Faith and Imperfections

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about relationships and this month one of the things we’ll be talking about is freedom. As I was thinking about these two topics I read these words:

“We’re all broken in one way or another. So let’s be kind” Mary Carver

People of faith are often seen as perfect. Maybe we seem that way because we make people think that, or because we talk about being forgiven and freed all the time. But the fact is just because we’re people of faith, it doesn’t make us perfect. We still need other people, we still have faults and failures, we still screw up and hurt others. Even the people who are living a life of faith that God is proud of (the people who everyone looks up to because of how spiritual and well-behaved they are) aren’t perfect and struggle with the same human experience and emotions that the rest of us do.

People who are “good” are important because they show the rest of us how to live in a way that honors God and reminds us that it is possible and that it isn’t something reserved for people in the Bible or people with an official church title. For those of us who aren’t quite so perfect, it’s not easy to show both sides of this to the world, because we want to be a good reflection on God. But being truthful about the struggles we face on a daily basis or about the challenges God has brought us through not only help those who don’t share our faith better identify with us, it’s a reminder that we’re still people in need of God.

Over and over throughout the Bible there are examples of Jesus and other people of faith who choose to show love and compassion in the face of sin and suffering. Jesus made a point throughout His ministry to show love to those who were suffering or fallen and knew they needed help, but when faced with those who thought they were without reproach or had lost sight of what their faith was supposed to be all about, He didn’t show interest or have mercy (He even lost His temper a time or two).

No one really wants to admit how flawed they are or how badly they screw up, but it’s only in those moments that we can really take account of where our life is and what changes need to be made going forward. It’s also in those moments that we’re given the ability to reach out to others for their support and encouragement. Are you honest with yourself about how broken you are? If so what are you doing about it? And what happens when someone who feels broken comes to you for support?  Are you there for them to support them or just judge them?

This week I encourage you to choose kindness and support, both for others and yourself, when faced with failures and struggles.   Choose to be the person who loves and doesn’t condemn, and the person who’s honest about the help they need.

Doing the Right Thing

Last week in my weekly devotional I talked about the topic of guilt.  Do you feel guilty often?  I think most of us are human enough that we do feel guilt from time to time and feel bad about the things we’ve done or choices we’ve made. We should feel guilty about sins we commit and people we hurt because it means that God is working in us, and we recognize when we do things we shouldn’t.  Today I wasn’t planning on talking about guilt, but about doing the right thing.

Do you sometimes choose to do the right thing because you know it will be the easy thing?  That rather than maybe getting caught for cutting corners or having to redo things you just do the right thing the first time? I know I do.   I like shortcuts as much as the next person, but sometimes those shortcuts aren’t so short and it’s just easier to do the right thing the first time.

What about doing the right thing because it feels good? What about treating others with respect because that’s how you want to be treated? What about doing things for the right reason period?  What about doing the right thing because God says to in the Bible?  This week I challenge you to do the right thing.  Treat others with respect, go the extra mile to do things right, do things right the first time, say ‘thank you’ and ‘bless you’ often and choose to make a difference doing right not only because it will feel good, but because it’s what God calls His people to do.

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”  Acts 24:16

Let’s Encourage in 2015

Something I’ve always stressed in my business and writings is the importance of people. No, that hasn’t changed with the change of the calendar, in fact we’ll probably talk about it even more this year. While I haven’t revealed my theme for the year yet, this month we’ll be talking about being prepared. One of the best ways to deal with people is to be as prepared as possible for any and all possibilities and curve balls that could come your way. When you’ve taken the time to study language and facial expressions and learned how people generally are wired you’re immediately given a step up from anyone else who goes into a situation blind. In fact, one of the quickest ways to fail a job interview is to go into the job knowing absolutely nothing about the business that you’re applying at, and one of the quickest ways to hurt a friend or your partner is to intentionally check out of the conversation because it doesn’t interest you only to be called to the carpet later for an update or help with the issue and have no clue what they’re talking about.

One thing that I know many people have been avoiding accepting or understanding for a long time is that people care. People care if you listen to them, they care if you show up, they care if you’re OK, they care about the product or service you’re offering or the job you do. It hurts when people care because it means that we can (and probably will at some point in time) let them down; it hurts to care for the same reasons. We’ve been hurt and let down before, so we’ve learned to build walls to keep people at a distance. But I’ve seen lots of evidence that people are starting to realize that that’s not the way to live. Living in a box isolated from emotion, passion, fulfillment and purpose is just not that satisfying. So we’re starting to care again, starting to get emotionally invested, and starting to put our necks out just a little bit.

If you’re as on board with this as I am, there’s a simple way that you can build those relationships without sticking your neck too far: encourage someone. It’s when you say thank you and recognize them for doing something helpful, when you take the time to compliment them, when you take the time to really listen and just share a few words in support from your heart. It’s not painful to share a few words or minutes to encourage someone, and it can make a positive impact on you and them.

Learning Kindness

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 7:12

This verse is a challenging one for all of us.  Sure it’s easy to those who are nice to you, but it’s not so easy to be kind to those who are rude to you.  It is a huge opportunity for those of us who are Christians or people of faith to show people what it really means to have spiritual beliefs, and not perpetuate the sad truths that have made their way through society in the past that have gotten so many people labeled as hypocrites.  The unfortunate thing in all this is we haven’t treated people as well as we could have.  We’ve judged them before we’ve known everything, and we’ve been less-than-shining examples of Jesus.

If we all treated others with respect and dignity simply because they were human beings like ourselves, can you imagine how much would change?  I’ve been seeing this change in business over the past few years.  It’s slow but it’s definitely developing a stronger presence. I’ve seen fewer scam businesses be successful, more action taken against them and more bad leaders sent packing.  I’ve also seen the awareness growing that we can’t be isolated but need physical contact and connection with other people.

No, people aren’t perfect. I’m not, and I’ll guess that you probably have a fault or two.  That’s OK, I don’t mind that we’re not perfect.  I appreciate being able to extend forgiveness and grace, and receiving it as well.  I also appreciate being able to learn from our mistakes, wouldn’t life be boring if we got it right the first time?

One final thing to consider: this verse in Matthew doesn’t assume or state that others will immediately respond in kind.  In our world kindness needs to be learned.  We don’t all accept that others are kind, we’re often suspicious of the kindness that others extend to us.  This week do your best to treat others with respect in ways that you want to be treated.  Over time you’ll see people’s attitudes and actions towards you changing for the better.

A Reward for Kindness

“David, my son—is that you?” Saul asked. Then he started crying and said: “David, you’re a better person than I am. You treated me with kindness, even though I’ve been cruel to you.  You’ve told me how you were kind enough not to kill me when the Lord gave you the chance.  If you really were my enemy, you wouldn’t have let me leave here alive. I pray that the Lord will give you a big reward for what you did today.”  1 Samuel 24:16-19

David and Saul had a thing going.  Some would call it a rivalry, but David didn’t really hate Saul, he was just scared for his life because God wanted him to be king instead of Saul, and Saul didn’t like that one bit.  To add to the problems, the people of Saul’s kingdom were siding with David, and David was well-known for his military prowess, as well as his solid relationship with God.  When we meet our two main characters in 1 Samuel 24 David just had the opportunity to kill Saul but he didn’t.

It brings us to our topic of the month: kindness and the reward we get for being kind.  Sometimes it’s easy to be kind, like to the mom with her arms full with a baby carrier struggling to open the door at the coffee shop.  It’s not so easy when we’re asked to set aside a rivalry that we’ve had for years or even generations and forgive someone.

But that’s the power of kindness: it enables us and gives us the strength to be the bigger person.  And, as we’ve seen here, the kind acts we do can even teach others about kindness and transform who they are.  No, it doesn’t always work that way, nor was this the end of the interactions between David and Saul.

But it creates one of my favorite things: hope.  Yes, when that kind of kindness is introduced anything is possible.  It becomes possible to get out of your prison, it becomes possible to mend a relationship.  It becomes possible to have an impact on your family, your community, your nation, your world.  Maybe you won’t have the impact of Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King Jr, but that doesn’t mean that the kindnesses you do would go unnoticed.

God notices the kindnesses you do and will reward you for them. No, we shouldn’t do them to be rewarded, we should do them because it’s right.  But the reward we will receive is like the ice cream with apple pie.  It goes above and beyond the awesome feeling of being able to do something good for our fellow man.

This week I encourage you to do something good for someone else, maybe even someone else who can’t repay you for the kindness you’ve done. Of course, I’d love to hear all about the kind acts you do, share them in the comments so we can all celebrate together!

Qualities of a Lifetime

“It is important to work on those limitless qualities that will be valuable beyond this lifetime”  Dalai Lama

This month if you’ve been following along we’ve been talking about kindness.  We often focus on the tangible, like the money in our bank account, the spouse that just left us, the kids who are misbehaving, the food we are eating and the work we’ve got.  But what we often forget is that at it’s very essence, the tangible is made up of and directly affected by the intangible.  You may not think your attitude has anything to do with your marketing campaign’s failure, or customers asking to speak with someone else, or complaints thrown around the home, but your attitude and other intangibles like it are what most of the time make or break us.

In fact, it’s those intangibles that make us who we are.  As much as we may look different on the outside, it’s really what’s inside that makes us different, and our outside is a reflection of that.

When it comes down to it your skills and abilities may very well someday become outdated, like the computers we used in 1990, or the houses people lived in throughout Medieval Europe.  But your ability to be kind, your ability to love someone, your ability to learn something new, your ability to be patient, your ability to be confident, these will never be outdated.  In fact, they can often be the factor that enables you to be chosen over someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, learning new skills and trades is important, as is keeping up with what’s current.  But as much as we need to work on those things, even more than that we need to work on our ability to connect with people, our communication skills, and things like kindness, love and honesty.  Maybe it won’t add a measurable amount to your bottom line (unless you’re a CHO (chief happiness officer)), but not only will you feel more fulfilled and satisfied with your life, others will want to be around you too.

What are your best intangible qualities?

Dependability of Kindness

“As small children we very much depend on the kindness of our parents.  Again in old age we depend on the kindness of others.  Between childhood and old age we falsely believe we are independent, but this is not so.” Dalai Lama

I’m a very independent person.  I love my space, can’t work well when others are popping in and out of my space and would prefer a quiet walk over attending a crowded party most days.  But the longer I am with my partner and the more time I spend around kids, the more noticeable it is when they aren’t around.  I still love my space and always will, but nothing can replace the gift of spending time with someone who loves life.

Our society has done a very good job of keeping us connected and dependent on each other, from the complications of technology to the amazing service that the men and women of the cleanup crews provide, there’s no way we could survive without others. But we choose to see ourselves as separate entities and not dependent on each other.  It’s one reason some of the senior citizens are reluctant to enter homes or communities that would help them thrive in their last years.

Part of the reason for our distrust of the kindness of others is that they have let us down.  Yes, I’ve been let down many times before, and I will be again in the future.  But I continue to believe that we’re better off together than we ever are apart.  And when we learn how to work together we’ll be in even better shape.

This week I encourage you to open your heart up a little bit and put some extra dependence on someone you trust, like your partner or a close friend.  They don’t have to take over your life, just give them a part of it that you would usually be responsible for and trust them to do it for you.  If you do it with your partner it can be a trust building activity as they can have you do something in return too.