Books and Movies

Forgiveness, Peace & Relationships

Marianne Williamson This last weekend I felt an "ah-ha" in my life.  One of those moments where my soul recognized words that are true for me.

I have long been a student of personal growth, wanting to be awake to life.  It was my desire for leading growth that guided me to Seminary to earn a Masters of Divinity over a decade ago, and my commitment to expanding growth that keeps me on my lifelong search to not just keep learning, but also to keep un-learning. It's amazing how much we hold that doesn't serve us.

This last weekend, while sitting in a workshop by Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher and author, I found words that affirm to all of us the significance of our relationships.

How is My Peace Linked to My Relationships?

We know the statistics about how much we need friends for our health, happiness, longevity, stress levels & identity.  But, for as important as those words are, there is a depth that can sometimes lack.

Williamson, who teaches from The Course in Miracles, touches that depth.

  1. That we all have the same ultimate goal: Inner Peace.
  2. That we all have to go through the same process to find it: Forgiveness.
  3. And, that, on this planet, our curriculum for practicing that is: Our Relationships.

I'd imagine the first step resonates with most of us?  Pretty much everything we do is motivated by a hunger to feel that we're enough, that we're worthy, that we're special, that we're acceptable.  Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer, once wrote that 'arrogance and insecurity are two-sides of the same coin.' To be in a space where we know our worth allows us to be both humbled by our value, and wowed by the infinite possibility.

It's the second step that I think is counter-intuitive.  Most of us are trying to find our peace through our titles, our bank accounts, our square footage, our fame, our sense of being chosen by someone, or our hopes we place on our children.  Even as we read this, we can probably see how little it is working.  We all know people who have more of everything we want and still don't live from a place of peace.  Cognitively, we know that achieving the next rung on our ladder won't bring the peace, but trying telling that to our egoes.

Even as we can grasp that we won't find a lasting peace in losing that extra weight, getting that promotion, or finding the perfect romance, neither do we probably see forgiveness as the solution.

Forgiveness is a topic that entire movies and books try to cover, so far be it from me to adequately capture it in one paragraph.  In essence, though, it is the gift we've been given that allows us to choose love over fear.  The miracle referred to in the course: the willingness to shift how we perceive a situation or person. The whisper of a prayer "I am willing to see this differently."

As Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love, says:

"We're not asking for something outside us to change, but for something inside us to change."

That we might become more loving.  Therein lies the purpose of our lives.  It is in the 'letting go' of our fears, anger, defenses, and past stories that we can find our peace.  It truly is counter-intuitive. And both very simple, and very hard.

Why Relationships Really Matter

If you're anything close to human, the word forgiveness is full of more emotion than almost any other word we could whisper.  As a pastor who has journeyed with people from all walks of life, I can attest that I have never met anyone who hasn't had to stand face-to-face with the meaning of this word.  We live in a world where fear and ego seem to reign.  And few things seem to hold more truth to us than the wrongs that were committed against us or others we love.

Forgiveness, while feeling as though it lets someone else off the hook, really is an invitation to us to get off the hook we are on.  Forgiveness doesn't mean we don't set boundaries, stay in relationships that wound, or ever understand why the other did what they did.  Rather, forgiveness is a call to continually remove the obstacle of fear from our lives that we might better receive and give love.

And there is no where you can practice this path to inner peace than in our relationships. In every relationship-- from the most casual of encounters to the lifelong commitments we make to people-- we are encouraged to experience our peace.

How we treat the people we meet either increases our love or increases our fear, determining the person we will become.

"Spiritual growth isn't just about me. It's about the person in front of me." --Marianne Williamson


I plan to unpack this theme more in a future blog... feel free to leave your questions, experiences or comments.

Also two articles of mine that were published other places last week, if you're interested: Three Steps to Summer Socializing on Huffington Post and 7 Ways Twitter Can Benefit Your Business on Crave.  If you're not following me on Twitter or facebook-- I extend the invitation to join those communities. Blessings on you this week.

Are New Friends Worth the Energy Output Required?

I hear from a lot of women who feel defeated in their friendship search, or simply feel like it cannot be a priority in their lives right now.  Many mistakenly think that friendship is the thing to cut when their lives get busy, express feeling guilty for asking their husbands to watch the kids so they can go spend time with a girlfriend, or conclude that since friendships are not happening naturally in their lives that they somehow just need to learn to live without a circle of friends. Maybe you've been there before? Maybe you're there now? Today I just wanted to poke my head in your inbox with a bit of a reminder about that pay-off.  You know the risks.  You know the difficulty.  You know the challenges.  You know the excuses to say no and give up.  You know how weary you feel.  Give me a moment to remind you what you're investing in!

Energy Output: The Investment can be Exhausting

It's a paradox that the actions that take energy also tend to reward us with the most energy. In many life moments, higher investments lead to higher pay-offs.

I mean, the very act of going to the gym is tiring for the vast majority of us, but the pay-off is, ironically, more energy. Most of us don't sit at work feeling fulfilled by the daily tasks and mountains of emails, but the sum total of that output seems to create a sense of achievement and meaning.  I know just on a recreation level that it would be easier and more comfortable to sit on my couch tonight watching TV, but that if I attend to my women's business group, I'll actually come home more rejuvenated than any show could provide. I've learned that most things in life aren't the easiest default option, but they do tend to be worth the investment.  And friendship is simply one of those things-- less meaningful in the beginning and a greater source of energy output, but the payoff is exponential.

Energy Input: The Payoff can be Exponential

Gallup's latest research revealed in the book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements

shows that there are five universal, interconnected elements that together reveal your overall well-being.  Apparently, liking what you do every day (career wellbeing) is the most significant factor to your overall health and happiness, but guess what number 2 is? Yep, social wellbeing, also known as "Do you like who you're doing life with?"

While you have undoubtedly heard me quote all kinds of research about how important your circle of friends is to your life, the research just continues to inspire!

  • You're Influenced by Entire Network. Our wellbeing is impacted by our entire social network. You are 6% more likely to be happy if your friend's friend's friend--count them, three degrees removed!-- is happy. The reverse is just as true.
  • Friends Impact More Than money. Compare the above 6% increase to the 2% increase in happiness if your annual income goes up $10,000! "This led the study's authors to conclude that that the wellbeing of friends and relatives is a more effective predictor of happiness than earning more money."
  • Your Health Prevention is at Stake. People with few social connections are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease or of catching a common cold (even though they're arguably exposed to more germs!)
  • Proximity Matters. A friend who lives within a mile will have way more positive influence on your wellbeing than friends across the country. (Why GFC advocates making local friends even though it's not as easy as picking up the phone to talk to your BFF in your hometown! It's worth it!)
  • Friendships Especially Important in Aging Well. One study showed that in adults over the age of 50, that their memories declined at half the rate if they were socially active compared to those who were least social.
  • You Need More than One BFF! Every additional close friendship adds to your wellbeing. "Our research has found that people who have at least three or four very close friendships are healthier, have higher wellbeing, and are more engaged in their jobs."
  • The More Time Invested, the Happier You Are:
    Every hour of daily social interaction increases your happiness by 10%!

    The data shows that to have a thriving day you need six hours of daily social time!  Six hours?!?!?! That even surprised me! Apparently regardless of personality types and other variables-- those who are thriving in life are reporting an average of six hours every day of connecting which can include: talking to friends, socializing at work, being on the phone, communicating on facebook, etc. Across the board, every hour of social connection added to your day increases your happiness almost 10%! (Isn't it ironic how easy it is to cancel on a friend when we've a bad day or skip out on socializing when we're depressed, when in actuality, that very act of connecting will raise our spirits?)

I know it's tiring.  I know.  I know it's discouraging at times, I know.

But I also know that this is one investment that promises the biggest pay-off to your overall happiness and health. No small thing!

May you be reminded that your willingness to engage, to meet new people, to initiate the next get-together, to schedule women into your life and to foster these friendships over time is proving to raise your wellbeing! And don't we all want that? ______________ * All research listed in this blog can be found in the chapter on Social Wellbeing in Gallup's latest book, Wellbeing by Tom Rath & Jim Harter. Purchasing their book provides a code for your access to take their Wellbeing Assessment.

The Flywheel of Friendship

A Few Years Ago... During my first year in San Francisco I felt exhausted by the lack of comfortable and meaningful friendships.  Moving away from phenomenal friends in Southern California left me knowing what I was missing in my new city.  And certainly I was meeting people, but we all know how different it is to carry a conversation with friendly people versus hanging out with friends.

The best friends in the world may always be only a telephone call away, but that very act of calling means that we are left updating each other about our lives more than we are ever able to simply live life together, creating new memories.  A vast difference exists between calling to announce a pregnancy, a new romance, a heartbreak or job promotion versus attending a shower, meeting the new love interest, sharing ice cream on the couch or toasting the latest achievement.

But knowing that a circle of friends does more for giving us a sense of belonging in a new city than having a home or job, doesn't mean that friendships just happen. Two immediate problems surfaced for me in my friend search that first year:

  1. More Energy Spent: The first, it takes way more energy to connect with someone I barely know than it does for me to connect with a tried-and-true pal.  After a long and exhausting day, if given the choice to call my long-distance friend or go meet a new one, it was obvious which one I'd choose if left to my mood.  Surely it takes less exertion to converse with someone I know I already like than to spend time trying to audition others for the role. Plus, way easier to chat on the phone while I make dinner or surf facebook giving thumbs up than to stop somewhere on the way home, extending my day.
  2. Less Fulfillment Received: The second challenge was that even in the lunches-here-and-dinners-there with new acquaintances it was never as fulfilling as the conversations with my friends who already knew my history.  The lacking depth, comfort and ease with acquaintances just couldn't compare to what came naturally with those who had already lived life beside me.

One can see quite quickly how tempting it would be to simply rely on our former besties or our only friend than to try to expand the circle.  If ever given the choice between something familiar and something unknown-- it's human nature to stick with the former.  My potential friends couldn't compete.  They would inevitably always fall short-- through no fault of theirs other than I was measuring them against women who had an unfair advantage.

The Flywheel.

From the business cult classic book, Good to Great, comes the concept of the Flywheel. The author, Jim Collins, describes it perfectly:

Picture a huge, heavy flywheel--a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds.  Now imagine your task it to get that flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible.

Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first.  You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.

My Flywheels

You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns... four...five... six...the flywheel builds up speed... keep pushing... nine...ten.. it builds momentum...eleven... twelve... moving faster with every turn..twenty...thirty...fifty...a hundred.

Then, at some point--breakthrough!  The momentum of the thing kicks in your's own heavy weight working for you. You're pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but he flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort.


My Friendship Flywheel now has a momentum that cannot be stopped, an intensity that produces more energy than it requires. It wasn't always this way.  But it is now.

I still get together at least once a year with my girlfriends from Southern Cal and try to call them occasionally, and now I am also surrounded by amazing women who know my day-to-day life, who cheer for me when we get together regularly, who remind me that I am decidedly not alone in this city.

The first few turns of your Friendship Flywheel may feel like too much work.  You may think it's not worth the awkwardness and exertion.  You might be tempted to think it's not meaningful enough to sacrifice time and energy to push.  It may feel like the movements are imperceptible right now.

But believe.  Believe in the investment.  Believe in the Friendship Flywheel.  Believe that it will get easier, stronger, faster.  Believe that what feels unnatural this year will feel natural next year.  Believe that every turn of the wheel pushes you to greater chances of being surrounded by community in the future. Believe that showing up at a ConnectingCircle this weekend may be but one push to ensure that you have a good friend in your life next March.  It all counts-- believe.

What is the hardest thing, in your opinion, about making new friends? What takes the most energy? When are you tempted to feel it's not worth it? What motivates you to keep trying?


p.s.  Just wanted to share that I'm now a Huffington Post blogger for women's friendship. Yay! You can sign up on their site get an email alert when I post a new article each week, if interested. (I'm trying to post both here and there once a week each.)





There's a Reason They Say it's Lonely at the Top

We often assume that loneliness or a sense of social disconnection is for those people.  We picture some angry, hurt, unfriendly, socially awkward and un-lovable woman sitting in a dark house, with the curtains closed, alone. Maybe a dozen cats. We usually don't picture ourselves since we know how friendly and fun we are, how much we have to offer someone (we mistakenly equate loneliness with likability).  And we certainly don't picture the beautiful, networked, popular, powerful and inspiring women that we admire as the lonely ones. And yet that doesn't make it not true.

It's Lonely at the Top

One of the most poignant lines in the Oscar-winning movie, The King's Speech, came from

Kings Speech Poster

Colin Firth, playing King George VI, when he muttered "I wouldn't know" in response to his speech therapists nonchalant statement "That's what friends are for."

As king, everyone is forced to be friendly and adoring and respectful to him, but that doesn't mean he feels known, supported, liked or seen for who he is beyond his title.

On an obviously much smaller scale, many of us know what it feels like to be looked up to, but not seen.  Some of it is the fault of those who simply want to be near the popular andpowerful for what it does for them: making them feel more important, giving them greater access and using the friendship to their own gains.

But some of it is also the fault of those who are the adored. The desire to reveal the best image, to stay liked, to be a role model puts an inane amount of pressure to not really share honestly, be seen with our faults or risk getting hurt.

There's a reason they say it's lonely at the top. Whether the person at the top starts to feel too amazing to connect with those beneath them, or those beneath them begin to treat the top as though they are on a pedestal; a painful dynamic seems to isolate those who excel in other areas.  In my work as a life coach and pastor, I have seen first-hand the loneliness of those who are too beautiful, too talented, too powerful, too famous and too wealthy.

Befriending the Women at the Top

Since so many of my readers are business owners, amazing mothers, inspirational speakers, authors and change-makers, I want to remind you that even if difficult and awkward, you can create friendships around you that truly matter. Some of your best friends may be women who can keep you grounded and remind you that they love you beyond the image everyone else sees.

And I want to challenge those of you who dismiss potential friends because they intimidate you (too beautiful, too successful, too much money) to give yourself the gift of getting to know them without jealousy.  (Jealousy shows up in two forms- we either devalue the other in order to make ourselves feel better about what we don't have or we ogle over them making them feel guilty for what they do have.)

The numbers of loneliness are staggering.  And it's not because we have a world filled with little old ladies sitting in dark houses.  It's because we're intimidated by each other, scared of being used, fearful of feeling inadequate next to others.  As we love ourselves, holding our value and worth securely, we will be able to receive that from others.

In the movie The King's Speech, Lionel Logue, the speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush, lacked credentials, fame, a posh office, success in his own acting ambitions and a home that was sufficient for hosting royalty. What he had was the ability to both believe more in the King than the King did himself, while also creating an equal relationship, insisting on calling him Bertie and setting ground rules that he chose.

Rush & Firth at Oscars

Rush's character held his own, believing in his own worth and what he could offer (even in the midst of vast inequality).  He also never lost sight of how human the King really was, seeing him with his imperfections and wounds. He saw him--his amazingness and his insecurities. Isn't that what we all crave?

And the final line of The King's Speech came onto a black screen before the credits rolled, attesting that it can work: "Bertie and Lionel remained friends through out their entire life."


Have you forged friendships with women in different economic, power, beauty statuses?  What was difficult about it? What did you gain from it? Was it easier or harder to hold those differences if the relationship started on equal footing and then changed?

Oprah's Tears Encourage Our Friendships

While Oprah Winfrey is generally the one asking the questions, we've long known she's also wise in answering them. In Barbara Walters "Ten Most Fascinating People" special last Thursday, Oprah reflected on her life, her 25 years hosting the national Oprah show, her relationships and her legacy. The segment from that interview that seems to be garnering the headlines is the fact that Oprah teared up, requesting a tissue. And while teasers mentioning the lesbian rumors are effective for causing viewers to stay tuned, that would be missing the point of the tears.

Oprah Cries in Talking About BFF, Gayle Oprah's most emotional moment in the one-hour special came when asked to talk about her friendship with Gayle King. Barbara acknowledged how all women want, but few seem to have, the kind of friendship these two women share.

And in typical Oprah fashion, her reflections revealed three poignant lessons about womens friendship that must be fostered if we want friendships to mature.

  1. To Want Her Happiness: According to Oprah, Gayle has cheered for her success from the very beginning, celebrating Oprah's achievements with joy. "She was even happier than I was in those moments," said an awed Oprah. All of us want our friends to be happy, few of us want them to be happier than us.

    It is far too tempting for most of us to live from a place of jealousy, envy or competition. When we are discontent with our own lives, it is far easier to devalue others or begrudge them their joy than to take responsibility in finding our own contentment. Therefore, all too often the voice of fear we listen to says: If I'm overweight, I don't want you to become thin. If I'm single, I will feel worse if you find the love of your life. If my kids are causing heartache, it is simply too much to be happy for you that yours are making straight A's. If I hate my job, it becomes more difficult to cheer for you when you start your dream company.

    To live with a worldview that believes there is enough goodness in this world for both of us fosters friendship.

  2. To Log the Hours: A classic line in the interview was "For all the therapy I didn't have. For all the therapy I don't need, it is because of the thousands of hours in talking with Gayle." Both women could be amazing, healthy, joy-full women but if they weren't putting in the time, sharing their lives with one another then an intimate friendship they would never have.

    Only familiarity breeds friendship. It's why friendship felt easier in school or work--the regularity with which we saw the same people helped us feel closer. Now, with so many of us working from home, devoting our attention to our children and moving frequently, we have to be diligent to carve out the time to put in the hours for that friendship to develop.

    To live in such a way that we schedule consistent time to share life together in meaningful ways ensures intimacy in our friendships.

  3. To Affirm the Role: Oprah loves Gayle, no doubt about it: "She is the mother I never had. She is the sister every person would want. She is the friend everyone deserves. I don't know a better person." But when asked what provoked the tears after this statement, it was because Oprah questioned whether she had really told Gayle how much she meant.

    Amazing how easy it is to go through life assuming people know what an impact they have on us. And yet, as is true for most any worthwhile thing in life, it's not the attaining of something that is as hard as the keeping of it. Affirming people for their contributions, influence and inspiration in our lives bonds us more to the people we admire.

    To live with gratitude for the people who choose to journey with us shows that we see them for who they are in our lives.

Oprah has made her billions, given her millions and arguably changed the lives of just as many, but we'd be remiss to not notice that her tears were reserved for those she loved: Stedman and Gayle. May she inspire you to find your voice, live your best self and contribute to the world. But may her tears also inspire you to foster the friendships that matter along the way.