Last weekend I had the pleasure to join the Landmark Advanced course in Portland. I haven’t done a Landmark program since 2009-2010 when I completed their first program in the Curriculum for Living called the Landmark Forum, and then their two advanced communication courses: Access to Power and Power to Create.

I gained a lot of personal empowerment from these courses, and as you know, personal empowerment is the name of my game. I dork out on this stuff. So, I wanted to share a bit about how difficult this advanced course was, and how glad I am that I participated, through a bit of case study example: let’s call him Charles.

Naysayers beware

First, for all the Landmark naysayers who complain about it being a cult or begrudge them for enrolling their participants in asking you to join them for a special evening where they try and sell you their programs: GET OVER IT! You get marketed to everyday by brands you that don’t even remember, and don’t begrudge them. You just ignore them. So why do you have a problem saying ‘no’ and ignoring these requests for your attention, if you aren’t interested?

By the way, many religions and sports are by definition cults too, so apparently being in a cult is socially acceptable. In other words, please don’t make Landmark Education wrong for asking for your business. It’s what American businesses do.

Speaking from the perspective of a business owner, asking your clients to refer you business is the most respectful form of marketing to you, the prospective client. One of my clients must think that my service is valuable enough that you might get something out of it. That’s a compliment to you and to me, the business owner. Not to mention that referral marketing keeps programs like Landmark’s incredibly cheap and accessible to everyone, compared to the value you are getting. How much do brands pay to advertise on T.V., radio, the internet, etc.?

Not to mention the fact that parts of this curriculum are also taught in some of the best ivy league schools in the nation, for those of you that need some other authority (besides yourself) to make things OK. If it’s good enough for Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc, it’s good enough for you.

Sorry, but had to get that off my chest…Ok…moving on.

The Problem with Saying No

There’s no problem with saying ‘no.’ I know, I know; that’s a contradiction with the header leading into this section, but I was setting you up on purpose. What I have to share about my evening is that I had a guy in my group, let’s call him Charles for anonymity, who was on a mission to say ‘no’. He got very angry and, dare I say ‘agro,’ about saying ‘no’ too.

Remember, you get what you’re looking for, and if you’re looking for people to be out of integrity, you WILL find that. We all say and do contradictory things. I’m not defending that, I’m just saying look at yourself too, Charles. You are out of integrity all the time. At others have the balls to admit it. If you look for it, you WILL find things you don’t like about how people are. So Charles, why not look for how the others out of integrity are contributing to you? That’s what I’m doing with my case study below.

How Charles was a contribution to me

I once had a music teacher say, “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it big.” My first thought Charles was: you knew what you were getting into, you knew Landmark was going to ask you to enroll people in a possibility of taking their programs, that’s made abundantly clear in the experience before you got here (this is the second course), so why get so upset about it? After all, you chose to be here.

My second thought, and I didn’t see this until after a number of interactions with this guy where I knew he was going to say no, and he was clearly perturbed that I asked him anyway. It was like he didn’t want to have to say ‘no.’ Now that’s my story, but follow me here if you can. If your intention is to say ‘no’ as your context for being in a space, which is what Charles stated, and someone asks you a question, and you say ‘no,’ why are you getting angry about that?

So it gets better…after numerous aggressive ‘No’s from this man: once at the mike where he told everyone to F*#@ off, and once where he stomped out of his seat stepping on someone’s foot in the process, to the last ‘no’ where instead of saying ‘no’ he says, “Will you have sex with me?” The woman answers, “No.” and starts crying, and he looks at me with the message on this face “See, I told you so.” I realized something very profound—this guy’s really not OK with saying ‘No.’

If ‘No’ were no big deal, then why get so angry about saying ‘No’? Especially when you’ve setup the expectation that you’re going to say ‘No’ to everyone about everything! I mean, I expect it dude, no need to get aggressive.

The Final Touch

After this last, obviously hurtful interaction, Charles got up and left. It was then that I had my deepest realization. The guy didn’t apologize. I couldn’t help but think, this guy can’t forgive himself and he doesn’t trust us to forgive him either. He hears us continue to invite him back, but he can’t really understand that we love him despite his No’s and his aggression and that we’re willing to forgive him. But until he lets us forgive him, I don’t believe he’ll ever learn to forgive himself. And this is the highest form of love—the ability to forgive yourself.

By the way, if you’re going to be a tall, aggressive man in our culture, you have to be responsible for your impact on others.

So despite the praise my group gave me as their group leader, this was my failure of the Advanced Course. I didn’t call this guy out on his B.S., on hiding, on being a coward. I didn’t call him out for not apologizing when he hurt someone in my community, even if he was fully justified in declaring his right to say ‘No.’ Leaving after you hurt someone without apologizing means you don’t care about them or yourself.

I didn’t call him out on his unwillingness to let others be wrong and let himself be wrong, to recognize and be with that he hurt people, and invite him to let them forgive him anyway. To be forgiven is a courageous act. To forgive yourself requires even more fortitude.

But I will call out not him, but this behavior next time…for the benefit of our whole community.

 

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