Reality Reflection: A Little Communication

I was at a funeral service yesterday and it got me thinking about what my understanding of “traditional songs” are versus what other religious practices have as “traditional songs” and how my traditional songs aren’t necessarily theirs. There’s nothing wrong with each religious group or culture having their own traditions and songs, in fact it’s important because it makes them who they are. It’s also what makes people feel at home when they connect with these groups and even can be the reason they join these groups.

The challenge comes in when you’ve got people from other groups interacting with your group. In this internet accessible world it’s very easy to create a resource that visitors can tap into to be prepared for these things. To be completely honest I did do an online search to see what the typical practice was for this type of religious funeral service so that I was somewhat prepared. Had there been a helpful link to a blog post or other form of information on the funeral home’s page for the person who passed that would have been even better because in a matter of seconds I could have found out exactly what I needed to know about the specific plans for his funeral and what I should expect (and then I would worry a whole lot less about whether or not I was doing the right thing at the right time).

But this is about a much bigger conversation. There are so many ways to remove the isolation in many parts of our daily lives or at least limit it that we’re not tapping into. You hear all the time about buzz words or industry-specific terms that people don’t understand because it’s too technical or they’re new to the industry or business, or confusion over typical processes and procedures. It costs very little to put up a page on your website with all these items explained clearly. Then you’ve helped visitors feel a little more comfortable with you and you’ve established that you are someone to be trusted and that you’re willing to work with people to help them get up to speed and will do your best not to overwhelm them.

The same is true for our lives. If we took a few seconds to send out a text or call or email or write a note and communicate the details to those who need to know, we’d avoid so many fights and frustrations and our relationships would be healthier too. It’s important to set up a central communication point or method as a family so that everyone is aware of where notes would be or how best to get in touch with  whomever needs to be reached.

It’s amazing what a few seconds of research or considerate communication can do for someone. What will communication do for you this week?

Do You Hear God?

Today I’ve been thinking about one of the earlier references to Samuel that we know of in the Bible. It’s when he’s bedded down for the night at the temple and he hears a voice (you can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 3). The voice calls to him, he thinks it’s the priest but it’s not. The third time this happens the priest realizes God is calling Samuel and tells him to say “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Of course what goes on to happen is God calls to Samuel again, tells him some important information and then continues to talk with Samuel for the rest of his life and ministry. I encourage you to explore the story for yourself, but I want to highlight a few things that stand out to me today.

First, God’s persistence. I find it interesting that God didn’t give up on the first or second try, He really wanted to speak with Samuel, and He was willing to be patient enough to make it happen. In some ways I think God was patient because of Samuel’s young age, but in other ways I think He would be equally patient for us if we showed active willingness to listen.

Second, the message. The message, given to this young boy (some research estimates he was about 12 at the time), wasn’t all roses and sunshine. I think what amazes me most is that God knew the plan He had for Samuel, knew he could handle a message like this and didn’t sugar coat it just because he was young. I know I’m more inclined to protect the young and not share the horrors and reality of the world with them, but at the same time I know it’s important that they don’t grow up with rose colored glasses and have a jarring reality check when they become adults.

Finally, Samuel was honest about the message. As we’ve discussed it wasn’t a fantastic message, but when he was asked about it by the priest, he was honest about it, even though there was some not great news for the priest in it. I don’t like delivering bad news as an adult, so I can’t imagine how difficult it was to deliver that news as a pre-teen. But again, God knew what He was doing and Samuel passed along the message.

As you go about your life this week I encourage you to be persistent and honest, work on trusting others, communicating with others and listening both for God and to what others have to say.

Reality Reflection: A Little Screw Up

Today I’m thinking about those screw ups that we sometimes do. A friend of mine got pulled over by the police recently for not taking sufficient time at the stop sign, and it got me thinking. Just because my friend got pulled over it doesn’t mean they’re a terrible person. The same could be said about people who cheat on their partner, those who steal, those who get into accidents, those who swear or those who are messy. No one is perfect, but sometimes we make a really big deal about the things they do that aren’t so great, regardless of how big of a deal it really was.

Of course, there are bad people out there, some people belong in jail or punished or with limited privileges. Some people can learn from their mistakes and make changes and live better going forward, while others never do. I hurt for the people who fit into that ‘bad’ category and wish they could see the light of living life a different way.

Do I think that we all could do a better job with our lives, of course. We’ve all got room for improvement. But sometimes I think we poke at and pick out those flaws because we’re scared or we want to look better than them, or because we feel we don’t measure up, or we didn’t get forgiveness when we needed it or we like to make others feel bad. While I hope you’re not the type of person who enjoys making others feel bad, those types of bullies are out there and we do deal with them on a regular basis. If you’re busy poking at someone else’s issues I encourage you to take a look at your own life, reflect on your motivations about why you do that and consider changing how you interact with others.

If you have been screwing up a lot lately or find that people point out how flaws and issues, maybe it is time for you to take a look at what you’re doing or how you’re interacting with people. I love personal growth and think that we’ve all got room to grow and improve, and sometimes we need to hear it from others how we can improve (of course there’s a nice way and a not-so-nice way to do it). So first and foremost don’t be discouraged, you’ve still got time and opportunity to improve, each day is a new opportunity to shine.

The Disservice of Rushing

Lately I’ve been thinking (again) about the rush that most of us live our lives being and doing. We’re so busy, trying to pack something into every second it seems. And in some ways I can understand because there’s a lot of life to be lived and lots of things to do and we’ll never be able to complete them all in our (short) life time. But I think that pressure and decision to say yes to so many things has had a negative impact on our relationships. I don’t think that we take the time often enough to really think about what we say or how we talk to people. Sometimes we’re so focused on being right or doing something our way that we’re not able to see the value in doing it another way, and we’re certainly not willing to admit that we don’t know everything.

I believe we can all learn something from everyone on the planet. Maybe it’s just one or two things, but those things can have great value. But when we go into a conversation or relationship with our minds already made up in how a conversation will go or how smart we are (and they’re not) or making a decision without really listening or getting all the facts, it’s not only hurtful to them, but can have a negative impact on us as well.

Just because someone is younger than you, is older than you, is from another country, went through a divorce, went through bankruptcy, doesn’t like pets, or likes your favorite sports team’s biggest rivals doesn’t mean that they can’t have good ideas, can’t teach you something and aren’t worth a few minutes of your time really listening to what they have to say. The same is true for advice, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s bad or because it costs a lot it’s good.

I don’t think it’s (just) about trying to pack every minute of every day full, it’s about making sure to use your time wisely and make the most of your life. Some of the best moments of your life will be with other people. Some of those great moments will only happen if you slow down and take the time to meet someone new, take the time to build up existing relationships or make amends in one that you’ve damaged. I encourage you to take time to slow down this weekend and really watch where you’re going, listen to the full explanation or conversation before making decisions, and suspend judgment a bit longer than you do normally. What will you experience with an open mind this weekend?

Reality Reflections: Think Before You Speak

One of the things I’m always talking with my clients about is the importance of checking how you say things.  If I walked up to you in the middle of the sidewalk and said “do you like Italian food?” you would think I’m crazy or at the very least weird. I don’t know you, we don’t live near each other, we haven’t talked online, we’re not social media connections, we don’t work together: there’s no relationship that could be conceived of between us. If however I said “Hi, I’ve got a coupon for a free dinner for a couple at this excellent Italian restaurant down the road, no strings attached, would you like it?” That would make a big difference and you would think I’m being generous and not rude or weird (which would be my goal). The way you phrase things can make a big difference.

A more typical example would be someone saying “What are you doing here?” at the local bar to you. It’s not quite rude, but it’s not exactly friendly. A better way to say it would be “Hey! It’s good to see you! How have you been? I didn’t know you liked this bar! Are you here with or meeting anyone or would you like to come hang out with my friends and I?” (with appropriate breaks for responses of course).  Another common example would be “Why didn’t you take the garbage out?” when you could say “Could you please take out the garbage tonight.”

When you start these conversations as I have proposed initially you’re basically asking for a fight, for someone to be offended or for lots of misconceptions and misunderstandings to take place. Yes, I know that sometimes the words that fly out of our mouth happen because we’re surprised by something or we’re tired or we’re just not thinking. But if we all took 5 seconds to think about our words before they flew out of our mouths and used our ears more proactively, we would be in a lot better shape personally and with our relationships.

If you take a moment and remember that last time that your words offended someone even if you didn’t mean for it to happen, and the guilty and horrible feeling that (should have) followed, I think you’ll find sufficient motivation for taking those few extra seconds to think about your words before you have to apologize for hurting someone.

Reality Reflection: Respect

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about respect. I know that some parts of respect must be earned; I wouldn’t be respected as the president of the US if I was told to start work tomorrow because I haven’t campaigned or done any politics or anything that would give me the authority to take that job. However, there are some basic parts of respect that can and should be applied to just about everyone. Just about all of us should all be respected as human beings with minds who can think on their own and have a right to their own opinion. We can share our opinions with others, but just because it’s our opinion doesn’t mean it’s right or even one that all people should agree with (take a look at the Nazis, Isis and some of the militant groups throughout the history of Africa for example).

If I don’t know someone, I try to meet them with an open mind. I try not to have too many preconceived notions about who I think they may be and try to be open to finding out who they really are from them, not based on what I judge or assume about them. This is a gesture of respect because rather than just assuming I’m better than someone because of one reason or another, know more than someone about something or look better than someone, it helps me to be open to seeing their value and uniqueness as a person.

Do you really have respect for the people in your life? Do you believe they are capable human beings with smart minds? Do you take the time to really find out who they are, what they’re good at, what they like, what they know about something, and how they see things, or do you just assume they won’t or don’t or can’t? If you took the time to get to know someone not only would you find at least one thing in common with them, you might gain a new friend.  I bet if in a work relationship you took the time to talk to people and find out if they feel comfortable and capable about things and make sure their questions are answered and they know what they’re doing and how you want it done, you would be able to pass off quite a few things and not worry so much. I’ve found that with some really good communication and a little effort I’m able to find the good in just about everyone, and that includes something to respect about them. What about you?

How Do you Talk with Strangers?

Would you consider yourself an angry person?  How about someone who has lots of friends (real friends, those you actually know personally)?  Would those who know you say that you’re a generous person?  These are important things to know because like it or not we all deal with other people every day.  Sometimes we interact with those we know and other times we interact with strangers.  But whether the person is a stranger or a friend shouldn’t impact how you generally act towards them; for example, just because they’re a stranger doesn’t mean you should disrespect or ignore them. No, you may not give them a hug when you meet them like you might a friend, but you’ll still be civil to them.

But there are those who are overly suspicious of everything and everyone else, those who see the world as a half-empty glass, and those who believe that there aren’t many good people in the world.  We all have our bad days and misunderstandings or miscommunications, but that’s no reason to assume that the rest of the world is all bad and treat them as such.

You may not fall into the category of those who believe most of the world is bad, but you may have fallen into the habit of being snarky or treating friends in a certain (less than polite) way and it spills over to how you interact with everyone else you meet.  You may not even realize you’re doing it.

But James 1:19b reminds us to: “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  I’m going to pay more attention to how I interact with others this week.  You know why? Because it’s not just about those we personally and currently know, it’s about those we meet and the role they may play in our lives in our future too.  You don’t know what role a stranger you meet today may have in your life several weeks or months down the road, but if it’s a negative interaction they have with you now that may ruin the opportunities you could have with them in the future.  How do you treat others?