You Can’t Just Stay On The Fence

“When your intelligence don't tell you something ain't right, your conscience gives you a tap on the shoulder and says ‘Hold on.' If it don't, you're a snake.” As one might expect, Carl Jung expressed Presley's folk wisdom in somewhat more formal language; but the idea is the same, “Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, 'Something is out of tune.'” Christopher Reeve also heard that inner voice, “I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don't know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.”

The recurring belief is that the voice of conscience is ever-present and far less fallible than the voice of reason. For example, Josh Billings asserted, “Reason often makes mistakes but conscience never does.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau made the same point this way, “Reason deceives us often; conscience never.” Although stated less dogmatically, Joseph Cook agreed with Billings and Rousseau, “Conscience is our magnetic compass; reason our chart.”

Unfortunately, that little voice may not be quite the totally reliable key to recognizing the good and right some say it is. Samuel Butler pointed out, “Conscience is thoroughly well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.” As it turns out, conscience has an attitude. If you don't pay attention to it, it may just stop paying attention to you. Were that not problem enough, what conscience is saying isn't always clear. You can listen and still struggle to understand. As William Dean Howells pointed out, “The difficulty is to know conscience from self-interest.”

Conscience and reason are having a fight. They go back and forth all through the night. It's a right to the nose and a left to the chin. When morning comes, they start over again.

Reason says that it makes perfect sense. It's trying to nudge you off of the fence. The tug of conscience is hard to abide. It's pulling you hard to the other side.

You sway back and forth, first left and then right. Do you do what makes sense or do what seems right? Conscience gives you a pull, then reason a push. If this isn't resolved, you'll be dumped on your tush.

Does reason prevail or does the little voice win? Do you take one on the nose or one on the chin? Either way you go, it doesn't feel good. Do you do what makes sense or do what you should?

Calm yourself and try to unwind. Take a deep breath and make up your mind. Do you go with what you think or with that little voice? It's up to you; and you live with your choice.

Now you know so there you go.

Puppy Power

Puppy Power

I’m sitting here watching our puppy bark at his reflection in the window in the door to the back yard. His goal is to get outside but he has a problem. There is a guard dog on the other side of the window, staying right with him, bark for bark, preventing his exit. He first runs up to the other dog, tries to get past him, then backs away to analyze and evaluate. They go back–and–forth like this for a few minutes until pup is distracted by some unseen and unheard temptation in the kitchen.

Dumb, dumb dog. That is certainly not anything you would ever find me doing: barking at my shadow in the window. I’m sure you never behave like that either. After all, we are mature, responsible adults who can distinguish reality from our reflections in the window. The things that frighten us are definitely there and absolutely justify our fear. The barriers to our success are substantial and certainly not products of our imaginations or in anyway self–made.

There is that puppy again. What is he up to this time? He is running around in circles, jumping up and changing directions, yipping at only he knows what, and having himself a right good time. He is having way too much fun. That pup makes three minutes of silliness seem like a day at the circus. There is no point to it. He is just running around like a…, well, like a puppy.

There comes that pup again. What is he up to this time? He has been in the bathroom and now he is in the living room, proudly pulling the TP along behind him. Do I get upset with him, laugh at his antics, or just sit back and appreciate his cleverness? How did he manage to pull the TP out of the bathroom, down the steps, around three corners, and into the living room in one piece? Maybe I will try that just to see if I am at least as clever as a pup; but alas, someone might see me. After all, I’m a responsible, mature adult who has his image to consider.

Wonder when we lost our puppy’s view of the world? Maybe the pup knew that it was his reflection in the window or maybe not. It likely does not matter either way. He is now playing the same game with me. Run up very close, bark, and then scoot back, just out of reach. Do it again, and then again. Woops, there he goes. He is off to other more interesting activities. No, he wasn’t distracted after all. He simply tired of the game. For him, every situation has the potential for fun be it seeing his reflection in the window, taking time to run around in circles, or indulging in the great TP pull.

Look at him, lying in my favorite chair where he is not supposed to be, just resting it seems. I’ll bet he is not there because he is tired, though. He is conserving his energy for his next escapade. Cute puppies!

That pup may have something to teach us, not that he cares whether we learn the lesson or not. He is only being a pup, doing puppy stuff. Still, the lesson is there. If we are open to it, we can learn the lessons of puppy power.

• Puppy power is recognizing our reflection in the window and giving it a good bark, knowing that if we shake it off and walk away, it will walk away too.

• Puppy power is stopping for three minutes of pure fun, time to run around in circles and jump for joy.

• Puppy power is finding out if we really can pull the TP through the house in one continuous pull.

• Puppy power is stopping to rest, not because we are tired but so we will have the energy we will need for our next adventure.

I’ll be dog gone if that’s not one smart pup. Hot dog! my friend; here’s to puppy power.

. . . . .

I’m sitting here watching our puppy bark at his reflection in the window in the door to the back yard. His goal is to get outside but he has a problem. There is a guard dog on the other side of the window, staying right with him, bark for bark, preventing his exit. He first runs up to the other dog, tries to get past him, then backs away to analyze and evaluate. This article has the rest of the story.

Just One Big Unhappy Family (Part 5)

So far, you have developed a wide range of understanding and skills to assess families at risk. You have studied the behavior and attitudes of family members and have thought about stress, depression, value problems, and other personal issues. Your learning has included identifying specific signs of risk and seeing how they are experienced by family members. You now have a good feel for people, families, and their problems.

You also have learned about assessing how people get along. You are able to focus on relationships, communication, problem solving, and decision making. Additionally, you now know how to use some tools and shortcuts to determine the risk level for your family.

It is now time to bring your understanding and skills together. In this episode of Audio Tidbits Podcast, I bring you an extended narrative of a family at risk. As you will see, the people in the narrative behave and reflect attitudes that are sometimes helpful and sometimes very risky. Your challenge is to identify the elements of risk, understand how bad outcomes follow from actions and events, and assess the risk for the family.

The narrative is divided into seven sections reflecting critical periods in the life of the family. The underlying events are true. This is the way it really happened. Many of the details and descriptions have been changed to protect the family’s anonymity.

Were this a fictional family, all the motivations, events, and details would have been carefully crafted to answer all of your questions and to eliminate all gaps and inconsistencies. Real life is not so neat. You will need to use your developing insight and skills to fill in the gaps, understand the inconsistencies, and to somehow make sense of life in the real world.

Be safe, be well, and may you and yours enjoy being one big happy family.

Now say, “You’re Welcome.”

Conformity: Every society honors its live conformists, and its dead troublemakers. – Mignon McLaughlin || Don't think you're on the right road just because it's a well-beaten path. – Author unknown

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” — Edward Everett Hale

A similar sentiment was expressed by William Penn “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” Your best strategy over the long-haul is to understand where people want to go and help them get there. You do this by talking with them about what aid and support they need from you and being sure they get it. It may seem more expedient to charge full-speed-ahead and others be damned; but being too self-serving ends up, in the long run, serving no one. Your success is best served by helping others succeed.

The glitch is that, no matter how well-intentioned, your offer to help is usually turned down or the response is, “I will let you know.” If you sincerely want to help, do not ask what you can do to help or wait to be asked. Think about what the person's problem is or what they want to accomplish and then do something helpful. Proactively helping is most always much more helpful than help that is merely offered though it does take a little more time, a little more thought, and a little more effort. “Did that help?” is often the best question you can ask. As Sunshine Magazine pointed out, “He who gives when he is asked has waited too long.”

The famous Anon. had a particularly pithy way of emphasizing the importance of being proactive with others, “Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.” Albert Schweitzer and William James respectively joined the help when you can, wherever you can chorus. “Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him;” and “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” Perhaps the last word on it should go to George Bernard Shaw who said, “This is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Now you know so there you go.


I’ve been keeping a secret for quite a while now but long enough is long enough. It’s time to spill the beans, time to let the cat out of the bag. It’s tempting to take credit for the secret but I learned it from a guru. You may find that hard to believe and let me assure you I found it pretty unbelievable too. You don’t expect to ever come across a real live guru, or at least I didn’t. Even had I thought meeting a guru some day was a possibility, I certainly had not imagined the encounter happening while I was sitting alone at a picnic table in my neighborhood park. If you have a few minutes, I’ll tell you the story.

It was a chilly October weekend afternoon, one of those tweeners, as we like to call them. I was taking a break from my walk, just relaxing at a picnic table near the edge of the park. There were a few children playing on the swings and slide across the park but it was generally quiet and peaceful. My thoughts had wondered and my attention was focused on nothing in particular. Rex, my guide dog, was sprawled on the ground at my feet and snoring.

Good afternoon.

There was someone sitting on the bench across from me, although I didn’t know whether he had just sat down or had been there all along. I responded, Hello. It’s a chilly afternoon. I know, that wasn’t very original but it was the best I could muster under the circumstances. Truth be told, I was a little startled. I thought I had the table to myself.

The voice which I quickly concluded belonged to a very old gentleman was quite clear, loud enough but somehow soft, and unusually soothing. He said, I saw you sitting here and can see you are quite perceptive and sensitive. That’s why I have chosen you to be the keeper of the secret.

No, I wasn’t flattered or anything even close. In retrospect, I hate to admit it but I figured I was having an encounter with a nut case. Rex kept snoring so I didn’t feel threatened, since danger would have likely alerted him; but I was clear I was experiencing one of those occasional awkward situations arising now and then. I said, That’s interesting. It was not a day for clever responses, that’s for sure.

My hesitation did not bother him or at least if it did, you would never know. He calmly continued, Please allow me a few minutes. I will pass along the secret and then I will be gone. You will have the secret and you and your handsome companion can continue your walk. It is a beautiful day for enjoying the spectacular fall we are having.

How could I possibly avoid what I figured would be strange if not down right weird? I was having visions of aliens or at least a ghost or two. I didn’t have a clue what his secret was but was pretty sure I didn’t want to spend time finding out. Despite my reluctance, I was curious too. Politeness and curiosity won out. I asked him to share the secret, and he began.


Thank you for allowing me to share with you the secret to perfect relationships with people close to you. Achieving perfection is not easy but it is not difficult to understand either. This wisdom is not new but eludes most everyone. Sad to say, the secret was passed to me too late for me and mine. That is a story you have no need to hear. Today, your knowing the secret is enough.

Every close relationship has thirty parts, no more, no less. Perfection is not in the individual parts. Rather it is in blending all thirty in full measure, every minute of every day. Omit or short any of the thirty and imperfection grows, your relationship weakens, and relationship failure is nigh.


30 may seem like a lot of parts and too many to manage every hour of every day so I’ll put them in a 6–pack of five each. Remember, I mentioned relationship perfection is not easy. Nonetheless, an intelligent person like you will find it doable with time and careful attention. My personal experience tells me even you may be tempted to slack off. That would be a very big mistake. No less than complete vigilance is sufficient for perfection. When you are tempted, thoughtfully consider the alternative. There is no more to say on that. These are the parts.


Accept your co–relater (Lets refer to him or her as your CR.) as is. Changing is an individual choice, not a condition of your relationship. Acceptance combines with affection, always an instant away, always given. Ambition reflects eagerness to achieve perfection, to relate better and better. Be assertive, never conveying hostility, never making demands but always making your needs, desires, and personal interests known. Make staying attractive a priority, understanding attractiveness extends from physical attractiveness to include emotional, moral, social, and mental attractiveness. Each matters, each is a personal priority.


Affirmatively consider the needs, feelings, preferences, and interests of your CR. Do not reflexively defer but balance the consideration equation as much as possible. This is relationship banking: making deposits and withdrawals. Keep your balance high and do not over–drawl your account. Relationship banking requires interpersonal consistency and dependability. Physical, emotional, moral, social, sexual, and intellectual consistency and dependability are hallmarks of perfection. Combine these parts with decisiveness and energy. Do what you need to do, choose what you choose, decide what you decide without being sullen or wishy–washy.


Be fair. Be flexible. Be open to and willing to adjust your plans and expectations to accommodate to those of your CR, without reflexively capitulating or giving in. Being gentle speaks for itself. There is never a justification for roughness, hurtfulness, or causing any type of pain or avoidable discomfort. In the give and take of your relationship, emphasize giving, keeping all accounts in balance. Work hard, doing your share, doing what is reasonably expected, doing what you have agreed to do.


Do what you can to help, to make things easier for your CR. Be honest, tell the truth, do not mislead or misrepresent. Assure your honesty includes emotional honesty. Be involved in your relationship, do not withdrawal or become detached. Be there every day, fully, all the time. Be loyal, stick with your CR, whatever the circumstance. Being scrupulously moral is, of course, a bottom line commitment. Do what is right and never knowingly do otherwise.


Be open; Do not hide or disguise your feelings, beliefs, judgments, opinions, or what you are thinking when with your CR. Make “I am who I appear to be,” a personal philosophy. Consciously assure positiveness and playfulness characterize your behavior and attitudes when with your CR. Be a positive person and keep check on your occasional negativity and pessimism. Be predictable, easy to understand, familiar within the context of your relationship.


Be relaxed with your Cr, keeping tense moments to the minimum, limited and under control. Being spontaneous and supportive need no explanation. Your CR needs and deserves your attention and care. Be tolerant when your CR is having a bad day, is not managing participation in your relationship particularly well, is not living up to your hopes and wishes. Expect perfection from yourself but accept your CR as is, without reluctance or reservation.


I was listening so intensely it was a while before it registered with me the guru had stopped. The silence was profound. Even the sounds from the playground had stopped. I waited, at a complete loss. I had no idea what to say, assuming there was still anyone there to hear me.

After what seemed like forever, I finally said, “That’s interesting.” No, I hadn’t gotten any cleverer. There was still nothing, not a sound.

Eventually, the guru said, “Thank you for listening. I will go on my way now.”

I quickly said, “That’s it, the secret to perfect relationships?”

“No, that is not the secret. The 30 parts are prerequisite, what you must know before you can apply the secret to your relationships.”

At least the mental fog had cleared by then. “I don’t think I get it. If all that isn’t the secret, then tell me. What is the secret?”

• “When you feel the magic slipping away, concentrate more on loving better than on being loved better.”

I waited but that was it; and this time, the guru really was gone. I’m gone too. Thanks for listening.