Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

Evaluating Leadership By The Wake It Leaves

November 4, 2016

Dr. Henry Cloud was recently asked about success and how to achieve it.

Although there is much room for definition of the word, Cloud noted that you need to be competent at something. Go out and learn a skill at something. Then there is the ability for forge and maintain relationships. Building a network of people you can call on.

And he talked about character. He mentioned the Hebrew word translated as virtue in the Bible has the connotations of force. It is as if a leader is a force in the organization.


It’s like a boat going through a lake. It leaves a wake. There are two sides to the wake as it fans out if the boat is moving correctly.

Just so, a successful person is a force leaving behind results and relationships in its wake.

Think of leaders you’ve known who perhaps show results but leave behind a trail of broken relationships. It is symptomatic of a boat going around in circles. Where lies success?

Sometimes we work on building relationships but have no results. Once again this is an unbalanced situation. The organization will fail. The business will close.  But you’ll all be happy–for a while.

Worse is the situation where results are poor and relationships broken. It’s like a boat “dead in the water.” Success is but a dream.

Show me a person of strong moral character who leaves good results and firm relationships in the wake, and I’ll show you success.

Diamonds on the Inside

September 9, 2016

“She’s got diamonds on the inside.”

I have no idea what the song was about, but I love that picture. I’m thinking of the beauty that shines through. Not wearing it on the outside for flash and attention. But coming from within.

The past few days I’ve read about “for profit” colleges shutting down suddenly. Why does pursuit of profit have to corrupt some people? It made me think of the three or four guys I’ve worked with over the years who wore their Christianity outside. Sort of a veneer. When we parted ways, they all owed me money. And other people.

On the other hand, I’ve known many leaders whose robust spiritual life shined through from the inside. They lived their beliefs. It was part of them. They had no urge to show it off or force a particular branch of religion. They were great to work for and with. And usually good at business or leadership, too.

I’ve joked in the past that when I meet an overtly Christian businessman I reach for my pocket for assurance that my wallet is still there.

But that is a bit cynical. True in some cases, unfortunately.

Still–where are my diamonds? Encrusted on the outside as a glittering veneer, or embedded inside showing through as a part of natural beauty?

Think of the people we know that are like that. I bet if we but stop and reflect we can think of many. Maybe when we’re contemplating upon that person we’d like to be we can focus on those and try to be like them.

Just What Are Spiritual Disciplines?

July 12, 2016

Spiritual Disciplines are merely activities that we do to enable us to receive more of Jesus’ life and power. –Howard Baker writing an introduction to Galatians in the “Life With God Bible”

Ever listen to little kids (under 10 or so) organize to play? There’s always at least one who assumes the burden of making up the rules of the game. Sometimes they spend more time discussing the rules than actually playing–or so it seems.

Then again, I know an adult who makes up rules all the time–well, actually, I know many–that include other people. Yet they may not always tell them. Then they are upset or worse if the other person doesn’t keep the rule.

Organizations and even societies make up those rules designed to differentiate outsiders from themselves.

The other day I was sitting in a nice little storefront Middle Eastern restaurant. A gentle and humble woman and her husband owned and ran it. She was so nice to us, if I lived in the town, I’d go back to eat. Oh, she was Muslim–from Palestine. Came over here for a better life. Works hard. Has a good business. Great Turkish coffee.

While sitting in that restaurant, I opened Facebook to check on something for business. But the “news” stream pops up first. The first post was a “photo” of a saying from a politician about how bad all Muslims are and how we need to ship them all back to where they originated. Someone made up one of those “rules.”

The irony was too much. When we stop labeling and start meeting, then we see that people are people. Name your group–Christian, Muslim, police, black man, liberal, conservative. Some are good. Some are filled with hate, anger, evil. Every group includes some of both.

Paul wrote Galatians to teach us how to live beyond rules. “Live for God,” he said. “The law (rules) was our disciplinarian until Christ came,” he added.

Spiritual disciplines pursued with an open, loving heart, bring us closer to Jesus and to the ability to live a life focused on God. We don’t need to focus on others and how we’re better than them. We only focus on God. Open our hearts to God. Then when we leave our prayer room or chair and live with others in a way pleasing to God.

Disciplines? Study–not to reinforce prejudices but to learn something new about God daily; prayer–to focus our minds on God; worship–for the joy of singing and praise; service–to be like Jesus was during his  ministry physically on earth.

You’ve Got Some ‘splainin’ To Do

July 5, 2016

“Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!” Desi Arnaz to Lucille Ball

One of the earliest of TV comedies was the Lucille Ball show. It featured a crazy “housewife” and her Cuban band director husband–Lucy and Ricky. She was forever getting herself into impossible situations and then Ricky would discover the scheme of the week.

Steve Carter, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, was speaking Sunday on Paul’s second letter to his mentee Timothy (2:14-17). Paul instructed Timothy as a pastor and leader to warn people about the destructiveness of empty chatter.

Carter proceeded to pull up Facebook on his laptop (projected to us all, of course), and showed some of the more sanitized of his “news” feed. The loudest response came when he mentioned that many posts are made late at night. “There’s nothing you have to say at 11:45 pm that the world needs to know,” he stated.

It is hard to count the number of times I want to respond to the lies, exaggerations, innuendos, and hate I see spewed by people I know who call themselves Christians. If “by your fruits you will be known” means anything, perhaps more of us should be looking at the fruits of our hearts as broadcast to the world through our Facebook posts.

Well, then I stop, let it sit for a while, and then realize that nothing I say will have any impact on the person. It’s best to just not read it in the first place (you can unfollow people who continually violate that “mindless chatter” stuff and save yourself a few points of blood pressure increase). If by happenstance you do read the stuff, just let it slide by.

But the thought came to me picturing these Christians (especially) on this topic facing God someday and hearing, “About that Facebook thing, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

The Discipline of Self Awareness

June 29, 2016

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. — Matthew 7:3-5 New International Version (NIV)

Our conversation must have wandered not having a lot of news to share. I had made my daily call home as is my practice when I’m on the road. Since I’m in Las Vegas, she’s probably insisting on a call just to check up.

Anyway, we got to talking about how hard it is to see your own sins and difficulties. It’s so easy to see what’s wrong with others. Although many people (most? all?) have sins hidden from public  view, many seem to live out their sins in public. Makes for good conversation, I guess. Or interesting Facebook posts. (I have cut way back on the amount of time I scan Facebook posts, by the way.)

It is easy for everyone to fall into this habit. But Jesus reserved his anger (it sure sounds like anger, doesn’t it?) for a specific group of people. These were the Pharisees.

These people made a detailed study of the Law. They memorized it. They interpreted it. To their credit, they tried to live it.

Unfortunately, living the letter of the Law usually means a bad attitude. It breeds contempt. It breeds the attitude that “I’m better than you–here, I can prove it.” Yet, their sins are hidden  somewhere in the depths (we’ll let Freud have a field day on uncovering those). And they act (put on a mask to assume a different persona–therefore a “hypocrite”) as if they are perfect. And they love to point fingers at others who are not so conscientious about following the Law.

Paul picked up this theme in the beginning of Romans. “For all have sinned and fallen short.”

Even if we have trouble identifying where we each fall short, we must remember this instruction before pointing at others.

Out Of The Abundance of the Heart

June 9, 2016

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” — Jesus

We project to the outside world how we wish to be seen. We often wear masks. The mask was a widely used metaphor in the ancient Mediterranean world drawing from the method of Greek theater. Actors wore masks to switch characters.

Then sometimes the mask slips. What is really in our hearts slips out. Sometimes it’s an action. Sometimes it’s words. How often have neighbors and friends of serial killers said that he seemed like a nice quiet guy!

Local news reports from that court case in California about the young man who sexually assaulted the woman continue to flow with new discoveries. It seems the family mounted quite a campaign designed to mitigate any harsh sentencing (despite conviction on three felony counts).

A school guidance counselor, municipal court judge, business executive–all wrote letters saying he wasn’t a bad person and shouldn’t be sentenced. They probably thought that they could write on a public matter in secret. But words become public. And words betray the condition of your heart.

I have always loved John Ortberg’s description of Jesus as the first cardiologist. He was always interested in the state of your heart.

“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” –Jesus

Why should we develop spiritual practices as habits? Reading from the Bible daily? Meditation?

These “disciplines” actually help us keep our hearts in tune with the light. They change our physiology.

Lest some day we act in an unwise manner and find our photo on page 1 of the newspaper “above the fold.” Then the world sees our fruit and knows the state of our hearts.

Or we say hurtful things or stir up bad feelings in others. And it becomes public. And everyone can see where our hearts are focused.

What does your Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest stream say about you? Have you been uplifting of others? Or negative, nasty, and cynical. If the latter, it’s time to check in with the Cardiologist.

Where Do They Find Those People

May 24, 2016

Where do they find those women?

This was yet another conversation about some guy, married, dissatisfied, “sleeping” with many other women.

I had to ask, where do they find those women? (Aside: we seem to always write about the guy, what’s the story about the women? I don’t know.)

She answered, “Bars.”

I guess that’s why I’ve never met one of those women so far as I know. I don’t hang out in those places. Even last night, alone, on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans.

I am in the middle of reading Henry Cloud’s latest book, The Power of the Other, about the power of relationships in your life.

It starts with a feeling of lacking. And you need something to make you feel better. Sex, drugs, alcohol–at first they fill that lack.

One little decision.

Then there is the spiral. Almost literally down the drain. Your life. Your career. Your family. Your relationships. Your money. The spiral of the first lie. Then it builds to continual deceit. Then a second life that is unsustainable.

Cloud described a very successful heart surgeon who found himself spiraling down. Until he hit the moment of truth when the second life was exposed to light.

That surgeon was only able to turn things around when he was led to realize that he had to surrender trying to control everything and honestly seek out help from other people.

The apostle John loved to put situations in the context of light and dark. Bad things relationally happen in the dark, in the late night. Exposing things to light helps correct the situation.

Our disciplines of study and prayer help. So does a healthy relationship with someone who can listen and then give us  strong words when it’s necessary. Sometimes people who say the hardest things are our friends who are trying to help us. That’s when we need to humble ourselves in the sense that we need to listen to what our friends are saying. And change.

It Takes A Golden Attitude

May 12, 2016

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” –wisdom of Jesus recorded by Matthew

The “Golden Rule.” It presages the later saying of Jesus when he was asked about the greatest commandment. He responded with the “Shema”(worship the Lord with all your heart, mind, body, and soul) and added “and your neighbor as yourself”.

I needed a quote for the “Morning Son” Yoga class (aside: there exists a segment of Christians who worry about everything including whether Yoga is Hindu worship–sheesh). I went to Jesus’ teachings found in early Matthew. This seemed appropriate.

Later conversations and a few Facebook updates reminded me that the church denomination I belong to–United Methodist–is holding its General Meeting currently. This is the body that gathers every four years to decide on policy matters.

People I know who are, well, rather conservative, are living in great angst for this week concerned that the church might officially proclaim that “homosexuals” are people.

That made me think how easily we throw labels around. A coach at the soccer tournament last week (from a wealthy Columbus suburb toward the fans of a less-wealthy suburb) yelled across the pitch, “They’re just a bunch of hillbillies who should get in their pickup trucks and get the hell out of here.”

Similar to “we don’t want no homosexuals in the clergy” or whatever their worry du jour is.

Well, these groups are people. Yep. Believe it or not. And neither chose it. They were born it. And, by the way, thanks to Jeff Foxworthy the contemporary word for hillbilly is redneck. As in, who cares? He can make being a redneck funny. But the coach wasn’t trying to be a stand-up comedian, even if people did laugh at him.

It is an age-old practice. Put a label on someone, then they don’t seem like people. Then I’m free to hate, disparage, discriminate.

We get so worried. Then we forget these simple little commands of Jesus. Other people are also creatures of God the Father. And he loves them. So should we. There is no need to get all worried. Just practice love. I know it’s hard. But Jesus didn’t say it would be easy. He just said what we should do.

On Becoming A Whole Person

May 9, 2016

Isn’t it a joy when you hear about someone or maybe have heard them speak and then you meet them and they are just like they seem?

And maybe you develop a relationship where you see them somewhat frequently in a variety of social settings, and then they still are that same person?

I was thinking about so many people I know whose words are so far different from their actual lives.

Their political philosophy says one thing (“I hate taxes” for example”) yet they have had jobs working for the state (paid by tax revenue) and retire with a pension (which many people don’t get and by the way also paid by taxes). I’ve seen people vote anti-union yet are union members and then complain about losing income and benefits.

But that’s trivial.

How about someone who speaks often of Jesus’ love, yet seems to love only self? How about someone always preaching “family values” or “Christian morals” and whose life is a shambles of moral decay?

Why do we run into so many people who are so clueless about themselves?

They can read the words of Jesus and other teachers on the subject, yet they do not see the irony that their lives do not come close to reflecting those values.

Jesus actually saw those people. And then he set the bar even higher for them. He saw people try to define morals such that they could achieve them yet still be able to point to others their shortcomings.

Matthew has a long passage of reporting Jesus’ teachings. (Chapters 5-7) It’s good–not for reading which is challenging but as a mirror.

Jesus said, for example, that it’s easy to talk about loving. Especially those who are like you. But, he said, the real test of love it to love and pray for those who are opposed to you. He raised the bar too high to be attainable. Especially when he said to be perfect just as your father in heaven is perfect.

But when the way we live reflects those values we preach, people see. And they will respect us.

Other People Are Not Always What We Think

April 27, 2016

When you know someone well, you get a picture in your mind about their overall life attitudes and ethics. Sometimes we are surprised when someone we thought we knew does something out of character, but usually when we know someone, we can predict their behavior.

When we don’t really know other people but think we do, we can be completely wrong.

Some people in the US have a picture of what a Christian looks like, thinks like, acts like, and so forth. Then they read something about Europe, for example, and form an opinion about Europeans. I’ve seen the same attitudes directed toward people of other areas in the world, as well.

If you ask around the rural American Midwest, the picture that you form about Europeans would be that they have loose morals, open sex, much drinking, no religion.

While that would not be every person in the Midwest, of course, you’d find enough to paint the picture.

I’m in Europe while writing this after having dinner last night with several Germans and a Dutch guy.

While by and large Europeans do not have the same view of religion as my neighbors, I for one am not ready to pronounce judgement on them.

Regarding personal morality, I have found every person I’ve met over the past 30 years of traveling over here to have the highest. You, my Midwest readers, may have heard about Amsterdam and other European cities where prostitution is somewhat open–that is, not hidden in truck stops and alleys like in America. That does not mean that every European man visits them.

Let’s take the thought of assumption to another level. Think of the rich young man’s encounter with Jesus. The man was obedient to God. He followed the laws. Jesus loved him. Yet, he went away sad when Jesus told him that to inherit eternal life he must give away all his possessions to the poor and follow.

Have you speculated on that man? Come to any conclusions? That is hard to do. We hear rich and paint a picture of a certain sort of man. But maybe that painting is wrong.

I think the reason for the story is not to point to the young man and allow us to speculate about other people. I think we are to take this story to ourselves. What are we willing to give up that gets in the way of our following Jesus?

Our job is not to assume what other people are like. Our job is to get ourselves right. Then we can meet other people with openness and sensitivity.