Guns in the Bible?

I am so proud to say that a friend of mine wrote the following wonderful letter-to-the-editor (May 7, 2007 Frederick News-Post); in it, she said at least five things that so needed saying. She and the letter are both amazing!

Guns in the Bible – by Nancy Arnold, Union Bridge

In an April 26 letter, Citizens' defensive use of firearms is God-given right, the writer claims, “Anyone who wishes to deny citizens their God-given right to self-defense through the most effective means, firearms, is guilty of aiding and abetting these tragedies.”

I find that philosophy very disconcerting. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God spends his time creating life. As far as I have been able to determine, there are no references to guns in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were not created with semi-automatic weapons in hand. No gun stores were tucked in under the flowering trees in the garden. True enough, Cain, one of Adam and Eve's sons, does murder his brother, but the murder weapon is not mentioned.

I do know that the God-given Sixth Commandment stands against murder, and that Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Maybe if we spent more time loving the angry, unlovable people, we would not find it so necessary to pick up a gun. Maybe, just maybe, we could stop a tragedy before resorting to violence ourselves.

Jesus grieves for Cho and his family as much as he grieves for the victims. To dispute that is to deny what Jesus spent three years teaching, and to deny the sacrifice he made for all of us.

Prayer's Progress




Prayer’s Progress

(to be read from the bottom to the top)





angel floating

dragon flying

signals smoking

peace piping

toes tipping

breast puffing

throat swelling

loaves rising

brown rounding














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If THE DEPARTED Reflects American Cultural Offerings to the World, Then We Yankees Truly Should Stay Home

The Departed is a too-long slog through a repellent underworld of hopelessness, human frailty, and continual struggle. An angry, bitter old man’s cynical vision of despair and disillusionment, it mocks all human efforts to transcend past and primal influences. Its desired audience-response seems to be disgust.


Although The Departed offered challenging roles to talented actors and film-makers, I kept wondering, why did any of them, the immensely talented and capable Scorsese included, even bother? Why make this movie? What’s the point of pooling all that energy, creativity, and talent on such a boring, pointless script? The Departed is neither entertaining, nor satisfying, nor thought-provoking, nor enlightening, nor any other respected goal of movie-making—unless perhaps you find pleasure in staring at cripples or ogling car wrecks.


Scorsese’s many clumsy attempts at youthful (Tarantinoesque?) edginess played out as merely shock-by-politically-incorrect low-life humor,  inspiring only embarrassed titters. I found this film completely lacking in compassion, crass, boorish, and childishly defiant about religion, race, and responsibility. It was definitely a movie offering family values–all the wrong ones. For those hooked on action and violence who want to see positive values, start with L.A. Confidential or A History of Violence (see my review elsewhere in this blog), In the Line of Fire or The Fugitive. It can be done!


When I compare this kind of American blockbuster to, say, the Iranian blockbuster, Children of Heaven–also a depiction of human struggle under the most difficult circumstances–I can certainly understand why many Muslims find our culture decadent, and why they hope to prevent us from infecting their own cultures.


Always in search of high-quality action movies which my husband and I can both enjoy, we saw The Departed on opening night out of respect for Scorcese’s better (if uneven) previous efforts—The Age of Innocence, Taxi Driver, Casino, and Raging Bull. We even heard, while standing in line, that the reviews so far were stellar. What a disappointment.


Leonardo di Caprio’s and Mark Wahlberg’s brilliant performances were very appealing and convincing, but I found little else to like. The sound was uneven too—either way too loud (I literally protected my ears) or too soft.


In comparison, Invinceable—although formulaic—was a recent high-quality action movie we will add to our collection, one which I would be proud to export to other countries as an example of American culture and entertainment. That we might use our great wealth and freedom in order to corrupt the minds of our own youth and those around the world with garbage like the life-sucks-and-then-you-die story offered by The Departed is a truly depressing thought. 


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Good Comic Strips (About War and Sexuality) That I Wrote, But Never Drew

First, the comics about war:


Two of my (unfinished) comic strip characters were kids–one, a smart, mouthy, radical multi-racial activist type, “Krissy,” and the other, her conservative, wealthy, red-blooded-American patriot boyfriend, “Cole,” who loves war toys and dreams of a military career.  These two kids are crazy about each other, but they are also always arguing about politics…. Since I wrote (but never drew) these panels, will you imagine them with me? 



(Cole, thinking aloud)


Krissy’s version of patriotism seems like a lot of trouble.


It takes years of work, money, time, and sacrifice to make a peaceful difference in the world.


In the old days, all you had to do to be patriotic was … die… and kill… and maim…and maybe get maimed….


But at least you could get it over with!





 (Cole, thinking aloud)


Krissy thinks true patriots work for peace and justice all the time.


She says dying for your country is not enough.


She says you have to be willing to live for your country, too.


Dying seems like a lot less trouble.





(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy says it’s no longer enough to be willing to kill and die for your country.


She says true patriots live for their country by working and sacrificing all their lives.


But realizing global peace and justice is so much work!


When I said I’d be willing to give my life for my country, I never meant this!






(Cole thinking aloud)


Patriotism is a lot more complicated nowadays.


History has shown that even America has fought unjust, immoral wars.


In the olden days, patriots only had to be willing to kill and die for their country.


Nowadays, I guess they’d better understand why, too.





(Cole to Krissy)


I think I prefer the old days….


…when all you had to do to be a patriot was die for your country….


I mean, living for your country in peacetime could turn out to be a real drag….


I mean, what if I have to live a really long time?!





(Cole thinking aloud)


Patriotism used to be only a two-year hitch.


Now Krissy tells me true patriots should work hard their whole lives to prevent the injustices that cause war.


But if we prevent all war, everyone will have to live peacefully ‘til they’re really really old!


What a rotten deal….




(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy thinks the truest patriotism is living, not dying for your country.


She thinks we all need to learn more about national and global politics….


…and work hard to uphold our country’s ideals for everyone in the world.


It seems like dying would be a lot simpler….




(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy says ideals can’t end at national borders.


She says we either want liberty and justice for all, or we don’t really hold those ideals at all.


She says “liberty and justice for some” just doesn’t ring true.


I have a feeling this is gonna be a lot of trouble.




(Krissy is carrying a “protest sign” in the first panel (“IF YOU WANT PEACE, WORK FOR JUSTICE”)


(Cole) Hey! I’m not my brother’s keeper, you know!


I’m only interested in looking out for American interests! I can’t worry about everybody else on the planet!


(In this panel he has his hand over his heart, pledging) “I pledge allegiance…to the flag…with liberty and justice for all…uh…er…all … uh… Americans…. Hmmmm.


(Cole, angry, with hands on hips.) RATS….

(Krissy is carrying a protest sign that says, THINK GLOBAL. ACT LOCAL.




OK, since you’ve so patiently waded through my peace comics, here are some good sex comics….


I read a wonderful how-to book (Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex, by Deborah M. Roffman, about the importance of values-oriented sex education, and then I wrote the following panels using my four comic strip characters (all young children), and introducing a new character, Ms. Z, an elderly Jewish lady who was once a sex education public health nurse. She’s a tiny fiery fireplug of a woman, a very stereotypically loving Jewish-mom-type who nurtures her four neighbor-kids. (Ms. Z is based on my best friend/next-door neighbor, age 80+) I never drew this series either. Four panels each, with usually at least two of the kids talking in each panel, and sometimes all four talking in a panel.



My parents seem to think it’s not nice to talk and think about sex until I’m an adult.


Mine too.

But it’s a difficult thing to do.


I mean, we’re surrounded by talk about sex, all day every day, on TV, in books and magazines, the kids at school, the stuff on the net….


I guess we’re not supposed to notice….





What our parents don’t get is that we’re surrounded by sex, all day every day, whether we like it or not.


Yeah. They don’t know what we know.


And we don’t know what we don’t know.

 It’s sort of a conspiracy of silence.


Hmmm. Do you think we’re the good guys or the bad guys?





My mom says parents will tell kids everything they need to know about sex on their wedding night.


So when do we get to ask our questions?


I guess after that.


When it’s too late.






My mom thinks I know nothing about sex, and she plans to keep it that way.


That’s why I can’t ask her any questions—if I do, she worries about me knowing about sex and thinking about it.


So why don’t you just maturely tell her you know a lot already, but need her help sorting it all out?


I don’t think she’s developmentally ready for that yet….





From what I can tell, sex is all one big disaster.


Yeah, it can make you sick, crazy, poor, and sometimes it even kills you.


I guess we’re supposed to learn about sex from our mistakes?


You’d think they’d invent a better way….





My mom encourages me to talk with her about sex and then freaks out when I ask her questions.


Sometime it seems like sexuality is something I should learn all about in order to be a mature, responsible, caring, healthy adult.


And sometimes I feel like it’s a naughty nasty secret that we’re not supposed to know anything about.


Schizophrenia begins at home….





Everywhere I turn, the subject of sex comes up.


I have so many questions that I really need to have answered.


I mean, I wanna be good, smart, and happy, and I really wish I could understand where sex fits into all of this.


(Looking sad) Everybody’s talking about sex, but nobody’s listening….





If the subject of sex even comes up in my family…


My mom gets embarrassed.

Mine gets mad.

My dad changes the subject.

Mine leaves.


I guess we’ll just have to learn about sex from our friends and the internet.


We’re twenty-first century kids trapped in nineteenth century families.






…and then, if you pray, millions of sperm fly like electricity through the air, and…


Are you sure that’s the way it works?


I think so, but my parents get all freaked out and embarrassed when I ask questions.


I guess sex is something we’re supposed to learn by trial and error….





Sex seems to have something to do with being bad.

And with secret body parts.

And sneaking around.

And unwanted pregnancies.

And infections.

And even dying.


But it also seems to be about love and caring.


(They stare blankly at each other in silence.)


Well, I sure don’t get the connection….

 No, I can’t see any connection either…..





The kids on the playground all say that grownups, are like, you know, like dogs? They rub their thingys together until they make a baby?


Ooog. Disgusting. That’s it? That’s everything?

Yeah, that’s it.


Well, I guess we finally understand all about sex.


(in unison, depressed) What a bummer.








I guess when we’re adults, we’ll understand all about sex.


But for now, I hate it that I have so many questions and no one to ask.


My parents seem to know all about it, but they get all freaked out if I ask questions about it.


I wonder who they asked?





Y’know, between the four of us, we know a lot about sex.


Yeah, we’ve learned so much from books, magazines, our music, parents, the internet, TV, and each other. I mean, how can we help it? It’s everywhere!


Well, it still seems all crazy and confusing to me. I wish we had someone who could answer our questions….


(in unison) Ms. Z!!!





My mom says Ms. Z was a sexuality education nurse before she retired.


Yeah, I’ve known her since I was little.

Me too.

She’s really nice.

My parents say we can ask her anything.


(They stare at each other in silence)


You first.





What did Ms. Z do when you asked her your sex question?


Well, she answered it. She didn’t even act surprised, embarrassed, angry, or bossy. She seemed, actually, fine about it.


 (They stare at each other, looking uncertain, in silence.)


Maybe she’s an alien.





Was Ms. Z shocked that you knew something about sex?


Was she mad that you were interested in it?



Did she make you feel dumb?


Or treat you like a little kid?



Did she embarrass you?


Did she answer your questions?



Boy, we could sure use her on the school playground.





Ms. Z says sex is about who you are as much as about what you do.


She says sex is about caring, communicating, and taking responsibility, as much as it is about genitals.


So what do you think?


Sounds very unlikely.





Ms. Z answered that sex question I was wondering about for so long.


So now you understand all about sex.



Well, actually, to be perfectly honest, there’s a problem with having someone who will answer your sex questions for you.



Now I have more questions.






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Creative Fun by Eppy

Here are some of my hobbies (painting, cartooning, etc.) as well as a self-portrait, and a portrait of me by my five-year-old friend, Alexa. Look for them elsewhere in my website to see/learn more…. Thank you for visiting my website!  -eppyharmon











War Is (Unnecessary) (Wasteful) (Pointless) Hell

Santa, Horror Movies, Earthquakes, and Other Childhood Religious Experiences

I felt hurt when my childhood friends laughed at me for devoutly believing in Santa Claus, and foolish, when they later scorned me for doubting the existence of my childhood fairytale-God….  

All my omnipotent, omniscient household deities such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy–all solemnly attested to by the otherwise scrupulously honest adults in my life–later turned out to be a childish embarrassment, mere games and illusions swallowed only by simpletons. On the other hand, unraveling the mysteries of religion increasingly was deemed a difficult and profound thing, to be accepted now on faith, and puzzled out rationally only by hoarier heads than mine, or perhaps in far off adulthood….   

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” (the circular argument legitimizing the commercialized Santa by equating him with the Christian spirit of love) didn't clear up any of my confusions at all…..

The teachers in my elementary schools poked fun and laughed merrily at all the many varieties of “primitive” religious beliefs (i.e., any religion outside of mainstream American Judeo-Christianity) such as the early Greek and Roman myths, American Indian spirituality (in those days, I thought “native” meant “naked,”) ancestor “worship,” many-armed “goddesses,” etc. My classmates and I learned to confidently pooh-pooh photos displaying what we were told were radically important differences in 'foreign” (i.e., “weird”) religious practices and dress and customs, and of course we concluded that western civilization and enlightened religious rationales and practices, such as credentialed religious leaders saying magic words that turned lifeless-looking wafers and water into the actual body and blood of an historical crucified spiritual leader, and then drinking and eating it, were somehow less weird, somehow intellectually superior. Ick.

I remember asking my Sunday School teacher about the confusing song, “Yes, Jesus loves me: the Bible tells me so.” 

“So how does the Bible know?”

“It just does. God wrote the Bible. Everything in it is true.”

“Oh.” That was the end of my questioning on that subject for about twenty years….

One of my (quite religious) sisters, who was a Mormon convert, admitted at age fifty that she had never even considered questioning that particular teaching (the inerrancy and source/s of the Bible), although she had pored over The Good Book daily for enlightenment and wisdom all her life.

Little kids are so innocent, and their minds so susceptible to cultural influences; they swallow whole all that their cultures teach them, including its radically peculiar particularities.

I'm reading lately where horror movies are coming back now, bigger and scarier than ever, sort of…terror-porn…in all its sadistic gore, reflecting, some enthusiastic critics say, what is really happening in “the real world.” Oh, really? Of all that is happening in the world, this is what we're noticing? This is what we want our children to focus on? This is “the way of the world” that we want to teach our children all about? As if violence and fear and terror were inevitable, and not primarily a matter of what and how we are taught, and later, how we choose to see and traverse this life?

If all the world could be raised by enlightened Quakers or Buddhists or Jesuits, in just two generations, all mankind would live in peace. 

(To be sure, all animals experience conflict. Some even feed upon each other. Yet warfare is a uniquely human, cultural invention. The biological connection to war is our very human language-making ability, which makes possible cultural learning and the invention and coordination of ideas, groups, and technnologies. Biology doesn't condemn humanity to war. Just as wars begin in the minds of men, peace also begins in our minds. We who were capable of inventing war are capable of inventing peace. The responsiblity and capability lie in each of us.)

In my girlhood, I worked hard to puzzle out,with my parents, exactly which movie and storybook monsters and dangers might be real; i.e., which were the ones I'd have to look out for and steer clear of? And which were the “made-up” ones I didn't have to worry about?

Grizzlies? Yes. Very real. Very scary.

Ghosts? Well…. Hmmm. Let me think about that one.

Angels? Hmmmm, again. 

Bad angels? Hmmm.

Dragons? Oh, no! Silly girl! Imagine, dragons! No of course they're not real. Whatever gave you that idea?

Dinosaurs? No! Or, well, yes. Or, well, maybe. Sort of, but not, like, you know, any more. (Thanks a lot for clearing that one up!)

The Snow White witch and the Wizard of Oz witch? No. Except of course, the movie star. She's real. (Hmmm.)

Robbers? Well, uh, maybe. They're real, but we don't have to worry about them. (And why was/is that?)

War? Well, maybe there are wars in some other countries, but we never have to fight them in the U.S. (How soon we forget!) (And why weren't they ever fought in the US? Why were wars always something we fought, but only elsewhere? And why didn't all those other people decide to fight their wars elsewhere?)

Death? Yes, death is real. Uh, well, and … well, no. Death is…uh…only sort of real. Don't forget about heaven. Hmmm.

Earthquakes? Oh yes, very real. Where do they happen? Only in Japan, California, and a few other faraway places. But, not to worry…. We don't live in any of those places. Now run along, dear, enough silly questions….

My military family soon got our orders to spend a year in Fort Ord, CA followed by three years in Tokyo, Japan, to my…horror…. (see paragraph above.)

The only earthquakes I knew about were the ones I'd seen in a movie, in which huge, mile-wide-deep chasms opened up and swallowed down whole screaming villages of people, houses, and cattle, all of which went sliding and scrabbling down into the closing gulf to disappear forever…. 

And that was where we were going to live?

My parents dismissed my alarmed, “but…but…but…” with a condescending wave of their hands. “Foolish child. Be a brave little patriot and stop complaining. After all, there are only six or eight real earthquakes in Japan a year. Military brats have to bravely go where they're sent! Now run along …. We're going to get in nine holes of golf before dark….”

Fortunately, the many many earthquakes I soon experienced served mostly just to rattle the tableware.

Although once I crawled across a parade ground nearly all the way to my elementary school, thinking my legs had stopped working. And another time my mother whisked me out of a wildly splashing bathtub and wrapped me in a towel to join the families (and staring friends!) standing outside.

What's really funny is that by the time I had crawled most of the way to school, my legs had “started working again,” so I had already forgotten my troubles (ah, youth!)–when all the teachers rushed up to me, worried about me, and I said, “What earthquake? I didn't feel any earthquake.” I was actually feeling a little aggrieved that I'd missed all the excitement, until I figured out..that…I hadn't.

And sitting in the bathtub during the other big earthquake, silent and still as a stone while the water roiled and sloshed over the sides, all I could think of was how much trouble I'd be in, for making all that water illegally splash so hard and so much with my boisterous bathtub play that it couldn't stop splashing.

Kids have a hard enough time figuring out what's real from what isn't without their parents making their jobs that much more difficult. That is why we parents must often reassure our kids that, “There are no stupid questions” and give them time to follow up on their confusions. I didn't do this very well with my kids–I thought they did have a lot of stupid questions, and felt embarrassed for myself, that I hadn't already taught my very bright children much better long ago…. I'm sure I was worse even than my parents in this…. Consequently, both my children and I often thought many of our questions were too stupid to ask. Now why was that? 

Wouldn't it be nice if children everywhere could get their examples and habits and attitudes and transcendent truths and values and realities from loving adults who held to their highest ideals and principles and didn't meanwhile pollute little minds with opportunistic fables and vague shadowy threatening omniscient eminences and all the terrifying blockbuster media horrors it does no good to think about (which is not to say we cannot add all our loving energy and creativity to the world, and thus help solve many its many problems….)

If I ever have grandchildren, I pray I will teach them all about the highest and best things in life, about goodness and kindness and love. I'm going to equate all that goodness with God/reverence. I'll try to show them how the human need for God and ideals and a spiritual life and a path to God can be found in all the highest forms of all the great religions. I'm not going to be complicit in teaching them distortions and fairy tales about imaginary cultural deities and hobgoblins. The magic and wonder of science and the humanities, indeed, all the wonders of life on earth, will offer them plenty of food for their imaginations, more than enough challenges for their creativity and intellects. Nor will I diss any alternative philosophical or religious expressions, but instead, hope to seek to understand and embrace their highest human and spiritual commonalities.

I will be sorely challenged, though, in this free-for-all world, to protect children from a steady diet of fear–whether political, cultural, media, storybook, or any other kind. But protect them we must–or lose them to a fear-based, instead of a love-based, sense of reality.

Perhaps what we can do best is to help them grow up positively and powerfully, so they can act on every good impulse and shine their lovely lights onto all the dark places in the world.

Perhaps someday, we can together lift ourselves and our loved ones (and that is, everyone) over life's heartaches and losses and disappointments–life's rough and lonely places–and never let anyone fall into feeling lost and separated for very long.



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Central Station, Not One Less, Children of Heaven, Autumn Spring, and Other Wonderful Movies….

I just watched the award-winning 1998 Brazilian film, Central Station (about the importance of connecting, belonging, and giving.) Two desperate, appealing, and brilliantly acted characters in dire straits—one a recent orphan, the other a sad retiree—are thrown together, and reluctantly save one another. The story centers on a relationship that develops during a journey. This movie drives home in a touching and entertaining way, how important family, friends, and security are in life, and how fragile and easily lost they are in life’s changing circumstances, and through cynicism, defeatism, and self-isolation. This gripping, beautifully-directed movie is also a revealing snapshot of everyday lives in a variety of intriguing rural, suburban, and urban settings in today’s Brazil.


Among many other wonderful, critically-acclaimed foreign films I’ve seen recently through Netflix, the following are truly the best of the best….


For families with young children, and for every adult, these films have my highest recommendation, as entertaining, well-made, and, well…just plain wonderful. Like Central Station (above), each has great potential for discussion, for insight into different cultures and human values, and for just about every pleasure one can find in a really memorable, insightful movie:


Children of Heaven, a not-to-be-missed, touching slice-of-life story showcasing a child learning values while making difficult choices, is set in working-class Iran. Not One Less (the same, with an emphasis on perseverance, is set in rural China. Rabbit-Proof Fence, an Incredible Journey-sort of film, except that it’s set in historical Australia, is based on true events. The three sojourners are Aborigine children trying to return home….


These three movies are all gentle, touching stories of winning children/families living typical lives in far corners of the earth, all highly enjoyable for all ages. They will stay in your mind forever.


For teens and their families, or for any adult, I recommend The Road Home, a sweet love story set in mainland China, and the funny and moving Secrets and Lies, about a successful (black) daughter’s reunion with her troubled (white) birth mother/family, who gave her away before seeing her as an infant (set in London).


The Battle of Algiers is a well-made, sad, dark, and moving historical film about an Islamic uprising against French colonists. I recommend it only (but especially) for adults who, like me, are interested in politics and history. It compellingly sheds light on current Middle Eastern conflicts.


The Barbarian Invasions is an interesting story of a father-son reconciliation, as well as a marvelous depiction of what a “good death” might entail. You'll see some fascinating Canadian culture, strong direction, a funny, thought-provoking and touching script, and solid performances by a delightful cast … recommended for any adult who finds this synopsis appealing.


I not only found Autumn Spring (about a Czech retired couple) delightful; it also taught me something I had forgotten about men—that they need to feel free to be men or they’ll die inside. Right after seeing this movie, I encouraged my husband to buy the bike of his dreams, which he is simply thrilled with…. I’m so happy with his new happiness that I’m reminded, as I write this review, to keep listening for and supporting the rest of his dreams…as he does mine….


Finally, a sometimes slow-moving but memorable and powerful film for anyone interested in immigration, migration, and refugees in any country, including our own, is In This World, about two young Afghan cousins who undertake a secret/illegal, and very arduous journey to improve their lives in London.


I am so grateful to all the creative and brilliant film-industry workers who made these films, and also to Netflix, truly the bargain of the century for culture-lovers…. Thank you!


(Please click on “reviews” to see earlier outstanding movies I've reviewed….)


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Selfish Gardener….

Check out my latest comic strip–about spring, gardens, pets…. Just click on the comic strip at the top, in the left column. The one below it is also new…it's about bullying…. Enjoy, and a happy Spring to all my readers everywhere….. I love reader feedback–please write to me at (NOT I'll reprint your letter and share my responses with my readers. I welcome questions too. Happy Spring!  – Eppy

You Can’t Have One and Have the Other

My military family moved a lot, so I went to eight different schools before college. One early casualty of our peripatetic lifestyle was my comfort level with girls, who were sometimes threatened by my abrupt and probably pushy arrival (military brats learn to make new friends quickly, or spend a lot of time alone.) It took me too long to learn how not to barge into new social situations, and how not to upset everyone’s apple carts.


Today I admire and enjoy many women, but I’ve had to work to overcome feeling timid around them, remembering too vividly many times during my youth when girls were downright mean to this frequently “new girl.”


I have since learned something very valuable that has helped me in my relationships with women. Here it is: it’s impossible to both be afraid of and actively care about someone—anyone—at the same time. Try it! It can’t be done. Whenever I choose one, I have to let the other go. When I allow my fears to come up, all my caring stays locked inside, hidden away. When I let my caring reveal itself, my fright disappears.


It makes perfect sense, doesn't it, that nobody warms up to someone who is apparently cold and fearful, who apparently doesn’t like them….


So I’ve learned to actively push away my defunct childhood fears whenever I’m around women. I very deliberately put aside my nervousness, and determinedly replace it by looking for, and focusing on, the good that I know is in every human being. Magically, when I do this, my uneasiness is gone.


Friendships with boys were easier for me. A tomboy raised in a family which valued men more than women, I always liked boys, and later on, men—and most people like people who like them, so men usually liked me back. I don’t remember many boys who were mean to me, although I know many women who’ve had different life experiences. (Incidentally, my insight about caring replacing fear, and vice versa, works just as well across opposite genders as it does within the same gender….)


My first trusted confidante was, predictably, a teenage boyfriend, rather than the usual sister, mom, grandmother, or longtime girlfriend (my family life was rather competitive, so I rarely let my defenses down there). My most companionable early friendships were with men. It took me far too long to admit to myself that, far from being merely disdainful and “uninterested” in women, I was really just self-protective, because I was scared of women, secretly afraid they would legitimately reject me for my many very real shortcomings.


Gradually, though, I had to face the fact that not having close women friends meant I was missing out on half of humanity. I also had to admit that there were indeed many women I liked and admired and wanted to be friends with.


I recently heard someone say (on the radio?) that what men want, even more than a “hot” woman, is a warm one—an affectionate and caring one. Truly, warmth is one of the most important qualities in a friendship.


But it’s hard to be warm when you’re feeling frozen inside a shell of anxieties and insecurities…..


I’ve found that whenever I’m consciously willing to let go of my fears, and opt instead to seek, and then openly share my genuine appreciation for another’s particular gifts, miraculously, all my worries disappear; they are somehow completely replaced by my caring. It seems that there just isn’t enough “space” in my/our little lizard-brain/s for two such opposing emotions to operate at the same time. (Perhaps a more scientific-sounding explanation of this analysis will one day emerge….)


What I’ve learned about fear and caring—that they can’t coexist, that when you choose the one, you have to let the other go—has proved to be delightfully generalizable to many other dicey, uncertain kinds of people and relationships.


Noting that my relationships with women had greatly improved (I’m much closer now to my sisters, daughters, mom-in-law, and old and new female friends) I started applying my new “fear vs. caring principle” to my other intimidating relationships—because I really do want to be the kind of happy person who doesn’t separate herself, or hold herself back from the rest of humanity, but instead, likes everyone, and relates easily and comfortably (and usefully) to everyone.


Here is a list of some potentially uncomfortable relationships with formidable “types of people” that anyone (myself included) can apply my new practice to:


People of other races, genders, and age groups; uneducated people; educated people; poor people; rich people; people with different religious beliefs and practices; people from rival schools, towns, teams, businesses, cities, states, nations; people who’ve made completely different choices in life than mine; grieving people; people from different ethnic groups; foreigners; people with different political views; people with different personal styles, values, or linguistic styles; people who (I imagine) don’t like me; people who (I imagine) won’t like me; people who (I imagine) I don’t or won’t like; strangers; really smart people; dumb ones; alcoholics; addicts; “bums”; criminals; people I’ve heard gossip about; mean people; people who seem “stuck up”; quiet people; loud people; popular people; marginalized people; grouchy people; shy people; sad people; lonely people; fat people; slim people; disabled, sick or disfigured people; dying people; confused or misguided people; troubled or needy people; crazy people; “different” people; socially clueless people; rude people; ugly people; klutzy people; angry people; family members; in-laws; people who listen to, read, watch, express, or believe different things than I do….


How often during my life will I appear in one or more of the above categories, from time to time? I can’t imagine any situation, though, in which I would prefer to be treated coldly and distrustfully, rather than with kindness and acceptance….


Learning to love my neighbor as myself is a hard challenge. It’s too easy to make exceptions, too easy to forget the golden rule of treating everyone as I would wish to be treated–and thus to miss all my opportunities to learn to be relaxed and helpful to everyone (or anyone).


Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” The thousands who admired this delightful humorist knew that his most-famous assertion was completely true to his character. I used to find his statement amazing and enviable. Now I aspire to it every day.


I’m pleased to finally be learning this trick of replacing fear with caring, I’m glad to feel so much more comfortable with, and interested in, so many different people, and I’m happy to share this insight with my internet friends—each of whom, I have no doubt, is every bit as lovable, unique, fallible, worthy of respect, and downright scary-weird as I am.


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