It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

From Pieces to Perfection

When one turns pens on a wood lathe, he accumulates quite a pile of short pieces of exotic and domestic hardwoods. They’re beautiful, too beautiful to toss. But what do you do with them?

I had a bucketful of ’em. They didn’t seem to be worth much.

I started to toss the pieces into the trash anyway, when an idea struck. I dumped them out on my workbench and sorted out a few. I glued several of the pieces together, clamped them overnight, and turned them on the lathe the next morning.

I made an inkwell and an old-fashioned dip-pen using a wing feather from a barred wild turkey. Click here to see it.

The finished product looked NOTHING like the random bits and pieces I had started with. Those pieces were now part of a greater whole. Their individual insignificance became significant, indeed.

There’s strength in bringing pieces together. For instance, it’s no chore to break a plain old #2 wooden pencil. But when you tape 15 or so of them together in a bundle, breaking them barehanded is next to impossible. 

One idea doesn’t seem like much, but when you compile them into a cohesive whole, you end up with a house that will give you shelter, an automobile that will take you where you want to go, a book that can encourage and inform, and a computer that can keep track of it all.

And it’s the same with people. Whether we’re talking about adults or young people, there’s strength and power in numbers and the capacity to move the efforts of those numbers toward a worthy accomplishment.

But what am I going to do now with 47 inkwells?

 James Sutton, psychologist  

September 27, 2007 Posted by | adversity, family, Inspirational, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being a Humanitarian Isn’t Easy

My last post drew an interesting comment:

“Humanitarians” do not start wars which kill 700,000

My knowledge of American History is good enough for me to know that Abraham Lincoln DID NOT start the Civil War. The forces of South Carolina, which ultimately grew into the Southern Confederacy, started it by demanding the surrender of the garrison at Fort Sumter in April of 1861.

If anything, Lincoln was determined to STOP a war that pitted brother against brother and created an internal cancer of a country feeding upon itself. Read the history; it’s there. Who in their right mind would CHOOSE to lead a mess like that?

It had to be worse than a 100 Iraqs. 

I’m not Abraham Lincoln’s apologist; I don’t have to be. We’ve made holidays of the birth of only two presidents, and he was one of them.

We don’t honor killers in that fashion.

We carved in granite on the Mall in Washington, D.C., what is arguably one of the finest short speeches ever written, The Gettysburgh Address. It contains a number of words like “we,” “our,” and “us.” There’s not a single reference to “I.”  It’s a collective call to honor. We think enough of this man’s words that we encourage our children to learn them and recite them. 

Not exactly the philosophy of a killer, huh?

In all fairness to Mr. Lincoln, our Founding Fathers saved the Civil War for him by electing to pass on the issue of slavery. In addition to the moral components of the issue, they were afraid that abolishing slavery would cause collapse to the economies that depended on slave labor. Some of these men themselves owned slaves.

That issue simmered and festered until it errupted 85 years later. The war was on.

Lincoln didn’t whip it up for a little something to do while he was in the White House.


James Sutton, Psychologist 

September 25, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Educators, family, Inspirational, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When One’s Doubts Become World News

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies; succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway. –Mother Teresa

This is one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa. I believe the woman lived what she wrote. But, as we all know by now, she also wrote of her doubts, and she questioned her role in God’s Plan and work.

But her doubts apparently didn’t shut down her service to others. Doubts and all, she was a remarkable woman with a humble spirit and a powerful voice. Whether she ever reaches sainthood or not, it’s fair to say she’s about the closest thing to a saint that has lived in our lifetime.  

Which brings a question: Do we really need to know what she shared in her diaries and in her personal letters? Why shouldn’t secret questions and thoughts stay that way?

Doubts don’t diminish our humanity; they make it honest. Doubt is a human condition, so what’s wrong with being human?

Abraham Lincoln suffered angst and doubt most every day he was president. Yet he is regarded as one of our greatest leaders and humanitarians of all time. His doubts caused him private pain … not public failure.

As they say, “It’s lonely at the top.” And, I suppose, those at the top have their doubts as regularly as they have their meals.

Years ago I worked with a young lady in residential treatment. She had been physically and sexually abused in her home for years before she was finally removed and placed into treatment. She did well, very well. Yet, when she left treatment, left the state, went to work, went to college, married and had a family, doubts plagued her daily.

“How do I know I’m a good mother?” she would ask me by telephone. “I’m doing the best I can, yet I had no model for what a good mom is. I don’t want to mess up.”

I reassured her that, from all accounts, she was doing well. I told her not to fret so about it. But, of course, she fretted anyway.

Four children later she became more comfortable with being a parent.  She has done very, very well in her marriage and in her business. But none of it had been easy.

Doubts. They don’t make us imperfect.

They just make us real.

James Sutton, Psychologist

September 15, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 2 Comments

It Begins With … ME!

(Here’s a piece from my 2007-2008 school year newsletter, Reaching Out.) 

This past summer I attended a lecture by bestselling author, Dr. Joe Vitale. He referenced the documented work of Hawaiian psychologist, Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, in his presentation.

An Impossible Job

Dr. Hew Len had what most would consider an impossible job. He was the psychologist for a hospital ward full of criminally insane patients. Many of these patients wore wrist and ankle restraings much of the time.

He knew it would be difficult to work with these patients directly, so Dr. Hew Len worked on himself instead. (He calls this process “cleaning.” It is derived from the ancient Hawaiian teachings of Ho’oponopono.) As he worked on himself, the patients began to heal, and the ward was eventually closed.

Pretty amazing stuff, isn’t it? It got me to thinking how a variety of this sort of approach might work with young people.

A Head Start

I reflected on my toughest cases over the years, those children and adolescents who seemed unstoppable in their deviant behaviors. How many of them were criminally insane?

Let me see … it was about … well, it was about …. ZERO. I have never worked with a youngster who was criminally insane. I had a head start on Dr. Hew Len all along, and didn’t even know it.

Easy to Blame

It’s easy to blame a youngster for all the problems, distractions and disruptions they leave in their wake. Believe me, I’ve done my share of blaming. But I cannot remember the blaming ever creating much change.

It’s only when we change ourselves that others (especially the younger ones we work with everyday) can best reflect it back to us. It’s a much tougher job than blaming, but the benefits are pretty awesome.


Dr. Hew Len shares that his mentor kept a placard on her desk that read: Peace begins with me. It was a statement of profound responsibility and action.

I wish us all the “burden” of that kind of peace.

James Sutton, Psychologist

(To download my newest (FREE) 16-page e-book, Resolving Conflict with Your Children, click on this link. The principles introduced in this post are discussed in this e-book.)

September 6, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 1 Comment


I’m not a world traveler, really. I’ve been to seven or eight other countries and always consider it pretty special to get BACK to the USA. One of my acquaintances, a business philosopher, inspirer and teacher once said this:

If you’re having trouble getting your business and your live to flourish, it’s NOT because you’re living in the wrong country.–Jim Rohn

To that I can only add, “Amen.” I mention this because this issue is fresh on my mind. I was in Canada last week, Kelowna, BC, to be exact. After training teachers for the day, I caught a hop back to Vancouver, BC, for a flight home.

Although I was told I would go through US Customs in Vancouver, I was not prepared for what happened when my Air Canada flight let us off the plane. The direct route to the International Terminal was closed and construction was everywhere. I got lost following a little American Flag that was supposed to direct me. It directed me alright, in a CIRCLE!

Through a fatiguing ordeal that I won’t go into here, I finally ended up in the right place, where I got the most recent stamp on my passport. Around the edge of the stamp it says, “Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection.” But the best part of the stamp is what’s printed squarely in the center of it: “ADMITTED.” I suppose the Customs agent could see I had already been through the ringer as he handed my passport back to me and said simply, “Welcome home!”

American has its problems and faults but, all of it considered, I’m grateful for the protection, the freedoms and the opportunities she provides.

Have a relaxing and refreshing Labor Day.

 James Sutton, Psychologist  

September 3, 2007 Posted by | Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents | Leave a comment