Category Archives: Relationships

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Star Wars, Christmas Music, Adult Children, Christmas Happenings, and the Perks of Walking

Happy Weekend! Well, I should ask how was your weekend as Friday Faves posts on the Monday after. These Fridays come so fast! Anyway, if you have a minute, there’s a lot of Friday joy here for your Monday.

1) Star Wars Classical Guitar – We are Star Wars geeks around here. This movie franchise is part of our Christmas tradition through the years, going together to see the latest film coming out. Those of you who, like me, are fans of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar, may remember his holiday mashup A Star Wars Christmas.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Of course, if you are Star Wars fans, you have probably already listened to Beyond the Guitar’s library of various themes. So much sweet nostalgia.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Thanks to Disney+, we have a Star Wars space western that we can stream between the big screen escapades. The Mandalorian. If you love Star Wars, you will love it. Here is Nathan’s rendition of the main theme:

2) Christmas Music – It’s been our jam since October, and still need more time to savor it all. From the ridiculous to the rapturous. Love most all of it. How about you? Do you have favorites to share? In Comments, please.

December is full of way too many music events to take them all in. Community sing-alongs of The Messiah, King College styled Lessons and Carols performances, spontaneous Christmas pageants, just to name a few. One of our family’s annual traditions is the VCU Holiday Gala. This Friday night, one of our littles also joined us. A next generation joy.

On a larger scale, the Christmas band for King & Country performs an amazing Little Drummer Boy. A drumming feast for the senses!

3) Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 very different but thought-provoking articles that were meaningful to me and you may also find them to be so for you (the adult children or you parents of same).

  • Alison Wright‘s The Death of the Family Gathering – We’re in a season when extended family gatherings only happen over a funeral or wedding. My birth family never did reunions but they always looked so fun. We would, from time to time, gather at grandparents at the same time, but it was never planned. Wright’s article touched my heart. Then a great-niece wrote a beautiful Facebook post about the same article… We work to make family dinners happen once a month and a family vacation each year. Worth the battle with busy schedules.
  • Deb Wolf‘s How to Love Your Adult Children Really Well is pure wisdom and worth your read. https://countingmyblessings.com/love-your-adult-children/
  • Daniel Kurt‘s Long-term Care Insurance – Is It the Right Move for My Aging Parents? This may seem an odd post for a Friday Fave, but for ever how much time long-term care insurance is still around, it is definitely a consideration for us to give ourselves and our adult children…or invest in a family compound of some sort where everyone cares for everyone else. Either way, it’s a chunk of change, but worth it.

4) Christmas Happenings – Beyond the Christmas music events, so much goes on in the month of December around here. Henrico Christmas Mother is a charitable venture that helps needy families, the elderly and the disabled of our county. I only minimally volunteer for this, but it is an incredible experience to see how people and organizations come together to help those less advantaged have a happy Christmas.

In Richmond, we have the Tacky Light Tour which makes driving around the city at night a shimmering, and sometimes silly, wonder.

Gatherings with friends and family or nights at home when overwhelmed or just needing a quiet place…all part of Christmas.

Then…then there are the platters, boxes, small bags full of Christmas cookies – made with love, shared.Photo Credit (last pic): Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

5) The Perks of Walking – So after all the Christmas cookies, I’ll close with this helpful piece on the perks of walking. We all know the perks actually, but we’ll be doing more walking come the New Year, for sure.

6 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Walk Every Day

Have a great week! I have to tell you that sometime during the night I woke with the wonderful realization that we are still over 2 weeks away from Christmas. I went to bed thinking it was just 10 days away. When trying to squeeze all the glorious goodness of this special time of year, the days fairly fly. It was a pre-dawn gift to know that…there is still time.

Bonuses:

Team of Retired Navy Seals Are Saving Teenagers From Human Trafficking – Mark Pygas

Zipper Mergers Are a Target for Road Rage, but They’re the Ones Doing It Right, VDOT Says – Joann Kimberlin

Do You Take Hours to Make Simple Decisions? You May Have FOBO (Fear of Better Options)

The Problem with “Hey Guys” – Joe Pinsker

What Makes You “Multicultural” Stacey Fitzsimmons, Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Salma Raheem, Andre Pekerti, C. Lakshman

Monday Morning Moment – the Positive Power of a Community of Women

First off, this is for you women out there. Men could also profit reading, because it speaks to a need they have as well. [At the bottom, Guys, is a link marked with an * that speaks to a situation worth assessing, along with this one.] Today, I am writing to women though because it’s women I know best and whose community I need most.

West Texas mom and blogger Amy Weatherly has written a great piece on the essential nature of having a tribe. I have to say that word has gone South for me. A tribe too often means “a clique, a squad, a pack” – exclusive, closed, self-promoting. Not in Amy Weatherly’s article, at all…as you will see. Just for my own sensibilities, the word tribe is translated community elsewhere in this blog.

Here’s Amy Weatherly’s piece and her defining quote on women in community:

Behind Every Successful Woman Is a Tribe. A Tribe of Women Who Could Choose to Compete, But Take the Higher Road of Collaboration Instead

Behind every successful woman is a tribe. A tribe of other women who support her and love her and push her to be her absolute best but stick by her even when she’s at her absolute worst. A tribe of other women who could choose to compete, but take the higher, better road of collaboration instead. A tribe of other women who don’t just fix her crown, but also bend down to pick it up and dust it off when it’s fallen off. A tribe of other women who refuse to get jealous. Who refuse to compare. Who refuse to belittle or go low. Who refuse to gossip, or leave out, or hurt just to watch her crumble under the pressure.

A tribe of women who tell the truth. When it’s hard. When it’s easy. When it’s uncomfortable. When a lie would be the simpler road to travel.

A tribe of women who pick her up and put her back on her feet when she’s gone off-course. A tribe of women who have the courage to encourage her. A tribe of women who have the strength to strengthen her.

A tribe of other women who have her back, and her front, and her side, and her soul, and her spirit, and her heart, and her best interest in mind. Always.

Behind every successful woman is a God who knows the plans He has had for her from the very beginning. A God who holds her in His own hand and cheers her on from Heaven. A God who loved her before she was even born and had dreams for her before she even took her first breath. She mattered to Him before the womb. She mattered to Him in the womb. And she sure matters to Him now. – Amy Weatherly

We Adore Messy Bun, No-makeup Mom’s Post After Friend Asks: ‘Who Even Are You Anymore?’ – Sonja Haller – USA Today

What Weatherly wrote so resonated. Across the geography of my life, communities of women have reached in and given me love, confidence, and safe places where dreams can turn into reality. I hope to have learned well enough from them to do likewise in other circles of influence.

Sometimes the communities are small – my mom and me, for one. However, there are always other women connected. I think of the women, friends of my mom’s, who taught and counseled me growing up (in church and in our neighborhood). Then in Mom’s last years, friends of hers (and mine) who leaned in to love us well when cancer became our collective enemy. Losing Mom was awful, but her friends stayed…and are staying still, for me. Praise God for that community.

After reading Weatherly’s article, I got to thinking: what is it that makes for such a community? Here are some characteristics:

  • They show up…
  • And they stay (you don’t have to worry about them walking away)
  • Challenge in positive ways (all in)
  • Empower (bringing their own skill sets to insure success)
  • Serve one another
  • No selfish ambition
  • Inclusive
  • Genuinely interested in what each cares about
  • Will give benefit of the doubt
  • Refuse to think/speak ill of the other
  • Will move Heaven and earth to make things happen
  • Celebrate each other’s successes
  • Grieve the losses and comfort those most affected
  • Speak the truth in love
  • Keep short accounts (ask forgiveness, forgive, and counsel to do both)
  • Speak blessing
  • See and know each other

This is not an exhaustive list. What would you add? [In Comments below.]

Are any of us always that way as a group? No. Of course not. Still, in genuine community, we experience a fertile soil to grow and flourish.

I wish I could include images of all the communities of women that have peopled and blessed my school, work, and home life through the years. It would be a beautiful sight.

As for the communities of women that break our hearts or frustrate our hopes or, in some way, feel we have done wrong to them? We learn in these situations as well…to keep seeking to grow, to understand and to love anyway.Photo Credit: Edwin Markham, Tony Mayo

*Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women’s Groups

The Health Benefits of Female Friendships and Girlfriends [According to Science Your Girl Squad Can Help You Release More Oxytonin] – Laura Barcella

Why Women Need Their Tribe

5 Friday Faves – Moment of Lament, Anxiety and Depression, John’s Crazy Socks, Relapse/Recovery, and Alex Trebek

Welcome to the weekend! Here in a flash are my week’s faves:

1) Moment of Lament – This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first landing of ships carrying African peoples, destined for slavery or servanthood, to American soil. [See link for some of the controversy around this anniversary.] A Moment of Lament organized by For Richmond is scheduled for several churches in our city to mark this anniversary, and to thank God for those who endured this terrible offense and have profoundly contributed to our country’s identity and character.

Photo Credit: For Richmond, Facebook

2) Anxiety and Depression – Two connected and chronic human struggles in society today are anxiety and depression. None of us is immune to these, and we all have loved ones who are especially caught in the battle against either anxiety or depression or both.

A favorite author of mine, Frank Sonnenberg, has written on 30 distressing habits we can develop over time that lead us to anxiety and depression.  Some of these include keeping bad company, prizing possessions over relationships, holding onto anger, bowing to others’ agendas for your life, and entitlement. Just to name a few. Check out his list, see if you’ve fallen into some of these, but don’t let his list guilt you (another one of his 30). Understanding how we can fall into these habits can help us climb out of some of our struggles.

Journalist Johann Hari has written on addiction, anxiety and depression. [Hari, earlier in his career, came under attack for his ethics and journalistic practices. What he said in the TED Talk below is so spot on, it warrants our consideration.]

Hari has long struggled himself with anxiety and depression. In preparation for writing his book on the subject, he took a literal journey of discovery. Traveling across the world to interview a myriad of specialists on the subject of anxiety/depression. The TED Talk is worth your 20 minutes. In short, he talked about how sometimes medication is necessary for the chemical imbalance some of us have making us vulnerable to anxiety/depression. Many more of us, however, don’t have a chemical imbalance. Our struggles with anxiety and depression relate more to “unmet needs”. The needs for meaning, purpose, community, connectedness. He talks about how we have allowed false values (recognition on social media, fame or celebrity, individual effort) to replace larger values of actually being present in our world, touching lives as only we’re able to do, connecting with life (and I will add God, here).

14:22 minutes into the TED Talk, he offers an exercise that can make a difference in the quality of our lives. An exercise that’s meant to be done in community.

Johann Hari – Quotes – Goodreads

Depression and Diet – WebMD

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, #WorldKindnessDay, and Facebook

3) John’s Crazy Socks – Socks for Christmas, right? Always a good idea. John Lee Cronin and Mark X. Cronin are the co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks. Mark is the dad and John is the son. The whole concept of these socks is so special that you need to see the story:

Whether you buy socks at Walmart or pay the extra for John’s Crazy Socks is not the issue. What counts is that some folks have made this a very successful business, and it is much deserved! Thanks, Mark and John. You’ve definitely made us happy just knowing you a bit.

4) Relapse/Recovery – For any of us who have friends or family in recovery from drug addiction, we know the dread of relapse. One of my best friends is a recovered alcoholic. She has spent most of her life sober…to the point, in fact, that she feels God has cured her of alcoholism. However, does she ever drink? Absolutely not.

She just doesn’t go there.

Someone else in our lives has relapsed. After several years drug-free. I will protect their privacy, but the relapse has been devastating. For us, and I’m sure for them.

It happens. Not always, but sometimes. However, it still doesn’t define the person. That person, after recovery, has a job, and a family, and hopes and dreams. When a relapse occurs all those things are threatened.Photo Credit: PxHere

With the opioid epidemic, incarceration is not the answer. Drug rehab residential programs are less costly and more effective, but also are not without risks. After years of drug-free recovery, a person who relapses is more vulnerable for overdose and death because of lowered tolerance for the drugs.

Relapse also leaves the family vulnerable…emotionally and socioeconomically.

For those of us who love these wrestling with the work of recovery and the risk of relapse…we learn what we can and we rally around them and their families in healthy and truly helpful ways.

Heroin Addiction Recovery Program – Redeption, Recovery in a Chesterfield Jail – John Adam

What Happens If I Relapse? – Addiction Center

Guide to Cocaine Rehab

Slip vs. Relapse – What’s the Difference?

REAL LIFE Opens Women’s Home for Recovering Addicts Released From Jail – Jeremy M. Lazarus

5) Alex Trebek – A quiz show on TV that millions of Americans watch every day is Jeopardy. We wait to call Dave’s mom until after Jeopardy is off. Alex Trebek, the show-host, is as much a household name is any celebrity in our pop culture. He makes the show even more interesting and sometimes funny and treats his guest contestants with honor.

We were all saddened to hear of his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. Pancreatic cancer. Thankful to hear he was determined to fight it, and he has! Alex Trebek instills confidence and if anyone can successfully stave off pancreatic cancer, he can. He announced recently, during this beloved show, that he was going back on chemotherapy, we were stunned. Even one of the contestants forfeited his opportunity to win more prize money to show support for Alex.

Here’s the video of what happened…including Alex’s emotional response – #WeLoveYouAlex – Praying for you.

Bonuses:

We heard Bob Costas speak recently at Richmond Forum – a real national treasure.

A Prayer to Remember – God Fights For You Today – Debbie McDaniel

Faking It – Could I Go From being an Introvert to an Extrovert in One Week? – Sirin Kale

A Christmas Classic and a Couple of Musical Collaborations:

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Fabulous Fifties

Learning About Someone

Jon McCray’s very fair take on John Crist’s current situation:

Monday Morning Moment – Emotional Intelligence at Work and in Life – a Story

blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

[I have written before on Emotional Intelligence here, here, and here. Below you’ll find the summaries from those pieces.]

You can probably remember an encounter with someone who was so engaging and interesting that you hoped you would meet them again, or work with them some more, or even become their friend.

Over the last few weeks, I had such an experience.

Background: Being a part of a beloved organization, engaged and working hard, we can get a passion to take it to the next level. We see both what we’re doing well and also what’s missing. For awhile, I’d been putting together an idea in my head of a particular next step. Even though it wasn’t a strength of mine to carry the ball on it, I saw such a need for it to happen that I floated it a couple of times to our leads.

It didn’t go anywhere…timing, not the right people in place…lots of variables.

Then, out of the blue, an announcement came down that we were going to run a pilot on that very idea. The woman leading the pilot was perfect for it. Enthusiastic, funny, bright, humble, and inclusive. Perfect.

I messaged her about how excited I was about the pilot and told her if I could be any help at all, just let me know.

Because of who she was (and maybe the timing…although I think it was just her), the project is humming along. Lots of others jumped in to help. I was so excited. Felt no need to push in but wanted to cheer-lead anyway possible.

Then she wrote me this brief message – surprising and lovely – full of emotional intelligence. She said at that time she didn’t need more folks on the project, BUT she commended me and expressed her gratitude for my support. Just a message. A few lines.

It was just what I needed and I didn’t even know I needed it.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” 

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Emotional Intelligence and Success – Study Wizards  – rapid read with definition and characteristics of emotional intelligence.

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Remember this distinction: there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator with and appreciator of people.  [Go back and click on that infographic – very helpful!]

Emotional Intelligence is a concept that’s been around for awhile now.  Matt Monge’s article for The Mojo Company sparked my interest some time ago. He described 6 symptoms of leaders with low emotional intelligence.

Two of Monge’s points were: 1) Leaders with low emotional intelligence say “I’m sorry you feel that way” more than “I’m sorry,” and 2) Leaders with low emotional intelligence often blame the people they hurt for the situations leading to them being hurt.

Daniel Goleman has written several books on this topic including Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. The very cool thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be developed. The big dilemma is whether bosses or even teammates, not bothered by their impact on others, would buy into this relational skillset. Incorporating such concepts in personnel accountability metrics might provide some incentive. I’ve added graphics below that helped me further understand emotional intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - grid - dollieslagerPhoto Credit: Dollie Slager

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - low & highPhoto Credit: The King and Queen

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Even people with strong emotional intelligence can find themselves off-balance when in conflict with someone. Leadership writer Marcel Schwantes gives counsel for this in 7 Brilliant Things Emotionally Intelligent People Do When Their Buttons Are Pushed.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Schwantes encourages us to respond rather than react in a conflict situation. His seven action points follow (read more of his article for his commentary on each one).

  1. Get perspective.
  2. Take a 6-second pause.
  3. Stay humble.
  4. Try empathy.
  5. Ask the most conflict-diffusing question. [“Are you ok?” What’s going on?”….what else would you think would diffuse the situation?]
  6. Speak from your authentic self.
  7. Be the first to reach out after conflict.

Don’t miss the brief video at the end of Schwantes’ piece on 3 Simple Questions to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Leadership - Emotional IntelligencePhoto Credit: Self Study History 

I hope you’re surrounded by emotionally intelligent people. Maybe you’re an “EI” rockstar yourself. For me, that woman above, piloting the project, had my respect from the beginning, but because she responded to me in such an honoring, genuinely considerate way, she also has my complete support and more.

Do you have any emotional intelligence stories? Please comment below. We can always use  stories of great bosses and coworkers to inspire and spur us on.

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Try These Two Smart Techniques to Help You Master Your Emotions – Lisa Feldman Barrett

How Emotional Intelligence Boosts Your Endurance – Alex Hutchinson

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Bonus: Resources for Raising Our Children to Be Emotionally Intelligent

Research Shows Reading Improves Kids’ Emotional Intelligence and Increases Empathy – Katie Priske

This Is How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 5 Secrets From Research – Eric Barker

Chores Lead to Happy Children. So Why Do So Few Parents Require Them? – Annie Holmquist – OK…this doesn’t really have to do with emotional intelligence but it fits in the mix of raising kids well.

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.

Monday Morning Moment – the Not So Subtle Punishment of Silence

Photo Credit: Socrates, Status Mind

The silent treatment. Seems so juvenile, in a way, and yet it is used as a punishment in relationships, both personal and professional. We may be the ones doing it without even thinking that’s what it is. Here we go.

In the earliest years of our marriage, Dave and I would sometimes have a fight about something. At times, the conflict didn’t end well for me, anyway. Then, without really a goal to be vindictive or mean, I would just have nothing to say to him…for as many as three days. Oh, we would cover the normal conversation of life – schedules, kids, etc., but from my side, all matters of the heart were wrapped in silence. Punishing him with that silence. I don’t think he always noticed, but inside my own heart and head, it was brutal.

Fortunately for us both, I grew out of that. Now after a disagreement, it may take me a few minutes to shake off my frustration…but not days. Silent treatment in our marriage is over.

In a recent blog by Jan Riley (a dear friend of mine), she talked about the use of silence to “break a person down”. She writes below:

In his book Ostracism: The Power of Silence, psychologist Kipling Williams writes: “William James [father of American psychology] suggested that to be ‘cut dead’ and to go ‘unnoticed’ by others would be worse than the ‘most fiendish punishment.’ The silent treatment may well be the most frequently used method of cutting people dead.”

In his piece Ostracism, Dr. Williams introduced the topic with a further quote by Dr. James: “If no one turned round when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead,” and acted as if we were non-existing things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would ere long well up in us, from which the cruelest bodily tortures would be a relief; for these would make us feel that, however bad might be our plight, we had not sunk to such a depth as to be unworthy of attention at all.( James 1890/1950, pp. 293–94)

Ostracism – Kipling D. Williams – pdf

Psychologist Karen Young talks about silent treatment as

Photo Credit: Jaeda DeWalt

Silence is a very disorienting experience because you usually can’t discern what it means.  It can put you off balance.

Anyone who has ever experienced ostracism knows what it feels like and how debilitating it can be, even for a mature thinker.

Silent treatment can be intentional and manipulative, however it can also become a habit of “communication” – neglectful communication. Excluding someone from a conversation (at work or other association), not making eye contact, not speaking in casual encounters, not answering emails/texts, leaving a group member off a group email, not acknowledging someone’s input…and so it goes.

[Of course, all the above can happen innocently for the overloaded person, without intention. The dilemma is when we, over time, just let it keep happening because we can’t figure out how to fix it..or just aren’t inclined…to fix it.]

The curious thing about silent treatment, if you confront the person you sense is doing it, that person can always deny it…whereupon you feel like you’ve read the situation wrongly, you overreacted, etc. It is like a double punch.

So what does one do in regards to silent treatment? What are the counter-measures? I would love for you to share yours in the Comments because I am still sorting out what can affect change.

In a personal relationship, in a non-conflictive moment, you may talk together about what silence conveys. It may be that neither of you have an understanding of what’s going on with the other…because of the silence. Face-to-face communication most always helps with understanding each other better.

In a work situation, or other organizational affiliation that demands working together, systems can be put in place that facilitates engagement… team meetings, weekly email updates, some sort of regular internal communication process. Like with bullying prevention, a core value that speaks to the essential of regular, empowering communication can have impact.

A work or family culture that just accepts silence as a way of coping with stress or frustration can affect everyone in that culture. Identify the issues and do what you can to move them toward health.

One-on-one, there still may be little we can do to counter or improve a situation with such a someone – one who has made silence a pattern to control their encounters with others. We can definitely mark the experience, and check the pain. Then if there seems no way to improve the relationship, the best thing we can do is put our own boundaries around the experience…but not necessarily the person.

Photo Credit: Pikord, Michael Davis Lowery

[The above graphic was a chuckle, not a true work-around.]

We don’t want to respond to passive-aggressive behavior with the same sort of behavior. We may, however, have to acknowledge that for some people, it’s a deeply ingrained habit that could even have become unconscious.

When our daughter was 3 years old, she went through a season of not speaking to people. She would bury her face in my leg, or just turn her face/body away from the person. Then I tried to “excuse” her behavior with “she’s become shy lately.” The same friend above, Jan, who was also a parenting mentor for me, said outright: “That’s not being shy; that’s being rude.” Some of you may be put off by that, but I appreciated her being straight with me. From that day on, this mama worked with that 3-year-old on what ignoring and not speaking communicated and on how to be courteous and respectful. Now the lovely woman she has become is working on the same lessons with her little one.

Whatever your take is on this, hopefully you won’t default to perpetrating the silent treatment as your own pattern of controlling situations. Don’t do it yourself. Don’t be that person.

It helps me to realize that friends, family, and coworkers who use silent treatment didn’t get there overnight. There could have been an event, an altercation, a painful experience of their own that set them up for emotionally withdrawing and using silence as coping or as punishment. For some, like in our early years of marriage, silent treatment may be very situational. For others, it is borne out of habit – a habit of feeling no compulsion toward connecting with people they don’t value or whom they feel don’t value them. It is what it is.

In this day of social media and over-sharing, to put yourself out there and then be met with silence is a strange and sometimes painful experience. Fortunately, even that does not define us. Right? Right.

The Surprising Truth About the Silent Treatment – Karen Young

When We Use Silence As Punishment

The Silent Treatment: a Deadly Killer of Friendships – Noelle Rhodes

Worship Wednesday – Spirit Pour Out – Andy and Rachel Graham

And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.Luke 19:41

Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7

The shining city we call home is Richmond, Virginia. It is a beautiful, gleaming mix of old and new.  A river runs east-west through it, and interstate highways divide it north-south. The divide goes much deeper than the highways cut through neighborhoods decades ago, but these transportation portals speak to that divide.

After the Civil War (during which Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America), the African-American community began to thrive here. In fact, Jackson Ward, a Richmond neighborhood still today, was once known as “Black Wall Street” and “the Harlem of the South”. Beautiful homes, large churches, successful businesses, and popular entertainment venues were all part of this thriving neighborhood.

Then “progress” happened. City and state officials determined the design of what is now our vast interstate system. This all-white group of officials made the decision of what would best serve the city and beyond. The highways would be laid down right through Jackson Ward. 1000 homes were lost through the city’s powers of eminent domain.

Roads to Nowhere: How Infrastructure Built Built on American Inequality – Johnny Miller

Recently I saw a TV show, All Rise, that featured an anquished young man, wrongly accused of a felony. While awaiting the jury’s verdict, his public defender sat with him. She asked about why he was studying urban planning. This was the powerful scene that speaks to what happened in our city and others:

“Every shining city is built on something pretty dark.”

The above statement from the scene isn’t always true (especially when I think of Heaven), BUT. God, in His Word, demonstrated both understanding of and love for cities.

The peoples of cities. Peoples like us, and others not like us but loved. Exquisitely, generously loved by God. We are meant to love as He loves. We are blessed to be a blessing to all peoples.

Not just transactional charity…where we give of our goods but not ourselves. Jesus did feed the thousands (transactional) but He also gave all of Himself to all people (transformational). He left that example for us…that transformational model of loving people.

Seek Your City’s Good – John Piper

This past Sunday, our worship team at Movement Church, led us in a song new to me. Spirit Pour Out. It was written by Andy and Rachel Graham out of a worship experience with Urban Doxology, a ministry based in Richmond. Members of Urban Doxology live, work, worship, and serve in the racially diverse (and divided) neighborhoods of Richmond. They bring a message and vision for reconciliation – with God and each other. See the Ted Talk about Urban Doxology here. The YouTube video below shows footage of our city, Richmond, Virginia. It is a call to prayer for cities – for ours and for all cities.

Worship with me.

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

Come restore generations of desolation
Bind up the poor and broken heart
Plant and sow, till and grow what time has ravaged
Break down the walls of race and war

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

God we seek the peace and welfare of our city
Prosper redeem her as your own
That all would see your glory here in greater measure
Through us your church your kingdom come

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

You are the God who builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Evil has no claim
You are the God builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Fervently we pray*

Peter says that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In fact, we will do most good for this world by keeping a steadfast freedom from its beguiling attractions. We will serve our city best by getting our values from “the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We will do our city most good by calling as many of its citizens as we can to be citizens of “the Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26).

So, let’s live — let’s do so much good (1 Peter 2:12) — that the natives will want to meet our King. – John Piper

*Lyrics to Spirit Pour Out – Songwriters: Andy & Rachel Graham

YouTube Video – Spirit Pour Out – Urban Doxology

Monday Morning Moment – What Stirs Motivation, Initiative, and Innovation – What Kills It

Photo Credit: Flickr

We all have the capability of motivating those around us…or demotivating them. We can stir initiative or slow it down. We can grease the tracks for innovation or derail it.

How are motivation, initiative, and innovation defined? Considering the definitions will help us remember how crucial they are to forward progress – in serving others, in product development, and in employee (or volunteer) engagement.

MotivationInternal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal. Motivation results from the interaction of both conscious and unconscious factors such as the (1) intensity of desire or need, (2) incentive or reward value of the goal, and (3) expectations of the individual and of his or her peers. These factors are the reasons one has for behaving a certain way.

InitiativeAn individual’s action that begins a process, often done without direct managerial influence. For example, an employee might take the initiative to come up with a new product or service that the company could offer…Demonstrat(ing) initiative by sharing their ideas, helping to improve our business, speaking up about problems, and suggesting potential solutions.

InnovationThe process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.

We can celebrate situations where we experience daily motivation and have the freedom and support to run with our initiative and participate in innovation. It’s in other situations that we need internal and external encouragement to press on, even without the help or support of our managers, leaders, bosses.

Dealing with bottlenecks, micro-managing, and continually reiterating leaders or bosses can tempt us to disengage and slow down in our own work…even in areas where our passion and commitment are high.

“One of the signals that managers might need more training is when their engineers aren’t taking initiative.”Jean Hsu, Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative?

“We agree completely that micromanagement is a big mistake. It diminishes people’s self-confidence, saps their initiative, and stifles their ability to think for themselves. It’s also a recipe for screwing things up—micromanagers rarely know as much about what needs to be done as the people they’re harassing, the ones who actually do it.” – Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Photo Credit: Flickr

This piece today is really not to vent about those in authority over us who make our work or volunteering difficult (and sometimes joyless). Listed below (in the links) are several lists on particulars that stifle or kill motivation, initiative, and innovation. Especially if you are a manager or boss, these would be important to consider.

We may need to process a bit about our struggle to get a project finished or an idea embraced. This particular blog came out of such a frustration. Still, what I hope is to take the power to spoil out of the hands of our bosses (most probably that is not their primary intention) and to empower ourselves to push on in ways we can. Without being divisive or insubordinate. Empathy is one of the tools we can use.Photo Credit: Brian Solis, Flickr

Empathy is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings”.

The Truth About Why Empathy is a Required Skill in the Workplace

Empathy probably seems a bit counter-intuitive when you’re feeling blocked by a controlling boss. Think about it. Once you think through her reasoning on slowing down a process, you can then give support to your ideas with language that speaks to her concerns.  For example, a micromanager may have several critical and costly projects going at the same time and could be afraid himself of dropping the ball on some, so he slows everything down and reins in decision-making. It can make a work team nuts, but if you determine to understand something of his position, you can stay in the conversation rather than just bolting.

Hating on your boss will only cloud the relationship from both sides. Then there’s the ripple effect to other relationships. None of us really want that. See link below…wisdom.

Workplace Wisdom – Dave’s Observation on Work (and Other) Relationships – What You Think of Others Matters – Deb Mills

You can help here, respectfully, by thinking through other ways to get to the solution of the problem or impasse. Empathy is a discipline that keeps conversations positive and inclusive of all those needed to make the decision on a new direction.Photo Credit: Career Contessa

Empathy at Work – Why It (Really) Matters – Jacqueline McElhone

Besides empathy, I have also discovered a different path. Maybe like you, I am one of those persons who generates ideas like other people generate the responses “we tried that” or “that’s good, but”. Creatives aren’t always well-received in the decision-making hierarchy. In recent years, I went through a season of de-motivation and diminished initiative. Life is too short to spend long in that mindset.

I finally shook off the troubled slumber of that season, in three ways:

  • Making the decision to continue working with the same organization, but
  • Looking for other avenues (non-profits, start-ups) to express the energy and passion of these ideas which I believed would make a difference.
  • Playing with and developing these ideas in an environment of inclusion and all-voices-wanted-at-the-table.

It wasn’t long that my confidence and sense of how to work smarter helped me to re-engage my workspace, with empathy. The bottlenecks may still be there, the control may still be weighted, but I am the one who changed. More ready for the battles and taking them less personally.

You matter. Your ideas, your solutions to problems, your presence at the table.

Thoughts? Would love to hear them (in Comments).

Photo Credit: Needpix

What Kills Motivation at Work – Justin Reynolds

7 Ways Toxic Managers Stifle Employee Motivation and Productivity – Kristin Marquet

7 Ways Micromanagement Stifles Creativity – Wayne Hastings

Nine Rules for Stifling Innovation – Rosabeth Moss Kanter

10 Ways Weak Managers Stifle Innovation – Liz Ryan

10 Things Companies Do That Kill Employee Motivation – Paul Petrone

Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative? – Jean Hsu

Monday Morning Moment – A Tribute: For Fancy Nancy; MomMom, My Angel

[Nancy Wink is Dave’s aunt. Beloved by all of us. Funny, generous, servant-hearted. A truly Godly woman. We miss her terribly. Heaven is all the sweeter with her Home. Guest blogger: Rachel Shaver, one of her granddaughters.]

Nancy Wink, sister Julia Mills, and their mom Lura Ring

Nancy & Julia, 2018

Nancy & Bob, Sweethearts for life and forever

Nancy, Rachel Shaver, & her mom Sharon Wink

For the past few weeks, as I watched you get closer and closer to your reunion with PopPop, I struggled with a million emotions, feelings and memories at the thought of losing you. For the past few days, as I’ve revisited these moments, I found it difficult to put into words the deep gratitude I feel for you and all you mean to me. I desperately hope I communicated this to you as best I could while you were here on Earth with me, but now that you are in Heaven, I aim to show you how grateful I am by demonstrating the same love and devotion to my friends and family that you bestowed to so many while you were here.

I want to say so many things, but all I can think about right now is how much I loved the dentist. Because YOU ALWAYS took me to my visits. All the way to Salisbury. Every cleaning, every wire adjustment, every new band color in my braces. You never missed a trip. Each time a new appointment was scheduled, you had it written on your calendar before we got home (you never forgot a birthday, a holiday, or an anniversary, EVER).

For me, the dentist meant staying with you on a school night, taking a bath in your Jacuzzi tub (never without bubbles), playing with your dolls on that huge yellow couch in the basement, watching reruns on TV (I loved Tom Selleck just because you did), having oatmeal in the morning, and McDonald’s on my way back to school. The dentist meant I got to spend my days with you: Learning to crochet, laughing when you scolded PopPop for dribbling breakfast on his tie before he left for work (UH, BOB!). I loved going to the dentist, and I SO LOVE YOU.

I don’t know how we ended up so lucky to have you in our lives, but I thank God every day that we did. Thank you for loving me beyond measure when you never had to. Thank you for showing me the power of a good manicure, a sharp crab knife, a matching outfit, and a compassionate heart. You were stubborn, and spunky, and hated when I wore my hair straight and I love you for all of this. If ever there were angels on Earth, you were one. You were graceful, and kind. You were thoughtful and selfless. And you loved every single one of your children, grandchildren, and greats unconditionally; didn’t matter if it were blood or bonds that connected them.

My heart has been aching so badly for thought of missing these moments, but it smiles knowing you’re finally home with PopPop again. You deserve every jewel in heaven and every moment spent in your love’s arms. You are where you want to be. Sweet dreams, MomMom—I love you forever and cherish you for just as long. Good night fancy Nancy. I miss you so much.

Rachel Shaver

Obituary – Nancy L. Wink

Continue reading Monday Morning Moment – A Tribute: For Fancy Nancy; MomMom, My Angel