Broke Down

The engine temperature gauge began to rise from its normal position. I watched it slowly climb and then quickly peg the HOT red zone. I immediately pulled over to the side of the busy road into a side street of a calmer neighborhood and shut the engine off. Steam rose from under the hood. Something bad had happened. Was it a burst hose or something worse? I put my emergency flashers on, then got out and raised the hood. Water and coolant from the radiator was on one side of the engine and chassis of the van. The steam was thick, too thick to see the source of the leak.

I returned to the driver’s seat and called my son for help. He is good with almost anything mechanical and I knew he would be a good adviser to me. We agreed that I would let it cool down while he drove to meet me and look at it.

So far this is a pretty common story for most of us that have driven older vehicles. The reason I am telling you about this break down is the surprising reaction I received from people who passed by.

Their reaction? None.

That is what surprised me. Cars, trucks, walkers, joggers of both gender and of all ages looked in my direction for a moment then went on their way. No, good neighbor questions like “Hello, are you ok?” “Do you have help coming?” “Anything I can do?” were offered.

Very surprising.

My son arrived, helped me find the broken hose, took me to the auto parts store, put the new one on and followed me home. Granted, he is my son and a gifted mechanic, so I wouldn’t expect everyone to have been able to do that for me. But, not one offer of concern from the residents of that community?

I am still very surprised as I write about it.

As I waited for my help to arrive I watched the strangers pass me. The lack of concern, or even eye contact left me sad. I wondered if I had called out for help would one of them responded? Probably, but I waited to see if anyone would check on me; a stranger without my request. Would they take the risk of having their plans for the moment delayed? I am not a scary looking guy; at least I have never been told that I am, but maybe there is a fear that runs deep now in our society that overwhelms the good neighbor in us. Or is it busyness?

Jesus told a story to the expert in the law who had asked Him, “And who is my neighbor?” The answer was the person who showed kindness and mercy to a person in need.

“Go and do likewise”, Jesus concluded.

If we are to be followers of Him, then we will do what He had commanded.

My story ended well, yet it motivated me to help others by being a good neighbor. It makes me urge you to do the same when you can.

Two Apologies

Early in my business and leadership training one of rules of engagement was to “never lead off with an apology!” It was based on the perspective that you would appear weak in your position at the table. Showing vulnerability was forbidden, even fatal. Grip the hand firm, chest out, push hard, back off only when you had dominated and still could maintain control.

I have seen that work best in security and law enforcement. It has several flaws as a strategy for leadership in the workforce, home and community. One of my mentors; a man’s man, a pastor with a brilliant mind, a strong delivery of the truth, a facts/logic approach and a desire to build disciples taught me so much by what he shared about his mistakes. He was able to “find a kernel of truth in every criticism” and he would sometimes lead off a meeting with powerful men by sharing  some vulnerable weakness he had, or a recent mistake he had made. “Didn’t that weaken you in their eyes?”, I asked.  No, he smiled and said.  ‘Actually I gained the upper hand because I had so thrown them off by my approach that they went from standing on the balls of their feet ready to pounce to rocked back on their heels.  In that split second, I then asked them a question about them.  It opened them up to share with me and enter into a whole new level of discussion and honestly.’

That is amazing.  It is counter-intuitive.  Not what the leaders tried to instill in me years ago. My friend showed that you could lead with a weakness that becomes the platform for truth and realness in the conversation, negotiation, teaching, etc.

I know a debate could flame up over what I have just shared, but I can also tell you I have used this approach with success. One of the best areas of example is with the marriage ministry work my wife and I have done over the last 18 years. Giving the couples in the group a few ways that I/we have done things that were not helpful in our marriage right at the first of our time together brought the level of anxiousness down in each person. They heard what they instinctively already knew that there are no perfect marriages and that they were not alone in their relationship struggles.

There is much to talk about around that, and if there is interest I can blog about it in the future.

This message is to share two apologies I gave to strangers; well, actually they were really new friends I had come to know, trust and even care about over a short, intensive two-day retreat. The last night of the retreat I felt a burden to ask for forgiveness to both women and men.

In the apology to women, I had not personally done a wrong to the people in the room, but as a man I chose to take the position to represent men.  The open acknowledgement of wrong and hurtful behavior to the women by others could be seen as a weak position to take, yet it was a powerful offering to bring forth healing and forgiveness. I am not recommending that you try to assume responsibility for your gender as a whole, but in this time and place it brought about a greater closeness between people.

In the apology to men, I share my regret of not hearing the counsel of those who tried to give it and the failure to try to offer the same to others.  As well as calling out the passive men who can make a difference if they would choose to.

Maybe it will have an effect on you, or someone you know that needs to here it.  It so, please share.

I apologize…

Ladies,

No men got together and voted for me to represent them to you, so I am saying this on my own. But, I don’t think I am alone is the words of feeling in this message to you.

For all the times that men have used you, abused you, abandoned you, lied to you, failed to stand, support, nurture, serve, and lead you;

For cowardness, weakness, denial, selfishness, withdrawal, anger, blame, lack of spiritual grounding and guidance;

For the times we pressured you for sex, caused you physical, emotional and spiritual pain, for not having self-control to honor, respect and cherish you, your virginity, your purity, your worth;

For when you have been alone, with danger and fears and we ran away instead of running forward to protect you;

For all the joy, dancing, and worship that you deserved to be join in with, but your partner refused;

For all these things and more, we were wrong.  I am sorry.  Please forgive us.

 

Men,

I apologize to you who are my senior in years that tried to model the way of true, godly manhood and I didn’t listen, look, and seek your ways and truth. I was wrong.  I am sorry, please forgive me.

To you who failed to lead me and my generation in the ways of God, your silence, apathy, indifference, fear, neglect, passivity, irresponsibility, and lack of courage has caused great harm.  I forgive you.

To my peers that I ran with but didn’t encourage and hold accountable to live as righteous men, to you who are younger that I have failed like my elders did me, I was wrong. I am sorry, please forgive me.

57

57 mile markerToday is my birthday.  It is a good mile marker.  I can glance over and think about where I am on the road of life.

My mother posted on Face Book, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY SON! 57 years ago (now) I was at Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky waiting for his arrival. We have weathered many storms. Love you Keith. mom”  She, now 81 years young, is the only remaining member of my immediate family from Paducah. My dad and younger brother died in 2008.  Mom’s post made me wonder what it was like for her in the delivery room birthing her first child. Dad was outside of the room somewhere, no doubt with cigars in hand to pass around. That was the tradition then.

I also ponder today my own immediate family and what each of my birthdays have meant since they have been in my life. My oldest daughter has been a part of my birthday celebration 23 times. She was again today as we had a phone call over Viper from her apartment in Germany. My next daughter, a 21 birthday veteran with me, shared a meal and time together yesterday before she returned back to her final days of school at Lee University. My son, 18 birthday celebrations, greeted me at breakfast on his way out to work and will be home to celebrate tonight with me and my wife, who has wished me a special day 27 times now.

Birthdays are interesting. People contact you on that day with a special acknowledgement that may not come again for another year. It is a special day to remember. For me, I enjoy giving to others so much that it seems a birthday should be filled with such gratitude that I thank others, who have been, and are now a part of my life. I should send my mom flowers on my birthday. I want to let everyone who cares about me know how much I care about them and how much I appreciate their friendship and love.  Even over the years and miles, love continues.

I miss many people who have been a part of my birthdays past. Some I have lost touch with in the drift of time and distance. Some have passed over to life beyond the earth. If they are able to know what happens in the present, I hope they are cheering me on today. I think I will let a helium filled balloon go today just to send them a thank you.Birthday balloons

There are so many types of gratitude I have today, more than I can list now.  Here are 57 of them…

  1. I am a son with a legacy of a mother and father who love me and tried hard to provide for me and my future.
  2. I am a brother with a younger brother who taught me a lot about myself in the way I treated him both good and bad.
  3. I am a nephew with a wonder set of uncles and aunts who have always shown me love and acceptance.
  4. I am an uncle with opportunities to show my love and acceptance to my nieces and nephews.
  5. I am a cousin with cousins who have been a fun part of my childhood and still inspire me today.
  6. I am a husband with a wife who is a beautiful, amazing companion.
  7. I am a father with three children I admire and love so deeply and two that I will meet one day in heaven.
  8. I am a follower of Jesus Christ with an unquenchable desire to know Him more, grow in Him more and show more of Him.
  9. I have heard God’s voice in my inner spirit.
  10. I am prayed for.
  11. I am spiritually aware enough to know to pray for others.
  12. I am a spiritual friend to many other Christians who contribute into my life and receive from me.
  13. I have had the honor of performing weddings and funerals.
  14. I am a life coach with a passion to help others move forward in life.
  15. I am healthy, physically, mentally and spiritually.
  16. I live in a beautiful place.
  17. I have great neighbors.
  18. I have people both near and far who want to learn from me.
  19. I have people both near and far who teach me.
  20. I am open to learn.
  21. I am open to share.
  22. I seek more; not earthly things, but eternal things for others and myself.
  23. I live in the present, less bound by the past and less fearful of the future.
  24. I get to eat and drink safely each day.
  25. I have never really been starving, even though with hunger I have said so.
  26. I have a comfortable, clean bed.
  27. I have more than enough shelter for me and others who share it.
  28. I have learned to stop whining and complaining.
  29. I can read and understand, almost anything in English and a lot in Spanish.
  30. I don’t have to eat butterscotch.
  31. I like to laugh.
  32. I can make others laugh; and sometimes groan with my humor.
  33. I have been able to be a peacemaker in conflict.
  34. I have been able to be a mediator to help agreements come together.
  35. I have been a reconciler of people to God and to each other.
  36. I have been broken enough times to know I need God and others.
  37. I have been wrong enough to know I will never know it all and must be open to be taught.
  38. I have people in my life that will speak to the truth to me in love.
  39. I have forgiveness.
  40. I give forgiveness.
  41. I have come to know who I am in Christ.
  42. I have learned about the power of shame and how to help myself and others with an antidote.
  43. I have finally begun to enjoy playing cards.
  44. I got to fly like a bird in a hang glider.
  45. I have traveled around the world and met people on every continent except Antarctica.
  46. I have met many famous people.
  47. I have met many infamous (unknown) people.
  48. I have been cared for by the very poor.
  49. I am learning to see Jesus in those I hadn’t recognized Him before.
  50. I give smiles away.
  51. I have received so many smiles.
  52. I hug freely.
  53. I have been hugged much.
  54. I dream big and remain filled with hope.
  55. I have rejected passivity.
  56. I have become courageous.
  57. I am just beginning to live, not ready to retire.

So, thank you for reading all the way down to here.  My birthday wish is for you to find peace and joy today in your life. May your mile markers give you pause to reflect and grow in forgiveness and gratefulness in your journey ahead.

As I was writing this my son called to ask me what I wanted to do tonight.  He, my wife and I will be serving birthday cake to the homeless in downtown Nashville. Now that is a birthday party I can enjoy!

 

Who Do People Say I Am? – Part 2

What Others Say About Me - part 2“Sticks and stones may break my bones,  but words will never harm me!”  Did you hear that saying when you were growing up?  Is it true? I will answer that one for you; no, it is not.  Words are powerful, strong, strengthening and destructive. The labels or descriptions we put on people can stick on them.  They can work their way deep into the mind and remain there for a life time.

The words used to describe you can build you up or tear you down. If you are spoken well of it can boost your self-confidence, stroke your ego, give you positive feelings of being respected, acknowledged, appreciated, approved, and secure. If you are criticized it can have the opposite effect.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How did others learn about you?
  • Do they know you?
  • Do they know things about you from personal experience?
  • Did they hear about you from someone else or from something written about you?
  • What is the nature of your relationship with them?
  • Does it matter to you what they say?
  • Is it true?
  • What if it is not?
  • Does it matter?
  • How will you respond?

There is another saying I heard growing up; *“To thy own self be true.”  No matter what others say about you, you know the truth about yourself. Sometimes we are unjustly accused, or unfairly judged, or misunderstood, or gossiped about by jealous or unhealthy people (see part 1). Mostly we are spoken of as a result of our personal choices in word and deed that others see or hear about.

What about your reputation? It is earned over time with a good one easily tarnished quickly.

Wikipedia says, “Reputation of a social entity (a person, a social group, an organization) is an opinion about that entity, typically a result of social evaluation on a set of criteria.”

A take-a-way from this Part 2: Usually what others say about you is what you have shown or said to them directly or indirectly. 

  1. As you are critiqued by the public what choices do you have?  
  2. Have you considered choosing to not be offended even when something said about you is offensive?
  3. If your criteria for how to be is clear to you, then what does it matter what other say?
  4. How will you live from this day forward to teach people how to talk about you?

* Original source is a line from Polonius in Hamlet.

Who Do People Say I Am?- Part 1

Angry WordsWhat I have learned overtime is most people don’t think about us or what we have done or how we are feeling as much as we may think they do! We may want; even need, more attention, acceptance, and approval from others, but having a hyper-focused worry, dread, suspension on how we are being perceived is a thinking path that leads to negative feelings, thinking and ultimately behavior.

It is also interesting to consider the person, or persons, that are talking about you.  According to 1 new research by a Wake Forest University psychology professor, how positively you see others is linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable you are.

Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality,” says Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study, about his findings. By asking study participants to each rate positive and negative characteristics of just three people, the researchers were able to find out important information about the rater’s well-being, mental health, social attitudes and how they were judged by others.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Peter Harms at the University of Nebraska and Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis co-authored the study.

The researchers found a person’s tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of the positivity of the person’s own personality traits. They discovered particularly strong associations between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable the person describes oneself and is described by others.

“Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits,” Wood says.

The study also found that how positively you see other people shows how satisfied you are with your own life, and how much you are liked by others.

In contrast, negative perceptions of others are linked to higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior. “A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively,” Wood says. “The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.” Given that negative perceptions of others may underlie several personality disorders, finding techniques to get people to see others more positively could promote the cessation of behavior patterns associated with several different personality disorders simultaneously, Wood says.

This research suggests that when you ask someone to rate the personality of a particular coworker or acquaintance, you may learn as much about the rater providing the personality description as the person they are describing. The level of negativity the rater uses in describing the other person may indeed indicate that the other person has negative characteristics, but may also be a tip off that the rater is unhappy, disagreeable, neurotic — or has other negative personality traits.

Raters in the study consisted of friends rating one another, college freshmen rating others they knew in their dormitories, and fraternity and sorority members rating others in their organization. In all samples, participants rated real people and the positivity of their ratings were found to be associated with the participant’s own characteristics.

By evaluating the raters and how they evaluated their peers again one year later, Wood found compelling evidence that how positively we tend to perceive others in our social environment is a highly stable trait that does not change substantially over time.

A take-a-way from this Part 1: What others say about you says more about them that you.

  1. Are you helped by considering that hurting people hurt people?  
  2. Does it help you not take offensive when someone is unjustly critical of you when you consider how it reflects on their own character?  Maybe pity for them can fill your heart rather than bitterness, resentment or anger?
  3. Would you be able to confront their hurtful words by doing kind things for them in return?

 

1 Wake Forest University (2010, August 3). What you say about others says a lot about you, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2010/08/100802165441.htm


	

? ? ? Three Important Questions

Three questionsBeginning Monday, August 26th, I will dedicate at least one blog to each of three questions.  They are important questions that you can answer.  They bring you face to face with yourself.  They allow you to drill down to the core of yourself.  That can be hard to do.  Many people have fear to look deep within themselves and explore what it is that makes them who they are and determines what they do.  It can be fascinating to learn!

My challenge to you (and myself) is to think about these three questions over the weekend.  Allow yourself the time reflect on them. Try to be honest with yourself.  You may not have a complete answer to some of them yet.  You may have no answer yet, that is ok.  You have begun the journey by first knowing the questions to ask.  Each answer will be as different as we are as individuals.

These are Coaching type questions.  I love to ask them of others to draw them out, and up to new levels. Join me in this series by seriously considering these for yourself.  Post your answers below if you have some already.  I would love to share them here to encourage others.  Thanks!

Ready?

1. Who do others say you are?
2. Who do you say you are?
3. Who does God say you are?

You can do this.  Think about them.  Share thoughts or questions here.