Awareness Actions

Today is the celebration and recognition of Halloween in the USA. It’s a day that kids and adults dress up in crazy and scary costumes, collect candy, watch scary movies and talk about the things that scare us. Halloween is an interesting holiday because it really forces us to think about the things that intimidate us, things that we try not to think about during the rest of the year, things that put us in a panic any time we think about them, let alone have to experience them.

But there’s another thing that is recognized in October: awareness. This is the month we remember Bullying, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Breast Cancer, Domestic Violence, Lupus, Diabetes, and more I’m sure. For many people these are their greatest fears; they fear dying of a disease, they fear being killed by a spouse, or they fear their child not being healthy. There’s a reason that we have days, weeks and months devoted to remembering and being active in raising awareness and answers for them: because as with other fears they often get shelved because they scare us.

It’s unfortunate that when we do fear things we often try to avoid them in every way shape and form. We don’t like to talk about them or hear about them, and we certainly don’t want to do something about them because that would mean we acknowledge they exist and something needs to be done.

The first step to conquering a fear is to admit that you’re afraid. You can’t do anything about it until you know it’s an issue, right? If you never looked in your fridge you’d never know if there was moldy cheese in it. Only when you look will you know.

The second is often the scariest to us: to admit that it’s OK to be afraid and have fears. It doesn’t seem manly, strong, courageous or powerful to admit that we have fears or we’re dealing with something that scares us like these situations can. But you’ll hear story after story of how stepping up was exactly what was needed; a really obvious example was the March on Washington, sit-ins and speech by Dr. King for the civil rights movement, actions that were taken despite big fears people had.

The third step is the hardest: getting help. We again fear telling people that we’ve got this issue and need help with it. We pretend it’s not a big deal or that we can just deal with it ourselves, when the truth is the quickest and best way is usually with the support of someone else. Maybe you do need to face the fear head on and do the work yourself to get over the fear but that doesn’t mean you don’t need or deserve a cheer squad at your back to support and encourage you.

And when we ask for help we discover the truth about fear and awareness of issues: that behind it all there is still love in the world. Companies and people make big bucks off your fear staying intact, but that’s not helpful to you, only them. Instead of seeing and embracing the fear and ignorance, look for the love this Halloween.

“Love… it surrounds every being and extends slowly to embrace all that shall be.”
Khalil Gibran

Compassion in Failure

This month we’ve been discussing compassion. Friday is Halloween in the USA so we’re going to discuss fears, so today’s our last day of discussing compassion. I’ve really enjoyed learning about compassion and discovering the role it could be playing in our lives and our world today.

Compassion is really about two things: a starting place and an ending place. Compassion in it’s very nature does not allow you to remain in one place or one emotion if it’s been applied to the situation.

Compassion finds you where you are and creates a connection of empathy, sympathy and support with someone else. It doesn’t deny that you’re having a bad day or you’ve been given a bad set of circumstances.  No, it accepts that that is where you are. It doesn’t ignore the bad and just pretend that life is all sunshine and roses, or yell at you for struggling. It sees failure for what it is: a failed attempt, not the end of the world.

But the great thing about compassion is that it doesn’t leave you there. Instead it embraces the whole of life, good and bad, and gives you hope that tomorrow will be better, that there are people willing to support you through your tough time and the lesson you can learn from your current failure is setting you up for success another day.

Compassion, like much of life, needs to be put into action to be successful though. You don’t get a tree unless a seed is planted. You don’t get a sandwich unless you put the parts together. You don’t have a hot cup of coffee unless the water is heated and mixed with the beans. There has to be an action taken between where you are and where you’re going for it to be compassion.

So know today that if you’re still working through the struggle and finding the people to help you get up and going again, they are out there. Don’t give up and believe the lies that you’ve failed one too many times. No, I believe there is hope and help for everyone. All it takes is a helping hand and willing heart.

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit.” Napoleon Hill

God of Compassion

I talk about choice a lot because it’s an incredibly powerful gift we have. The ability to make choices about what our future holds, what we’ll do that day, who we are, and who we interact with not only gives us the power to be individuals, it also gives us the power to become just about anyone we want.

God’s made a lot of choices over the years. He made a big choice about the Garden of Eden and the flooding of the earth, and He made a big choice about sending His son Jesus to earth and eventually to die and rise again. He makes new choices each day in the course of our lives and interactions with Him and the future of the rest of the world.

One of the choices I really appreciate is God choosing to show compassion and mercy to us. Most of us screw up on a daily basis, we don’t always live up to the potential God placed in us and we don’t always do what would honor God, I know I don’t. So have no doubt that God is definitely choosing to be compassionate and merciful to us rather than spiting us right here and now.

What we tend to forget when being so thankful that God is merciful and compassionate to us is that He has the ability to choose to be compassionate and gracious to anyone else He chooses too, not just us. It means that not only can God choose to be compassionate to one person today, He can be compassionate to a completely different person the next day.

The story of the animals in the sheet that appeared in a dream to Peter is a great example of this: for many years the people believed that eating 4-footed animals was against God’s will, and it was. But God decided that it was time for a change and that the old way no longer worked. So He declared the change, a change that wasn’t just about animals and eating but about the people He accepted and loved, which was a big revelation for everyone living then.

The same is true for us today: don’t believe that God won’t change His mind on things or that you can’t ever be helped, and that you’re permanently broken. Be open to something new, a new story, today.

“The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”  Exodus 33:19

Choosing to Start Fresh

Sometimes the best thing you can do is make a big change.  Athletes are usually forced into that change as they get to be too old to take the wear and tear on their bodies.  The rest of us aren’t forced to change our lives half way through, but we do have the choice.  In some ways its good that they get forced to change, and in some ways it would be good if we all had to go through that experience.

When athletes finish the field part of their life journey we don’t always hear about them again, unless there’s a tragedy or they did something stupid or they find another way to stay in the limelight like coaching or buying a team, and occasionally they choose to do remarkable things with their lives after sports. Otherwise they join the rest of us who live much quieter lives.

But the rest of us have been dealing with some changes too.  We don’t typically go to one company as a fresh high school or college grad and stay there until we retire anymore.  No, we usually bounce around as the economy and the business changes.  Few of us escaped the major changes in the economy over the past decade or so.  Many lost money and many lost jobs.  Some of us cheered because we were finally free of the job we hated even if it was scary to be without a job.

I think it’s a good thing that we’re now required almost to deal with change on a more regular basis.  It makes us learn how to rely on and work together with each other more.  It’s almost forcing us to learn how.  And while it’s not comfortable to be forced into things this is actually a good thing for most of us, at least it is as long as we approach it right.

If you’re facing a big change, a challenge, a turning point in your life I know it can be scary.  It’s OK to be scared occasionally.  But we have to choose if we’re going to be too scared to try something new, too scared to take the big and bold step or too scared to trust that God really knows what He’s doing and will guide us through it.  Only when you don’t make that bold step or choose the can-do attitude will you continue to suffer through the change.

I went from an old man in baseball to a young man in life. And I liked how that sounded. So, I consider myself young again.” Derek Jeter

You Thrive, I Thrive

On Monday I shared about how compassion really teaches us how to live during times of struggle and times of success, not just times of struggle like the definition would indicate. As much as compassion is about working through issues, would we have those issues in the first place if we lived more in line with the spirit of compassion?

Compassion is really about realizing what many people around the world have been trying to put into action more visibly over the past decade or so: that I can’t really be doing well unless you are doing well. It’s not about everyone having the same amount of money or living in mansions, but about making sure that all basic needs are met and that everyone is doing their part in making the world a better place.

Basic needs are usually communicated as a roof over your head, food in your stomach and clothes on your back. But the reality is that it’s so much more than that. We need to be making a contribution to the world, need to be responsible for earning our place in the community, and need to be able to care for our children and family, and while a stay at a shelter may do that and visiting a food pantry may do that, it’s not the same as being able to positively contribute to the world and earn our own way.

I believe that just about everyone is capable of contributing to a community in one way or another that makes them feel valued, appreciated and satisfied at the end of the day. And the more people who contribute to the world, the more people who pull their weight and live up to their responsibilities, the less extra work the rest of the people will have to do. Even better, when you teach someone how to fish rather than just hand them a fish you’ll feel good about giving them the tools they need to not just meet their basic needs but thrive as well.

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Frederick Buechner

Compassionate Communities

I’ve been learning this month that compassion is really about learning to work together.  There are lots of things that challenge us in life, things that frustrate us and people that seem to intentionally try to hurt us with words or actions.  When we are compassionate with one another we not only are interested in other people’s lives, we support them as well.  We’re there for them when they’re struggling, we celebrate with them when they’re doing well, we work with them when they’re trying new things and listen as they sort through things.

Compassion is about supporting each other when things aren’t going as well, but it actually teaches us how things should work when they are.  If we knew that we wouldn’t be judged or criticized for asking for help would we ask for it a whole lot sooner?  Would we reach out a helping hand sooner if we knew we weren’t going to be yelled at and told they could handle it?  Would we work better as a team if we knew the boss would support us for prioritizing rather than yell at us for not doing our specific job?

I always try to come at a project, client, or experience with an open mind so that I can see the different possibilities for that situation, always looking for at least 2 different ways to see that situation.  As much as I trust my initial feelings and judgements, I try to always leave myself open for a second opinion and other perspectives on things because I know that there are very few things that are one sided in this world.

Jesus did a lot of mind blowing during His time on earth.  He was constantly challenging what people believed and how they lived.  Many times He did it because they weren’t supporting each other or treating each other well.  Other times He did it because He wanted them to see things differently.  But throughout His ministry He made one thing clear: we are in this together.  As much as Jesus knew there was a need for leadership, the leaders weren’t there to be high and mighty but to make sure everyone was cared for.

It’s no different today: we need leaders to step up and encourage us to support each other.  Will you be a leader or a supporter this week?

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2

The Secret to Challenge Success

There’s little doubt that we’ve all been facing challenges of late. Some of us have risen above them, others have totally bombed dealing with them. Sometimes how you deal with them is less of a reflection on you and more on your lack of preparation should things like that arise. I know, no one really wants to prepare for the worst that could possibly happen, but the fact is that sometimes the worst does happen and we need to be prepared to deal with it.

I don’t believe that the best solution is to bury your head in the sand and hope it goes away. This almost never works. And when it does it’s more of a fluke than a strategy. You would think that with all of the natural and other disasters we’ve had over the past decade that people would learn how important it is to be prepared, yet we continue to have hope that it will all turn out OK and we won’t be challenged.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s essential to hope for the best. The hope we have does make a difference and helps us work together better than if we always started with the impossible rather than the possible. But hope only goes so far. It doesn’t take action on your behalf, you have to do that.

So when challenges show up it’s up to you to step up and give it your best shot. The first couple of challenges will be rough since you’re not used to dealing with them. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try hard to get out of the challenge with the least amount of damage to you or others involved.

The secret to successfully working through challenges is you! You’re the secret weapon that will be able to turn the challenge into a success or make it a worse mess than it already is. If you’re responsible for getting yourself in the pickle in the first place you’ve got twice the work to do to get out of it. But if the challenge is not of your choosing or causing, then it’s an opportunity for you to show the world what you’re made of.

“You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Spiritual Togetherness

There are plenty of people around the world who enjoy debating about religion. I am not one of them. I know we each have our differences of opinion about what religion is and we choose to practice one or another based on our opinions, preferences and interests. But for me, religion and spirituality in general is all about what’s below the trappings, traditions and rules. I believe in a spiritual world: one where there’s much more than meets the eye, and we’re usually too busy comparing our differences to see and rejoice in the similarities.

I don’t know of too many spiritual backgrounds in which the spiritual being or beings exists to bring harm and discord to the people who worshiped.  The Gods/gods, real or imagined, all knew that you have to have people worship you or you can’t be god/God.  And if you’re looking at spirituality from a natural perspective even there it seems as though everything works together to make sure that things grow and work together in harmony.  Spirituality isn’t about discord, so why do we let it divide us so?

So what if instead of being angry about our differences we started focusing on the things that brought us together? Things like truth, family, love, compassion, caring, and hope? What if we all learned to work together instead of trying to do things on our own? Only the people who are truly spiritual, who truly care about the future of mankind will be willing to learn to see past our differences and into the possibilities.

“Enlightened leadership is spiritual if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention.” Deepak Chopra

Compassionate Generosity

This month we’ve been talking about compassion. Today I thought we’d talk about compassion and how it relates to generosity. As a reminder, compassion is feeling upset about someone else’s (bad) situation and feeling the need to do something about it. I love this word because it shows that you’re not just upset and ranting about something unfair or unjust, no, you’re actually going to do something about it.

In some ways this is exactly what generosity is: giving freely to others. Generosity can be associated with grace (unexpected favor) as well as giving to right wrongs as we’re discussing it today. When compassion and generosity meet amazing things can happen. There’s no wonder that both words are ones used in reference to God frequently.

Jesus certainly tried to teach us a lot about generosity and compassion through the many miracles He did during His time on earth. He was always willing to meet someone and hear their story, and do something to help them if they were willing to accept His assistance. Not everyone was, but of course not everyone we meet is ready for for our generosity or compassion either.

But the thing that made Jesus different was that He didn’t just want to give people things to make them happy, he wanted to right wrongs so that they would be able to have a different future. When you’re faced with a situation that calls for compassion you don’t want to be generous and help them so they can go right back to being miserable, no, you want them to have the opportunity to do or be something better. Does Jesus still encourage you to be generous even if they refuse to accept the gift or change their ways? Yes, but He also knew that you couldn’t force someone to take something they didn’t want or weren’t ready for.

“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” 1 John 3:17

Choosing What Matters

I’ve been really busy for the past month or two, busier than usual, which is a good thing in some ways, but challenging in others. It has forced me to make choices about what I have time for and what I don’t, as well as consider if there are ways to do things quicker or better. More people than ever in this day and age are overbooked, overworked, over tired and frustrated. Unfortunately much of it comes from one thing: lack of self-discipline.

Not sure that could possibly be you? Chances are really good you have yes-itis. That’s the first issue: that you can’t say the “n” word. “No” is one of the most powerful words you can use, one that you probably don’t use enough if you’re overbooked. It can be challenging to say no if you don’t think anyone else will step up or you think it’s a great opportunity for you or your kids. However, as much as every opportunity is probably great, and as much as you might be right that no one will step up, you can’t do it all.

So what choice do we have? We have the choice, the power, and the freedom to make some rules and boundaries for ourselves. Like how late we stay up, how much TV we  watch, to exercise every day, to spend time with our partner every day, to only accept or sign up for one activity a week for the kids, or saying no to opportunities that, as great as they may be, just don’t line up with our goals or values.

Beyond just saying “no” is the concept of being disciplined to get what we have accepted done. This means showing up for practices, turning in quality work, and learning how to not procrastinate and work more efficiently. So learn what works for you, write down what’s most important to you and practice saying “no” so that you can say “yes” to the right things, the things that will fulfill you in the biggest and best way.

“With self-discipline most anything is possible.” Theodore Roosevelt