Today I start asking the four questions. I apply the first question, “Is it true?” to my statement that my dad didn’t care about me.
Well, no. It’s not true. He did care about me.
He didn’t show that he cared the way I would have liked him to show it, which would have been by making a personal connection through attention, eye contact, hugs, and showing interest by asking me questions like what did I think about something or how my day went.
But you know, I didn’t ever tell him that that’s how I would have liked for him to show he cared. Those were things my mom did. Maybe he thought she did enough for both of them.
Or maybe he had Asperger’s, high functioning autism. He died before it was ever a diagnosis. People with Asperger’s have difficulty making eye contact, making small talk, understanding social norms.
The ways he showed he cared about me was by being a reliable breadwinner, going to work, making the money to pay for our home, car, food, bills, clothing, vacations, and so on. He occasionally made remarks that showed he had been paying attention, though they were so rare, it surprised me when he did. Several times I heard him praise me for the grades I made in school.
In Loving What Is, Byron Katie advises when asking whether a statement is true that you get very still and let the answer come to you.
It doesn’t matter what your answer is. The process works if your answer is yes or no. The point is to discover what is true from the deepest part of yourself. Listen for your answers, not someone else’s answers.
Another way to deepen this question is to ask “What’s the reality of this situation?” If you think Paul shouldn’t watch so much television, but the reality is that he does, then you saying he shouldn’t is arguing with reality, an argument you can never win. It doesn’t do you any good, and it doesn’t change Paul’s behavior. It only causes you stress.
In reality, there is no such thing as a “should” or a “shouldn’t.” These are only thoughts that we impose onto reality. The mind is like a carpenter’s level. When the bubble is off to one side — “It shouldn’t be raining” — we can know that the mind is caught in its thinking. When the bubble is right in the middle — “It’s raining” — we can know that the surface is level and the mind is accepting reality as it is. Without the “should” and “shouldn’t,” we can see reality as it is, and this leaves us free to act efficiently, clearly, and sanely. Asking “what’s the reality of it?” can help bring the mind out of its story, back into the real world.
Katie also says that there are three kinds of business in the universe, mine, yours, and God’s.
When you think that someone or something other than yourself needs to change, you’re mentally out of your business…. Ask yourself, “Whose business is it how much television I watch?Whose business is it how much television Paul watches? And can I really know what’s best for Paul in the long run?”
This is another way of expressing the message of the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.