Month: January 2014
Is it because we’re overly concerned about those around us, and we want to help them through the hurt?
Or is there just an innate desire for knowledge, growth and new experiences, and that burning desire to be informed is what pushes us even towards bad news?
Could it be that we’re just plain curious, and can’t help but stick our big noses into someone else’s bad business to satisfy our need to know?
Although any or all of these answers are true at one time or another, I believe that the true foundation for our pursuit and interest in the harsher stories in life is this…
Fear. We’re afraid. Afraid of the circumstances, afraid that the same thing might happen to us. We want to try to avoid conflict or pain so we sit up and pay attention about the family with the abducted child. Our neck snaps as we slow down and pass the demolished automobile on the side of the road. We stare in rapt attention at the flesh eating virus stories, the “house and everything else burned to the ground” news pieces, and the horror stories of those who’ve lost their jobs and used up the last of their unemployment check.
We’re afraid it could be us next. It might very well be us next. So we’re afraid. But fear isn’t our only choice, it’s just one of them.
Choose Active Courage instead of fear.
Fear says, “I worry I might end up broke like that family on the news.” Active Courage says, “I need to see if there’s a place I can send that family some money.”
Fear says, “We can’t swim in the lake or go out in public because we could get sick & die.” Active courage says, “I’m going to embrace and enjoy every moment life has to offer me.”
Fear says, “Pull back, hunker down, protect yourself”. Active Courage says, “Step out, lend a hand, take a risk to help others.”
No, your story may not get the news coverage or attention because it’s not scary, horrible or frightening. But that’s OK. Living a bold life and making the world better because you passed through is an awesome way to spend your days. Leave the fear and negativity to others.
Many of us have been in a tollbooth line, or waiting patiently in our car at a fast food restaurant, only to find when we arrive at the window that the person in line in front of us has paid our bill. They “paid it forward”. The idea of “pay it forward”, doing something kind for someone without being asked, has been around a long time. It was popularized back in 2000 in a movie by the same name. In “Pay it Forward“, one boy has the vision and the courage to believe by simply doing a good deed for three different people, and challenging them to do the same, he could set off a chain reaction and change the world. In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the story for you. Let’s just say he got it right. It does work and the world is a better place.
The thought of a small good deed making someone else’s day gives us a warm fuzzy. We bought their pop, we shoveled their snow, we mowed a yard or raked their leaves just for kindness sake. That’s great! I want to encourage another option for you as well.
Pay it backward. Yes, BACKWARD.
How about identifying those people who’ve shown kindness to you or others, and doing something wonderful for them? The world is full of selfless people who regularly reach out and touch the lives of people around them, and they don’t do it for applause or rewards. They just do it because it’s a good thing to do. Isn’t it about time someone does something AWESOME for them?
Just a few quick suggestions about “paying it backward”…
- Secrecy is vital! It’s so much more fun if they don’t know who blessed them. Leave a note explaining why it’s being done, but try to do it without taking credit for it.
- Research your person, do a little detective work and make it special. Buy a candy bar that’s their favorite kind, and leave it on their desk. Discover their favorite musician and buy their next CD the day it comes out, and leave it in their work space. Make your gift of kindness uniquely appealing to them.
- Stretch yourself a little by doing something amazing. Don’t just settle for a trinket or a simple deed. Do something that will make their jaw drop and their eyes bug out. You may not be able to give away a new Jaguar, but tickets to a concert or dinner at their favorite restaurant might not be out of your reach?
- Encourage someone else to do what you’ve done for someone else. The power of paying it backward could be just as powerful as paying it forward. In your note to the recipient of the gift, encourage them to “pay it backward” as well. They’ve already proven that they are kind good at this stuff.
Go be amazing… Pay it backward!
HEY! ANY GREAT IDEAS FOR PAYING IT BACKWARDS? SHARE THEM HERE!!!
The advice is as old as the ages… “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 22:17
But how do you find the right person, or the right people that will sharpen you the most? It’s not a simple or easy thing to build a team like this. It’s just as challenging to keep it together. Here are a few tips to consider as you look for your “sharpening team”. These aren’t clever “knife sharpening” analogies, but simply practices that work.
- Find people who are busy. People who are busy are busy for a reason. It’s usually because they are in high demand for their skill, expertise or wisdom.
- Build a diverse group; people who are diverse in age, occupation and perspectives on life. For this group to positively impact your life, avoid enlisting a team of individuals who are uniform or relatively similar to each other.
- Choose people that are successful. There is no shortage of people who will want to give you advice, but you have a responsibility to listen to and choose to follow the best advice. Ask smart people. Ask wealthy people. Ask educated people. Ask people who are considered the best in their field. Don’t just ask, ask well.
- Make spending time with these people a high priority. That means you say NO to other things so you can say YES to spending time with the members of your team. It may mean getting up early, staying late, skipping lunch or buying lunch!
- Write down the questions you want to ask, and the lessons that you learn. You may be smart, but unless you have a photographic memory and an IQ of 160, write stuff down(if you pay attention, people that are really smart take notes).
In the past a person would use their blade to protect themselves and their family. It was a tool that provided for their basic needs. More than that, it was an extension of who they were as a person, a symbol of their bravery and character. Your life sword is no different. Protect, provide and show everyone that you’re here to make a powerful impact on your world! Build that team that will help you sharpen that blade!
What suggestions would you give someone who was trying to build a team of people to “sharpen their sword”?
One of the greatest regrets people have after a loved one dies is the things they wish they would have said to their loved one. Life is way to short to leave important thoughts unsaid and heartfelt sentiments locked away inside of us. Time is short, for you and for those you come in contact. Will your life end with the haunting statement, “I wish I’d said…”? Without sounding morbid or condescending can I ask, “What Are You Waiting For?” Consider these suggestions as you make your own Verbal Bucket List.
- Thank a teacher or a mentor who has impacted your life. Who knows where you’d be today if that certain person hadn’t encouraged you, challenged you, invested in you? Seek them out and let them know what that meant to you, and tell them how their impact on you has changed the world you touch.
- Offer forgiveness where it isn’t deserved. We’ve all been burned by people. The thought of offering grace while the pain of that knife in your back doesn’t sit well with most of us. Do it anyway. I’ve discovered that when you hold on to unforgiveness long enough it turns into a hot coal of bitterness, and the only person burned by it is the one holding it.
- Ask for forgiveness even though it kills your pride. Be careful here. There is healing that comes with asking for forgiveness, but sometimes to much detail in a confession like this can make things worse instead of better. It’s enough to say, “I wronged you in the past, and I want you to know I’m truly sorry, and I’ve tried to make amends.” If they already know why you’re apologizing, that’s even better. This is no time to argue or defend yourself either. Apologize. Sincerely.
- Compliment someone you’ve had a conflict with. You’re never going to get along with everyone. But nothing softens the sharp edge of previous conflict like truly seeking and complimenting the good in others, even those we disagree with. People are much less likely to write you off completely if part of your shared experiences includes times you’ve built them up.
- Confess to a sibling about that time you, well you know what you did to them or their stuff, and laugh about it with them now. You tore up their favorite David Cassidy poster as a teenager. You put ExLax in their their brownies. You told their boyfriend or girlfriend horrible stories about imaginary problems you had with incontinence. Whatever it was, clear the air. It may be more serious than these examples, and may require a mediator. Go the extra mile and make the effort.
- Ask that burning question that you’ve always wanted answered. Ask it at your own peril, ask it at your own risk, but ask it. Ask your spouse, your best friend, your neighbor that question you’ve always wanted to ask! What could it hurt? OK, maybe a lot, but it could also hurt to NOT ask the question! Ask it!
- Tell each of your children/nieces/nephews/godchildren just what it is that makes them so special, and you so proud of them.
- Thank your in-laws for the job they did with your spouse. Take some time where it’s just you and them, without your spouse around. It may be in person or on a phone call. Take some time before the conversation to sit down and write out those things you love most about your spouse, and how many of them are a result of her parents. Thank them for investing in the two of you as a couple. Thank them for their example. But don’t miss out on thanking these people who’ve touched your life in a special way.
- Write each of your parents a letter of blessing, and honoring them for the lives they’ve lived. I like the idea of putting this down on paper. Be specific about what they’ve done, how they’ve lived and sacrificed to make your life and this world better for their having been here. Offer a blessing of your own for each of them at the end or your letter.
- Ask a religious leader that nagging spiritual question that has tugged at your soul for years. There is so much more than what we know in this earthly existence. Seek out spiritual guidance, and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. You may be surprised at what you find!
- Tell the veteran’s you know how much their service and sacrifice means to you and your family. Men and women in our armed forces sacrifice their health and their holidays, their lives and legacies to protect not just the dirt and concrete that make up our country, but the families and the dreams that make this a great nation. Say thank you. Buy their dinner at a restaurant. Give to their favorite charity in their name. Say thank you to them.
- Thank a friend for that time in your life where they rescued your heart, your ego or your faith in people. This friend may be from 20 years ago, or someone you just met last year. Those amazing people that cross our path and connect to our heart are a gift from the Creator, and we need to honor them for stepping into our way and into life’s fray on our behalf.
- Approach a local business owner who makes your community a better place, and tell them what you think about that and about them. This life we live is impacted sometimes by the movers and shakers of history. But more often than not it’s our local folks, like the Rotarians or church groups, Kiawanians or local business owners who give of their time and personal finances to impact their corner of the globe. Let’s show them we see, and tell them we care.
So what else is there to say? Are there other apologies, affirmations, confessions or confrontations that still need to happen? Sit down and make your list… and write it ALL down. Just because you write it down doesn’t mean you have to share it, but it’s a start.
Sometimes that’s enough. We need to know that we’ll be OK. Down in our hearts we want to believe it. When the bills are piling up, and the wolves are at the door, we need a voice of encouragement to tell us, “You’ll be OK”. When the boss is on our back, or our investors are screaming for results we need that voice to whisper in our ear, “You’ll be OK”. Those people that you lead, your team members… in the midst of their own pressure and chaos, they need to hear it from you too.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” You can be that person. No, you MUST be that person. The world quota is full of people who aren’t willing to speak up, speak out and speak hope. Leaders must be dealers in hope. You can’t give someone talent, but only help them hone the talent they have. You can’t motivate others, but only challenge them to motivate themselves. But you can give hope. And your people are hungry for it. Your spouse and kids are dying for it. Your friends and co-workers are desperate for it.
We struggle to see past the mountains of worry above us or through the valleys of despair below us. Look past the surface of the lives you touch and consider the heart and the spirit beneath. It is much like yours. Your own history has been littered with moments of hopelessness, as theirs may be now.
Tell them, “You’ll be OK.” Please. Mother Teresa once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless”. Speak short, speak easy, but speak hope… allow the echoes of your encouragement to stretch on forever.
“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace, and a soul generated by love.” This is a lesser known quote by Dr. King, and though not as notable as “I have a dream”, it is a powerful reminder to us about the man and his mission. Martin Luther King was an ordinary person with an extraordinary passion. A passion to see the love of God, the compassion of good men and the hope of a brighter tomorrow made real in his world, and the world that his children would inherit.
Would the world be a better place if there were more “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s”? Most would agree it would, but there’s a more important question you must face. “Would the world be a better place if there were more of YOU and people like you?” Are you serving others? Are you making the world you touch a better place because of your touch? Now more than ever this world… YOUR world… needs men and women who will shape history for the better. How?
- Character and Conviction must always trump Convenience and Complacency. Being a world changer is not a job for the lukewarm or the weak. Dr. King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Even when it’s hard? Yes. Even when it’s painful or costly? Absolutely. Even when it runs counter to our culture and conflicts with our self-interests? Especially then. Character is not simply a badge to be worn or a name tag on our suit. It comes from our core, our innermost values. When confronted with challenges to what is just and right, our convictions stand fast against the whims of the culture.
- Bravery is defined by our lives and not our lips. Courage doesn’t exist until it faces adversity. Up to that point, courage is simply a word on a page. It is a picture of the lion, not the lion itself. Only when the verbs become actions and the speeches become activity does the lion come alive! This world is not a safe place. Enemies work to undermine our progress, and evil men cause harm for no other reason than to enjoy the pain they bring to others. Standing against those activities will come with a price. No person has or can ever expect to face down tyranny and abuse or conflict and corruption without being fiercely engaged by those enraged at the audacity of a good person to say “enough”. Bravery is an armor whose breastplate is a target and whose sword is an invitation to his enemies. Bravery will be defined by whether we watch the war or instead, run to the battle.
- Love infuses every facet of our cause and becomes the driving force that shapes our destiny. Jesus said it best when He said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45) Dr. King was well aware of this truth too – during a speech near Christmas in 1957, Dr. King said, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Love for those we lead, love for those we influence, for those we embrace – this warms our heart and stokes our passions. But we must show love to those who despise us, lead with love those who would rebel against us and be love to those who know no love at all.
MLK, Jr. left us with an amazing legacy, one that began in the heart of his namesake. No, not his father, but 400 years and a continent apart, in the life of the great theologian Martin Luther. Luther said, “I cannot choose but adhere to the word of God, which has possession of my conscience; nor can I possibly, nor will I even make any recantation, since it is neither safe nor honest to act contrary to conscience! Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God! Amen.” Will you take a stand? Will you be so committed to make a difference in your world that you too will say, “I cannot do otherwise, so help me God!”
GO BE GREAT! Serve someone with conviction, with bravery, with love! You will be great!
I love this remake of the great anthem, “We Are The World”… love that it’s a bunch of young adults singing it with such passion!
Watch the video, then take a moment to answer the question below the video!
If you could help the world have more of only one
characteristic of greatness, what would it be, and why?