Tag Archives: Contempt

Monday Morning Moment – Life & Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry?

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

A friend of mine reached out to me this week with this dilemma. A Christian herself, she finds herself in the middle of a stand-off between pro-choice non-Christian colleagues and pro-life Christian friends. Each side angry at the other, without even knowing each other, just on principle alone.

I’ve been puzzling over her situation all week, and then yesterday, thanks to a pastor friend, an answer came. In fact, it is the most definitive answer to so many conflictive situations in our lives. Is it easy, no? Simple, yes.

The answer…or the path to the answer…is to refuse to get angry. Refuse to think ill of another. Refuse.

I’m not talking about stuffing our anger somewhere inside, keeping it pressurized until it explodes sometime later. Refusing to get angry is actually a step toward defusing it. Anger demands action. We take the energy of the anger and do something altogether different with it.

Jesus of Nazareth once delivered a short sermon known as the Sermon on the Mount. No matter our current faith, if we applied his teaching to life and politics, we could change the world for good. In the crowd that day, many religious leaders saw him as a threat, and would seek to destroy him in the months to come. However, that day…the wisdom and authority of Jesus’ words hit home to those in hearing, and they “were amazed”.

Here’s what Jesus said about anger:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” – Matthew 5:21-22

See the contrast…we would never even think of murder as the solution but we allow ourselves to stir up anger like it’s nothing… especially if “deserved”. Jesus sees it differently.

When someone cuts us off in traffic, puts you down at work, or sets in motion legislation against a cause dear to us, we get angry. What is our response?

Anger too often goes to a place which escalates the situation rather than altering it in a positive way.

If we take to responding to anger, with a quietened heart, this is far from passivism. This is about as intentional and reasoned an action possible for us to take. Refusing to act in anger…refusing to think ill or speak ill of another.

Our strong opinions about politics today (especially, this being an election year) drive us to put relational wedges between ourselves and those with whom we disagree. What if we responded differently to those with whom anger becomes the first emotion?

We would listen, with our finger on the pulse of their hearts. We would seek to understand. Our disagreements become a launch pad for positive action. Anger would cease being a call to retaliatory or retributive action. It would become a flag, a button, a cue to respond in love and forgiveness.

Not as satisfying as “righteous indignation”, right? Not as definitive as my definition of justice…my, my, my.

What if there is another path to justice or rightness? We have another example from the life of Jesus…well, maybe examples, but here is one that peels away any sense of my right to express anger.

Jesus’ enemies would prevail against his life. It wasn’t really about the Jewish religious leaders or the Roman political authorities. Jesus gave his life for us. He was always in control, and his purposes were fulfilled, not thwarted, on the cross.

At any time, Jesus could have turned the situation around that day. When he was beaten, ridiculed, and falsely accused, he could have walked away. When he was attached to the cross, he could have taken himself down (Matthew 27:40-41). When he saw the sorrow on Mary’s face or his friend John’s torment, he could have acted in anger against those causing so much pain.

He did not. How he responded was an altogether different way:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34

When we find ourselves getting angry or having reason for anger, we can take another path through it. Instead of hardening our hearts toward those who cut us off or block our goals, we can take the anger a different way. We are not obliged to cultivate hatred and contempt…for reckless drivers (I first put “bad” but changed it), power brokers at work, or politicians or political parties.

What if anger sparked in us an intentionality to love and forgive.  What if, instead of railing in Facebook posts or blogs or office conversations, we work toward solutions about the things we care most about?…the things that suffer when we do nothing but express anger about them. What if we prayed more for our President, for instance…for Congress…for our governors and State legislatures. What if we thought deeply about solutions and then wrote them to those decision-makers? Rather than just talking to friend (or enemy) about how we disagree with them…or to those with whom we agree and agree to hate the other side.

What if (for my friend above) we took our anger at abortion (or protecting choice on the other side of the conversation), and we worked to make access to birth control and health care truly available for those most vulnerable?

What would the world look like if we refused to act on anger in hateful, punishing ways? What if we remembered we are all frail humanity? No matter how we come across to others or how powerful or powerless we are, we can alter the course of anger… in ways that heal instead of hurt.

There is another verse in the Bible where the Apostle Paul says, “Be angry but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26). We, as Christians, sometimes justify our anger by calling it righteous, when our actions say otherwise. When we act out of anger, we can’t reflect the One who lived a life without sin…unless we act in love, tempering our anger into something that elevates rather than diminishes.

Thanks, Cliff, for that sermon, and thanks, Sherry, for reaching out to me…and making me think about this.

Movement Church – Sermon on the Mount Series – on Anger

The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount That You Probably Missed – Mark L. Ward, Jr.

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

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

Photo Credit: Tangram

Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

Photo Credit: Amazon

My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

Photo Credit: QuotationOf

However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

Angry Men – Dealing with Fits of Anger and the Painful Fallout

Blog - Anger - beliefnetPhoto Credit: BeliefNet

Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:26-27

I’d like to start a conversation about angry men. Not that women don’t get angry; sure we do. For today, though I’d like to think out loud about the frightening, threatening nature of anger in men. As an emotion, anger isn’t necessarily bad. It is a normal response to plenty of situations. We all have good reasons to be angry at times. When we turn up our anger either on ourselves or others then it becomes destructive and sometimes dangerous.

[Disclaimer: I am not an authority on this topic,  but have found the articles by the men who have written and counseled on this topic very helpful – they are linked below.]

Living with someone who strikes out at me in anger is not a daily experience, and for that I’m very thankful. However, there are strong memories of unchecked anger in my past that still sting when they come to mind.

  • I was maybe 5 years old when, one night in our home, all four of us children were sitting, huddled together on a bottom bunk, while my mom, dad and an uncle were having some sort of altercation. Mom and Dad were divorced by then, and he and my uncle were in some sort of row. I remember my dad’s face bleeding and a bloody handkerchief…and lots of frightening yelling…until he finally left our house.
  • My step-dad, who is the only dad I’ve ever really known, has always been so kind to me. He, on the other hand, was sometimes a tough dad with the boys. He struggled with fits of anger, and they were the recipients of it. As the years went by, he managed to get control of his anger for the most part. Still there are memories I wish I didn’t have, and I’m sure my brothers wish they could forget.
  • My oldest brother, who saw much more than I did of our birth father’s selfishness and our step-dad’s temper, also struggled with anger issues through his life. He had an uncanny ability to bait us, as family, into escalating arguments that left us all shaking with emotion. I learned the most about dealing with anger through trying to stay in relationship with him. Two friends, who also loved him, gave me the insight I needed to NOT take the bait and to draw down the negative emotion of our conversations. One friend told me, “Hurt people hurt people.” That one observation helped me the most with my brother. His whole life was full of hurt, some he brought on himself, some he didn’t. Before he died, a few years back, he had begun the process of healing in a lot of those areas. I am so thankful that he finally saw that friendship with family was possible. We became close friends before the end. My only regret for him was that he didn’t have time for all his relationships mended before he died. Learn from this.

[There are some other situations very close to me that are still too fresh and painful to put up here….where people I love have been terribly hurt by angry, vindictive men who were supposed to protect and care for them.]

Blog - Anger - patheosPhoto Credit: Patheos

I started thinking about this dilemma of “blowing up” anger especially in men after reading Chuck Lawless’ article 10 Steps to Deal with Anger. He offers really good counsel especially to Christian men with anger problems, but anyone would benefit from reading this article. Chuck grew up with a father who lashed out at his family in anger (he wrote about it here). Like my step-dad, his dad would later change, with God’s help…which can give hope to all of us.

Too often we downplay anger. Because it is a normal emotion, we tend to just accept it unless there is violence inflicted.  When fits of anger are typical of how we respond to frustration, disappointment, loss, or not getting our way, we need help.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law...If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:19-26

Kurt Smith posted a gripping piece on his Guy Stuff Counseling blog. Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger was taken from Kim Barnes’ article With This Rage, I Thee Wed. Her story is real and heart-wrenching. Then the comments and Kurt Smith’s responses to them are also incredibly helpful in understanding what women encounter in their anger-singed relationships.

Dear men with anger issues in our lives, please get the help you need…for your sake and that of those who love you. Often, we hear people walking away from negative relationships, but, except for when violence is present, I would support people staying together and fighting through to healing if at all possible. Still, help from counselors, pastors, or other professionals may be required for a breakthrough.

Tom Elliff wrote a small book entitled The Broken Curse, about lashing out with words and the life-long impact of such words…unless healing takes place. “Hurt people hurt people” and their weapons are sometimes words of contempt, resentment, and intimidation. Men who explode with anger have histories often of being victims of that very same kind of treatment by one who was supposed to have loved and protected them. Both the angry men and the women, children, and other men in their lives all need to examine these life patterns and work together to relate differently to each other.

Helps abound online and through various agencies…when we’re willing to face the hateful, hurtful reality of unleashed anger.

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage – John Piper – don’t miss this one.

Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger – posted by Kurt Smith, Counseling Men Blog – Don’t miss the comments – story after story of women and the angry men they have loved – very helpful.

Counseling Men Blog – Guy Stuff Counseling

Brad Hambrick on Anger

Top 7 Bible Verses on Anger – Jack Wellman

7 Ways to Help Men Resolve Anger Issues – Jed Diamond

Battered Person Syndrome – Wikipedia

The Angry Heart – Biblical Counseling CoalitionBlog - Anger - Angry man - Biblical Counseling CoalitionPhoto Credit: Biblical Counseling Coalition

Monday Morning Moment – Contempt is Cancer in the Workplace…and Any Other Place

Blog - Contempt - ArmstrongeconomicsPhoto Credit: Armstrong Economics

In a culture that clamors for political correction, how is it that contempt can be so freely expressed? Even rewarded, at times? This is an enigma for me. Contempt at home or in the workplace divides people, often against one another. Like cancer, it can spread if left unchecked…changing people and impacting product.

Having a certain measure of confidence is positive for all of us on a team. It’s freeing to be in relationships with people who have a strong sense of what they bring to the table as well as what others bring. Confidence and humility actually partner well together. When we have an honest understanding of our strengths, we also extend humility as we defer to the strengths of our colleagues.

The problem comes for all of us when confidence shifts into arrogance. Worse yet, when arrogance darkens into contempt. Arrogance is an attitude of thinking so highly of oneself that we tend to put down the thinking and efforts of others. Contempt is similar except the emotions are stronger and more mean-spirited.

Blog - Contempt 3 - slidesharePhoto Credit: SlideShare

What makes contempt so cancerous in our relationships is that it tends to spread, both internally and externally. When we allow ourselves the luxury of contempt, we grow in our justification of it. It may have started with an unappreciative boss or demanding client, but contempt, unchecked, will inject its poison indiscriminately.  We become comfortable with our disdainful opinions of others…at work, in our families, and pretty much toward anyone who crosses or annoys us.Blog - Contempt 2 - liveforchristresourcesPhoto Credit: LiveforChristResources

Chris Johnson, CEO, Simplifilm Inc. of Portland, Oregon, wrote a piece confronting contempt as a cancer in the workplace. He offers 5 steps to preventing contempt from shattering our work and our work relationships:

1. Don’t Vindicate Yourself. A customer had an experience they didn’t like. You don’t need to prove if you are right or wrong. That’s not relevant. What’s important is making a judgement: is this worth fixing?

2. Look At The Opportunity. Some people are surly, disrespectful, ungrateful and wrong. Some of them have big jobs. Some people like that have power. Learning to work with these people — without getting drawn in — is a skill that you should have.

3. Always Err on the side of empathy. What are the consequences of being nicer to someone than they deserved? What are the consequences of being meaner? Will too nice of a response to a human ever ruin a career?

4. Cultivate Improvement Bias. When something goes wrong at Simplifilm, there are two components: what do we do with our transaction, and what do we do with our system. For the transaction, we try and fix it with empathy. We believe that we caused it. Because if we caused it we can improve our system.

5. Rethink your filter. Most people say “block out everyone, make customers prove themselves to you.” Being available can be hard. Many filters are vanity in disguise. If you knew the people that answered their personal emails…Chris Johnson

Contempt like cancer can be smoldering without our awareness. I am generally a positive and empathetic person, but, if I’m honest with myself, there are those in the workplace who don’t experience much compassion from me. It’s an uncomfortable confession to have to make.

As we practice mindfulness in our relationships at work, we hopefully will remember to respond instead of react. We can rein in contempt by refusing to think ill of others, by staying engaged, and by acknowledging none of us get it right every time (exercising humility).

On the old TV sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frank, Ray’s father would often make observations that sizzled with sarcasm. One comment remains a part of our family’s lexicon: “People are idiots!” It’s so easy for any of us to look at actions or decisions made by others and shake our heads…until we remember that we all have it in us to do the same. Contempt can be diagnosed…and treated…

…with empathy, compassion, and humility. Not necessarily the coolest or trendiest work (or relationship) processes in our culture…but… What a difference they can make in the tone of our meetings, the depth of our relationships, and the measure of our own character.

So let’s get after it!

How Contempt Breeds Business Cancer (& 5 Ways to Kill It) by Chris Johnson

Contempt or Compassion by Brian Fletcher

Detecting Deception by David Berglund – SlideShare [Slide 76ff]

Confidence vs. Arrogance – and Knowing the Difference by Michele Cushatt

10 Ways to Tell if You’re Confident or Arrogant by Carmine Gallo

How Contempt Destroys Relationships by Susan Heitler