This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.
Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.
That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.
On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]
In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”
[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]
Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…
For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.
This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.
Four little words that brought clarity.
“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.“ – Elisabeth Elliot
Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?
We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before, “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.
There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.
When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.
But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:7-9
What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.
When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)
How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! – Psalm 32:1
Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. – Romans 4:7
In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.
Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.
Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8
Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.
Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.
One of our neighbors is a published historian who has another manuscript ready to go. If it were me, those pages would have been mailed to the publisher months ago. Not this author. The chapter footnotes must be accurate, so weeks upon weeks have been spent on the tedious task of checking and re-verifying their accuracy.
Finishing anything well takes great effort and persistence. Especially a life well-lived to the finish.
His points are as followed. Read Dodd’s blog for the rest of his notes on Dr. Hunt’s excellent talk. The observations that follow the points below are my emphases. Also every point can apply to us as women as well.
Men Who Finish Well
Want to finish well. – Desire and the focus of our desire are the foundation of finishing well.
Ooze with humility. – This is not about talking humble or having an humble expressiveness. This is genuine humility – a person who inserts his life into the humble; willing to do humble things; a person with a clear understanding of who he is and what he is capable of (both holy and horrible).
Know they could be steps away from a fall. – One bad choice can follow us all through our lives, or catch up with us. We shouldn’t be discouraged by that, but we should be aware, from a young age, that consequences of our actions come…sooner or later. Best to avoid or correct as early as possible.
Are intentional, putting up guardrails in their lives. – Guardrails are barriers we put up for ourselves that keep us from the edge of an activity or mindset that could cause damage down the road. We have all said, thought, or acted on “That’s not so bad.” or “Everybody’s doing it.” What we once considered unacceptable may be considered acceptable today but tomorrow it could be a high crime. We must intentionally determine where the edge is and take a step back by putting guardrails in place. Not for fear of consequences but out of care…and aiming to finish well.
Plan to finish well. – Guardrails are part of this. Do you have a plan in place? What does it look like?
Firmly committed to their families. – This makes a huge difference. Huge influence on our decision-making.
Have some kind of mentor in their lives. – Another guardrail actually, but also vital to honest accountability. Lone rangers who may often find themselves at the top of organizations and culture influencers are highly vulnerable to falling from their own isolation.
Live in the Word of God and on their knees. – Johnny Hunt is finishing strong because he doesn’t separate sacred and secular. He understands the importance of having a guide to live life in a fickle, changeable world system. A sign of his own humility is his dependence on being daily in God’s Word and daily praying.
Committed to integrity. – Finishing well requires us to be consistent and dependable in our actions and decision-making. Dabbling in less-than-honest transactions with people will eventually find us out.
Evangelize regularly. – This may seem an odd characteristic of finishing well if you are reading as a person not given to faith or especially faith in God through Jesus. In Johnny Hunt’s long faith walk, he has taken the claims of Christ very seriously and has seen the work of God’s grace in his life and others. He knows the glorious good that comes out of that relationship with God and would not withhold the knowledge of that from anyone.
Ambitious only in honoring Jesus. – Dr. Hunt could have stayed in his pastor position for another 10-15 years or more. This mega-church pastor role can be a real head-trip if these men don’t take precautions to guard their hearts against that level of pride. For the sake of his church’s future and doing his best to listen to God’s leading, Dr. Hunt chose to step down…for very good and Godly reasons.
[I counted 11 so we got a bonus help from Dr. Hunt and Brian Dodd.]
When our children left home for college, one by one, we had many talks together. Trying to prepare them for what could lie ahead. All through their lives, we had taught them to treat others with care. To also see the wrong in taking advantage of someone or some situation for ill, no matter the reason. Some of that teaching came out of our own histories, Dave and me, and from making our own mistakes as young people. Doing all we could to ensure these precious ones would avoid the pitfalls of life that can take you down.Photo Credit: Michael Staires
Avoid situations where you are alone with the opposite sex, especially late at night. Don’t accept open beverage containers. Be cautious in group events where there is drinking and no supervision. Abstain from recreational drugs or beverages. Make choices regarding dress and demeanor as to not compromise another person. Keep your hands to yourself. Be responsible in choosing whom you spend time with.
[Nothing original here. The nature of these teen talks became more serious as our kids were preparing to be out on their own. No one looking over their shoulder. Their choices could have life-long implications.]
This year, I listened to a good friend process sending her oldest son off to college. He is one of the sweetest young men I know – a good heart, respectful, and genuinely friendly to all he meets. This mom (and the dad) wanted to make sure that he understood that college today is not just about his choices but how others perceive his behavior. It’s not just being careful to do right by others but also to behave in such a manner that no one could take offense…now or twenty years from now. Especially in any perceived sexual offense. Other? What are your thoughts?
This is where we seem to be today in America.
Finishing well, especially as men, might be more complicated today but it is still within the grasp of those who determine from the beginning to aim far and run their lives with steadfast resolve.
Centuries ago, a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked this question of an innocent man, brought before him by accusers. Religious leaders who wanted to destroy him. Men who would have their way no matter what it meant for this man…even death.
Pilate was complicit in the death of Jesus Christ because he found no evidence against him, yet, to satisfy the loud voices crying out against him, he washed his hands of the matter and sent him out to be crucified.
This morning I read a local news account which has disturbed me all day.
The article surprised me because I actually knew the particulars of the story very well. The reporter described a recent event and then added a completely unrelated previous event. The first was morally neutral, but the second event was scandalous. The innuendo was clear. The article fairly sizzled with the possibility…probability that the two events…the two persons (very different from each other) were linked. Thus casting a shadow on the innocent one with the clear guilt of the other. Just a shadow. Just a possibility of wrong.
Did this reporter lie? She did not, in so many words. Did she shade the truth? Yes.
“The Greek word for ‘truth’ is aletheia, which literally means to ‘un-hide’ or ‘hiding nothing.’ It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ is emeth, which means ‘firmness,’ ‘constancy’ and ‘duration.’ Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.
From a philosophical perspective, there are three simple ways to define truth:
1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. 2. Truth is that which matches its object. 3. Truth is simply telling it like it is.” – Got Questions
Telling the truth is a huge core value in our family. Growing up, our children knew that lying would bring a most undesirable consequence. We would rather know they were telling the truth, even when it exposed something that would grieve us as their parents.
We live in a culture today that seems to thrive on a semblance of “my truth” or “truth as I know it”. What that means is “If I can convince you I am right then we will all be better off…well, especially me.” There seems almost a fever for exposing lies. The irony is the lengths people will go to to expose falsehood in others – political opponents, for instance. Even lying to do so. Making lying a necessary “evil” or a “moral high road” to bring down the greater villain or threat.
I know personally how easy it is to be deceived and to deceive oneself. In my 20s, I had my Sunday life and my “rest of the week” life. Politically, I was fairly soft on the issues, bowing to those in my life who were more articulate or who had done their homework… more than me. Spiritually, I wanted the world too much to be faithful to the God whom I owed everything. I wanted to be liked, admired, accepted…the tinsel of a life pleasing to others blinded me for awhile. I was deceived.
“Once you take to the habit of deception, every new lie comes that much easier. Though to me it wasn’t so much lies as a matter of judicious editing. We all inevitably present a version of ourselves that is a collection of half-truths and exclusions. The way I saw it, the truth was too complicated, whereas the well-chosen lie would put everyone’s mind at ease.” ― Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game– GoodReads
I can actually tell you the moment that the scales fell off my eyes (another time). At that moment, I remembered that truth was the hinge that swings open the door to life as it’s meant to be lived. Or maybe truth is the door.
For sure, seeking the truth and speaking the truth are huge. In our home, with our kids growing up, even just watching a movie, we would point out the messages that had lies as the foundation. [That might have driven our kids nuts, when I think about it now.] We would do the same about the latest social commentary and, as they went off to college, we talked about what they would encounter in terms of worldviews different from their own.
In my younger years, I loved how journalists rabidly exposed lies, protecting us from evil politicians or uncivil servants. These days, the vigilance of reporters and partisan politicians regarding “what is truth” seems too self-serving and mean to be righteous.
“The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.”– Ravi Zacharias
If I have been harsh in this writing, please forgive me. That article of earlier in the day is still ringing and stinging in my ear. Truth is not meant to be a hammer and everything else a nail. Even the One crucified gave us the example of Truth lived out in love (Ephesians 4:15).
So…for our children. Thank you, for not being too hard on us while we taught you, out of our own mistakes and short-sightedness. Thank you, for still being willing to have truth conversations with us. Thank you, for continuing to seek the truth, even in the midst of a culture of innuendo, nuance, half-truths (definitely a misnomer), and sizzling stories that beg to be believed.
Also, thank you, you influencers out there, who also love the truth and guard it with your life and that influence.
Exposing lies is important, but if the desire in going after the truth is really motivated by the desire to destroy someone in your way…or to elevate your own agenda…no matter how noble…it can’t be worth what is lost along the way. It must not be.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
If you can spell narcissism, then you have made a study of it somewhere along the way. Possibly trying to figure out how to work successfully with a narcissistic colleague or boss…
[Hard topic for a Monday morning but you will have a sweet story at the end.]
Many years ago, in nursing school, the term narcissistic personality disorder came to my awareness during our coursework on mental health. It is defined as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Someone can be narcissistic in temperament and behavior without having a full-on personality disorder.
The experience of having a narcissistic boss or coworker is not mine personally. In fact, this dark topic isn’t one I’d prefer to cover…except for an interesting happenstance this past week. So…here we go.
One favorite podcaster you have seen referenced here in the past is Carey Nieuwhof. Last week he published a leadership podcast which showcased a conversation he had with Erwin McManus.
McManus (starting at minute 35 in the podcast) talks about the high incidence of narcissism in top-tier leaders (CEOs, etc). His focus is on megachurch pastors and the battle against pride. His observations were spot-on in many ways. “Humility is best-expressed in a willingness to decentralize power. The more decisions you make, the less humble you are. You can never know you are humble; you can know if you do humble things.”
In Nieuwhof’s shownotes, he highlighted these points by McManus:
A Narcissist has:
A high need for praise because the world needs to be about him.
A view that there is no one in the world who can do something better than she can.
A Narcissist doesn’t:
Ask for help because he doesn’t believe anyone else could ever solve a problem that he can’t solve.
Take risks because if she fails it will completely violate her identity.
Accept responsibility for failure, because in his mind the failure was someone else’s fault.
McManus’ take on narcissism was so insightful, I did something rare – publishing a comment on the podcast. Somehow that comment, commending Carey for such an insightful interview on narcissism, got swallowed up in other comments on how hurtful their associations with Mr. McManus had been. Where my original comment went is a mystery, but as others commented, bouncing off my own, I was drawn into their pain.
Whether or not Mr. McManus struggles himself with narcissism is not the focal point here. As I listened to the podcast again, he never denies his own particular bent. I don’t know him so I can’t say. As a successful mega-church pastor, he, like others, has had his critics (covered in another Nieuwhof podcast).
What is clear, in this interview and the comments below, is the huge emotional cost to those who come under such a leader.
Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has written an empowering piece for those who work for a narcissistic boss. Daskal poses two options for those employees – either quit or “stay and deal”. Here’s how to stay, in 10 points of action, according to Daskal:
Understand the source – Quite probably your boss is not going to improve. You have to start with that understanding.
Respond, don’t react. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a conflict. The narcissistic boss has skills on how to stay on top of any situation. Learn to respond in a way that “keeps you in control of options and choices. If you feel yourself reacting, step away and regain back your control.”
Set clear boundaries. These are for your own benefit. They are a reminder to you of what is right and reasonable in terms of your own operations. Boundaries are essential. You set them for yourself.
Don’t allow them to get under your skin.“Use emotional intelligence to manage your thoughts and actions…remember that any cruel behavior and words reflect badly on the narcissist, not you.”
Don’t feed the beast. “The more you feed the bad behavior the worse it will become. Narcissists surround themselves with only two types of people: those who enable them and those who bite their tongue. Anyone who doesn’t fit into one of these two categories will certainly be fired or banished.”
Don’t empower those who don’t deserve it.“Refuse to follow those you don’t admire, those you don’t trust, and those who lie. Just do your job to the best of your ability and with respect, honor and integrity.”
Fact check everything. Wisdom is to always confirm the facts… especially as far as your work and your work relationships are concerned. No matter what your boss tells you about a situation or a coworker or other work team, as much as you can, be sure you have the facts…before you go too far in your own assessment or putting together a solution.
Don’t argue. “The last thing you want to do is argue with a narcissist, because everything you say and do will be held against you. Don’t argue or engage but instead make them invisible–the last thing a narcissist wants.”
Don’t be provoked. Keep your cool. Stay calm.
Stay focused on what’s important. “Working with a narcissist boss means a constant pull to play by their rules and for everything to revolve around them, with no accountability or responsibility when things go wrong. It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated. That’s when you have to take a step back and reconnect with your purpose in being there.” – Lolly Daskal
As a writer, topics can almost force themselves to be written. I wrestled with this one because maybe it isn’t relevant to most of you….which would be a very good thing. Unfortunately, this topic wouldn’t let go. Then last night, I came across a piece written sometime ago by Joni Eareckson Tada, an advocate worldwide for persons with disabilities. At 17, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. That was over 50 years ago.Photo Credit: CBN News
This incredibly gifted and giving woman is the epitome of a person without a bent toward narcissism. She ever points to God and others … empowers others…gives others a voice. She has an accurate understanding of herself, honest about her strengths, weaknesses, and limits. She is diligent and determined to have a positive impact on the lives of those around her.*
If you’re struggling with figuring out how to thrive under a narcissistic boss, either get out or figure it out. Lolly Daskal’s advice and that of others can help…as well as the refreshing stories of folks like Joni. The light of a life well-lived, no matter the circumstance, can break through any dark place we find ourselves. We can all aim for a life well-lived whatever our work situation, for sure.
“If I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am.” – Joni Eareckson Tada
Whatever our struggle with a difficult boss, we can take that struggle and let it shine a light on our own issues; our own bent and character. If you feel blocked at work somehow, you can respond in bitterness or betterment. You can take heart that learning what being blocked does to your heart and mindset moves you to an understanding of how to grow in ways that no one can block.
Happy Friday! Quickly, here are my 5 favorite finds for the week.
1) Divine appointments – There is something other-worldly by chance encounters, or visits with old friends, or even an oatmeal breakfast that seem larger than life. I’ve had all three this week and all struck a chord of the wonder and mystery of life…of how circumstances are orchestrated such that only God could be responsible. Why? Because of how deeply and lovingly they penetrate the heart.Visit with an old friend – no agenda; no pretense; just a heart rest.
A bowl of steel-cut oats made into a feast by another dear old friend.
Photo Credit: PXhere [A chance meeting turned into an opportunity and maybe a friendship.]
On the chance encounter: Have you ever spotted someone in the grocery story and something about their appearance or demeanor drew your attention. The image above is a stock photo, but here’s the story. Today while lost in thought over what to buy for Dave’s birthday supper, I noticed this woman in the coolest dress and matching jacket. The fabric was olive green camo. She pulled it off stunningly. I wanted to say something but didn’t.
We ended up in the parking lot at the same time (totally “accidental”; no stalking going on here). I determined if we stowed our carts at the same time I would compliment her fashion sense. We did, and I did. Then a several minute conversation launched easily. She made the suit out of men’s cotton tshirts. Then we talked about our careers, our children, our hopes to make a difference in the world, our faith and our culture. She is an amazing woman…
We exchanged phone numbers and I hope coffee together will follow. I’m currently in a study on justice and longing for an avenue to bring a voice to the voiceless in this city. This woman is a part of that kind of work every single day.
A divine appointment.
2) The Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos – Leaving a child unsupervised with a smart phone or tablet is risky. I’m now more convinced than ever after discovering writer artist James Bridle. He wrote an essay entitled Something Is Wrong on the Internet. If you have children, or care about children, please read it. It is a bit freaky. The video below also tells how he sees how the internet, with apps such as YouTube, using bots and AI devices, is drawing children into content we would never want them to experience.
Who makes these videos? Can you even trace their creators?
“The more time you start to spend with them, the crazier and crazier you start to feel you may be….deep strangeness and deep lack of understanding…Who is making them? Some of them really and clearly by people who shouldn’t be around children at all. ” “There are real people trapped within these systems…even if you’re human, you have to end up behaving like a machine just to survive.” Kids drugged looking at these videos. A few auto-clicks away from videos opening surprise eggs will be videos with sexual or violent content still with cartoon characters or superheroes involved. Creepy wrong stuff!!! “Kids’ worst nightmares”.
“Inequality of power [and understanding] always leads to violence.”
“We need to stop thinking of technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them.” – James Bridle
3) Senate Confirmation Hearing – The greatest distraction of my week has been the Senate Confirmation Hearings. 4 days of high drama and brilliant oratory. All toward the determination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh‘s worthiness to replace Justice Kennedy on the US Supreme Court Justice. It was a rollicking, hold-on-to-your-seat experience for those present and for the rest of us watching remotely. The last day when witnesses (i.e. non-Senators) gave their testimony of Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court was especially gripping.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Don’t miss the 4th day of hearings when witnesses gave their testimony (5 in favor and 5 opposing) of Judge Kavanaugh’s character and judicial preparedness for taking a chair on the Supreme Court. YouTube video linked here (1 hr 39 min into the video begins the witness panel).
The last of those witnesses was Akhil Reed Amar, Law professor at Yale University, a registered Democrat, staunch liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton. He actually gave testimony in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Here are his closing remarks:
“Responsible naysayers must become yaysayers of a sort; they must
specifically name better nominees realistically on the horizon.
If not Brett, who?
Distinguished Republicans: Kavanaugh is your team’s brightest judicial star. Rejoice!
Distinguished Democrats: Don’t be mad; be smart, and be careful what you wish for. Our party controls neither the White House nor the Senate. If you torpedo Kavanaugh, you’ll likely end up with someone worse —less brilliant, less constitutionally knowledgeable, less studious, less open-minded, less good for America.”
Haig writes and speaks about anxiety and depression. He knows these experiences personally. I have only read quotes from his books but they are now on my “to-read” list.
The page above from his book Notes on a Nervous Planet was a beautiful study into the things that endure. I’m surprised that Haig describes himself as an atheist. Comforted by the things that have almost always been would seem to lend itself to the great comfort of knowing the God who has always been. No matter his thinking on this, his writing reminds us of the wonder of life including the reasons to stay alive (the title of his earlier book).
By the way, this would be an idea for a great night out with a love or night in with a friend – to come up with our own list of the enduring stuff of life.
For several years, we had the great privilege of living and working in Cairo, Egypt. My husband directed a Middle Eastern Studies program. I helped him oversee the comings and goings of bright, energetic 20-somethings. When the work, heat, or press of city life became too much, we would escape to the Sinai and the Red Sea. Usually the resort town of Ras Sudr was our quick and quiet get-away, where we could take a weekend just to clear our heads with blue skies and salty sea air.
Dave was finishing his time in this director role and would take a short sabbatical in the US. We would then return to Egypt, this time for a regional consulting job, guiding the expansion of these study centers.
We were tired, and a consulting job was a dream, with the prospect of just giving a hand to other directors – not nearly the intensity of being responsible for so many young people.
Driving the long road to Dahab, through the calming desert of the Sinai, kids in the backseat, Dave got a phone call.
Whoever it was on the other end, (Dave hadn’t called him by name), the conversation, from my side, was warm and affectionate at first, and then serious. As they talked, visible goose bumps rose on Dave’s arms. Goose bumps on a hot deserty day in Egypt?! I knew no one had died from his side of the conversation, but something huge was clearly being introduced by the caller.
When the call ended, I got the details. Dave spoke quietly so the kids wouldn’t be distracted by a call that could change the course (and geography) of our lives. The person on the other end of the conversation was his dearest mentor – a man for whom he had the deepest respect, even love. On the phone call, he had asked Dave to consider not taking the job of consultant but to take a job with him where he would have even more leadership responsibility. Supervising many more than a couple of dozen 20-somethings in one city. This job would require him to provide leadership to about 100 people spread over 6 different countries AND we would have to move from our beloved Cairo.
Thus, the goose bumps.
Dave did walk away from the “easier” job of consultant to take on the much larger, scarier job his mentor asked of him. We did eventually break the news to our children that we would be moving away from Cairo to a whole new country of possibilities and friendships. It was a stretching move for us (more so than our original move to Cairo), and it was a job and situation we would never have aspired to…were it not for this mentor…this multiplier of leaders.
I first heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit. Her presentation centered on a more recent book Rookie Smarts. This engaging young woman clearly has had multipliers in her own life and has obviously learned from some diminishers as well.
On the inside cover of Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she defines the terms “Diminishers” and “Multipliers”:
“The first type [diminishers] drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum [the multipliers] are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them…These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.” – Liz Wiseman
Have you ever been in a job where you felt your wisdom, understanding, experience were being drained right out of you? As if you were getting stupider and stupider? That can happen…or at least the sense of it happening is so strong it might as well be real. Some of this we must own ourselves, and some of it is owned by our leaders.
[Sidebar – It’s not like diminishers are evil people. Possibly, their focus is so tuned to the endgame that people and processes get lost in the pursuit. I believe if ever they have an “aha!” moment, maybe through the multipliers in their own lives, they could change their habits and disciplines…especially those who become accidental diminishers – in video at minute 28:35.]
This mentor of Dave’s was/is a Multiplier. For much of Dave’s professional life, this man has “popped in” and pressed my husband to reach farther than he might have in his career.
I want to be this sort of leader myself – this one who inspires confidence in others, who sees the possibilities, who risks by giving over control to another, who stirs thinking and enlarges the lives of those in his/her circle of influence…a circle that’s widely inclusive.
Being a leader is a humbling, stretching experience and, for the sake of those under our watch in the workplace, we want to offer the best leadership possible. We can all fall into habits over time that diminish others. Forging disciplines that keep us from doing so is wisdom. Note them from Liz Wiseman’s book:
Wiseman also talks about leaders as change agents – do we reserve the right to make the final decision every time or do we wrestle through decisions with those most affected by them? The latter can definitely be more messy but is also more effective and honoring.
“Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence…He’ll outstretch all your capabilities to make it happen. He is highly demanding, but you feel great. You know you are signing up for something that will challenge you on a daily basis for many years to come. You will challenge yourself and all your capabilities…Exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, gratifying. He’s a big source of energy. He is a source of power and a tail-wind for what we do.” – Liz Wiseman
Thank you, Liz Wiseman. You are a wise woman (I’m sure you get this all the time…couldn’t resist). Thanks also to that unnamed mentor and multiplier in my husband’s life…and to all those multipliers in my life’s journey.
Read Wiseman’s book. [If you watch this video, you will want to buy the book…if I haven’t already sold you.] I’d love to hear your stories of multipliers in your life…and any diminishers that you learned from but (hopefully) were not diminished in the season you were together…maybe you became a multiplier in that person’s life. Journey strong, Friends.
Business thought leader and writer Matt Monge is my go-to guy on company culture. The fact that he also struggles personally with depression tenders my heart to what he has to say. He is a straight-talker. Courageous, transparent, and caring. Monge knows toxic work cultures. He is consulted to help fix them, and through his writing he gives generous help to all who struggle to thrive in a culture that makes that a challenge. Take heart, those of you currently in troubled work cultures. Once you have identified what the murkiness is about, you can then act to clear it out…or, if necessary, you can clear out. You have options.
Your culture is in trouble if your CEO is a toxic leader. Matt Monge delineates this further in his article 10 Traits of Ego-driven Leaders. Employees and teams can experience huge shifts in their own thinking and behavior toward each other and customers, just in response to top-down influence. Beware of mission drift also.
Your culture is in trouble if poor managers are allowed to remain poor managers indefinitely. This is sad for both the manager herself and the team under her. When a company is frantic with reacting to the demands of toxic leadership, the simplest processes of feedback, teaming, and development take a backseat. Everyone suffers.
Your culture is in trouble if humanness and vulnerability are absent. In a troubled work culture, trust deteriorates. The bottom line is the driving force. Keeping one’s job and the perks of that job trumps everything else that might have once mattered in a work culture.
Your culture is in trouble if accountability is misunderstood and only selectively applies. Healthy accountability is meant to be a two-way process. Leaders and subordinates are best-served when they have open communication and transparency is high. An employee is much more open to accountability when he sees that his leaders also submit to the accountability of others.
Your culture is in trouble if people aren’t learning much. Opportunities for training and growth are signs of a healthy environment where employees clearly matter to the organization.
Your culture is in trouble if teams and departments have ongoing problems performing their core functions. This is a glaring sign of trouble. When performance is off and morale matches it, a cry for help is being sounded. When personnel just don’t care, something has to be done to turn that around. What that something is and who is capable to doing it can be sorted out by both managers and employees. Punitive action is not the answer.
Your culture is in trouble if executive team morale is low. This speaks to the ripple effect starting from a toxic CEO, through the organization and then back up the chain-of-command. Morale, as we know, has a huge impact on performance. When the executive team is struggling with low morale, reflecting that of the company, then it’s to the point that someone from the outside must come in to help correct course. This takes enormous vulnerability on the part of the executive team.
Having come through a cancer diagnosis, my experience is that it’s better to know what’s going on than to remain in the dark…or that murkiness of knowing something is wrong but you’re not sure what.
Once we identify what the struggle is with our work culture, we can begin to rectify our situation. Some things we may have little control over, but what we can change, we must.Photo Credit: Venture Lab, Pauline James
Business writer Joanna Zambas has given us examples that mirror Matt Monge’s list on company culture (see links below). One of her lists celebrates companies who have made culture a priority.
Southwest Airlines made Zambas’ list. It is my favorite domestic airline. Mainly because of its customer service. However, that customer service is rooted in a work culture that is very pro-employee. Photo Credit: Business2Community
I know that first-hand because of my contact, over many years, with one Southwest employee. Her kindness, demeanor, and consistent care at every touchpoint have demonstrated to me the very heart of this company.
My hope for all of us is that we can work toward a company culture like this one…bottom-to-top if necessary. For you as company leaders, you may not see this or any such piece…but I hope you can be encouraged or re-energized to grow such a culture. The impact will nothing but positive…you know it somewhere in that leader heart of yours.
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10
Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:3-6
But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” – Luke 11:17
“Always pull from the same end of the rope.” This was the marriage advice given to Nathan and Bekkah by a couple of strangers. An older man and woman came up to Bekkah after one of Nathan’s concerts and just engaged her in conversation. Over the course of their chat, they gave this young couple a jewel of wisdom…not just for marriage but for life…
“Always pull from the same end of the rope.”
We live in a divided world.
Even in the church, the unity God means for us to have with one another is constantly under fire. By our differences, our ambitions, and our passions. How do we link arms when offenses and attitudes and preferences loom large? Sometimes larger, if we are all honest, than our calling in Christ.Photo Credit: Paul Lee, Heartlight
God help us…and He will.
In my regular Bible reading this morning, in Nehemiah 3, God displayed a beautiful picture of unity. Nehemiah, a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, heard of the distress of the Jews in the broken-down city of Jerusalem. He was personally moved to action on their behalf and asked leave to go help them. He would undertake supervising the great task of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.
Throughout chapter 3 of Nehemiah, you read the phrases “after him” or “next to them”. Nehemiah recorded name after name of the men stationed one beside the other, doing the work of rebuilding the wall. In Nehemiah 4, when the local authorities felt threatened by the work, they did all they could to demoralize the workmen. Even to the point of inciting fear for their lives. Nehemiah, for the sake of the workers and the work, assigned half of them to shifts repairing the wall and half to stand ready with spears. In fact, even those laboring on the wall would have their weapons at hand. Ready to fight for each other whenever necessary…whenever the alarm is sounded.
“In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” – Nehemiah 4:20
This is unity.
The determination to be one together…as in a part of the whole…as we see in the unity of God in Three (John 17:22). The conviction that division, no matter the worthiness of the reason, robs us of our power and influence Robs God of His glory in His people. The humility and courage to root out division – with our work tools in one hand and our weapons in the other.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus – John 13:35
In an era sadly in the past, churches would, as needed, call themselves into a solemn assembly. This wasn’t just a share around a campfire, or a “confess fest”. A solemn assembly provides the setting for a deep dealing with sin in the church. Division, unholy and self-serving, can only be rooted out by corporate prayer and repentance.
Each of us can make a difference in the lives of our families, our churches, our cultures by refusing to be divided against each other. If we are willing to walk humbly and biblically with each other. Working with one hand and holding God’s Word (toward love and against division) with the other. We are rarely given the option, in Scripture, to just walk away. To be repulsed by what we think is wrong; to pull ourselves out of the work and relationships; to just walk away.
[If an enemy threatens…we have God’s instructions as well…and His power fighting for us. However, to just abandon one another, especially to an enemy…and weaken the work and our witness? This is not the answer. Dealing with an enemy that divides us takes great wisdom, faith, and both courage and humility. Pointing our fingers at another is part of the problem, and we all know it if we would open our eyes to it. However, confronting the enemy in wise and Godly ways, may be required of any or all of us at some point in our lives. Remembering also that our enemy is spiritual more than physical.]
When we are having a hard time in this work of being in unity, Dave and I sometimes run through the names of people who give us hope. Those whom we know will always hold the rope for us if we are dangling off the edge of a cliff. Those also for whom we would do the same. It’s an exercise that helps us remember that God calls us to fight for each other…for those most worthy and even those, in our estimation, least worthy… In actuality, we are not the judge of this, God is. It is God who is worthy and He calls us, in His strength, to stand with each other. Alongside each other. Undivided.
We may worship different ways
We may praise Him
And yet spend all of our days
Living life divided
But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep us apart
We trust Him to unite us
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image
And in His eyes, we are all the same
And though out methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:12-15
1) Summer Reading – Summer lends itself to reading just for the sheer joy of it. Longer days. Breaks from strenuous outside work or play are perfect for picking up a book. Reruns of TV programming are no draw when you can just open a book to another world. What’s on your reading list for this summer?Photo Credit: Max Pixel
Writer Ryan Holiday has his own list to share. I wouldn’t call it your basic beach novel genre but lots of variety and heady content. Don’t be put off by some of the language (sigh…) or the politics. In recent months, I’ve learned a lot in our current political culture… helpful in understanding people and making a difference in a divided world.
2) US Supreme Court – Speaking of a divided world, this was a huge week of happenings in the Supreme Court of the United States.
[The Roberts Court, June 1, 2017. Seated, from left to right: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Standing, from left to right: Justices Elena Kagan, Samuel A. Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil M. Gorsuch. Photograph by Franz Jantzen, Supreme Court Curator’s Office.]
Then there was the announcement by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that he will retire. The news should be full of tribute toward this justice and his contributions to Americans, both liberal and conservative. What is instead at the forefront is the joy or anguish, depending on our ideology, regarding who will take his place on the bench? Appointment of the Supreme Court justices was one of the reasons Americans voted as they did in this last presidential election.Photo Credit: Twitter, The Senate Majority
A big week indeed.
3) Patreon – You’ve read about Patreon on my Friday Faves before, but today I wanted to praise the impact it can make on an artist’s career…the impact you can make on an artist’s career. Patreon is a crowd-sourcing platform, for folks like us to extend support to a creator or artist. If 10s and 100s of us give $1 or $100 per month, we can supplement the income of someone whose craft inspires us. Someone we want to see more of…and enjoy the beauty of his/her creations on a more regular basis.
So how does an artist arrange, memorize and perform a classical guitar piece and then videotape, edit, and publish the piece every couple of weeks (sometimes weekly)? And still provide for his family?
Cue Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. Before he became part of Patreon, his art had to take a backseat to making a living – he taught guitar in a middle school and did hours and hours each week of private lessons with students. Thanks to the support of over 300 patrons, he was able to leave his middle school job. He is not completely supported by those of us who love his work, thus he continues to have private students, but he is able to create.Photo Credit: Patreon, Beyond the Guitar
Listening to his music on Spotify and watching his videos on YouTube are free to us all, thanks to those who support Nathan on Patreon. As patrons, we have various levels of perks, depending on our support. Perks at the lowest level of support include access of his Discord chat channel which allows us to engage with Nathan as well as other patrons, many of whom are also artists, scientists, and various other cool people.
Depending on the level we can get discounts on his sheet music, patrons-only live streams with Nathan, a private Skype guitar lesson, and at the $100/month level of support: an arrangement of a song of our choice. As I write, he is doing a live stream for us patrons as he begins arranging his next song (you’ll see that arrangement posted here next week).
4) Redeeming Loneliness – Blogger and mom Rachel Macy Stafford has posted a piece on the loneliness of being rejected or excluded. It resonated. By the way, if you haven’t felt the sting of rejection or exclusion, don’t be those people who do the deed…unwittingly; unaware. Take time to read the whole but here is part.
It’s together for each other that we find strength to ask, learn, and never fold up and disappear.
If that’s not life’s highest lesson, I don’t know what is.
Let me remember it now, especially now, when the world’s collective pain is so deep, so wide, and so heavy.
But there is hope …
Because what we can do individually to heal the world’s collective pain is quite miraculous. We can half the pain by being one person’s person.
With one invitation, we can take someone From outsider to insider From outcast to beloved member From unknown neighbor to coffee companion From wallflower to life-of-the-party From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.* – Rachel Macy Stafford
5) Echoes of Time – Growing up in a small town, driving down country roads was a part of the experience. Old houses with tin roofs, stoops where children shelled peas in summer, and noisy screen doors that let you know of comings and goings. Since adulthood, I’ve lived in cities. The images of the past are comforting and stir memories of grandparents – sitting on their porches, watching for us to pull up the driveway for a visit.