Category: friendship

Who validates you?


We all want to be a ‘valid person’. But most of us have some little (or large) secret insecurities. These can make us nervous about being ourselves. So there is a human tendency to seek validation from others. Comedians seek laughter. Actors seek applause. Craftsmen seek appreciation. And so on.

I think for most of us this seeking of validation starts when we are small. Do we fit in? Are we popular? Or are we on the edge of the crowd? Are we sometimes shunned?

I remember when I was at primary school and we’d have a medical check. When they did the hearing test I tried really hard to hear the quietest sounds. I was always hoping the nurse would say, ‘You have incredible hearing. I think you’re unique.’ I hope she’d tell others and officials would come and visit me at school and say, ‘Your hearing ability is so amazing, the Prime Minister wants to meet you.’

Needless to say that never happened.

But seeking validation can be very dangerous. Sometimes we give the power of validation to the wrong person – the overbearing parent, the judgemental friend, the unsupportive spouse.

And that’s what we need to understand – we hold the power of our own validation and we choose who to give it to. Be careful.

Many men suffer because they gave the power of validation to their father but he never validated them, never said well done.

In Paul Merton’s autobiography he tells how he sought his Father’s approval but it never came… until his Father was dying. At the last moment in the hospital he tells him how proud he has been of him. After his death, when the family are clearing his Father’s house, they find a scrapbook with every newspaper article about Paul Merton. His Father had been a secret admirer all along.

Many men and women give the power of validation to one parent or other and sometimes the approval never comes.

In some ways we are all seeking a mini-validation by getting the thumbs up ‘like’ on Facebook, or the favourite star – or even better a RT – on Twitter. I’m hoping for a few on this article! But if not, I’m not bothered.

I sometimes get people giving me the benefit of their opinion on my life or work. Here’s a news flash for them all – I haven’t given you the power to validate or invalidate me.

I choose to let history / God / the Universe validate me or not.

The group of people that irritates me the most is those who think they are something special when they’re just like the rest of us. They assume that their opinion is of more value than mine. They spout their opinion as though it was an inarguable fact, when it is just an opinion.

People told me I couldn’t go to the Third-World to help the poor. People told me I couldn’t write a book. They told me I couldn’t start a Charity, or buy my own house.

So I did.

Be careful of those who try to hold you back. They may be trying to keep you down in order to lift themselves up.

You have the power to validate yourself.

While it is always helpful to have a few wise counsellors around you, you need to be true to yourself.

We are all looking for someone to believe in us but be very careful about letting others validate you, because one day they may decide to invalidate you.

You are unique.

Go and be amazing today!


End of the year as we know it


Well limbo is coming to an end – those few days between Christmas and New Year. As Ian McMillan put it:

‘At the tail end of December, the days huddle together for warmth.’

– Ian McMillan

I don’t know how you feel about 2014 but I have mixed feelings about it.

Several friends were diagnosed with life threatening cancer in 2014. So there has been lots of prayers and visits to different parts of the country. So far so good.

This in turn made me get myself checked out. I’m not very good at going to the doctor – I average one visit every decade. But this time my visit turned into blood tests, scans and having a camera shoved up my rear end!

Fortunately, it turned out I only have a slight problem with my prostate but nothing serious. Old age apparently.

But remembering that gratitude increases happiness, what am I thankful for in 2014?

At the beginning of May I finally gave up alcohol. And in September I gave up caffeine. These were two things I’d been trying to do for years, so well done me! (Pats self on back).

(By the way – if you want to quit alcohol all together but you are finding it hard or impossible, I can recommend Jason Vale’s book Kick the Drink Easily! Lots of people think they could just stop if they wanted to, but find it’s a lot harder than they think!)

In November I began keeping a food diary again, which is the only way I’ve found to lose a bit of weight.

I took more exercise this year specially cycling to work more.

All that has given me an increased feeling of health and wellbeing, so I plan to stick with all of those things.

These are things I sometimes have as New Year resolutions and then fail to achieve.

Resolutions never work unless we are prepared for a change of lifestyle.

Dieting for a coupe of months achieves nothing, if we just go back to unhealthy eating at the end of it.

As ever, I am very grateful for a loving family and the friends I have, and all the great supporters for the work we do in Africa and the UK.

I want to continue to take more simple steps to improve my life every month, so that the accumulated effect of these simple steps becomes transformational.

I’ll be putting together a FREE e-book and also publishing a more substantial book on Simple Steps to Improve Your Life in 2015.

If you want the link to the FREE e-book, it will only be available to members of my email list. They also get a FREE extra thought on life improvement each month. One email a month. No SPAM. I NEVER pass on your info to anyone else. Period.

One click unsubscribe option in every email.

You can sign up for FREE here.

Happy New Year! All the best for 2015!

Developing an attitude of gratitude


There is a lot wrong with the world – that’s true. There have been a lot of wrong things in my life, things that really hurt me, not least the loss of three family members back in the 1980s. That is also true.

For the last twenty years, a big part of my work has been helping adults and children in Rwanda recover from the horrors of genocide. I’ve seen some horrors in that country in the aftermath of the killing.

BUT… and it is a big BUT!

There is a lot we can be grateful for in the world. It doesn’t deny the injustice or the suffering in the world, but it does help.

Here’s the thing:

One of the steps of my own personal healing has been to learn to be intentionally grateful and thankful. I’ve spent years being depressed by what I lost. But I can’t change the past. By focussing on what we no longer have, we often miss the many things we do have.

Something happens when we give thanks for good stuff – it enriches our lives and releases joy in our spirit.

Over the next seven days, I am going to write down something I am thankful for each day.

We may have moments when something good happens that we are grateful for. But I am talking about being intentionally grateful, everyday.

If you woke up in a bad mood today – give thanks that you woke up today. Not everyone did…

If we want to build our gratitude muscle we have to nurture an attitude of gratitude by listing the things we are thankful for each day. As it gets stronger, it will bring us joy and happiness.

I once heard about a man called Tom who was always thankful. When he had an accident and broke his arm, his friend commiserated with him about his broken limb. But Tom said it was the best broken arm he had ever had!

Perhaps that is a little extreme but here is a short video to get you started.

What are you thankful for today?



Reunion with friends…

You would think that the older you get, the easier it is to make friends. But often the reverse is true – it can be harder to make real friendships.

When you were little it was fairly easy to make friends with anybody. You always had something in common – you were just a kid. When you are a kid anybody can be your friend. If they are standing outside your house, they’re your friend!

I remember a boy from the next street walked over to me once. I was test-driving my new wellies by walking in a muddy puddle. He came over to watch. He wanted to walk in the puddle too but he was only wearing shoes. I tempted him in. He had a great time but ruined his shoes. His Mum went mad. We became friends from that day. But when we left primary school, we lost touch.

From your teens into your twenties you are exploring the freedom of adult life and are likely to ‘try out’ lots of friendships. It’s a time of experimentation and friends are in great supply. You’re often spoilt for choice.

In your thirties you find you have a set group of friends. They know the places, the food, the ‘in-jokes’. It then becomes hard to make new friends. We now have emotional baggage and we have found a few people who understand us, or at least tolerate us.

We experience internal shifts in how we approach friendship. We move from self-discovery to self-knowledge, so we become pickier about whom we surround ourselves with. We become less tolerant of those people who engage in toxic behaviour – like constant negativity, victim mentality, repeated angry reactions and putting others down. (We’ll explore those in another post).

The manipulators, drama queens, and egomaniacs will eventually be sidelined by most people.

When we find true friends, it is important to invest time in those relationships. Spending time with a true friend is never a waste of time. An outside observer could view the time I spend with true friends and think they were watching two people waste time – nothing really happens. But actually it does – something deep and unseen.

I used to have a friend who lived just round the corner. We’d call on each other and have a chat and drink coffee.

One day he became ill and went to hospital. Soon he moved house and his sickness became terminal. It was devastating to watch this guy, who was only a couple of years older then me, physically decline.

When he died, I conducted his funeral.

I miss him dreadfully. Every time I walk past his old house I remember the days of laughter, discussion and friendship.

And that’s the thing, when you get into your fifties, some of your friends pass away.

Those sad moments make me realise that actually we are all one. When I was little, my Mum told me never to speak to strangers. But you know what? I’ve started doing just that – saying hello to strangers I meet in the street and on walks in the countryside. We are all human and many are lonely.

Earlier this year, we arranged a reunion with a few friends from college days. I’d not seen some of them for twenty or so years. We picked up the friendship like we’d seen each other yesterday. We are going to meet more frequently now.

These men were really three clowns. (I’m the fourth clown.) We were and are a bunch of clowns. But those friendships are special.

As we drove home from that weekend reunion, I remembered that, back in the 80s, when our son died just before his third birthday, these three guys were the ones who came to visit us when no one else did. They didn’t come with an agenda or advice. They just came to be with us. They still clowned around but with a deep respect for us. It brought a bit of normality into our tragedy. One of them came to the Coroner’s Office and helped me register the death.

True friends.

These days I think I have friends for different needs. It may sound a bit clinical or efficient but it isn’t. I have writing friends, a few coffee friends, some lunch friends, a swimming friend etc. Some of those friendships overlap, which is even better.

If we want friends, we need to be a friend. We need to invest in time together, create memories by doing things together, and build a shared history.

Facebook tells me I have 170+ friends. I haven’t. I know 170 people enough to chat to them when we meet – and it’s rare that we meet. Those are really acquaintances.

True friends – in whose company we can just be ourselves – are few. And that’s true for most of us.

So what’s the simple step on friendship? If you want a friend then be a friend to someone. Invest time in your best friendships. Make time to hang out. Look at yourself and ask if you frequently engage in toxic behaviours of negativity, anger, ranting, or the ‘poor-me’ victim mentality. If you do, stop it. Be positive. Don’t take things too seriously. Be the type of friend that you would want someone to be to you. Who do you plan to spend time with this week?

‘You are my friends.’

– Jesus