Archive for the ‘Relationship’ Category

Relate With People By How They Are Not What They Look Like

January 16, 2023

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream

I was a student when Martin Luther King delivered that speech. I don’t know the degree to which this comment inspired me or if I was just always this way. I have always tried to treat people individually where they are. If they are poor or rich or powerful and they have more stuffing than a Christmas goose, I deal one way. Most people are just hard-working individuals trying to do their jobs. I don’t care if they are CEO or junior assistant account executive. They deserve to be treated with honesty and respect. And I try.

Today in the US is an official holiday observing the birth and work of Martin Luther King. It is good to remember the good he did, what he stood for.

The movement did some good. Laws were passed. Barriers were broken.

Today I believe that there is broader acceptance of people of varying skin colors, races, languages. Yet, still much work remains. Some prejudices are hard to overcome. They require a change of heart in each individual.

If you read the gospels carefully, you’ll see that Jesus was doing just that. He met with people of different ethnic groups at their level of need. He healed regardless of being Jewish or not. He was forever concerned with the status of one’s heart.

How do you change hearts? We have certain Christians who think that passing more laws will suffice. That didn’t work out so well in the end for the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

Unfortunately, you don’t change hearts with laws or with one magnificent speech. Ann Lamont wrote a wonderful little book Bird by Bird, where she tells the story of her brother. He procrastinated over writing a report on birds for school. Now it’s the night before it’s due. (Sound familiar?) He whines to his father about how he’ll ever get it done. “Just write bird by bird and you’ll get it done.”

Just like a good bread requires time to rise, so a changed heart requires time for the change to root and grow. And it happens one heart at a time.

Dr. King set out a vision. Much good did happen. But the hard work remains for each of us. What is the condition of our own heart? Where can we nurture another’s heart?

You Don’t Own Me

September 6, 2022

Looking back on the 60s, I thought this was radical for the time–and for many even today in the 20s it is radical.

You don’t own me

I’m not just one of your many toys

You don’t own me

Don’t try to change me in any way

And don’t tell me what to do

And don’t tell me what to say

And please when I go out with you,

Don’t put me on display.

Written by John Medora, David White; Sung by Leslie Gore, 1963

Even in my nerdy teenage years, those words resonated.

And today even more so.

The non-technology part of my Twitter stream concerns women hurt by evangelical pastors and evangelical husbands. I’m sitting here not 15 miles from a guy who famously injured emotionally if not physically many women.

I know of many who hold to a theology ripped from part of the Apostle Paul’s writings to justify that behavior. They may make fun of how that disciple of the Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson, famously cut phrases from the Bible that he couldn’t agree with (understand?), but this is the same in reverse. Let us just cut a few phrases out of Paul, paste them on our walls, and follow them.

Count the number of times Paul instructed mutual submission. Observe the way Jesus treated women. Follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbor (and no, not that way…).

The radio in my wife’s car is set to Sirius XM’s 60s Gold (for contrast, mine is on Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville). This Leslie Gore song pops up occasionally as a reminder of how to treat other people.

Try it.

Personality

September 2, 2022

It’s 3 in the afternoon (15:00). I finished my workout and breakfast and sat down to write at 9. But since it is soccer season and I never know what emergency I may face, I scanned email. Oh, joy! There was a long email sent to the state sports administration. That created all manner of interpersonal conflicts that required a quick response. Then a second one. This soccer season (in its second week) is shaping up as one of conflicts.

The problem? It really boils down to a simple initial personality conflict that expanded to a full-page memo to the state. It needn’t have gotten that far.

How often we offer a quip in a moment that we think is cute or funny. And, how often that quip is received in a manner different from what was intended. And feelings are hurt. And things grow. And now people are not speaking to each other. And now they talk about the other person to third parties. And it grows and grows like mold on your onions in the pantry.

It could have been stopped. I can still see Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife in the old Andy Griffith show on one episode where he said, “Nip it in the bud, Andy. That’s it. You gotta nip it in the bud. Nip it in the bud.”

Yes. A lesson for us all. Nip it in the bud. Don’t let it sit and mold and spread disease everywhere. Fix it now.

Develop the Best in Everyone

August 11, 2022

The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.

Charles Schwab

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” is a phrase I’ve heard from my youth before someone got smacked or chastised.

Some people use the method of criticism even to physical punishment or threat of losing job, security, family in order to “improve” the object of their wrath.

In Jesus’ time, the Romans used violence and the threat of violence to achieve power over others. This attitude went from emperor down to head of the family.

The Pharisees were great at comparing how great they were and loved by God to how others were outside of God.

Jesus took a different approach. “It is the sick who need the physician,” he once told the Pharisees. 

Appreciation and encouragement—the better path.

A Love Potion Without Drugs

October 15, 2021

The ancient Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote to his young friend that they believed that a wise person is self sufficient, yet knows the value of friends, neighbors, associates. He asks, how then does one get a new friend when the current one is lost? He quotes another philosopher, Hecato of Rhodes:

I can show you a love potion compounded without drugs, herbs, or any witch’s incantation: ‘If you would be loved, love.”

Isn’t life simple? Yet, for some of us, that simple prescription can be most difficult. We must go outside ourselves and recognize other people—their needs, desires, insecurities, qualities.

How often have we dismissed someone as aloof or arrogant only to talk with them and discover they are merely quiet and actually quite lovely people?

In reality, I’ve met many lovely human beings from many parts of the Earth and only a few real jerks. How about you, if you pause to consider?

Maybe try this by just going out and being nice to someone today. Drop the cynical facade and smile. That brightens everyone’s day.

When You Are Not Treated Well

September 7, 2021

When a church (congregation) does not treat people well, those people will tend not to go to church.

I never feel part of a crowd, always told I was different. But, I’ve experienced community in churches a few times. And I’ve experienced people trying to impose themselves and their creeds upon others. People who divide other people into different sorts of categories–each one defined as below themselves.

Some people recognize that every human born into this world is made in the image of God. We are each to be treated with respect as Jesus taught, and James reinforced, that we are to practice loving our neighbor as ourselves.

In our daily routine of living, we pause to look at ourselves. Did we just treat that person in our last interaction as a child of God? Smile and tip the barista? Give a pleasant greeting to a neighbor? Avoid lifting a hand gesture to someone trying to cut us off in traffic? Pause and ask how someone is doing and then actually listening to them?

We are each offended when we are not treated well. But, how well do we treat others?

The Golden Rule

April 20, 2021

Jesus is wrapping up his teaching on the hillside. I’ve visited the location that tradition holds to be the location. I can’t read Matthew 5-7 without visualizing that hillside by the lake. That helps me.

Anyway, Jesus has hit the crowd with many revolutionary ideas about the good news of living in the kingdom of the heavens. Then he hits a number of short, memorable sayings.

“In everything do to others you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets.”

Yesterday I was contemplating his teaching on anger and contempt–not only don’t kill someone, but also don’t dwell on the thought of killing them; don’t call someone a fool; don’t hold others in contempt–and I wondered about overcoming those attitudes.

I guess if we were to get up in the morning and treat the first person we saw with respect and then the second, we could build up this habit muscle. And that changes our attitude. And then we begin living in the kingdom of the heavens.

Because Jesus said that this simple rule of living our daily life of respecting others–doing to them as we would have them do to us–leads to doing the law and following the teaching of the prophets.

Try it beginning now. The next person you come across, treat with respect. And the next. And if you feel anger or disrespect visiting, remember the new muscle we’re exercising.

It’ll change your life.

We Are All One

January 22, 2021

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul writing to the Christ-followers in Galatia.

For Paul writing as a Jew, bringing together “Jew and Greek” essentially meant bringing together all races. Slave and free brings together economic classes. Male and female, of course, genders.

He knew that there were still people of different races, political/economic status, and genders. It is an important part of our spiritual growth that we people who are practicing spiritual formation realize there exist no real boundaries among people. We are to treat and live with all as the same.

A thousand years before Paul spiritual seekers discovered the same truth.

Two thousand years after Paul, we still struggle with bringing that reality into our lives. In America we celebrate (well, some of us) a woman who is also black and south Asian rising to a high political position. And not without some struggle. Why do we need to celebrate? Why is it so unusual.

But not just here. Much of the strife in Africa is tribal. In Asia, it’s religious and ethnic. Europe has its own difficulties.

Treating everyone as simply human seems to be a difficulty for all humans.

We need to break the chain. When you meet someone, try to see what sort of person they are inside not just outside. And treat everyone the same–kindly.

Earning Trust and Losing It

June 29, 2018

Some people come to you with great promises. Some seem sincere. Some even proclaim themselves to be Christian.

And some people lose the trust you originally granted them.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with a woman who is operations manager of a refinery.

The equipment was getting old and external forces came upon the company causing it to study how to upgrade the technology of the equipment.

She involved people from all of the various departments in the study of possible technology upgrades. When it came time to make decisions, they were all involved.

Engineers and technicians and operators all were involved in making the upgrades work.

She earned their trust. I met her a couple of times. I could sense she was trustworthy.

But I have been fooled in my life.

Several times I have done business with people who proclaim Christianity, yet in the end they proved not worthy of trust. They broke promises. Left while owing me money. Said bad things to me and about me.

Yet, I still trust people. I give them time to prove that I should not trust them.

Even though many were Christian, that doesn’t mean that I stop trying to be a disciple of Jesus. Some try and fail. That’s where grace comes in, I guess. But I don’t trust any of them any more.

You can earn people’s trust; you can easily lose it. Every day.

Including A Wide Spectrum of Acquaintances

May 14, 2018

“Meanwhile [Peter] stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.”

It’s just a sentence that is a transition from one story to the next in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Rest assured that it wasn’t just thrown in to fill up space. But Luke’s purpose for including this little tidbit isn’t really known.

We, however, can look at this little sentence and get a glimpse of how we should be living.

This Simon was probably Jewish, but he was ritually unclean. Does that sound familiar to those who have read the gospels? It should. Jesus was often criticized for hanging out with people who were ritually unclean.

We read a lot of things into the writings of Paul the Apostle and use them to divide people. But try actually reading all of Paul sometime. Read those “afterthoughts” where he lists all the followers of Jesus.

These first groups of followers were quite diverse. They seemed to accept leaders from all walks of life. Women, slaves, tanners, whomever.

Is it time for a self-awareness check? How inclusive are your circles? Churches, business, social?

Maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to separate us, we should be looking around us figuring out how to be more inclusive and accepting.