The Finger Pointing Precaution

Years ago I experienced the stark reality that when I find myself pointing a finger of judgment at someone I need to beware that three fingers are pointing back at me. It forever etched in my memory a foundational precaution in forming opinions and judgments about others.

As a new believer in my mid-twenties I was working in an office environment where one of my fellow employees was a very sharp dresser. He was the cool dude of the office, knew it, and projected an air of superiority. Over the course of time his arrogance began to grate on me. One morning as I passed by his desk where he was standing, I noticed to my delight that he had missed a belt loop. Those were the days of the wide belt and tucked shirt, so it was an error glaringly visible to all. As I was inwardly gloating over his unwitting faux pas, the Holy Spirit pushed the pause button on my little celebration and interjected this thought – “Why don’t you check your own belt loop.” ….. At that, I quickly felt around my waist and to my chagrin I discovered I had missed a belt loop too! Need I say more? God certainly is not without a sense of humor when gently correcting us and teaching us life lessons.

It was a lesson that has stuck with me to this day. More often than I would like to acknowledge, when I am in the process of judging another, I hear the Holy Spirit cautioning me “Check your own belt loop.” In other words, check your own heart and behavior before you’re so quick to judge.

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Holding that Crucial Conversation

“The health of an organization is measured by the number of crucial conversations not being held or not being held well.” That is a quote from Joseph Grenny, a speaker at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. Undoubtedly most of the people listening were impacted as I was by the underlying truth that this statement applies not only to companies and churches, but also to families and marriages.

In fact, the reality is that the health of virtually every relationship depends upon whether or not crucial conversations are being held and the degree to which they are being held well.

A crucial conversation is any conversation between two or more people where opinions vary, emotions are running strong and the stakes are high. It is a conversation that will either hinder a relationship or help it, put it in a pit or on a path, lead to talking it out or acting out. As distinguished from a casual conversation, a crucial conversation requires skill in navigating the first 30 seconds because that often will either make or break all that follows. Grenny calls this the “hazardous half-minute.”

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The Greatest Commencement Address Ever Given

As the school year comes to an end, another annual round of commencement addresses is being given. Sadly, most of them are forgettable. Curiously, I do not even remember my own high school or college commencement addresses. Having raised five children, I have sat through my share. Of all the graduation speeches that I have heard I remember only one. It was a message given at the college graduation of my eldest daughter. The speaker was the late John Osteen, founder of Houston’s Lakewood Church and father of Joel Osteen. Rev Osteen exhorted the graduates to make it their goal to always depend upon and be filled with the Holy Spirit. That message for some reason stuck with me.

The purpose of a graduation speech hopefully is that it will strike a chord of truth deep within the soul that will continue to resonate at critical junctures throughout a person’s life.

When Winston Churchill, speaking at the Harrow graduation in 1941, said “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never …” he struck a chord that reverberated way beyond the ear shot of those in attendance. It galvanized a nation caught in the grip of the Second World War and throughout the decades since has continued to inspire embattled souls whenever it is read or recalled.

This year, a high school English teacher named David McCollough Jr gave one of those rare memorable commencement addresses. When he told the graduates at Wellesley High School (Massachusetts) the following it went viral. “None of you are special. You are not special. You are not exceptional.” In an age when children have grown up being “pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped . . . feted and fawned over” it needed to be said. The ultimate point that he was making is that exulting in being special is a self-indulgent deceit. “The great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.” That is a message which may discomfit the soul but can motivate those who hear it to noble action.

Graduation ceremonies as a rite of passage are fraught with both emotion and expectation. There is the celebration of accomplishment with all the accompanying memories, bitter and sweet, sacrificial and gratuitous that will be left behind. And there is the anticipation of the future burgeoning with hopes and dreams yet waiting, albeit with trepidation, to be fulfilled.

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When to Choose to Lose

The benefit of choosing to lose is not just limited to weight loss. Although in most arenas of life losing carries negative connotations, especially if it is a choice; there are times when choosing to lose is the wisest, most beneficial thing we can do. In fact the Bible spells out some specific circumstances in which we are actually encouraged to choose to lose.

Choosing to lose is not something most people find easy to do. We do not want to lose. However, choosing to lose in a Biblical sense is rooted in a confident trust in God. It is only possible when we yield our expectations and preferred results to Him.

A case in point is when we find ourselves in an interpersonal conflict. Disagreements of opinion have a way of escalating as all the parties involved seek to prove the rightness of their point of view. We naturally associate proving we are right with winning the conflict. But the Bible, in its wisdom, indicates that in some circumstances, the best course of action is to choose to lose.

Some conflicts are ultimately won through choosing to lose rather than choosing to win.

The book of Proverbs gives a number of illustrations of this lose to win strategy in relational conflict. “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” (26:20) “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (15:1) “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (19:11) Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man. But any fool will quarrel.” (20:3)

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What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! Proverbs 4:7 (NLT)

What is the best advice you have ever been given? Recently I heard an interview where that question was asked of a nationally known leader. It caught him off guard and gave him serious pause. After a long silence he said, “Gosh, that is a tough question…ah…I can…I can put maybe in the top five…in terms of something someone once told me that was like wow…ah…” Then he proceeded to mention the name of a person and tell a story about the outstanding advice he had been given.

It was such a great question that it got me thinking immediately about how I might answer it as I tuned out his answer. It was so intriguing that I grabbed a pad and pen and began to write my own top five list of the best advice I have ever been given. Over the course of the next quarter of an hour I ended up noodling an ever growing list of thirteen items. It was a very rewarding and revealing exercise. You might be similarly rewarded in seeing what would make your list.

Several things struck me about the process. It forced me to go to the file cabinet of my life and chronologically from a teenager on, thumb through all the file folders labeled with names of people who have greatly influenced me.

1. The best advice in our lives does not all come from sources we readily imagine. While some folders were much thicker than others because of the years I’ve known them and the sheer volume of our interactions I was surprised to find that not all of them were people with whom I had a close relationship. Some were people I did not even know personally. In fact I discovered that more than half of the great advice I was coming up with came from books I have read or messages I have heard, in person or by recording, from people I did not have a personal relationship at all or have never met. Most of their file folders were very thin, but in terms of impact, the few things I had filed in each of them warranted a red label and they were worn from being pulled so frequently.

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