Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

Servant Leadership

September 11, 2018

There was a man. CEO of a smaller company. Perhaps 100-150 employees. High technology. Seemingly successful–according to the press releases and conversations.

He gave away statues of Jesus washing Peter’s feet to business acquaintances. These were large, perhaps 14 inches long by 8 inches high.

He held a conference for partners and customers. Had the author of a book on servant leadership give one of the keynotes.

He always had a smile.

But things weren’t really going so well. One day his investors told him he had to sell. So he sold his company to a competitor.

He came into the office on Sunday and cleaned out everything. There was no trace of him left. He literally took the money and ran.

Except for a printed memo posted for the employees notifying them that they had a new owner and that the future was uncertain.

We can model servant leadership by giving away models.

Or, we could do what Jesus actually did and taught–be a servant.

Ask how we can help.

Encourage those who work for us.

Be honest and transparent, therefore worth of trust.

Face up to the challenges alongside our staff as well as celebrating the good times.

Create a professional environment.

How do you want to be remembered?

Be a model, don’t just give them away.

Be Careful of Praise

April 6, 2018

Someone praised me yesterday. It warmed my heart. I have to admit it. And the fact that it was public didn’t hurt anything.

Then I remembered it was only two days ago that I wrote about one of my spiritual heroes:

Teresa of Ávila–

Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised.

And then came the memory of someone I was counseling (not in a professional sense, I shun licenses and such). This person was filled with pride.

Realizing that in someone else (to use an old Christian word) convicted me, also.

The people who studied such things–I’m not referring to psychologists but to thousands of years of spiritual seekers–have traced the genealogy of sin. That family tree begins with pride.

Overcoming pride can be a life’s work. But only after recognizing it within.

Searching For A Little Humility

April 4, 2018

Teresa of Ávila

It is amusing to see souls who, while they are at prayer, fancy they are willing to be despised and publicly insulted for the love of God, yet afterwards do all they can to hide their small defects. If anyone unjustly accuses them of a fault, God deliver us from their outcries! Prayer does not consist of such fancies. No, our Lord expects works from us. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised.

Words from one of my favorite guides.

So often a couple of things seem to be missing from our discourse–social media or just social.

Responsibility and Humility.

I hear shouting about rights. But when it comes to talking about responsibilities that are the companion of rights, only ominous silence.

To this day, I hate writing the bio part of my Websites. It is meant to boast in order to bring me business. It seems like the “fake” part of an interview. “Tell us about a fault.” “Well, sometimes I work too hard.”

Right.

Or, “Honey, I took out the garbage.” Only to hear, “Yeah, you were supposed to. You’re expecting maybe a little doggie treat for doing your job?”

Maybe we pray along with Teresa, “No, our Lord expects work from us. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor.”

The Gentle Art of Asking

February 2, 2018

How about you? Do you feel like you know everything you need to know?

Whether you are in business or ministry or family–do you have all the answers?

Edgar H. Schein writes in his book, “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling,” that many people would rather fail than admit their dependency on another person.

How about succeeding together?

Try Humble Inquiry. Asking questions implies that someone knows something I don’t–even if they are a subordinate, or younger than I, or from a different background. I must humble myself to ask someone placing myself in a position of learner to someone superior to me in this situation. It is the opposite of what we are taught in our culture which places emphasis on telling.

I’ve talked often about the skills of listening. Often we need to ask questions to elicit something to listen to.

Schein says, “The kind of inquiry I am talking about derives from an attitude of interest and curiosity. It implies a desire to build a relationship.”

We must slow down to ask and then listen.

Again Schein says, “I find that the biggest mistakes I make and the biggest risks I run all result from a mindless hurrying. If I hurry, I do not pay enough attention to what is going on, and that makes mistakes more likely. More importantly, if I hurry, I do not observe new possibilities.”

He points out in our “Do and Tell” culture, the most important thing we need to learn is to reflect. Before doing something, apply Humble Inquiry to yourself. “Ask ourselves: What is going on here? What would be the appropriate thing to do (Wow, there are hundreds of men right now who wish they had asked themselves that question)? On whom am I dependent? Who is dependent upon me?”

In other words, become more mindful.

“The toughest relearning, or new learning, is for leaders to discover their dependence on their subordinates, to embrace Here-and-now Humility, and to build relationships of high trust and valid communication with their subordinates.”

Schein was an MIT professor and business consultant. You can substitute parent for leader and use the ideas in family. Pastor for leader and transform a church.

Read and digest the book. It’s short and not technical. Good read.

Silence Is A Spiritual Discipline

January 11, 2018

Sometimes we say something with more meaning than we intended.

Sometimes we walk away from an encounter with others muttering to ourselves, “That’s what I should have said…”

Such is the state of today’s chapter of Proverbs–Chapter 11.

Traditionally attributed to Solomon, the wisest person to have walked the face of the earth, so they said, it says in the 11th chapter, “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Solomon died. His son became king. He was faced with an important decision about the direction of his rule almost immediately. His father’s advisors, who had served faithfully and well for many years, offered advice. He rejected that advice in favor of his friends who, like him, had grown up in the wealth and abundance of Solomon’s castle.

The people rebelled. The kingdom split.

Solomon’s son. Who should have grown up listening to the sayings of his wise father. The kingdom didn’t even make it through the first generation. Of course, a remnant of the kingdom lasted for a long time. But it was never the same.

I thought that this offered an ideal opportunity to comment on today’s political situation in America.

But then I considered a saying just above.

“Whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent.”

Many are the times I said something and regretted it. Rare are the times when I kept my mouth quiet and regretted it.

There is a time to speak up, #MeToo. Mostly not.

Who You Are Speaks More Loudly Than What You Say

September 8, 2017

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it’s the only thing”, Albert Schweitzer believes this because it shows what kind of person someone really is. 

What parent hasn’t been exasperated by what their kids have done after being told not to do it.

Floyd had the most vulgar language of anyone in the shop. One day he’s talking at break time and says he had to slap his daughter for using one of those words I’m not going to print. 

We all looked at him and said, “Where do you think she learned to talk that way?”

There was a teacher who taught what was called in the old days Home Economics. Part of the curriculum was etiquette. You know, how to eat properly. In the cafeteria, she was a slob. She told the students around her, “Do as I say, not as I do.” How do you think that worked?

There’s the preacher who speaks passionately about the love of God thinking words will move the attendees. But what they see is someone who is aloof or arrogant. 

Humility is the key to character. Every time I fail in that trait I beat myself up (metaphorically) for a long time. But at least I’m aware of it. How many people slide through life blissfully unaware of their impact on others? Don’t be that guy.

Helping The Poor As A Mission Discipline

June 26, 2017

My grandfather used to tell me about an incident during the Depression when a train derailed in town. His step-father, along with half of the town, ran down to the train that night and helped themselves to loads of “free” coal. It was the depression. Many people. Were out of work. It gets very cold in Ohio. It was like a gift from God.

News from Pakistan at the end of last week. A gasoline tanker truck wrecked and fuel was spilling out. Hundreds of poor people ran to save some of that fuel. Gasoline is a flammable. Catches fire easily. Yes, this spill ignited. A hundred people died.

A gospel that preaches “We’ll save your soul if you wish, but you are on your own for food, clothing, and shelter” isn’t the gospel of Jesus.

Jesus talked often about the responsible use of money. Paul collected money from his churches to return to Jerusalem to feed and clothe women and children left in poverty by their joining the community following Jesus.

It baffles me that we (the collective rich country “we”) cannot devise an economic system that shares something of the wealth of the economy with such poor people. There are so many people who are so focused on “I want my share…and more; and I want to keep it for me”. That emotion is driving an awful lot of worldwide politics these days.

I’m not talking politics, though. Politics won’t solve any problems.

I’m talking mission and service as a discipline. And how if every Christ-follower who has any financial means contributed, so much good could happen. 

  • Fresh drinking water to help eradicate diseases
  • Investment in businesses large enough to hire people providing jobs and dignity
  • Medicine and access to health professionals
  • Investment in agriculture, aquaponics, and other technologies where people could feed themselves
  • Investment in communication and transportation infrastructure 

Update

I’m still amazed that at least in the US we can’t treat women better. But some little progress and awareness seems to be hitting the “bro-land” of Silicon Valley. After denying and obfuscating for a long enough period to complete a funding round, the VC leader finally stepped down and apologized for his treatment of women and said he’d seek counseling. Hope that works out better than the “counseling” that NFL players get.

How much counseling do you need to stop reaching under the conference room table and feeling up a woman’s leg during a meeting? Maybe we need to bring back the slap in the face or something?

And Uber now is looking for a CEO, COO, CFO, VP of Engineering, and other top staff after cleaning house due to the frat house culture they enabled.

Remember when boys grew up and became men?

Humility Is The Secret

March 23, 2017

Humility is the secret of the wise. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

They always put large mirrors over the desks in hotel rooms. At least in Marriotts. And I’m in another one. Detroit. Overlooking the Detroit river. I look south and see…Canada.

After immersing in research at my computer, I glance up. See myself. Startled. I’ve been up 45 minutes. My hair is still standing up from 7 hours in bed. A reason to be humble.

Yesterday I shared the story of the man in the village who wanted the kind of riches that the wise man had who could give away a huge fortune so effortlessly.

The secret is humility.

People are nice to me. Say good things about my writing. Some are sincere. I love them. Encouragement is rewarding. Some are afraid that I may say something bad about their product, service, themselves on my business blog. So they are nice. I don’t know motivations. I just assume they are in the first group.

The danger lies in letting the compliments go to my head. Never think I am good. Keep learning. Keep praying for other people’s successes.

A friend once came up to me. “No one really wants to be humble,” he said.

I was puzzled. Then I realized that aside from the psychologically needy who feel bad about themselves, healthy people have trouble putting others ahead of themselves. That’s what humility is.

I just saw a saying from Gandhi where he talked of “reducing oneself to zero.”

I’m sure not in a psychologically unhealthy way. It’s just less of me; more of Jesus; more of others.

That’s humble. What’s so wrong with that?

Humility Is So Misunderstood

August 11, 2016

Being a humble person does not equal being a weak person.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

It takes great strength of character and personality to be humble.

19th Century philosophers (whose thinking still infects people) obsessed over power and powerful people. Most famous was Nietzsche and his Übermensch, translated in the comic books as “Superman.”

Today, many people, and evidently the popular press, still celebrate powerful people, especially men.

Yesterday I discussed pride. The antidote to pride is humility. We read in the Proverbs “Pride goes before a fall.” Jesus said, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23: 12)

All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. — Jesus

Humility merely means to put others first. To many in America–and evidently in many other places–putting others first is weak. But, pride and striving to achieve power over people is actually a manifestation of an inner weakness.

Putting others first means that my first response isn’t about me. Pride is “all about me.” It’s trying to make myself look better than I am.

We can develop a discipline around humility. For some, it probably comes to them naturally. Or maybe they were raised from infancy to consider others first. That would be me.

We can become self-aware about when our thoughts are moving toward “me first” and choose to consider other people.

The first step is that thought, that moment in time when we can choose, that moment in life before it becomes just a part of who we are.

We can choose.

Hold a door open for someone is a start. Help carry a physical burden. As we grow, we can help someone carry an emotional burden. We can listen to others. I don’t mean hear noise. Listen. With attention. Not with a busy mind thinking of our response or the beach.

Humility is a choice–a choice for life with-God.

We Act As If There Were No God

August 9, 2016

Let’s be honest with ourselves. For once. Really.

Don’t we sometimes act as if there were no God?

Is that why sometimes we don’t really take time to pray deeply? Or why we just read quickly over a Bible passage and call it “study”? Or why we pass by the hurting person and mutter, “I’ll pray for you.”

In Psalm 10, David who was no stranger to the effects of pride sang about it.

In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out” all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Yes, there are people who look at it as their full-time job to act as if there is no God.

My wife and I will think of someone. She’ll say, “Of course, we can’t see into their heart.” I’ll say, of course. But Jesus said that you’ll know his followers by their fruit. Are there any apples on that tree?

Pride. It’s the root of all evil. And so easily come by. And it hides in so many disguises.

I was in some sort of argument, typical of my youth, and someone said, “You’ve got too much pride.” Or, maybe I said it about myself.

Those are condemning words. I can still feel it. Probably like Peter when the cock crowed and he thought, “Oh, oh. What did I just say?” The realization hits. You are condemned by your own words.

It’s worth stopping often and reflecting on the past hours/days. When did my pride prevent me from doing what I know I should have been doing. When did I not help someone in need? When did I gloss over study instead of seeking deeper understanding and relationship with God?

For me? Yesterday. It’s too early yet this morning. But, I’m about to leave the house. Then, what will happen?