If it doesn’t challenge me, why do it?

This post continues the series on humility, previous posts can be found herehere, and here. It is the last in the 4-part humility series and is a follow-up from a weekend retreat for teens that was focused on Paul’s Letter to the Philippian Church.

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50 teenagers sat uncomfortably (at first) as it was rolled out that this weekend wasn’t about them. Well, more specifically, it wasn’t about them as individuals. It was about the group, it was about service, it was about relationships, and it was about embracing their faith. Talk about a tough message to a generation of people who have grown up with a steady diet of me-centric media…but if it isn’t tough, why do it?

What is amazing is that they respond. Tell them that they have a choice – live a life that looks self-centered, potentially abusive, and self-gratifying or a life that is other-focused, concerned about the good for others, and self-emptying and it surprising that they actually seem excited for this “new” path forward.

I think all too often we offer simple solutions, band-aid fixes, and low hanging fruit to people when what they really want (or at least need) are transformative experiences, deep and hard self-work, and big goals.

What if we asked people to help others without being concerned about their desires all the time? What would happen if we asked people to let go of the things that they are holding onto in order to lift the burdens of someone else? What if we asked them to forgive, rather than to hold onto grudges?

The answer to these questions is that we would have a wholly different society. One that was not focused with getting its own way, or constant self-gratification, but instead recognized that every person in showing value to others would actually have more than enough as in giving they themselves receive.

So, enough writing and talking about the subject, who is ready to enact this challenge. For 30 days, live with an other-focused orientation showing honor to others above even your ownself. Encourage them, serve them, and stop worrying about “getting yours”. I guarantee that you will see change among those that surround you and within your ownself.

Live big, otherwise what is the point – who wants to live a small and petty life?

Owning your differences, while respecting others uniqueness

This post is part of a 4-post series on humility that began yesterday.

I am not sure when I really started to get it. I can think of moments along the way. When I was the only kid in my sixth grade class that voted for George H. W. Bush in the 1992 Presidential Election (though 1 other kid voted for Perot). When I sought work in politics just out of high school. Or even when a life in ministry was actually appealing as a 20-something. I was different, and I owned that.

The reality was, that while I was learning to appreciate my own differences, it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I really began to appreciate the uniqueness I found in others. No, not just my friends, schoolmates, and co-workers. I mean the person living in the homeless shelter, the family struggling to make ends meet while working multiple jobs and getting assistance from the government, or even those people whose lives had been broken by addiction. I had previously either overlooked or discarded these people.

Two of the core realities of the humility construct are a willingness to learn/teachability and a willingness to see the strengths of others. While I had grown in my willingness to examine myself accurately, I had not often given the same right to others. When you  step back and open yourself up to learning from others and appreciating who they are (regardless of the baggage we all carry), something amazing happens.

My life has grown so much from people who are different than I am. They share with me their stories and allow me into their world which looks and feels nothing like my existence. These are amazing and humbling moments in which you understand that the world is much greater than just your own perspective.

Through others giving me permission to learn their story, I find that even in most of vast disagreement we can do so providing dignity, honor, and respect for one another and how we have reached our conclusions, values, and actions.  I have owned my differences for years, but now I continue to learn how to respect the uniqueness of others.

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It’s Not About Me!

One of my favorite subjects to discuss (and the focus of my dissertation) is humility. This often misunderstood phenomenon is one of the most needed, yet least found character traits in Western society today. But what actually is humility?

This weekend, I will be helping to lead a group of teens to engage a theme that is contrary to just about every notion recognizable in culture today: “It’s Not About Me!” Society screams that the me-centric lifestyle is a must in our (disgusting) over-emphasis on self in our technology (MySpace was followed by Facebook was followed by the Selfie as king or queen of the average teen). While a decade and a half ago when I was growing up we did emphasize self-esteem, I think we were able to differentiate that construct from the seeming self-addiction that clouds our culture today. But what can actually be done about the me-cravings?

The first thing that can be done is to point toward positive examples of humility. These examples are present, and even the media will pick up on them every now and again, but the problem is we put so much attention on the Biebers, Lohans, and Kardashians of the world (not to mention all of the media hungry individuals that seem to pop up on reality TV) that we have drowned out the people that consistently show care and concern for others, aren’t self-absorbed, and seek to serve.

The second thing to be done is to encourage people to know themselves enough that they don’t have to be absorbed with themselves. That is the irony of our society, we are probably more self-focused than at any other time in history, but yet we seem to really not even know (or be willing to admit what we know about) ourselves.

From now through Monday, humility will be the major focus of this space (with Friday being a special edition of “Coaching Corner” on humility), as we work to promote other-focused individuals, teams, and organizations that truly get the importance of caring for one another so that we all can grow – together!

Stay tuned!

Think on these things

How often do we get that frame of mind when we are in the midst of conflict that the individual that we are “against” is just downright awful? When everything they do is just wrong, malicious, idiotic, etc.? How often do we judge and perceive their actions with a different standard than we apply to others? How many times have homes, offices, governments, etc. been destroyed by grudges, misunderstandings, unwillingness to listen, and closed thinking toward people and issues? Conflict is so rampant in our world (not that it is always bad, I contend along with many others that there is idea conflict and personality conflict, the latter being detrimental, the former being helpful) and it breaks down so many important relationships simply by the way we think about people.

There is a passage in the Christians Scriptures in which Paul, the Apostle, writes to a group of Christians who are in the midst of conflict (hold-out here if you don’t identify as Christian or religious, this is all about relationships). He identifies that conflict has been part of the framework of this group, and the particular conflict that they faced stems from selfishness and an unwillingness to think about others in a way that makes them an equal and valuable to the group.

Paul first shows examples of those that have been proven to be honored in their group through their selfless actions (as an aside, this is written into a collectivist culture, so honor and shame would be the primary factors for thinking about how people function according to accepted norms). This is intended to point people to a better way of living selflessly, then toward the end of his letter he says this:

“8 And now, brothers, as I close this letter, let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8-9, TLB)Image

What would happen if we framed our thoughts about others from what is good about them (and in them) as opposed to the negative? What would happen to our homes, neighborhoods, businesses, government, etc? Can you imagine not looking at someone with a negative label? What if, through looking at, and for, the good in them you were able to totally reframe your relationship? Are you willing to take the step?

Start looking for the good, true and right in others. Find out what makes them who they are. Ask questions, be empathetic, and care about them.