Updated: May 8
By Daniel Schmitz, Associate Partner
As a father of a daughter, I feel compelled to write an answer to the accusations that have been made by the Daily Mail and by online trolls against Paul Waugh and against Lighthouse International Group. What triggered me especially was the reaction of some trolls on the back of Paul speaking openly about his children. It is already unacceptable to attack an organisation or individuals of an organisation, but it definitely goes too far when the well-being of children is affected.
What to expect in this article
In this article, I will share how I personally benefited from Lighthouse International Group and mentoring, why I believe that this is so important for all families and children, and how the trolling affected me, my relationships and my business opportunities. I also want to share how one of the people I’m working with turned things around, from almost running away after reading about the smear campaign against Lighthouse International Group, to taking responsibility and seeing the reality of how misguided and destructive the trolls are. This shows how someone can learn to respond in a mature way through being able to look inside and take responsibility instead of blaming and wanting to destroy the lives and livelihoods of others.
Individual and family benefits of mentoring
During all the time I’ve known Paul and since I’ve been involved with Lighthouse International Group, I benefited massively from his leadership and guidance. Through his direct and indirect help and through working together with my mentor, I managed to work through a lot of personal challenges and obstacles, and the whole process and support benefited me massively. I learned a lot about what it means to be a human being and about the importance of parenting and self-parenting. On the back of this, my relationship with myself and with others improved enormously.
I realised how much I lost sight of what makes us special as human beings and how I was focusing more and more on limited and narrow areas of life before I started to be mentored. My view of reality was quite distorted and I was lost in a lot of delusions and illusions. For sure there is always a lot more that can and needs to be worked on in oneself, but I have enough internal and external references to see how much I changed. I feel a lot more grounded, balanced, joyful and compassionate towards myself and others, and I am a lot more able to take responsibility which benefits me and my family. The same applies to my ability to add more value in other relationships, and I’m a lot clearer about what I stand for. It is easy to become insensitive in this world and we all need support and reminders to develop our humanness and to stand up against what is wrong.
This is why I really value the approach of looking at the underlying causes that lead to personal and global issues and at ways of tackling them. I see huge opportunities in bringing good-hearted people together who are willing to look at themselves, who want to take more responsibility and who want to be part of the solution.
The trolls chose differently and their behaviour makes it quite obvious that they are not interested in being part of the solution that ultimately benefits us all, especially our children.
Destructive intentions of trolls
Reading the Daily Mail article and the troll comments about Lighthouse International Group made me question what the underlying motive is, and what drives those who are trolling.
It is quite obvious that they are not driven by love and that their pure intention is to destroy and to get what they want - whatever it takes. They want to be right and they believe they can twist the truth, share lies, attack people, dogpile, break people and structures down, and act in a destructive way without consequences. To a degree, that sounds like a toddler in their terrible twos, but the reality is that there are consequences. Those trolls will be kept accountable in all legal ways and ultimately it will affect them, their life situations and their families. We all have choice, but we can’t pick up one end of a stick without picking up the other end.
The need to look after our children
Since I’ve met Paul, he has extended himself massively in regard to supporting children. He is primarily a human being and a father, and being a businessman comes after that. I know his children personally and Paul’s love and care towards them always encouraged me to look at myself and at my own relationship with my daughter and to ask myself how I can become a better father. I realised how little I knew about parenting and that there is a lot to learn! I could see more of my own arrogance to assume that I don’t have to improve my understanding of parenting and how wrong I was to think that I can naturally be a good dad. For example, I had no idea about the importance of setting clear boundaries for children and how important it is to help them to develop their emotional and spiritual intelligence next to mental development.
The reality is that so many children are suffering at the moment. The levels of mental illness and suicide in children are through the roof, and I seriously believe that we can do a lot better individually and collectively to be there for our children. We are one human family and I believe that everyone can benefit from mentoring, coaching, counselling and from increasing their ability to lead themselves and others. As an African proverb goes: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
I know from other parents involved here at Lighthouse International Group and also from other parents I’m connected to, that everyone has areas that they are concerned about in regard to the future of our children. When I look at myself, the big areas I’m worried about are:
Online and social media abuse / trolling
Not receiving the necessary foundation and education to live a happy and healthy life
Learning to take responsibility and finding win-win solutions
I’ve experienced how hard it is to grow up, to become a healthy grown adult and to take responsibility for my life, for the lives of others and for changing things. But I fully believe this is the most important work we can do as human beings and to learn to stop making it just about ourselves and our own problems. I wish I’d have learned these lessons a lot earlier in my life.
For sure we all make mistakes going through life and I believe what’s most important is wanting to make it right, wanting to find win-win solutions that benefit everyone and especially our children. The more we develop a healthy attitude in regards to challenges and change, the more we are able to make a positive difference to others.
Personal impact of trolling
I would also like to share some of the ways that the trolling of Lighthouse International Group and its Associate Partners affected me personally; my relationships with those I love and care for, and how the trolls are ultimately playing with the lives of people with potentially very destructive consequences.
It caused great concern to my wife as no one wants to be involved in online trolling, hate and accusations, and we were both worried about the safety of our daughter.
Some people who were interested in being mentored stopped their engagement after reading about the accusations against Lighthouse International Group, and this could potentially lead to them having trust issues in regard to someone helping them with their challenges in future. For sure this also destroyed potential opportunities to build healthy relationships with them and them achieving their goals for the future.
In addition, some clients I work with raised concerns about my underlying intentions and those of Lighthouse International Group after reading the Daily Mail article. They were quite shocked by and couldn’t understand the negativity of the article, which was the opposite of what they’ve experienced so far working together with me. I am very thankful that in the end, they trusted more in our relationship than what the trolls shared and what was written in the Daily Mail article.
Looking inside and taking responsibility
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’d also like to share more about one person I’m working with. This person went through a period of questioning a lot of areas in her life, working through a lot of deep challenges and dealing with huge areas of uncertainty during that time. She was making some great progress in regard to learning to gain back control of her life. She started to work through difficult family situations and started to learn to trust others outside her birth family for the first time in her life. We worked together for almost a year when she came across the online trolling posts on Reddit through some comments made on one of our websites.
This caused a lot of anxiety in her and she felt abused and misled. It came as a real shock to her as it was so different to all her experiences with me and Lighthouse International Group until that point. She was very appreciative of the mentoring she had received until that point and it helped her enormously to understand some childhood trauma and the reasons for some mental challenges.
On the back of reading about the accusations against Lighthouse International Group, she stopped any form of communication with me and was on the brink of running away. I was deeply concerned about her wellbeing, and I know how reading so much negativity can lead someone to get into a negative spiral, especially if someone is going through a period of deep internal change. As Stephen Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Personal growth is sacred ground.
This caused quite a few sleepless nights on both sides and I deeply questioned myself what I can do to help her in the best way - independent of us continuing to work together or not.
After a few days, I wrote an email to her with the intention for her to look at her personal history with me and Lighthouse International Group and how much those trolling comments were incongruent with her experience. I also took responsibility that I ought to have told her about the trolling information online beforehand as I underestimated the impact this could have on our relationship. This was for sure a big lesson for me as well. I also let her know that the reality of the trolling accusations will come out and that those trolls will be kept accountable.
Bless her and her strength to be able to step back after having some space, to look at the reality of the situation, and get clear about the underlying motives of the trolls. It required a lot of deep introspection for her and also for me to turn this situation around and transform those challenges into real value for us individually and for our relationship. This required very open conversations on the back of that, addressing her questions and concerns and slowly working through it and rebuilding the destroyed trust.
This is a great example of seeing how we can respond in an adult way, raising concerns, questioning and having the willingness to seek understanding, before making up one’s mind about what the reality is. That is what it means to take responsibility, and the trust in each other grew massively through this whole situation.
It was a very different response to making up one’s mind on the back of judgements, and to start blaming others or even wanting to destroy. I’m feeling very grateful for how she managed to turn things around and genuinely apologised for her lack of trust and for their accusations.
The way forward
Despite the negative impact the trolls had on the lives of good-hearted people, as a Christian, I personally believe in giving someone a second chance, and encouraging them to look at themselves, overcome their hatred and resentment, turn around, and become part of the solution that benefits everyone - themselves, us and all our children. Change can only happen from the inside, and each individual person is responsible for their choices.
I’m very happy to share more and if you are interested in learning more about ways to get involved and stand up against trolls and for our children, please feel free to contact me.
God bless us all.