Character Creates Opportunity® – A Few Steps Towards Redemption: Thursday, April 28, 2016

Let’s face the truth.  All of us have made mistakes, fallen short of goals, and had a few really painful disappointments in life.

There has been a great deal written about a recent trend by many academics to build resumes of their failures to demonstrate to students (and the world) that we all have failed numerous times in the pursuit of goals in order to better prepare students for the real world.

Given that we have all fallen short, the opportunity for redemption, or helping us to become more acceptable, especially in the eyes of those closest to us, is extremely relevant as we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character and reach our full potential.   The opportunity for redemption is very appealing to meet a most important human need beyond the basics, the need to know we matter and are accepted by those around us.Redemption

Like most efforts in reaching our full potential, the steps towards redemption are no different, we have some internal work to do on ourselves and we have some external effort we can offer those around us.

Internal Steps:

The inward journey towards redemption begins with a good inventory of those times we have fallen short.  The easy part is the concrete shortfalls in a career journey, academics, financial failures, etc.  The really hard part, but most meaningful inventory, are the times we have fallen short in the relationships closest to us; A lost temper, a hurtful word, or a rejection when we were needed most.  That is the list that hurts the most.

This type of inventory helps in two important ways (1) The list keeps us grounded and humble.  The Scriptures warn us that “pride comes before the fall” so we all should want to avoid that painful reality as much as possible. (2) The list helps us to be less judgmental of those around us.  We have a tendency to not be as critical when we have some self-awareness of our own shortcomings.

External Steps:

The external journey towards redemption begins with a word of encouragement to others.  Offering an encouraging word to others is many times the gateway for developing a deeper relationship with someone close to us.  We live in a world that emphasizes the negative and an encouraging word can be like oxygen to someone suffocating in an environment of negativity and pessimism.  We all carry a few heavy burdens known only to ourselves and an encouraging word is a helpful boost as we journey along.

Encouragement, especially to those closest to us, can help in a few important ways (1) Helps others feel better about themselves and begin to feel they matter (2) Creates an environment where others may become more open to share struggles without the fear of judgment and shame (3) Enables others to move forward in their own journey even if it is silently alone.

These internal and external steps are necessary on the continual journey towards redemption.  The journey towards redemption is ongoing in the real world as life is not stagnant.  We encounter new people, new experiences, new challenges, and ultimately a few more failures along the way.  Similar to the phrase, “life is a journey not a destination” so can be said of the process towards redemption with those closest to us in our homes and families.

As we continue to move forward with these steps towards redemption, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to build strong and healthy relationships with those that matter most.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Time to Pay: Thursday, April 14, 2016

“There is a time for everything” so it says in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.  The word Ecclesiastes is most often translated as “the preacher.”  Preach on my friend.

For those of us preparing to sprint to the post office in the coming days to pay our taxes in the United States, it is truly a time to pay.  Although we all probably have a strong opinion about whether these tax dollars are spend efficiently or not, regardless, it is a time to pay.

However, the reality is that there is always a time to pay.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we will come to realize there is a need to consistently, day by day, make a payment to reach our full potential.Dental hygiene articles

In the ebb and flow of our closest relationships, we usually don’t realize we have been missing a few payments until something really blows up.  We then realize there was a pattern of missed payments that could have strengthened the foundation instead of weakened it.

In our chosen profession, we usually don’t realize we have been missing a few payments towards our professional growth to remain competitive in the marketplace, until the pink slip arrives at the next downsizing. We then realize there was a pattern of missed payments that could have kept us competitively in the game longer.

In our own personal finances or while we are on the subject of taxes, in our nation’s finances, we usually don’t worry too much about the occasional use of credit to carry us through some lean times.  We then realize there was a pattern of missed payments and the remedy is painful to get our financial house in order.

Similar to the quote from Ernest Hemingway’s book, The Sun Also Rises, in which a character is asked, “How did you go bankrupt?”  He responds, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

Our payment always seems enormous when the proverbial dam breaks.  However, our real opportunity to reach our full potential in all areas of life, is to make the habit of small and manageable, daily payments.

Making daily, consistent payments to build health in our close relationships is the most effective time to pay.

Making daily, consistent payments to our personal and professional growth is the most effective time to pay.

Making daily, consistent payments in overseeing our personal finances is the most effective time to pay.

These daily payments form helpful habits that focus on prevention rather than the massive payments we will make when the problem is out of control.

As we make daily payments in the important areas of life, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to build a strong foundation for a bright future.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Gentleness: Thursday, April 7, 2016

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, I wanted to write about a principle that gets little mention in today’s “loud and proud” environment.  When we call roll for those who have delivered lasting, positive impact in our world, in our communities, and most certainly in our homes, there is a common virtue among them that is tough to find in the intensity of our world today.

The quality of gentleness, or “strength under control” as the more practical, relevant definition, continues to be an effective behavioral anchor for us in dealing with relationships in the complexity of life today.

I am confident that if I polled the readers of this blog, we could all give a few solid testimonies about when we “lost it” in a relatively intense or even seemingly routine interaction with a family member, coworker, or friend.  We occasionally blame our response on the hectic commute across the town, the stressful day at work, the loss of the big game, our finances, the weather etc.   However, we all know we fell short in demonstrating strength under control and we most likely took a big withdrawal out of the proverbial “relationship bank account” and needed to work extra hard making deposits into the future if we wanted to repair the relationship.

Maintaining gentleness in today’s world is not easy.  The real-life situations of dealing with an unruly child while hustling to get ready for work, an irate customer call just as “normal business hours” have passed and your daycare is closing, the spouse that just seems oblivious to the situation you are struggling to get through, or the aging parent who does not realize her limitations are all situations that put our gentleness to the test.  It is not easy to maintain strength under control, but it is well worth the effort.Gentleness

There are several positive outcomes that we can all expect by demonstrating a greater degree of gentleness or strength under control in our interactions with others:

  1. Gentleness has been shown over time, either through time-tested philosophers or academic research, to be the more effective method in strengthening relationships and sustaining positive behavioral change compared to the typical “loud, proud, and loss of control” technique we all so quickly adapt.
  2. We will quickly replace the regretful thought of “oh, I should not have acted that way” with the cherished memory that we did the harder right, rather than the easier wrong, and more times than not, maintained a productive connection to continue the relationship another day.
  3. Our example will be “watched” by those around us and whether we ever see it or not, others will be positively impacted by our actions.

One final note of truth from the late Leo Buscaglia, PhD.  I am not sure if you remember Leo, but he was “Dr. Love” in the 70s & 80s who was famous for his sold-out “Love 1A” class at the University of Southern California.  His PBS Specials (which are on YouTube for those interested) were an earlier and less rehearsed version of modern day TED Talks for healthy relationships.  Leo Buscaglia, in describing a relevant truth of those exhibiting the virtue of gentleness said, “Only the weak are cruel.  Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.”

We should all strive to be strong and model the principle of gentleness.  As a result, we will continue to make steady progress on building and strengthening our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to have a positive, lasting impact in our relationships.