? m. on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It also happened to be Father's Day. There are innumerable ways to be a weapon against the world, and lobbing poop into someone else's happy day is a perfect example of how mundane and covert being a Clot can be, especially when using victimhood as the impetus. Joe's response was a deliberate silence. He deleted the message and went about his day, knowing that when you attempt to intervene in someone else's Clottery, often there are suddenly two Clots in the room. Brad's temper was meant to be dealt with the same way you handle a stray cat: by not feeding it. That's the most important lesson in dealing with the turd hurler: do not engage. In fact, that's why the term turd applies. Once you engage with this person's miserable victimhood, you get it all over you, and it becomes impossible to distinguish whose mess it is. As it turns out, when adults feel compassion for others, this emotion also creates very real physiological changes: their heart rates go down from baseline levels, which prepares them not to fight or flee but to approach and sooth. Additionally, nurturing behavior floods our bodies with oxytocin, a chemical reaction in the body that motivates us to be even more compassionate,2 an internal prize for kindness. Thank you for coming to my neuroscience class. We are meant for this, you guys! We are made to love each other! This is why we go all bull-in-a-china-shop sometimes. We are designed to feel the emotions of one another, so the pain of others triggers something primal in us. But rather than jumping in uninformed, grabbing the steering wheel when we should be in the passenger seat, advocacy requires a stage of listening and learning. No matter how wild with passion you are over an issue or people group or need, someone else is already on the ground with more knowledge, experience, and best practices.

Someone else is already on the ground having long been on the receiving end of that injustice. The two scientists had much in common, but crucial to their relationship was an interest in developing tools to explore the behavior of microbes in various environments. Knight and Dantas started talking about an experiment that they believed would shed light on the microbial world, but they had very specific parameters in mind. They wanted to see if they could look at the microbiome of people who had not had any exposure to antibiotics. What would that look like? Could that experiment even be done? Dantas doubted it, perhaps reflecting on the concrete jungle of Mumbai. But as luck would have it, Knight had been collaborating with the scientist Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello. Dominguez-Bello was a microbiologist at the University of Puerto Rico (she moved to New York University in 2012 and became a professor at Rutgers University. ) She had a long-standing interest in the microbiome. For most of her career, she had been busy studying Helicobacter. Avoidance goals are the opposite. Where approach goals center on taking the next step to reach a goal, avoidance goals split one's attention in two directions. On one hand, the individual still wants to reach the positive goal or outcome. On the other, he or she is also concerned with making sure negative possibilities, such as negative thoughts, self- defeating behaviors, or unexpected distractions, do not occur. Splitting attention and motivation in this way usually detracts from performance because, sooner or later, the individual runs out of the self- regulatory resources necessary for success, such as glucose (more technically glutamate), the ability to concentrate, or patience. Setting up negative goals may start out with good intentions because reducing unwanted thoughts and responses seems to make good sense. However, such a bifurcation of effort is more likely to reduce the possibility of taking the next step and more likely to increase the likelihood of failure.

For instance, when we tell someone, Don't be so negative, that person must spend self- regulatory resources ? (tattvamasi. ) We read it aloud for her because she didn't know what it said. She also couldn't remember what it meant, so we told her. She just liked the look of it and felt good having something of significance that held deep and profound meaning. On another occasion back in Australia, a young man working as a waiter in a cafe served us our lunch one day. He had a small Sanskrit tattoo on his wrist. I asked him about it: That's a beautiful-looking Sanskrit tattoo, what does it say? He smiled and looked pleased, he touched it with great affection for it clearly meant a great deal to him. He wasn't very clear on its meaning, he thought it meant something to do with service. Which stinks. By way of context, Joe knew his friend felt conflicted about being a father. Joe was also aware that Brad and his equally careerist wife had once all but pricked their fingers and signed an agreement in blood not to have kids. Brad's wife breached the unwritten contract, using threats of divorce and worse as her biological clock ticked on. And of course they had twins. To turn yourself into a weapon against the world effectively, it helps to know your target. Joe was a dad, too, and fatherhood was among the greatest pleasures in his life, an attitude Brad resented. In his first marriage, Joe did the exact same thing Brad's wife did. He was the deal-breaker, having realized he wouldn't feel complete until children were a part of his life.

Rather than force his wife to contort to his position, however, Joe ended the marriage on near ruinous terms. Someone else is already on the ground with hard-won lessons, a mobilized community, and an accurate perception of the big picture. Helping poorly can be worse than not helping at all. The best advocates are humble about learning. My dear friend Latasha Morrison founded a nonprofit called Be the Bridge as a vehicle for racial healing in the church and culture. Her work equips bridge builders toward developing vision and skills for racial unity. Her space is full of white folks shielded from the lingering effects of white supremacy embedded in minds, perceptions, and systems and thus mostly unaware of its ramifications. Latasha developed many educational resources, including a multiracial private Facearticle group for interested people. She created a rule for new members, which is carefully moderated to keep the space safe: You don't get to post your own or make a comment on anyone else's post for three months. She requires ninety days of humble listening, because the first response from most white people at the beginning of their learning curve is defensiveness, which translates to offensiveness. It's another way we tend to make things about us in a story that belongs to people of color. Helicobacter are a curious bunch. We all carry them in our gut--well, at least two-thirds of the world population does. For most people they are benign and harmless forms of bacteria--and scientists believe that the presence of these bacteria in the stomachs of children can reduce allergies as well as asthma. Occasionally, however, Helicobacter can also cause ulcers in children and adults by damaging the inner lining of the stomach and creating a sore. 3 Dominguez-Bello had been studying Helicobacter for some time, investigating a question that was often asked of her in her native Venezuela. Did the Europeans bring Helicobacter to the New World? Or was it already there when they arrived? It was well known that the Spanish colonizers had brought with them a whole host of diseases--ranging from measles to smallpox--that had decimated the native populations. But Dominguez-Bello wanted to know if the Europeans were carriers of Helicobacter and had introduced this bacteria to the region and, consequently, to the guts of native peoples.

Dominguez-Bello began investigating. on the task of monitoring his or her own thoughts and behavior, as well as trying to take the next step toward a positive goal. M's decision to set avoidance goals instead of approach goals as a child, such as avoiding failure rather than striving for success, is one important reason that the encouragement her parents offered did not work. The irony is that M's decision to concentrate on protecting herself by employing self- handicapping strategies used up mental and emotional energies that could have been better spent on trying harder to succeed. The same scenario is likely to have occurred with her desire to avoid rejection more than to explore possibilities in relationships. In either case, setting negative goals only works for a short time at best and often at the cost of important opportunities for growth, expansion, and well- being. Traveling to a given location is easier when we have a set destination in mind because approach- oriented goals like this one allow us to better anticipate challenges we are likely to face and to then develop realistic strategies to effectively deal with them. Keeping our mental eyes on the prize, so to speak, requires much less energy than does trying to get there while simultaneously scanning both one's internal and external environment all the time for negative thoughts and emerging threats. In addition, although problem- solving does require mental and physical energies, at least this approach will result in some of the small successes that stand as progress toward the goal, not to mention feeling better along the way. In fact, the same body of research on self- regulation and goal setting cited earlier shows that people who pursue positive or approach goals also experience lower degrees of stress, less anxiety, and fewer physical complaints than those who build their lives around avoidance goals. All things considered, then, it is better for people to develop a positive, focused plan designed around approaching a desirable goal than trying to avoid things that may happen or may not at any given time. The tattoo said: ? ? ? (seva), which means selfless service. We read it together and had a brief, meaningful conversation about the significance of service in our lives. A few months ago, while we were travelling in Australia, we met another lady behind a reception desk who had a tattoo up her inner arm: ? ? ? ?