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?

What’s Missing in Your Relationship?

Yesterday as you’re probably aware was Valentine’s Day in the USA. It’s an opportunity for couples everywhere to share some love, eat some chocolate and work on the next generation (a fact according to statistics).  As I was thinking about Valentine’s Day and what it means to be in a relationship I ran across Daniel 10:11-12:

“Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling. Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.”

This set of verses speaks to a couple of keys about love and relationships that are important to note.  First, love relationships are meant to be special.  The term used here is “precious,”  and while it’s not a term many people would use today it’s still applicable.  The word precious refers to things of special or unique value or to be treasured, much like a baby human or animal.  But it also speaks to how we should perceive our relationships: with care.

Second, love isn’t something to fear.  It may be overwhelming at times, but it’s only because people have perverted love and not respected it that we have fears surrounding it.  True love isn’t something you should fear.   And if there is real fear in your relationship it’s not a healthy one.

Third, it requires communication.  Communication between partners is essential, both listening and talking.  When we don’t take time to listen and don’t express ourselves we shortchange each other and our relationship.  Some things can be said without words but all too often the only words that we share are words of hurt and hate.

Are you attentive to the special needs and quirks of your relationship?  Are you working together to overcome fears?  And are you really communicating or just hurling insults?   What have you been missing in your relationship of late?

Thoughts for a New Year

The book of Proverbs has lots of great little bites of insight for us, it’s kind of like Twitter from the Bible days.  One of those verses is Proverbs 4:23: “Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.”  

This is a topic that I think about often and have written about before.  Why?  Do you know how valuable your thoughts are?  Your thoughts are your ability to think things through, your ability to process news, your ability to plan ahead, and your ability to your ability to make decisions on your own.  For most people their stupid or poor decisions are not a result of having mental challenges, but laziness, lack of interest, lack of effort or lack of willingness to ask for help.

Sometimes things happen that make us lose control of our thoughts, and that’s to be expected, for example when you get stuck in a repetitive thought pattern thinking about the ways you screwed up that day or ways you could have done things different.  When you end up in a situation like that it’s usually a good idea to get it out and either talk it through with yourself or a friend.  Once you’ve really worked out your frustrations (not spending more time than 15 minutes on it), you have to make the decision that your thoughts are better used for other purposes and let it go.  It may come back up in following days or weeks and if it does you can deal with it then.  But otherwise there’s no point to dragging yourself around in circles when you could use the power of your thoughts and mind for much better purposes.

This week I encourage you to pay attention to what you’re thinking and how long you’re spending thinking about it.  Are your thoughts serving you and helping you be your best version of you or helping you start this year off on the wrong foot?

Choosing Potential Not Problems

One of the biggest challenges of life is one of the best things: people.  Yes, they can really mess with you or they can really bless you.  We’re all capable of being stupid as well as really helping others, sometimes it happens intentionally, other times it’s totally accidental and unplanned.  This week I replied to an email inquiry about one of my services, I replied back to them with my answer, and they told me that my answer was rude.  I certainly didn’t mean to be rude, and I honestly didn’t (and don’t) think my answer was rude.  Maybe they were having a bad day, maybe they misread my comments, maybe they just thought that I was insulting them when all I was doing was answering their question.  Regardless, we both could have stayed upset but instead took the time to communicate about and resolve the misunderstanding.

It’s almost impossible to go through life today without experiencing some hurt or heartbreak, whether it’s intentional or not.  When a hurt has occurred it’s up to us to decide if they were being intentionally mean and we need to reconsider our association with them or if it was accidental, or was even caused by our misreading of the situation and has nothing to do with them.  Regardless, in most situations I believe that it’s better to move forward with the relationship intact rather than to move backward and lose the potential of the relationship.

If we’re going to move forward with the relationship it’s important to discuss the hurt, especially if it seemed intentional, or they will forever be a distrust between the two of you rather than the solid, supportive relationship you could have.  Choosing to forgive is one of the most challenging tasks in the world. But when done you can reap some amazing benefits. I choose to forgive because we’re not perfect and everyone makes mistakes.  People who did mean things hurtfully can change too.  I don’t believe that we should give everyone free passes, especially if they’ve hurt us in the past, but if true repentance and change is shown I do believe that forgiveness should be offered, if not for them, for you so you can move on with your life.

Choose to be the bigger person this week, the one who moves forward rather than back, the one who sees potential rather than problems.

“When you get hurt, don’t let it turn you hard hearted. A soft heart heals and is able to trust the right people again.  Soft + Careful = Future.” Dr. Henry Cloud

Make Love Not War

This coming weekend we’re celebrating Memorial Day here in the USA, and I’ll be sharing more about that on Friday, but today I wanted to talk about how we make our contributions to the world. Obviously with Memorial Day coming up we’re thinking about people who go to parts of the world on planes and ships and travel through dangerous regions to fight wars and people who are doing evil in the world. We won’t all agree on whether to go to war or not, whether we started the fight or not, but some of us feel that our differences need to be worked out using weapons and violence rather than discussion and teamwork. There are few situations that I unanimously support a violent approach, typically when dealing with someone truly evil like Hitler or situations of domestic and genocide type violence.  All those people know are how to be violent, they won’t respond to talks.

However, I do believe that countless more situations can and should be worked out through words and negotiations rather than fists and guns. When destruction becomes the initial goal there’s always recovery, rebuilding and reconstruction that will have to be done, much of which wasn’t necessary destruction in the first place.

So what’s the answer? First, get better at our communication skills. “You suck,” “I hate you,” tears, yelling and bullying aren’t good communication methods or skills but most of us use them. Second, learn the art of negotiation. Everyone wants something, and most times there’s a way for everyone to be mostly satisfied if a little effort is put into it. Third, think win-win-win. This means that the goal of any meeting should be to get the most wins for the most people involved possible, for the most people to be helped by what you’re doing and working towards rather than hurt. It’s unrealistic to imagine that no one ever will get hurt or get the short end of the stick, but I believe that more often than not we can do a lot more to create satisfactory solutions than we do.

What area of your life do you need to work on most when it comes to getting your goals accomplished in a way that helps rather than hurts?

“I definitely prefer being a lover than a fighter.”  Billy Joel

Faithful to Our Callings

Sometimes being faithful means that you keep a secret, other times it means telling the world. There have been lots of deathbed invoked promises, secrets and stories. In life it’s our opportunity to be faithful to someone, and it can be a challenge if we do or don’t want to follow through. In the case of God, He wants us to be faithful to sharing the word about Him, using words when necessary.

I’ve always been intrigued by that phrase, “using words when necessary.” It means that sometimes actions can be more powerful than words, and sometimes what’s necessary are words. We aren’t always that great with our words or actions in any aspect of our lives. We tend to speak and act before thinking which often leading to conclusions, results and issues that are much greater than they were before we said or did anything. We all need to do a better job on our actions and our words, in all areas of our lives. When it comes to being faithful sometimes our actions are more important than our words.

When someone asks us to do a better job with living our life than they did we usually need to work on our actions more than our words, as words have probably been empty in the past. Too many of us are all talk and no action. I’m not talking about those who donate to causes, they’re putting their finances where their feet can’t go. But rather those who rant and rave over things but never do anything to make changes happen.

God has asked us to not only be faithful with secrets but also with telling the world. He asks us to develop a personal relationship with Him, one that is just between the two of you. In most cases He doesn’t expect or want you to stand in the middle of Time Square in NYC and say The Lord’s Prayer. No, He treasures the relationship you two have and those quiet moments are just as important to Him as they are between a couple.

God also asks us to be representatives for Him. Sometimes that means talking, other times acting, but whatever the situation calls for God asks you to do it. We’re not just here to connect with God in a way that wouldn’t be the same if we were all in Heaven, but rather to connect with other people who feel just as lost, just as lonely, just as hurt as we do some days; people that can only be comforted by a God they know nothing about.

What will your choice be this week? Will you choose to be faithful to what God has called you?

“I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness.” Psalm 40:10