Tag Archives: opportunity

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 – A Store Opens and a Business Thrives – Thanks to a Decades-Old Business Philosophy Still Relevant Today

In all the years I’ve known Dave’s Uncle Bob, he made grocery shopping and restaurant meals more like field trips. He was a grocer for many years and then owned and operated restaurants later in life. Never meeting a stranger and one of the most kindly and engaged men I’ve ever known, he would talk to anyone who was willing. About the store/restaurant design, why the particular products or menu items, taking everything in through his experienced and cultivated senses. Then we would talk about it. “Do you see how they….?” “You know what she said about….?” I learned so much from him about customer service, product presentation, and business practices. He had a terrific understanding about what makes for excellence.

I think Uncle Bob and Mr. George could have had great talks.

George W. Jenkins, Jr. was the founder of Publix Supermarkets. He opened his first Publix food store in 1930, during the Great Depression. He and his store associates managed to make it through that trying time when so many businesses suffered or closed.

Last week, I attended the family night before the Grand Opening of another Publix Supermarket in Richmond, Va. We now have them all over the city, but they only arrived here in 2017. Richmond has several grocery store chains, and I wasn’t sure how Publix would do…but…it has prospered.

I learned much about the store at that pre-grand opening family night (store employees are called associates and the family night was for families of this latest store’s associates). The store was ready to go. Groceries, produce, prepared foods, meat and dairy were all in place in gleaming cases. For the families, snack stations were set up all over the store. It was yummy! Then we were gathered for the welcomes and introductions of different department leads. There was a prayer which I thought unusual but special. Then Mr. George’s name was often spoken as different individuals talked about how special Publix was to them through the years. The company seems not to have experienced mission drift in all these 89 years since the first store opening.

Todd Jones, the CEO of Publix Supermarkets, was present as well as several other regional executives. There was much applause as he asked for a show of hands of those who had worked for Publix from less than a year on up. Two persons had worked for 45 years at Publix. One of them had started as a bag boy, like Todd Jones himself. Whenever possible, Publix promotes from within. It was neat to see how employees could very naturally rise to the top as they took opportunity for training and leading over years of work.

I picked up a little booklet at the welcome table. It was entitled Lessons From Our Founder – Publix’s Founder George W. Jenkins. Here they are listed below:

  • Invest in others. – Publix is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the US. Every employee (even parttimers after 1000 hrs. can buy stock. Ownership brings its own desire for excellence.
  • Give back. – Mr. George was a philanthropist throughout his life as a successful businessman. Once asked, “Mr. George, how much do you think you’d be worth today if you hadn’t give so much away?” His immediate response was: “Probably nothing.”
  • Prepare for opportunity. – Publix employees, or associates, have opportunities from the beginning to apply themselves toward excellence and future job advancement.
  • Be there. – Mr. George knew the importance of being present in his stores. CEO Todd Jones follows his example in attending store openings and celebrating associates’ advancement. Being there, at all levels, matters.
  • Respect the dignity of the individual. – Mr. George also always had an open door policy. He welcomed ideas. He allowed for mistakes. He cared about the associates. Each person brought something special to the work.
  • Treat customers like royalty. – This, for all of us customers, is the best part. No matter how beautiful the stores are or how good the food is…how we are treated is why we come back.

Do the right thing. – That was Mr. George’s summary on his business philosophy.

What company out there would not profit from such a corporate philosophy?

Finally, in case you don’t have a Publix in your city but run across one in your travels: the best cakes and fried chicken in our town now!

In the Words of Mr. George – Jennifer B.

Saturday Short – The Tuskegee Airmen

blog-tuskegee-airmen-2Photo Credit: Tuskegee Airmen

Last night I watched a 1995 HBO film about the Tuskegee Airmen. They were the very first African-American military pilots. What an incredible story of how they had the opportunity to train as pilots (in 1941) and then how they entered the air battles of World War II (in 1943). As much as they confronted America’s enemy (Germany), they also faced the segregation and racism of that day.blog-tuskegee-airmen

Photo Credit: Tuskegee Airmen

The HBO film was based on the true stories of these men, but it’s hard to know, not having studied the Tuskegee Airmen before, what is true and what is Hollywood.

blog-tuskegee-airmen-getty-imagesPhoto Credit: Wikipedia

There is one scene that was especially timely then…and today.

It was some sort of hearing (some congressional committee) about the fitness of these pilots and whether the training program should be shut down. The African-American colonel who led this fighter squadron was able to speak for the men under his command. Below is his appeal and defense of these courageous fighter pilots…and of African-Americans. {Watch the clip below, as well. Moving.]

All we asked for was a chance to prove ourselves. A fair and impartial opportunity. 
We thought we had that chance.
But you invite us to a poker game,
hand us a fixed deck...
...and then wonder why we can't win?
Every colored pilot in the 99th...
...went through his own private hell

to wear those wings.
Each of those men carry...
...not only the dream
of becoming American Military Aviators...but the hopes of an entire people as well.

Am I the only one in this room
that understands what that means?
I was brought up to believe
that beneath it all...
...Americans are a decent people...
...with an abiding sense of integrity and fair play. The cheers I heard across this country
when Joe Louis and Jesse Owens...
...humiliated Hitler's "Master Race"...didn't just come from proud colored folks.

They came from everyone.
How are we to interpret that?

As a United States Army Officer...
...who gladly puts his life
on the line everyday...

...there's no greater conflict within me.

How do I feel about my country?
And how does my country...
...feel about me?

Are we only to be Americans
when the mood suits you?

A fair and impartial opportunity
is all we ask.

Nothing that you yourselves
wouldn't demand.*


Whether those words were spoken by that colonel or they were the words of a marvelous, insightful script writer…they resonate today.

“A fair and impartial opportunity is all we ask. Nothing that you yourselves wouldn’t demand.”

*The Tuskegee Airmen – Script

Red Tails (2012) – Lucasfilm Official Trailer

Sebastian Traeger on the Value of Our Work

2015 May - Blog - The Gospel at WorkFor we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.Ephesians 2:10

I had the opportunity recently to hear Sebastian Traeger speak on work. Although the auditorium was packed, he could have been speaking to one young person sorting out his future. Or to a professional in a mid-life funk wondering if what he does really matters. What he said, and the thoughtfulness of his presentation, actually surprised me. It had less a flavor of a highly successful entrepreneur’s career advice, and more that of a friend counseling a friend.

Here are the highlights from his talk:

  • Is fulltime ministry more valuable than my job? Are some jobs more valuable to God than others? No.
  • Who we work for is more valuable that what we do. Whatever is our work, as believers, we work for God. He is our boss. We are servants of the King.
  • God deploys each of us to do what He has for us to do – and what He means for us to do is always beyond our competence. We need Him.
  • What God values is not always obvious to us (Matthew 20:1-16).
  • God deploys us. Be fully where He has you until it’s clear He has a next assignment for you. He deploys us both inside our workplace and beyond, in our communities and to the nations.
  • Desire, abilities, opportunity – these three factors work together under His guidance. You may have one or more but not all three where you are. Don’t be discouraged. Trust God and do whatever you can to be faithful in hearing and obeying God in your desire, abilities, and opportunities.
  • What assignment has God given you? Be faithful.
  • Paul’s example in his letter to Philemon about Onesimus – one can seek freedom (a change) from his (work) situation but he must strive to be faithful in the meantime.
  • There is mystery in God’s purposes. Trust Him.
  • Finally, in sorting out your work situation, remember 3 things:     1. We live in a fallen world. Take this into account in dealing with your expectations.  2. Pray for opportunity (within your work and outside your workplace).   3. Trust God.

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert go deeper into these concepts in their book The Gospel at Work. They present a revelationary teaching on the issues of idleness and idolatry in our work and how to “pursue faithfulness, then fruitfulness”.

“The answer to fighting complacency is recognizing that you work for the Lord in all that you do. He’s not primarily calling you to your job; He’s calling you to belong to Him. Understanding the gospel in light of our work helps us to understand that we are to be sold-out disciples in all things.”*

Blog - Gospel at Work - Sebastian TraegerBlog - The Gospel at Work - Greg Gilbert - from cbmw.org

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work – A Conversation with Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger (ERLC)

The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger & Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work Website

*Q&A: Sebastian Traeger on the Ministry of Work at ValuesandCapitalism.com

The Gospel at Work – A Conversation with Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger (ERLC)

Skybridge Community

Photo Credits: Images of Sebastian Traeger (bpnews.net) and Greg Gilbert (cbmw.org)