Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Social Independence – An Impetus for Human Achievement

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Why is being independent in thought and action so important to the sustainability and evolution of the human spirit? As a healthy adult, what happens to individual self-respect if one becomes dependent on someone or something else to make decisions for him or her? How is personal responsibility impacted by dependency? What happens to a society when the people no longer have an independent say in the direction of their future? These are questions that should not be answered exclusively by politicians, but questions each of us should examine and reflect on for ourselves. There is presently an increased competition between self-determination and determination by others. Which one would you prefer to be the winner? Personally, I do not want someone else determining what my life can and will be.

Independent is defined as, “free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority”, “not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence”, capable of thinking or acting for oneself”. Would anyone reading those defining statements want the opposite for their life’s future? I am not suggesting we neglect those in need, nor disobey laws that protect our citizenry, but I am suggesting we have a responsibility to ensure dependency is not forced upon community and individuals. It is and has been social independence partnered with independent thinking that has ignited innovation, creativity and societal progress. Historically, independent thinkers have spurred the greatest periods of human achievement. The onset of the Renaissance where independent thinking bred the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, Issac Newton, and explorer Amerigo Vespucci whom America was named after is one example. It is, and has been, the independent thinking in America that has spawned progress scientifically, economically, and socially which is still the envy of many who seek an opportunity to trigger their own human potential. In contrast, the periods of history where independent thought was persecuted, human ingenuity, innovation and progress were stifled. The Soviet Union’s blanket of communism would be a prominent recent example in Western history of the deleterious effect of social dependency. Many of those once independent nations became irrelevant in contributing to the advancement of global progress. It is the freedom to make choices that is the foundation for human ingenuity. If we no longer have the right to choose, and choices are made for us, why would anyone be motivated to explore and capitalize on their capabilities? The incentive to achieve is lost because there is no emotional, physical or financial reward for any effort made. Creating a dependent mindset deteriorates entrepreneurial spirit and breeds mediocrity.

Another limitation that prevails from social dependency is a narrowing of perceptions and viewpoints. If controls are placed on what one may say, achieve, and the approach they can achieve, say farewell to creativity, innovation and the allowance of difference in thought. When societal leadership begins to limit our rights to exercise the basic freedoms that created America’s world leadership in the first place I believe that is harmful for all. Our freedom to be independent should not be debated by any political entity; it should be their unified responsibility to help preserve it. An independent way of life is not an issue; it is a fundamental right of freedom.

Finally, social dependency depletes individual uniqueness and social diversity. It may appear that it invites acceptance of a more diverse society, but in actuality it generates just the opposite. Is it healthy to have everyone like everyone else? It is the diversity of our independent thinking, and the acceptance of difference, that creates true diversity. I believe in equality of rights among all human beings, but not the creation of an equal society where everyone is expected to think a certain way, be dependent on some governmental entity to care for them, and be limited to what their potential for greatness may be. Social dependency deteriorates individual value, and self respect, makes an individual responsible to a governing body not themselves, and determines the future for its’ citizenry. It is responsible and healthy to debate issues, create and pass legislation that protects and preserves our citizenry. It is not the responsibility of those in power to diminish our right as citizens to choose, and stifle us from attaining our full human potential. To tap into the talents, skills, creativity, and spirit of our humanness are what make us all distinctly human.



Sarcasm – Not an Alternative to Honest Discourse

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Sarcasm is defined as, “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt”, irony is defined as, “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite,” and contempt is defined as, “the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn”. Although sometimes humorous, sarcasm conveys to the person on the receiving end contempt, and the irony of the statement is a telling truth of what an individual sincerely believes about another. All of us have experienced the sting of sarcasm. On the surface we normally dismiss it as a little humor, but it can also be extremely hurtful. Literally, it is not the content of the statement but how the tone of the statement is expressed. Saying, “nice haircut” in a sarcastic manner is much more than the words themselves express. My intent in sharing this is to recommend that we monitor more closely the sarcasm we may express, and especially the sarcasm that our youth expresses to one another. The old saying, “if you have nothing positive to say about someone don’t say it”, is in need of being reinvigorated in our ever increasing verbally sniping society. When someone expresses sarcasm, it is a mirror to one’s own insecurities, and a self-destructive way to strengthen self-respect. How can any human being be happy with them self when their apparent joy is the result of being verbally destructive towards another person? Sarcasm can be hurtful to the recipient, but it diminishes the character and the self-respect of the individual delivering the sarcasm. I have also found it interesting how sarcastic individuals seem gleeful and feel clever after they shoot their sarcastic venom. It is never clever to demean another person for it is a self-poisoning attribute. In many respects, sarcasm has become a part of everyday existence, and is certainly perfected by comedians. David Letterman is the foremost example of the delivery of sarcastic humor, and it is arrogant and self-defeating. It can be in jest, but many times it is used as an underhanded subtle attack on others. Sarcasm is always at the expense of another person whether intentionally or unintentionally. What do we teach our children when we are an example of being sarcastic? It encourages a belief that sarcasm is an acceptable behavior, and supports the allusion that one talented in sarcasm possesses a positive attribute because it generates attention.

The pain of sarcasm is particularly destructive to developing relationships. The best example of this I have witnessed is the disrespect young men and women direct toward one another, specifically in the age range of junior and senior high school students. The effects of sarcasm are clearly felt by many young women, and men, and have a deleterious impact on one’s self-esteem development. It is not “cool” to be degrading through sarcasm. Embolden our children, and their friends, to take the high road by being respectful and not degrading. It will pay dividends in the long run and only generate greater individual leadership and peer respect.

In the process of conducting constructive discourse in an adult or business setting, there is no place for sarcasm. It distracts attention away from the discourse and redirects purposeful discussion to personal accusations and innuendos. I have also witnessed sarcasm being used when one side of a discussion is losing the dialogue, and their talking points become less effective and dominant. In many cases, sarcastic remarks are used as a defense mechanism to attempt to relinquish accountability for the potential negative outcome of the discourse. Inevitably this is a losing strategy personally and professionally. Finally, sarcasm is an attempt to substantiate superior intellect over others, and justify an elitist attitude. It may appear clever and humorous at the time it is used, but no one takes sarcasm as a serious indicator of an individual’s level of intelligence, integrity and character. It diminishes individual credibility, and negatively impacts how serious a person’s opinions are respected. Most importantly it deteriorates the amount of trust that is established. Inherently we do not trust those who are sarcastic towards others. Enjoy taking the high road and establishing an example that is respected by all.



Needs and Fears – Catalysts for Decision Making

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Have you ever asked yourself, why did I make the choices I have made in my life? What inspired me to select a certain educational path, my profession, a location to live, a significant other? Two primary stimuli impacting our choices are needs and fears, which originate during our childhood. Human beings naturally direct themselves to what they perceive they need, and distance themselves from what they perceive they fear. For example, if we experience an event as a child resulting in feeling less valued then our friends and others in society, we may develop a need to be appreciated. Subsequently, this need to be appreciated will markedly influence our future decision-making process.

What if at a young age we experience the loss of someone very close to us, an event which magnified our awareness of loss, pain, and abandonment? This will result in a substantial fear of intimacy, for we never again want to endure those depressing and wounding emotions. This will significantly affect decisions made in regard to future relationships. We may express love for someone but there will be a limit to how emotionally intimate we become with them, based on how vulnerable we are to the destructive emotions generated from that childhood loss.

Neglecting an awareness of our needs and fears creates an imbalance in recognizing our own personal identity. Decisions will be made to satisfy the needs and fears, which may not be in alignment with our core values, and not correlate with what brings us honest fulfillment. For example, if I strive for appreciation and in the process compromise my values, I am being internally disingenuous.

To illustrate how this lack of alignment can create personal conflict let me use myself as an example. After the passing of my father when I was eleven I entered the 7th grade attending St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Kingston, NY. I passed 7th grade but my mother sensing it was an emotionally difficult year had me repeat the 7th grade and attend J. Watson Bailey Junior H.S. I can vividly remember walking into 7th grade, for a second year, seeing many of my friends, and I immediately perceived they all thought I was stupid, a repeater. How do I make up for that apparent stupidity and attain a level of equal appreciation among my peers. How about becoming the class clown, achieve in sports, run for class office, be a team captain, prove to people I am not stupid by attending West Point, major in nuclear physics, be an Airborne/Ranger, corporate sales leader, start my own business, begin public speaking, author a book? That should attain abundant appreciation, shouldn’t it? However, the real question is not how many others appreciate me, but rather how much do I appreciate myself. Why would I have to answer that question? I am doing just fine, drive a nice car, live in a nice neighborhood, have a nice house. How could it possibly be me causing this internal conflict? If it is me then I have to ask myself, what do I honestly stand for and believe in, and what core values genuinely reflect who I am? I do not want to acknowledge that because if I reflect on personal core values I have violated, then I will have to hold myself accountable. There is no way I want to concede that. Therefore, I conclude it is not the result of me, but my internal struggle must be the result of someone or everybody else. So I walk in my house, with my lovely wife and children present, and how do I behave, kind, loving, a good listener? On the contrary, since I am in conflict with myself I behave in a manner where I may be destructive and disrespectful. A “button” is pushed, an argument ensues, people start screaming, the kids get involved, and now there is mayhem in the house. For me this is perfect, why? I do not have to contend with myself. I can point to my family and say, “see I’m not appreciated”, and now I can justify any behavior I want. I can lie, cheat, be dishonorable, because it is their fault. The reality is, every time we redirect personal responsibility to others we are dishonest with ourselves. It explains perfectly why individuals can have things, title, wealth and fame and be absolutely miserable. Take the time to validate those core values, which reflect who you are, and ensure the needs and fears in your life are not distracting you from a path that is purposeful, sincere and most importantly a true reflection of you.



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