Posts Tagged ‘self-awareness’

Jesus Can See Us As We Really Are

December 12, 2016

So many people came to Jesus with a picture of themselves in their minds. I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man. But there were Pharisees and religious leaders who all thought of themselves as pretty great.


Some people are delusional. Some just clueless. Maybe their parents kept telling them how special they were. They never learned the other side.

Jesus would hold a mirror up to these people that showed them their reality.

On the other hand, sometimes he flipped those pictures (to hold the metaphor). There were people who came to him thinking they were like the bottom picture, and Jesus told them that actually they were better.

Think of Levi the tax collector and his friends. The father who said, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Jesus didn’t always tear down; he also often built up.

Depends upon how they came to him.

During the energy crises of the 70s when we had oil shortages and long lines at gas stations, a speaker told a conference “the biggest energy shortage we have today is human energy.”

Rather than focus on tearing down pompous people–which our media loves to do, maybe we should be focusing on the Levis of the world. And those anguished fathers. And those adolescents who feel so insecure and worthless.

We can hold up a different picture for them. It’s a picture of possibilities. A picture of what they can do with their lives while living the with-God life. That’s what Jesus did. And we are followers, right?

Productivity-First Admit Your Human Weaknesses

November 11, 2016

Pro-Tip: Productivity becomes much simpler once you accept your weaknesses as a human being.

I wish I were more productive. How about you?

The Podcast is a weekly conversation between Michael Sliwinski and Radek Pietruszewski about the things we’re interested in and passionate about. Michael developed a productivity app and a company called Nozbe. It is based on the ideas of David Allen expressed in Getting Things Done-The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

“Continuing our discussion about morning routines, we talk about how we design our week to make productivity easy.” As they discussed the topic, they hit on a great sentence.

It sounds like the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous or the guide to spiritual formation found in the book of Romans in the New Testament. Well, those ideas have been tested for years and proven to work.

I guess that’s just what I need to boost my productivity just a little.

Where do I fall short? Do these things bring a pang of conscience to you?

  • Do not find my best working time of the day
  • Do not get up in the morning at a regular time (early enough to get started)
  • Do not have a morning routine that gets me into the groove (see the link above)
  • Do not focus on getting one task done at a time
  • Waste time by immediately checking email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • Am not sure what to work on next
  • Have not assembled the best tools for the job at hand

Peter Drucker once said something to the effect that management is getting things done and leadership is doing the right things.

Therefore, as we look at where we fall short on a daily basis, there is a longer term view. We also fall short in deciding (for me the week between Christmas and New Years is the time dedicated to this process) what we want to be in the near future and longer term future.

Then we fail to set aside time every month to track progress. Are we becoming the person we want to be? What do I need to do this month?

Then there is the most important part. The weekly review. What have I done this week that furthered my goals? What opportunities have I missed or neglected? What are the three most important tasks for me to work on this week?

All the tips are great. However, every day I meet someone who thinks they are productive–and they are in reality far from it.

We all live in the land of self-delusion. Sometimes (at least once per day) we need to pause and consider where we fall short. Then we can wake up and get to work.


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?

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.

Conquering Fear

March 8, 2016

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you’re always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take you away–

Buffalo Springfield

Why is it that every time there is an encounter with God or a messenger of God, the first words are, “Don’t be afraid”?

I wrote yesterday about conquering emotions. We really need to recognize them and come to grips with them. Psychologists will tell us not to bury them acting as if they don’t exist. If you do, then you will be visited with even worse conditions.

Many writers and analysts believe that the emotion of our time is anger. Therefore the attraction of Trump and Sanders. Each is playing to very real emotions of “common people” who believe that the political establishments have let them down. It’s hard to believe the numbers about the economy growing when we aren’t making as much money and the world is exploding  worse than the 60s.

This is not to discuss politics. I studied that in graduate school–and left it behind to go into engineering, computers, and manufacturing. Something more understandable!

But the mood of the times is important. It’s important to know how many of the people around us feel. It’s important to know how we feel inside. It’s important to recognize and then deal constructively.

Fear leads to anger? “It starts when you’re always afraid.” The writers of the song nailed it.

How do we cope?

There are many ways, of course, but let’s turn to Jesus, who as a teacher leading us into living a better life now as well as in the future, always caught just the right edge.

Try Luke chapter 12.

“I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.”

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food….”

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for you Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Meditate on those. For where we fix our minds, so shall our thoughts and emotions follow. We have the power to choose.

Overcoming Our Reaction to Emotions

March 7, 2016

Emotions are not bad, or good, in themselves. They just are. They happen to us.

When we dwell in our emotions and let them dominate us, then it’s time to see a professional.

But that is hard. Very hard.

When I first started meditating regularly in the late 60s/early 70s, I was seeking an experience of God. In the East they talk of words such as nirvana or enlightenment. Sometimes in Christian history, the term used was ecstasy. (not the drug)

I’ve had  mystical experiences. Mostly I don’t talk about them. What I did learn was the truth of the old Zen phrase, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”

You may have an intimate experience of God. But the next day, you must go back to work.

As I went deeper, I discovered the works of the Desert Fathers. They were a weird group overall. But there were many masters of faith among them. And they have much to teach a willing student.

Eventually I ran across John Climacus–St. John of the Ladder. He wrote “The Ladder of Divine Ascent.”

Bet you think that this would be a step-by-step guide to enlightenment. You’d be wrong–sort of.

John shows how one emotion leads to another one–worse usually than the preceding one. He was actually a psychologist. He studied and learned more about the human psyche than Freud.

What I learned more than how to meditate was how to recognize the emotions overtaking me. What their roots were. How to deal with them (admittedly not always successfully).

I probably started down this path of thought reading my facebook “news” feed. Lots of opinions. Almost no facts. Lots of emotional reaction. Almost no reason. Pretty much not what the Founding Fathers wanted to see in a new democracy–but what they were afraid of.

It reminds me of the utmost importance of observing ourselves. Recognizing our emotional reactions. Tracing them to the root. Dealing with our own problem first. Then maybe helping others fix theirs.

Sometimes we just have to chill out a bit.

When Confronted With Reality

August 25, 2014

Colin Dexter wrote a series of detective novels based on the character “Inspector Morse.” They were adapted by BBC (and shown on PBS as part of the Sunday Masterpiece Mystery summer series) and then used as the source for the latest series “Endeavor” showing Morse as a young man.

Morse puts the pieces together, comes to a logical conclusion, then discovers he’s wrong. Unlike Sherlock Holmes who was always right, Morse is seldom right–until the end.

He figures it out, discovers he’s wrong, puts the pieces together again with the new piece of information, and then he’s wrong again. This continues until the final few pages.

I just spent a half-hour this morning fruitlessly searching for the source of the observation:

There are two types of people when faced with reality: those who bend the facts to fit with their preconceived view and those who adapt themselves to the new facts.

Which are you? Do you even recognize that in yourself? Can you change if you need to?

I am instinctively like Morse. I will adapt to a new reality. It may take me some time. I may have to digest the facts. Sometimes it’s a shock to discover that you’re wrong. Or that you’re not the center of the universe.

Some people seem incapable of adapting. They tell themselves a story of how things were. Convince themselves of that version of reality (which wasn’t real). And continue on.

Is there any way to deal with such people when they remain obstinately convinced of reality the way it exists in their imagination?

Probably not.

But if that person is us, then we eventually need to come to the realization that we’ve interpreted the facts wrongly and that it is us–not the facts–that need to change.

It says in Proverbs “A fool returns to his folly.” The book was written to be like a mirror held up to our lives where we see that we are the fool, and that we need to change. I’m not sure we can change someone else, but you might ponder these questions. Where is it in our lives that we hold on to a view of reality that is wrong? What can we do to open our eyes and see?