Are You a Bully Boss?

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Bullying is a popular concern these days, with new laws being passed and the establishment of a federal government website, www.stopbullying.gov.  The effort to stop bullying should be especially important for business owners.  Consider the time and money that is spent carefully selecting new staff, training them and having them develop relationships with clients only to have the employees leave because of being bullied by their boss.

Bullying is not new and we all knew who the bullies were when we were young.  So, where did all those bullies go when they grew up?  Many of them became our bosses.  Most bully bosses don’t recognize themselves as such.  They think that they have to act the way they do because “that is the only way to get the job done.”  Are you one of those bully bosses?

The horror stories of bully bosses could fill volumes because this type of management style is so prevalent.  A bully boss leads by force, criticism, micromanaging and threats.  They control the income of those who work for them and so they rarely temper themselves.  They do whatever they want to get what they want – usually within the bounds of legality – but not always.

If you are a boss and want to make sure that you are not limiting your success and the success of your organization, consider the following questions:

Do I…

  1. See my employees hang their heads when I ask for input?
  2. Notice that my employees are anxious when I enter the room?
  3. Find that employees avoid me or act guarded around me?
  4. See fear or apprehension in the faces of my employees when I speak to them?
  5. Glare at employees or avoid contact so they know that I am their boss and not their friend?
  6. Lose my temper and use profanity frequently?
  7. Get upset when employees ask questions?
  8. Get offended if employees don’t think my ideas are the best?
  9. Withhold praise so that my employees don’t ask for something in return?
  10. Yell at employees in front of their peers so everyone knows that I am in control?
  11. Create a work environment that emphasizes the assignments I give the employees above everything else in their lives?
  12. Withhold information because employees don’t need to know why they are doing what I ask?
  13. Allow contention in my workforce to sort out the weakest employees?
  14. Avoid training costs if I am getting what I need now?
  15. Micromanage because my employees are too dumb to figure it out on their own?
  16. Take credit for successes but blame others for failures?
  17. Manipulate or coerce my employees because it is more efficient than trying to persuade them?
  18. Avoid helping employees since “no good deed goes unpunished?”
  19. Listen to others in order to exploit the weaknesses of their comments and form a scathing retort?
  20. Bend the truth to make it appear that others’ performance is sub-par?

If any of these apply to you, stop it!  If many of these apply to you, you might be more financially successful than your employees but you are incompetent at being a true leader – you are a bully boss.  You must reevaluate your management style and become a more persuasive leader or you and your business will continue to pay a heavy financial and emotional price.

A version of this article was published by Accounting Today here.

Be The Inspiration

Snow1We all enjoy working in an organization where we feel like our contribution matters, where what we are doing helps others and where there is a sense of camaraderie or family.  Even when problems arise, they are confidently overcome. It is almost magical. 

Sometimes that magic slips away.  Your boss turns his company over to one of his kids, the PTA President resigns because her child graduates, the Rotary President passes the gavel to the next in line, or your church leader moves on to another ministry. 

Naturally you want to hang on to the magic but it is difficult when the new leader, who has legitimate authority, doesn’t have much experience with the organization or doesn’t know how to motivate people.  Your options typically are to leave the organization or hang on and reminisce about the good ol’ days.

The best option is for you to be the inspiration in the organization, even though you don’t have the authority of the boss, leader, president, etc.  It dictates that you lead by inspiring others from the middle of the pack instead of at the head of the pack.

Charismatic authority is what leading from the middle is called.  People follow you because they believe in you and your ideas, even though you do not have legitimate authority in the organization.  You are an influencer and a persuader for good.

Being the inspiration requires that you are:

  1. Willing to inspire others

You have to care about the organization, its people and its products/services because others can feel your enthusiasm or lack thereof.

  1. Persuasive

The hallmark of a charismatic leader is the ability to persuade people, because you cannot reward or punish them for not following you.

  1. Consistent

Improvement cannot be sustained unless proper methods of achieving the organization’s goals are consistently used.  For example, the organization cannot work as a team if members of the organization are gossiping about each other.  The leader must be consistent in encouraging everyone to work together, without petty criticism.

  1. Insistent

People have to be reminded that the objective is important by insistent encouragement. The leader must insist that it is important that everyone buys into the goal and the methodology.

  1. Persistent

Persistence is necessary so people will not think that by ignoring an issue, it goes away. The leader must persistently remind everyone to work together to achieve the goal.

  1. Able to keep your ego in check

Arrogance will repel most followers unless you are fighting a common enemy and they think you are their only hope.  Narcissists are difficult to tolerate for very long.

  1. Positive and motivated by a better cause

Being positive is the essence of being the inspiration.  Any whiner can get others to join in a complaint fest.  You must be willing and able to lift the sights of others to see the benefit of doing things in a better, more efficient or kinder way.

  1. Capable of leading by example

No charismatic leader will hold on to followers if they see the leader acting inconsistently with the message.  Your commitment to excellence must include acting the part.

  1. Helpful

Remember, leadership is all about the humans.  Leaders don’t lead documents, machines, raw materials or concepts.  They lead people, so you must be approachable and people oriented.

  1. Careful

The legitimate leader might feel threatened by a charismatic leader.  Even if what you are doing is benefitting everyone, and even if you are doing what the legitimate leader has asked you to do, you could be viewed as trying to usurp authority.  Be careful and observant of the reaction of the leader.  Never try to get ahead of what he or she thinks is most important.

Being the catalyst for beneficial change is exhilarating when you are successful.  When you are the inspiration, others will respect and follow you, which will make your workplace more enjoyable and productive.  A charismatic leader can be the inspiration that makes the organization feel like family.

A version of this article was published by familyshare.com here.

Lead Like A President

mount-rushmore-55477_640Leadership is essential in every type of organization; be it a business, a club, athletic team, government entity, church, non-profit, and even a family.  The most public leader in the United States is the President of the United States (POTUS).

Whenever there is a group of people or a team working together to achieve an objective, there must be a leader.  Without leadership, the team will stop working together and the objective will not be achieved.

Most leaders are moderately successful or they don’t last very long.  If the organization achieves exceptional success, the leader must be exceptional.  The exceptional leader will use best practices, but best practices are not as important as the attributes of the leader.  Leadership will only be effective if the leader has these four essential attributes to lead like a president:

  1. Persuasive
  2. Passionate
  3. Process Oriented
  4. Principled

Most organizations have a President or a leader with a different name that performs the same function.  The principles of leading like a president apply to all leaders from the CEO of Microsoft to the shift manager at Walmart. 

Persuasive

The persuasive leader is one who shows by his/her actions, attitude and speech that the fellow-citizens (employees, teammates, club members, etc.) are people and not objects to be exploited nor ignored.  Fellow-citizens are treated as the most valuable resource of the organization.

It might be said that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the most persuasive of the presidents.  After all, he served 12 years in office, more than any other POTUS.  These are the words he used to persuade fellow-citizens to follow him.

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

The same concept was expressed by Thomas Jefferson in these words, “That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.”

Both presidents assured their fellow-citizens that everyone was important for the country (organization) to be successful.  This is a very persuasive and motivating leadership concept.

Ronald Reagan was called “The Great Persuader” because of his ability to communicate his plans in a way that everyone could understand and a majority could support.  He was very specific as to how to make persuasive leadership work in his organization, the government.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.”

The basic premise of persuasive leadership is that all opinions are heard, fully vetted and a satisfactory consensus is achieved, therefore micromanaging is unnecessary.  There is a more common style of leadership which is known as autocratic or compulsory, which is more like bullying.

It is much more difficult to be a persuasive leader.  It requires a constant effort to regard everyone as a person who is worthy of consideration.  It requires treating others as we would like to be treated.  It requires self-control and overcoming pride.  It is difficult, but the organizations of persuasive leaders are much more successful because everyone works harder for someone who persuades rather than compels.

Passionate

Most people seem to have a basic need to be committed to something, a sports team, a political party, salsa dancing, the Food Network, etc.  The exceptional leader of an organization will be passionate about the goals of that organization.  In addition, they will spend a good share of their time helping others in the organization to be as passionate as they are.

Our nation began with a leader who was passionate about freedom, liberty and justice.  George Washington said, “The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.”  He knew that the Constitution was the map to maintaining those principles for which that he had fought and for which many other Americans had died.  Notice, he said, “Never.”

No one could doubt the passion of “Give ‘em hell, Harry” Truman.  He was passionate about motivating his fellow-citizens to do better.  He said, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

The passionate leader will always lead with enthusiasm.  “Rough Rider” Theodore Roosevelt loved serving as the POTUS and he expressed it this way, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Passion, when properly focused and controlled, is a very powerful thing.  It is how teams, armies, corporations, etc. win the most important battles.  An exceptional organization must have a passionate leader that inspires everyone to do his/her best so that the organization will achieve its potential.

Process Oriented

The process in any organization refers to how the work of the organization is accomplished.  It includes those who work in the organization plus key suppliers, partners, contractors and collaborators.  Processes also include the methods to improve those same work processes to achieve better performance, reduce variability and improve products or services.

An exceptional leader will understand how things get done in the organization.  W. Edwards Deming, often known as the “Father of Quality Improvement” said, “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”  In other words, a passionate and persuasive leader who does not understand the processes of the organization cannot effectively lead the organization because he/she does not know what the organization is capable of doing.

Government is more complicated than most organizations but there are some basic processes that effective POTUS have understood.  Our second president, John Adams, wrote, “The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries.”  Things have not changed much since 1796.

The founding fathers feared the over-reaching processes of most governments, reminiscent of the one from which they had recently gained independence.  Thomas Jefferson cautioned, “If we can but prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.”

Finally, in more modern times, John F. Kennedy reminded us of the key process to keep government working in behalf of the country.  “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

If any organization, including government, is going to be successful, the exceptional leader will understand the processes of the organization and will work within those processes.  The leader will also simultaneously work for process improvement.  This requires competency at the job and cooperation with others who are involved in the process.  Otherwise, failure is certain.

Principled

A principled leader has a personal code of conduct with integrity at its core.  Integrity can be defined as a firm adherence to a code of moral values; incorruptible.  It is the stuff of which great men and women are made.  It is absolutely essential for an exceptional leader.

John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  If that is true and the President is the defender of the Constitution, he/she must also be a moral person.

We have had our share of men who were not moral persons.  In modern history, the two presidential examples that are the most obvious are Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.  Both committed immoral acts while in office and lied to the American people.

Harry Truman puts it a little more passionately, “Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in.”

Bill Clinton is no better but political correctness does not allow anyone in authority to say it the way that Harry did.  Some excuse Clinton’s behavior, but being unprincipled is the death of true leadership and brings shame upon the organization.

When a leader compromises his integrity or diverts her moral compass, the problem has a ripple effect in the organization.  In addition to the potential problems created for the organization by the leader himself, there are two typical responses from others in the organization.  Those with integrity will begin to look for a way out because they have lost trust in their leader.  The less honest people are likely to follow the actions modeled by their leader. Dishonesty, lack of trust and turnover combine to do tremendous damage to the organization.

Dwight D. Eisenhower summarizes the importance of being a principled leader. “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

The Four Ps

In summary, it is apparent that few leaders exhibit the qualities of being persuasive, passionate, process oriented and principled; even those who seem to be successful in their respective organizations.  We talk of a “glass ceiling” for women because of external forces that keep them from advancing.  The glass ceiling for those who do not exhibit these four qualities is self-imposed and it applies to all leaders and not just the POTUS.

Every leader can have a measure of success but they have damned themselves to a lesser success than they otherwise would have achieved.  For example, a leader who compels, rather than persuades, will be successful only as long as he/she doesn’t need to rely on others to manage.  Since this type of leader will not tolerate anyone questioning him/her, the best and brightest employees leave for a better working environment.  These organizations are plagued with perpetual turnover at the managerial level.

A leader who is not passionate fails to inspire others to do their best work and the entire organization becomes a tedious place to work with little potential.  When the leader is not process oriented, the organizational growth and prosperity will be severely limited because the leader lacks the requisite knowledge for improvement and the competition will overcome the organization.  Finally, an unprincipled leader will succumb to their weaknesses, lose the respect of others and cause havoc in the organization because, as Eisenhower said, “no real success is possible.”

The four Ps of leading like a president are essential in any organization. The exceptional leader will exhibit all four of the prerequisite attributes:

  1. Persuasive
  2. Passionate
  3. Process Oriented
  4. Principled

Now, lead like a president and reap the rewards of exceptional leadership.

 

 

 



Following the False God of the Internet

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The generation that was raised in the Great Depression, and endured and fought World War II says that religion is very important in their lives by a 71% majority, according to the Pew Research Center.  They also attend church services once a week by a majority of 51%.  Both of those percentages decrease by generational group to a low of 41% and 27% for Millennials.

As a group, those who have endured the most hardship are the most devoted to religious doctrine and practice.  Those who have the most life experience have come to rely on God being an integral part of their everyday lives.

Even though all generational groups believe in God in relatively the same percentages, there is a trend away from organized religion and towards what is now called “spirituality.”   This “spirituality” means that everyone can believe in God and His commandments in a way that most appeals to them.  There is no religious or doctrinal authority. There is no commitment to God, nor his commandments. Into this relative morality void enters the false god of the internet.

Internet morality requires nothing of its devotees and yet gives one a sense of being a good person, as long you act as most people on-line think is acceptable.  Without religious doctrine, you can make up your own rules; which is precisely the cause of so much hate, violence, heartache, and evil in the world.  Self-righteous rhetoric has become the standard on social media.

The internet and social media are not intrinsically evil.  Sharing experiences and learning from others has many potential benefits.  However, as with most significant advances in human endeavor, a darker side typically develops.  Internet morality has developed into a corrupt counterfeit for the divine and genuine.

We must stop following the false god of the internet for these reasons:

  1. Lies – There is no Internet Truth Monitor. We would be wise to heed this warning from Facebook – “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet – Abraham Lincoln.” There is evil in the world and evil people will use every means to take advantage of others.

     Much of what is presented as fact is manipulated to                 support a falsehood.  As David Mitchell sarcastically said,      “Over 85% of all statistics are made up on the spot.”                Politicians from two different parties can use the same            data to support opposite opinions.  It is all in which of the      statistics is used, or ignored, and how effectively it can be      spun.

  1. A faulty moral compass – The moral compass of our day consists of pleasant sounding platitudes that reflect the philosophies of men, with God playing a supporting role, only as needed. In the digital age, commercial media has a tremendous influence on morality, or lack thereof.  Things that we regularly see on the internet, TV, in the theater and movies would have been scandalous a generation ago.  Consider the source.  Actors and Hollywood-types do not have a good track record of promoting self-restraint, virtue or integrity.

     The jokes of TV comedians are now the only education            that many receive on political, moral and social issues.            This is one of the inherent problems of being “spiritual” –      there is no real anchor to keep you from being swept away      by nonsense, and most of what we see is just that.

  1. Emotional appeal – The internet bombards people with messages that appeal to emotions without considering the consequences. We have been taught that it is immoral to say anything that might make anyone feel bad for what they are doing. But, as philosopher C. Terry Warner put it, “Indulgence is a punitive counterfeit of charity.” 

     This counterfeit tolerance teaches that no one is allowed        to judge anything to be good or evil.  Relative morality is        internet morality – nothing is right or wrong.   The result is      a world of people making up the rules as they go.

    There is also an emotional appeal by attempting to take the     moral high ground by preaching, “God is love.  God is just     love and nothing else; no justice, no obedience, no self-         control and no accountability.”   This is a false sense of           righteousness.

  1. Dehumanizing – Internet morality is often manifested by self-righteous expressions of outrage for something that some other group, country, religion, corporation, etc. did and then demanding that the politicians “do something” to fix the problem. There is no personal commitment other than being offended.  It is a virtual feeling of goodness for doing nothing.

    The internet also allows us to mock others for their beliefs     without having to justify anything that is said.  Many on           social media call others “haters” for not agreeing with             them, and then spew hateful epithets to convince others to     hate everyone that does not agree with them.

  1. Anonymity – It is much easier to be vulgar, hateful, caustic and radical when you don’t have to account for what you say.  After all, the internet is just words and you can’t get in trouble when you are anonymous.   Anonymity is a free pass to be your worst self.  
  1. Wasteful – Much of what we see on the internet is not uplifting, beneficial or worthwhile. It is awash in triviality and filth.  Wasting one’s life in trivialities is not what God intended for us to do on this earth.  Genuine morality teaches us to be actively engaged in being good and doing good.  The internet can easily prevent us from doing what we should while giving us a false sense of goodness because we validate others with our “Likes.”
  1. It is not true morality – In a Facebook world, the number of “Likes” someone receives for their opinion is deemed as proof that the opinion is valid and moral. Much of what is “Liked” on social media about family, religion, marriage, gender and fairness is diametrically opposed to what is taught in scripture, including the Ten Commandments.  Morality is divine, and popularity has never been the standard.

We live in a real world, not a virtual one.  We must be committed to a morality that lifts ourselves and others.  The Ten Commandments have proven over the millennia to be a trustworthy foundation of a moral society.  They are commandments of God and not suggestions, or broad guidelines open to loose interpretation.

Internet morality is counterfeit.  Following the false god of the internet might make us feel good in the moment but it has no lasting value because it is neither divine nor genuine.  We must return to true morality by following the example of the Greatest Generation – 1. Make God and religion very important in our lives. 2. Worship God in religious services regularly.  3. Obey God’s commandments.  Thus, we will less hateful, less self-righteous, more truly moral, more happy and fulfilled. 

It’s not what you say…

A39Communication is essential for a solid marriage, a healthy family, a successful soccer team and a profitable multi-national corporation.  It is the mechanism that creates synergy when people work together to accomplish a goal.  

In fact, no organization or relationship survives without proper communication.    

There are over 23,000 books listed on Amazon on the topic of communication, so communication problems are not a secret.  I will focus on one that hits close to home.

My wife tells me quite often, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.”  Sometimes, it is what I say that creates the problem but this article will deal with the “how.”  

The concept of “it’s how you say it” applies to all communication.  I will use a husband and wife as an example, but the principles apply equally to communicating with teenage children, with your kids’ teacher or with your boss at work.

Assuming that you know what you’re talking about and have the ability to express yourself adequately, communication will improve when you consider:

1.  Does the tone of my voice indicate what I am trying to communicate?

No matter what I am thinking or feeling, if the tone of my voice is not appropriate to my wife, my ability to communicate with her is drastically diminished.  It helps me to take time to decompress from work or an intense situation before interacting with her so that my emotion doesn’t spill over to our conversation.

2.  Is the volume of my voice appropriate?

The volume of one’s voice is sometimes hard to gauge.  Using the reaction of another can be a good indicator of your volume, but that could be too late.  Consciously try to soften your voice, unless you are warning of danger. 

3.  Does my body language show that I am interested to communicating?

The best way to engage another in a conversation is to begin with a smile.  When we were dating, I would never have thought that scowling would be the best way to impress my future wife.  The same applies to the message you send if you talk to another with crossed arms and a haughty look.

4.  Do I maintain eye contact when speaking?

If the eyes are the windows of the soul, avoiding eye contact will give the impression that you are hiding something or that you simply are not interested.  You might have something important to say but if you do not maintain eye contact, your message could be lost.

5.  Do I avoid sarcasm?

Sarcasm is the language of arrogance and/or ignorance.  It can be used for humor sometimes, but you have to use caution.  Sarcasm usually ends sincere communication.

6.  Is my silence appropriate?

Silence can be a useful communication tool.  When I am pondering what has been said, it shows respect for the other person and their opinion.  However, I know bosses that use silence to intimidate employees.  In a marriage, the silent treatment never leads to resolution of a problem.

7.  Am I responding to the concerns of the other person?

If I eloquently speak about a problem with my wife, but it is not the problem that she sees, I have failed. Being responsive to the other person is infinitely more important than eloquence. 

8.  Will my relationship with the other person help or hinder the communication?

You can’t fake “sincere” with people who know you.  Often, you can’t fake it with anyone else.  But, if we have the proper relationship with others, we can effectively communicate, even if we don’t express ourselves well.

 

The “how” is just as important as the “what” when communicating.  Here is a simple example.  We have all been complimented.  We all know that the same words spoken by different people have very different meanings.  Someone can say, “I love you” and it melts our heart.  Others can say the same words and we know it is just hollow nonsense spoken only because it sounds nice. 

As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  The best way to overcome that illusion of communication with our spouse, child, neighbor or boss is to consider carefully not only what we want to say but how we say it and how we can increase the trust in our relationships.  As a result, our relationships will not only survive, they will thrive.

A version of this article was published by familyshare.com here.

Rescuing Our Loved Ones

A33I was recently in a class of 21 other older men, like me. 

The discussion leader asked, “How many of you have a child or grandchild that has chosen a lifestyle that will compromise their health, happiness or financial stability?  I am not talking about making a serious mistake or two, because we all do that.  I am talking about loved ones who consciously choose a lifestyle that will have significant negative consequences, which they can’t seem to see or do not want to see.”

Every hand went up.

Because this gut-wrenching reality is nearly universal, I would like to share some hope.  This is not my concept but it was taught by Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible.  Whether Christian or not, the lesson is applicable for all those who want to help others who have lost their way.  It is especially meaningful for those of us who have a family member or other loved one who is on the road to disaster.

In Luke, chapter 15, those who were critical of Jesus pointed out that he chose to associate with the lost souls of his time.  Jesus did not answer his critics directly but, instead, told three parables in succession. 

He told three stories about something being lost because each parable addresses a different reason that a bad choice was made.  Since bad choices lead to bad places, Jesus tells us how to rescue those who are lost.

  1. The lost sheep – The shepherd goes in search of a lost sheep, finds it, puts it on his shoulders and brings it back to the flock.

Christ’s teaching:

  • Go get them – The shepherd left the rest of the flock in order to find a sheep that had innocently wandered away. Many times our innocent loved ones are lured away by those who claim to be friends, or corrupting influences of a corrupting media, or just yielding to physical urges, without proper restraint. We need to actively and immediately go to these sheep and teach them the truth.
  • Carry them – Innocents have not yet learned how to see the consequences of their actions. They are easily misled and we must carry them with our strength, like the shepherd, until they can develop their own.
  • Do not be harsh – The shepherd did not beat the wandering sheep. When one is innocent, they are not choosing to rebel against what is right. They don’t fully understand what is right.  They do need to be corrected and taught and loved.  Harshness will not bring them back.
  • Rejoice – Everything that an innocent does to improve should be celebrated. Both the shepherd and the sheep will be better for it.
  1. The lost coin – A woman loses one of her ten gold coins, so she sweeps her house until she finds it.

Christ’s teaching:

  • Act with a sense of urgency – The woman did not wait until the light was just right to search for the lost coin (lost soul). She lit a candle and began to sweep immediately
  • Search – Since the coin did not lose itself, we must recover it because it will not come back on its own. The woman had not properly cared for the coin and, therefore, it was lost.  We must accept responsibility for losing the coin, and for finding the coin.  
  • Make it right – Many people feel guilty when a loved one goes astray. Usually that guilt is inappropriate and unproductive.  In the case of the lost coin, guilt is proper and it motivates us to apologize for our actions that caused the coin to be lost.  Then, we can retrieve the coin from its lost place.  
  • Rejoice – When the lost coin (lost soul) accepts our apology and returns, we rejoice. However, because the coin was lost as a result of our actions, we must be very careful not to repeat the same mistakes.
  1. The lost (prodigal) son – The son of a loving father takes his inheritance and wastes it in riotous living. He realizes his mistake and returns home to accept his father’s will.

Christ’s teaching:

  • Wait – The son in this story was not innocent (sheep) and was not the victim of the actions of another (coin). He knowingly chose to leave his loving family and the principles that he knew were correct in order to satisfy his ego and lusts.  He was prodigal, which means wasteful.  Jesus taught that we don’t wring our hands and worry about making amends for being human.  This son chose to turn his back on all that was good, so we wait until the son realizes that he was wrong and wants to do better.
  • Love – We must show unconditional love, like the father in this parable did, to even those who have wronged us and blamed us and taken advantage of us. We don’t justify their bad behavior but we love them in spite of their behavior.
  • Teaching can wait – The father welcomed his son home with unconditional love and acceptance. The son will have many lessons to learn and re-learn, but lessons can wait until the celebrations are over.  Preaching should be minimal and teaching should only be as often as the student is willing to learn.
  • Rejoice – It goes without saying that parents are happiest when all of their children are safe within the fold.

We always rejoice when someone who is precious to us is found.  Remember that none of these stories teaches using compulsion or trying to make another feel guilty.   Persuasiveness, patience, gentleness and love are the key elements in rescuing those who are lost.

A version of this article was published by familyshare.com here.

Commit to Change

P215My wife and I are working with a number of people who are trying to change for the better.  Their goal is to become more productive, draw closer to God and get to the point where they can help others.  Many of them are fighting addictions.

Improvement is only possible through change.  As we help them to change, we give them commitments to keep.  Those commitments include associating with people who will lift them, reading, evaluating, changing habits and praying.  Even with the best of intentions, some continue to stumble, but stumbling is OK if they get up and continue forward.   

Most of our societal problems are the result of people following the mantra of the 1970’s, “If it feels good, do it.”  Some were never taught or they consistently chose to avoid anything that required effort, sacrifice or self-restraint.  Following the path of least resistance led them to a life of mediocrity or to the dark world of addictions

Commitment issues are not exclusive to overcoming addictions.  Many people avoid doing difficult things and have suffered the consequences.  Common commitment problems include homework, chores, marriage, diets, job assignments, money management, exercise and charitable kindness.

As employers, parents, friends, coaches and counselors, we can help those with commitment issues if they are willing to do their part.  The following ideas will increase the likelihood of success.

Steps to help others make and keep commitments

  1. Explain what they are supposed to do, in detail. They need to understand the commitment before they can keep it.
  2. Challenge them to commit to the task. If they have questions, answer all of the questions and challenge them again.
  3. Ask them to repeat what they are committing to do. Many times people will say they understand but it will become obvious if they don’t as they try to express the commitment.
  4. Describe the benefits of keeping the commitment. Most people want to know the benefit of change before they are willing to pay the price.
  5. Tell them how keeping the commitment has helped you. Personal testimonials make the benefits real.
  6. Express confidence in their ability to keep their commitments. Everyone does better at a task if they feel supported.
  7. Instruct them to write the commitment on something that they will see multiple times each day. The act of writing something and then reading it multiple times reinforces the commitment in their mind.
  8. Help them to admit when their actions have harmed themselves and others. This process helps them understand that there are real consequences if they fail.
  9. Follow up with them on a regular basis and discuss how well they are keeping the commitment. When someone has to report on their progress, they are more likely to keep a commitment.
  10. Have them describe the benefits they have seen in keeping the commitment. Verbalizing the benefits will help them see how much better their life is becoming and the future potential of their actions.
  11. Praise them for their successes. It is always motivating to have a cheering section.
  12. Give them something to read that will reinforce what they are trying to accomplish. Reading will increase their knowledge and give them more tools and more reasons to keep their commitments.
  13. Encourage them to surround themselves with supportive people and lose the friends with whom they shared their addictions. Since “birds of a feather flock together,” they need a new flock.
  14. Counsel them to ask God for strength. God will help anyone who is trying to become a better person.
  15. Don’t give up on them. Most people fail initially when trying to change. They are not used to keeping commitments because it is difficult.  With time, those who are truly motivated will be successful.

Scottish mountaineer and writer, William Hutchison Murray, wrote,

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”                                                       

If we, as employers, parents, friends, coaches and counselors want to help others, we must be committed to them and committed to being better people ourselves.  Our lives and their lives will be richer, healthier and happier.

A version of this article was published by familyshare.com here.

“Don’t Judge Me!”

judging40We often hear the phrase, “Don’t judge me,” especially when the person saying it is doing something that they know they shouldn’t.  Some use the biblical, “Judge not that ye be not judged” (Matt 7:1), as justification.  Jesus Christ did not mean that we should not make any judgments because he also said, “…judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).  It is, therefore, important that we learn how to judge righteously or appropriately.  When I die, I am confident that I will still be judged even if I never judged anyone.

Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”  Certainly we learn from our experience but it would be wonderful if we could avoid bad experiences. 

Since we all make hundreds of judgments every day; including, what will I do with my free time and, how much will I spend on a hamburger; these are some guidelines to consider.

Appropriate Judgement

  • Associations – We must all determine if those we associate are potentially damaging to us. For example – Will I go to lunch with the group at work that likes to tell dirty jokes?  Will I allow my children to go to the home of people I do not know very well?  We can work with and be around others that do not share our standards but we have the right and obligation to protect ourselves as much as possible from those associations that are harmful.  We also judge who we will date and marry.
  • Philosophies – Evil does exist in the world and wickedness is glorified in the media. We use our judgement to keep those philosophies from damaging our lives.
  • Life Paths – Just because it looks cool to spend your life gratifying your every urge doesn’t mean that it is a good choice. If others choose a certain lifestyle or if there is something that “everyone” does, you don’t have to follow suit.  Use your judgement to determine if that is the correct path for you.
  • Habits – Some habits hurt others. Some lead to addictions.  Judge carefully because your choice could control your future.
  • Appearance – Everyone knows that you can’t judge a book by its cover but following that adage blindly could lead you astray. The clothes we wear and the things we do to our bodies are our personal billboard as to what we are.  Sometimes our interpretation is wrong but there is nothing wrong with being cautious around a person who is advertising something we don’t buy.
  • Abilities – If you have ever hired a plumber or interviewed a job applicant, you know that you must be able to judge the abilities of someone to do a certain job.

Inappropriate Judgement

  • Snap Judgements – Except in emergency situations, snap judgements should be avoided. Don’t judge by appearances or initial impressions.  Do some research and evaluation, otherwise you can make some bad decisions and lose out on some cherished friendships.
  • Potential – We are incapable of determining the potential of another person. We are all children of God and Christ told us to perfect like he is.  We can never say that another person will never be a better person than they are right now.  There is always hope.
  • Final Judgement – Only God has the right and the ability to render a final judgement. Some say that they are going to heaven; while those who worship differently than they do are damned.  That judgement is exactly what is meant by, “Judge not…”    
  • Ego Driven – Any judgement that has the sole purpose of fueling someone’s arrogance will be tainted, at best. Those who live to judge others to make themselves look better will lead a lonely and unfulfilled existence.
  • Judging Oneself Too Harshly – We all have problems and character flaws. That is because we are human.  God knows us and loves us.  He does not want to condemn us.  If we are on the path to be more like him and trying to do his will, he will accept us and help us.

We will continue to make judgments every day, as we always have.  We will certainly make better judgments if we follow the advice of author, Anne McCaffrey, “Make no judgments where you have no compassion.”

A version of this article was published by familyshare.com here.

Know When to Shut Up

ShhhMy oldest daughter bought me a shirt that has these words written in bold, black letters on the chest, “Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion.”  I doubt that she meant it as one of the things that she admires most about her dad.  I readily admit that I have an opinion about everything that I consider consequential and it has taken me many years to learn to express those opinions more appropriately.

I know of the old adage, “One never discusses politics or religion in polite company.”  Politics and religion are my favorite topics and I find discussing them to be mentally stimulating.   However, even prattling about mindless trivialities can get you in trouble these days.  Discussing the weather can easily slip into the politicized bombshell of “climate change.”  “How are you?” – can lead to a debate on the importance of God in our lives. 

Since discussions of things that are important to us lead us to express our opinions.  And, since opinions are as ubiquitous and individual as people, we need to learn how to express our opinions and when to just shut up.

From someone who apparently feels that everyone is entitled to my opinion, I offer the following list, based on extensive experience with my wife and children, and on the job.

Shut Up When You…

  1. See a glazed look in the eyes of the person to whom you are speaking. They are no longer listening, no matter how brilliant your comments are.
  2. Are doing all of the talking and no one else is participating in the “conversation.” This is when you become a bore and a boor.
  3. Know the other person has no regard for what you are saying. Don’t waste your time or theirs.
  4. Are damaging your relationship by what you are saying. Sometimes you have to say unpleasant things to others, but stop until you can say it in a better way.
  5. Keep talking about things that are inconsequential or unimportant to others. For example, when you discuss the latest standings in the NBA with me.
  6. Start to use sarcasm. Sarcasm is the language of arrogance and condescension.
  7. Are expressing an opinion on something you know little or nothing about. Questioning would be more appropriate.
  8. Realize that being right is not as important as being right with the person to whom you are speaking. Relationships are always more important than being right.
  9. Use inflammatory language. The politician you are discussing is not an idiot, even if you strongly disagree with his/her philosophy.
  10. Realize that the other person in the conversation is an egotist. The proud are terrible conversationalists since they prefer to lecture and mock rather than discuss.
  11. Resort to demeaning the other person rather than focusing on the topic. This is a sure indication that you do not have the ability to defend your opinion.
  12. Lecture anyone for more than three minutes. After three minutes of talking, you have lost their attention and you are probably just repeating what you already said.
  13. Could undermine the authority of a leader of a worthwhile cause.  Talk to the leader if you have a concern instead of complaining to anyone who will listen.
  14. Become aware that everything you are saying is about yourself. No one wants to listen to a braggart.
  15. Intend to say something, that doesn’t have to be said, that could hurt someone else’s feelings. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean that it has to be spoken.

The ability to say the right thing at the right time is an important talent.  The ability to know when to shut up and do it is probably more important.

A version of this article was published by familyshare.com here.

Counterfeit Morality

 

IMG_0611The First Amendment to the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This “separation of church and state” is now typically interpreted as the exclusion of God from anything governmental.  Reading the speeches of the founding fathers reveals that they considered God an integral part of their lives and the existence of this nation.  

The culture of our century is defined by Hollywood morality.  In other words, the moral compass of our country now consists of platitudes that reflect the philosophies of men with God playing only a minor role.

Without God, you can make up your own rules; which is precisely what has been done.  The government is now the counterfeit god you pray to in order to get what you want.  Environmentalism is now the counterfeit religion, just like the nature worshiping pagans and pantheists of antiquity. 

Of even greater concern is the impact that Hollywood morality has had on those who worship God.  Corrupt philosophies have led to a counterfeit tolerance that does not judge anything to be good or evil.  They attempt to claim their virtue by preaching, “God is love.”  God is just love and nothing else; no justice, no obedience, no self-control and no accountability?

This chic concept of situational ethics ignores consequences and the absolutes that God mandated.   As philosopher, C. Terry Warner put it, “Indulgence is a punitive counterfeit of charity.” 

Counterfeit morality appeals to those who are wise in their own eyes.  Consider how the Ten Commandments have been perverted by otherwise God-fearing people.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Haven’t we, as a society, embraced celebrities, sports teams, jobs, entertainment, etc. to be our modern-day gods?

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

Aren’t cars, boats, homes, jewelry, etc. forms of graven, or man-made, images that we can choose worship and adore?

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Isn’t profanity rampant in all segments of society with the name of the Lord featured prominently?  And, doesn’t using the name of our God in casual conversation and in meaningless oaths qualify as “in vain?”

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Are football, working, shopping, playing at the beach, going to Disneyland, etc. holy activities?  Is God’s designated holy day just like all the rest?”

5. Honor thy father and thy mother.

Does honoring our parents allow ignoring them in their old age?  How about when young adults live off the labors of their parents?  Finally, can we honor parents when we absolve ourselves of their care in favor of government agencies?

6. Thou shalt not kill.

People don’t usually kill others, partly because of the consequences.  How about when they kill the spirit of another through abuse or neglect?  Isn’t abortion a form of killing, since that embryo already has God-given life in it?

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Is it ever acceptable to trifle with the God-given power to create life?  Aren’t promiscuity, pornography, sexual abuse and perversion all forms of violating the sacredness of what God intended as marital relations for a husband and wife?  Isn’t sexual immorality one of the foundations of the corrupting Hollywood morality?

8. Thou shalt not steal.

Aren’t exorbitant judgments from groundless lawsuits now one of the major get-rich-quick scams of our day for dishonest plaintiffs and their attorneys?  Is it not also stealing to tax one group of citizens so politicians can improve their image by being charitable with other people’s money?

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.

Don’t we allow a little cheating on a tax return, accepting political “spin,” twisting the truth to suit our needs and exaggerating the negatives about people we don’t like?

10. Thou shalt not covet.

Aren’t debt, fashion devotion, and some forms of plastic surgery all manifestations of coveting things we don’t have?

Conventional wisdom teaches that we should do whatever we want unless it hurts another person directly and immediately.  Therefore, have sex outside marriage as long as you use a condom.  Ignore God because his justice is not immediate.  Cheat on your taxes as long as you don’t get caught.  Drive as fast as you want if you don’t hit someone else.  Do anything you want as long as you can get away with it.

Conventional wisdom is counterfeit wisdom.  The Ten Commandments are commandments and not suggestions or broad guidelines open to loose interpretation.  Justice will come.  Hollywood morality and our counterfeit culture will all unravel.  The only hope is to love God and our fellowman by keeping the commandments.  It is the only way to true happiness.