where we focus our attention. Good things can happen to you, but it still takes eyes to see them. My dad was talking to me once about the law of attraction. He said that lots of people talk about the law of attraction, but that they need to talk about the law of recognition. Life blesses us with many miracles, but we have to practice the art of taking notice, of paying attention, of looking for evidence of well-being.
You can spend 5 hours yelling back at the people in the peanut gallery, but you’ll be far more blessed by 5 minutes on the phone or over coffee with someone who wants to help you move forward. I’ve learned two things about dealing with negative energy: On one hand, you have to be intellectually honest about the bad things that go on in your life. You can’t try so hard to be positive that you end up lying to yourself. There is no freedom without truth. On the other hand, you can’t let negativity consume you, Being realistic doesn’t have to mean being fatalistic. The purpose of acknowledging our problems is so we can tap into our individual and collective power to overcome them. This only becomes possible when we align ourselves with those who are actively seeking progress. So thank you to those who’ve shown love and to those who’ve inspired me to grow from my experience. Your words of encouragement have been duly noted and I promise to put their energy to good use.
That sounded great, but then I was tested even more. Shortly thereafter, a blogger wrote a pretty nasty attack piece on me. Apparently, I hit a personal or political nerve when I chose to tell the story of an unfortunate experience of harassment and abuse that happened to my wife and I nearly three years ago. When I read his post, I got defensive and I wrote a very lengthy response. Nearly everyone in my life told me to let it go and just ignore him. I couldn’t hear their words. I went ahead with my intention and I gave a detailed criticism of his critique. In the end, it didn’t change anything. His mind was still made up and I still refuse to apologize about coming forward with our story. I’m not going to link to his article nor am I going to link to my response. I’m also not going to repeat my story here. I’m writing about this today because I believe that it’s more important to give attention to the people and things that inspire us to make positive differences in the world than anything else. And since I gave my energy and attention to someone who chose to be antagonistic, I feel a moral obligation to give my attention to words that are supportive and encouraging.
A friend of mine wrote a status update on Facebook today about the “other” folder in the message inbox. I had no clue that such a folder existed. So I decided to check my “other” messages and I saw this:
When I first shared my story in an interview I did with Isaac Morehouse nearly three years ago, I said the following:
Some people, for reasons as small as a bad night’s sleep to factors as grand as being a victim of abuse, are out there carrying around all kinds of potentially harmful thoughts. When we interact with these people, it’s extremely easy to let them determine our mood and, hence, our quality of life. Refusing to let anyone steal your fire means you don’t become a sponge for other people’s energy. It means you don’t allow your inner spark, your enthusiasm, your passion for life to be snuffed out by someone who’s taking their unhappiness out on you. If you let them steal your fire, they win.
Well, that sounds nice, younger version of T.K. Coleman, but a few people made me really want to lose my fire and then some. Such is the journey. Beautiful in theory. Often a mess in application.
A couple of days ago, I wrote this on my Tough-Minded Optimism Facebook Page
A thousand people can tell you they support you, yet one person can speak words of contempt and it’s the only thing we can remember. This is a tendency we must fight against. In a world where popular media thrives on the broadcasting of ignorance and hate, we must not forget to radiate frequencies of knowledge and love.
By acknowledging this person’s support in the same public manner that I got defensive over another person’s attack, I hope to reinforce my conviction to be persistent in the broadcasting of love and inspiration in spite of the antagonistic energies that others may choose to radiate.
To all who have ever directed support and sympathy to me or anyone else during a time of need, I offer my highest gratitude. To everyone else, keep your fire burning. The world needs our light more than ever before.