courage

Leadership

Want to Join a Social Media Revolution?


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I’ve been waiting to write this post for almost a year.

In April 2013, I had the privilege of speaking at TEDx Marinette.  The “idea worth sharing” I introduced that evening was “Lead Like They’re Dying,” which sought to change our leadership frame of reference.  Many of you who have followed this blog have seen and shared that video–if you are among them, thank you.  (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here to watch it.)

As part of that event, I also enjoyed the opportunity to address a group of students from local area schools.  In that session, I introduced the concept of #30forothers.  In short, I invited those students to join me in starting a social media revolution, and I’d like to invite you to join us also.

The concept is simple, and anyone can participate.  30forothers is a commitment to use social media for 30 days a year as a means to edify, uplift, and extol others.  You can view the 30forothers TEDx video below, or check it out HERE.  Use #30forothers on Facebook and Twitter; like the 30forothers Facebook page, and follow @30forothers on Twitter to see the encouraging tweets of others.

The intent is to highlight character, effort, and ability, or thank, admire, and appreciate people. More than anything else I have ever written or done, I hope this helps people.  I hope it helps you help people.  So many people need encouragement, a reason to hope, the feeling that someone believes in them.  We all have the power to provide that, and a means to that end is literally right at our fingertips.

One of my favorite quotations is attributed to Philo of Alexandria: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Let’s remember that.

I hope you’ll join us.  I hope you’ll make someone else’s day today.  I hope you’ll share this concept with everyone you know.

Let’s start a social media revolution!

Faith, Leadership

This is true of you…


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You are awesome. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Capable of amazing things.

I want you to know.

This is true of you whether or not you felt like it when you woke up this morning.

This is true of you whether or not anyone else has ever said so.

This is true of you whether you are married or single, big or skinny, old or young, gay or straight, black, white, or anything in between.

This is true of you whether you have hundreds of friends or not very many.

This is true of you when you hate yourself, and when you love yourself. It’s true when you fail, and it’s true when you triumph. It’s true when you can’t see a way forward, when you are scared, and when you want to quit.

Don’t quit.

Because you are wonderful.

I want you to know.

You might also like: Why You Mustn’t Give Up

Faith

The Problem of Pain (and what to do about it)


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Among the many questions with which we must wrestle in this life, two of the biggest are, “How do I respond to my pain?” and “How do I respond to the pain of others?”

Our responses determine our view of just about everything else: whether or not we believe in God, what we think of him if we do, how we interact with our families, even the extent to which we are satisfied or happy with our lives.  It is a cruel truth that responding to pain in an unhealthy way, any unhealthy way, will actually make that pain worse, or create a new kind of pain.

This is why so many people just avoid pain altogether—their own and that of others.  Ironically, they have a kind of wisdom: that if so many of the potential options are ill-fated, then it is perhaps better to choose to do nothing.  Of course, this crumbles under examination, because it fails to address the initial pain.

For that is the common denominator of the human condition: that all of us, regardless of station or gift or persuasion, will experience pain.

Too many times, we ask the wrong question.  When we experience pain, we ask “Why?” in an effort to understand the reason or purpose behind what we are facing.  But the question we should be asking is “What?”  What must I do, or not do, in this situation, with this pain, with these people?  That, I contend, is the place where peace and healing reside.

So what do we do with our own pain?  Some of us turn it into something else, and instead of grieving, for example, we become angry, or self-critical, or hurtful to ourselves or others.  Some of us take it on and become overwhelmed by it, leading to depression or despair.  Some of us self-medicate, looking for anything, everything, that will give us some kind of relief from having to feel or think about that which ails us.

The ash heap is uncomfortable.  It is no wonder we avoid it, sometimes at all costs.

But what should we do?  What can we do?

I will not speak for others, but the defining moments in my own life and my own pain have come, without exception, from moving toward my pain instead of away from it.  For years I turned it into anger, and used it to fuel achievement and striving.  I had a counselor tell me that anger is not a pure emotion—that it always masks something else—once I realized this truth, and that converting my pain to anger did not bring awareness, peace, or healing, I was free to get into the real work of journeying through my pain.

That did not make it easier.

But it did make it possible.

Many years of moving toward pain later, I have neither insight nor authority to share beyond what I borrow from James: that pain develops perseverance, and perseverance leads to maturity.

This in itself is enough, but I think we can be forgiven for seeing it as a bit of a letdown.  All that for maturity?  Surely another way exists.

It is not just our own maturity, though.  What do we do with our own pain is only one question.  We must also come to what we do with the pain of others if our lives are to find expression and fulfillment.  And it is in this that our pain’s true worth exists (Yes, pain has worth—inestimable worth—again from James, to the point of joy).

We cannot heal ourselves.  Rather, what we do with our own pain is to endure, to gain patience, to assume a posture and recognize our place.  But having done that, the gift of pain is that we can heal others.

“Carry one another’s burdens…”  “Weep with those who weep; mourn with those who mourn…”  These actions heal.  Miraculously and inexplicably, the presence of peace exists with those who have moved toward their pain, not to overcome it as one climbs a mountain, but to know it and recognize it, and fear it no longer, neither in themselves nor others.

Moving toward our pain enables us to move toward others who are in pain.  Like the first responders we admire for going into danger when the rest of us are running away from it, our own pain, addressed, gives us courage to move toward pain wherever it exists.

I am such a person, but I hate doing this.

I like being strong, certain, determined.  I don’t like crying; I don’t like feeling helpless or lacking control.  Pain, whether it is mine or anyone else’s, wrecks all of that.

This week, people I love have been in pain physically, relationally, even organizationally.  As I move toward that pain, the scars of my own pain, and the mistakes I made with it, rush to the surface.  I want to convert it all to anger and confront.

Until peace has its say.  And peace always asks the Dr. Phil question: “How is that working for you?”  And then peace invites me to sit a while.  After those moments, my pain becomes my power, because it enables me to move toward the ones I love in peace, with no agenda other than to bring the presence of peace.  I have insights; I have questions, but those can come in their time.

For now, peace.

For the response to the questions, “How do I respond to my pain?” and “How do I respond to the pain of others?” must only and ever be that which brings peace, that which brings healing.  We cannot heal ourselves, and so we must persevere, but we can heal others, and so we must move toward them.  Carry burdens.  Mourn.  Weep.

I hate this, but until the day when perfect peace comes, I choose to be a healer.

Faith

Why You Mustn’t Give Up


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We are defined.

All of us.  We are shaped, molded, angled, built, crafted…

Intended.

All of us.  We carry the talents, gifts of birth, reflections of a perfect Image…  We are awesome, capable, creative, giving, loving beings…  As we are defined, as we are intended, we are perfect.

Perfect.

But we are also re-defined.

All of us.  We are broken, bent, stretched, spent, undone…

Ruined.

For while we are formed and imprinted with the indelible Image, nearly everything that happens after that seeks its ruin.  All of us have experienced this: our dads beat the hell out of us; our moms told us we were worthless or an accident; we were sexually abused; we woke up depressed this morning in spite of our very best (and medicine’s very best) efforts not to be; our loved ones died; our friends broke our trust; we failed by our own standards or someone else’s…

Over time, we lost faith in the Image, and then in ourselves.  We lost confidence that we were among those who bore it.  We lost hope.

Because we thought we were alone.

Over time, we came to believe that we deserved this.

But we did not.

You did not.

Not then, not now, not ever.

For defined does not change its mind so easily.  Intended does not acquiesce to such persuasions.  And it does not suffer threats to its beloved well.

Friend, You are that beloved.  Then, now, and for always, it is you.  With all your baggage in tow, with all the wounds that never seem to heal, with the messes done to you and the messes you have made, with whatever you woke up with this morning and the day before and probably tomorrow, it is you.

And this is why you mustn’t give up.

It is why you mustn’t believe, not now and not ever, that you are alone.

It is why you mustn’t believe, not now and not ever, that you deserve this.

It is why you mustn’t believe, not now and not ever, that you are hopeless.

You are defined.  You are intended.  Whether you have ever seen a glimpse of it in your life or not, you are wonderful, courageous, beautiful, able—a crowning jewel among all that exists.

You deserve to know that even if you have never seen a glimpse of it in your life, the world and someone in it waits with grand anticipation for something only you can provide.

You deserve to know that you deserve the thanks, admiration, and praise that come from resiliency, and giving your gifts to the rest of us.

You deserve to know that every day you wake up feeling like you did this morning and say, “I’ll do this anyway,” hope is winning.

You deserve to know that even if you never hear it, someone is watching, gaining inspiration from your example.

You deserve to know that we are proud of you whether your life sings or barely gets by.

You deserve to know that we are waiting for your song, and that we know its words because it is our song too.  You are not alone.

Defined.

Intended.

Believe.

And when you don’t, ask.  We’ll tell you.

He’ll tell you.

Beloved.

Leadership

Before the Funeral…


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Most people are praised most consistently, most ardently, at their funerals.

I do not understand this phenomenon. In fact, I am against it. I cannot fathom this one thing: why we honor those most cherished among us primarily (sometimes only) in grief.

Why is this?

Do we not take the time to think about what we appreciate about others until they are gone?

Are we not brave enough to tell them?

Do we lack the habit of seeing the best in people day to day?

Do we avoid the moment as too awkward?

But these questions diagnose. They are the wrong questions.

Because the question we should be asking is, “How would the world I influence be better if everyone I know, everyone I meet, felt the full force of my attention and acknowledgement of them?”

It looks different for everyone–some give words, others a listening ear, still others eye contact or empathy. But we all give something, or, at least, we can.

We can.

And we should. Because our worlds would be better if we did that.

And THE World is the sum of our worlds.

Sure, I’m altruistic, but I’m not naive. I don’t think being current with people, or giving some tribute to another will change the world, but I do think it would make the world better.

Or at least it would make yours better.

And mine better.

And maybe someone would be inspired by that.

Maybe someone would find courage from that.

So what do you have to give?

Who needs to hear from you or receive from you?

I do.

We do.

Don’t wait. Don’t regret. But don’t do it because of that. Do it because you know what you can give, because you believe in the effect you can have.

I do.

We do.

And for us to influence our worlds, we need you to influence us as a part of yours.

courage

Courage.


I first watched this video because it was linked to a post by my friend Kelly.  I resonated with it not so much for the music or for the video, but for the lyrics.

Brave.

Don’t run.

Stop holding your tongue.

Let your words be anything but empty.

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live.

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.

Show me how big your brave is.

One of my greatest causes in life is to give other people courage.  People are afraid of all kinds of things—afraid of their past, afraid of the future, afraid of dying, afraid of being alone, afraid of what others think of them, afraid of failing…  it seems like so much of what we do is driven by fear.

And yet “perfect love casts out fear,” and the thing God says to us more than any other is, “Do not be afraid.”

I wonder if we are afraid because we don’t feel like we are loved.  Because if you feel like someone loves you, like they will stay no matter what, like they are on your side forever, then all of a sudden it doesn’t matter as much how many times you fail, or that you aren’t as smart or pretty or whatever as someone else is.

But that never should have been the standard to begin with.

You see, part of the reason I want my life to be about inviting people to courage is because I believe with everything I am and have that the whisper of greatness was spoken into every single person who has ever walked this earth; that before the beginning of time one who knew your name before anyone ever uttered it set a light in you that was meant to shine forever.

Too many of us have forgotten that.  Too many of us think that courage is dancing in a town square or jumping out of an airplane or zip lining.

No, courage is living your life the way it was meant to be lived.  Courage is hearing that whisper and doing what it says.  Courage is a lifetime, not one time, which is why for some among us, courage is as simple as getting up this morning.  For some, courage is living today because what they really want more than anything is to die.  For some, courage is a first or second or third day without the drug or the drink or the person or the job or the life they had imagined.  For some, courage is just making it through today.

But courage is also fighting the battles with and for others while we fight our own.  It is taking the time to listen or help or encourage.  It is realizing that if we are courageous in this moment, then it is not just for ourselves.

Courage looks a little different from everyone.

Courage looks a little different for everyone.

But it always leads to a life of significance.

Mine looks like this: someone reading this will write me a note; it might be right away, it might be months from now, but it will start with something like, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I didn’t know who else to reach out to…” and I will say, “It took a lot of courage for you to reach out like that, and I will help you in whatever way I can…”

So if you are that person, know that my courage is waiting for your courage whenever it is ready.

And whether you are that person or not, I’d like to know what your courage looks like.  I’d like to know what you’d do if you were not afraid.  I’d like to hear your story of what happens when you exercise courage, and I’d like to see you be that way again and again and again.

Faith

I Expect to Die


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I have too much death in my life of late.  Remembrances as anniversaries pass, acquaintances and friends passing away in the prime of their youth, spouses and young children left to grieve and make sense of things that will never fully make sense…  it is arduous.  This life is arduous.

My friend Kelly says that pain is the great equalizer, the one thing with the power to bring us all together.  I agree with that.  I have always thought, and always tried to practice, moving toward pain, not away from it.  That habit has made for some uncomfortable times, some uncomfortable years—my first two years of college were spent emotionally underwater as I tried to move toward my story, toward the pain of my father’s suicide—those times have hardened me, but they have also softened me to the pain of others (one of my favorite concepts is Ezekiel’s heart of stone and heart of flesh).

In short, I would not wish it on anyone, and yet I would wish it on everyone.

We run from our pain, we medicate it, we ignore it, we hide it, we distract ourselves from it…  but it never goes away, because my friend Kelly is right—pain is universal.

And so, surrounded by all this death, I think about my own life, and, yes, your life too.  I think about what I want my life to be like, what I want people to say about me.  This isn’t about being morbid or fatalistic; it is about moving toward pain, and living a life without walls and all the other bullshit we parade out so we don’t have to be real in front of other people.  Yes, it’s hard, and most of us are scared, and even those who aren’t have good reasons to be.  But this isn’t a drill.  This is life, the only one you have.

Have you ever thought about what you want people to say at your funeral?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I want people to say, “He expected this.”

He expected this.

Almost no one expects to die on her last day.  Almost no one gets in the car before their fatal accident thinking they have an hour to live.  People who expect to die write books, and we all read them and think about how courageous they were (see “The Last Lecture” etc.).

But what I want to know is why I am not like that?  Why are we not like that?  Why do we marvel at it in others and not model it ourselves?

No.  I’ve had enough of that.  I want to live like I expect to die, and I want to do it in such a way that everyone else says, “That guy is crazy.  He acts like he’s going to die tomorrow.”

But it is more than that.  I want to live like I expect everyone else is going to die tomorrow, too.  I want to say the things that will encourage; I want to demonstrate love both for those closest to me as well as those I do not even know; I want to give time, empathy, money, strength to as many people as I can; I want to heal people.

Most of all, though, I want to give people courage.  I want to love them enough that they aren’t afraid anymore.  Enough that they will remember it when they are afraid again.

So if I make your acquaintance, or I reach out to you for no reason, it is because I love you.  It is because I want you to be courageous.

And it is because I expect both of us to die.

Faith, Leadership

Why Honor Is Greater Than Forgiveness


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I originally wrote this in 2011 as a note on Facebook.  Today would have been my dad’s 65th birthday, so I thought it appropriate to revisit it today.

 

I just don’t care enough…

What other people think of me.  I’m going to be the one who speaks out loud, who says too much, who pushes “send,” who gets people thinking, who gets people talking, who invites people to touch their lives by touching mine.  I’m not excited about putting this out there for public consumption, but I’m going to do it anyway, because that is what I do.  I refuse to live with the notion that even one person could benefit from something I think or say, and I failed to say it.  So whether this is for you or someone else…

My dad’s birthday was last week.  As of this year, he has passed more birthdays posthumously than he did living.  He committed suicide when I was 5.  It was an ignominious act for which I struggled to forgive him for much of my life.  It yoked my then 24 year old mom and 2 younger sisters with a tremendous weight, part of which I bore though it was not mine.

But over many years, as I have thought about forgiveness, I come to a full realization that forgiveness, though difficult, is, well, comparatively easy.  What is difficult is honor.  Forgiveness inspires us, but honor amazes us.

Many of you know the hymn “Amazing Grace”—Amazing is the right word.  Here’s why: It’s comparatively easy for God to forgive—He’s in the right; He’s holding all the cards.  But He goes beyond that.  He honors us, gives us grace, prepares a place for us.  It’s crazy, really.

But you know this more intimately than that.  Even if you don’t believe in God, you know this.  You’ve been wronged.  You’ve felt pain inflicted deliberately by another.  You’ve felt hurt by someone who, because they did not intend, would not acknowledge.  You know what it is like to have someone who hurt you not be sorry for what they have done.

And you know what it feels like not to be sorry for what you have done, too.

It’s hard to forgive when any of those things happen, isn’t it?  Crazy hard.

But honor.  Think about it.  Honor for someone who isn’t sorry, who doesn’t think they did anything wrong, who protests their innocence or ignorance, who remains unwilling to acknowledge the mere possibility…  honoring that person goes beyond forgiveness.  It’s harder.  You don’t see it very much, but you remember it when you do.  Because it’s extreme.

Because it’s God-like.  It gives us a glimpse—dim, yes, but a glimpse—of what that honor bestowed on us will look like, what we are capable of because of the Spirit that dwells within us.

But then we feel guilty.

Because we fail to practice this.  We don’t live up to it.  We “can’t,” not with that person, at least.

But we can.  It just isn’t fully up to us.  Wasn’t, isn’t, meant to be up to us.  I can’t honor on my own.  I want to hold a grudge, to be pissed off, to lament and pout and cry and wish I had all the things that growing up with a good dad would have afforded me.  I want to put my fist through a wall and turn it all to anger (oh, and I used to…) so I don’t have to feel the grief and pain of memory and forgiveness and honor.  So just for the record—I didn’t do it.  I couldn’t have.   Not possible.

The truth is, honor surprised me as I was writing the words that follow.  I intended to forgive (again), but I couldn’t.  Because it wasn’t enough somehow.  I’ve been doing that for years.  I had to honor.  In my novice way, incomplete and still somehow holding all the cards, I must, we must, honor.

So here’s the poem I wrote my dad.  I’d love to hear from you if something in it is for you.

 

It comes when I expect it

And when I least expect it

It has marked me now

The loss

I know its touch

I hear its voice

It settles with me

Ignored at times for some distraction

Though not forgotten

For far too bright the light that shines

 

Making plain my shadow

A reminder to my heart

Of how I would have loved you

How I would have basked in the light of your prime

What I would have given

To have your life

A shield for mine

To see your steps from just behind

To see a way

To know a time

 

How you would have beamed with pride

At the toils and trophies of my life

And how I would have loved your smile

Yearned for it with all my might

I would have been your prince

I would have seen you king

My children

The glory of your line

So many apples for your eyes

 

And were our lives not filled

With happier times

And if golden memory failed to shine

Eclipsed by a reality of something less fine

Still you would be enough for me

I think so

Though

I do not know

I did not know

I will not know

 

And maybe you were prescient

And maybe I naïve

(How I wanted to believe)

I have forgiven myself only moments

And lonely moments conceive

The reign of an ill-fitted crown

Bequeathed before discovered means

Worn askew

But I have straightened it for you

In spite of everything, it honors you

 

I honor you