Character Creates Opportunity® – An Important Question: Thursday, November 17, 2016

There is a passage in Scripture when Jesus comes upon a man who had been crippled his entire life and the expectation of all those in attendance was an instant miracle enabling the crippled man to walk.  However, Jesus first asks the man a question that is relevant for all of us today.  He first asked the man, “Do you want to get well?”

We are all familiar with times in our lives where we stood facing a decision for change. The decisions span the spectrum from quick and easy to long and incredibly difficult.  Success and failure both bring about a multitude of decisions for change.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, making the decision to “get well” is an important first step in reaching our full potential.

History demonstrates that for most of us, we only learn and grow through pain, discomfort and challenge.  Discontent and frustration over our current situation is an opportunity waiting to happen. The great medical discoveries were born out of frustration and near hopelessness in witnessing suffering and death from disease.  The great challenges of war brought about some of our greatest inventions.  The tremendous frustrations of a growing nation brought about incredible advances in transportation and communication in the most recent 100+ years of our nation’s history.

On a more personal note, in our close relationships, we really only wake-up and prepare to learn and grow when our world is about to fall apart compared to the relative calm of a quiet night at home when everyone is well fed, well rested, and the bills are paid.Man Paying the Bills

When we face discontent and frustration, our ‘inner voice’ that drives our thoughts, decisions, and actions spotlights our character.  When we are facing a decision for change, do we choose to “get well” or do we choose to continue with unhealthy behaviors?

Do we want to get well when…

  • Reality hits that our skills and experience in the workplace are not what is needed to maintain gainful employment?
  • The lack of a financial plan results in credit card debt that has stretched beyond our comfort zone?
  • Faced with frustration and conflict in the home?
  • The doctor informs us we need to eat better and exercise more?

In those difficult times, when we face a decision for change, if our thoughts, decisions, and actions are based on principles like courage, responsibility, love and understanding, we build and strengthen our character as we choose to “get well.” If we let our thoughts, decisions, and actions be guided by anger, apathy, and contempt, we weaken our character and choose to bring about more pain and discomfort.

We are responsible for making the choice to get well. When we choose to get well, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Way You Are: Thursday, November 10, 2016

“I love you just the way you are” is the final line in Billy Joel’s 1970s hit “Just the Way You Are.” The song went on to win Song of the Year in 1979.

If we examined our most meaningful and important relationships, could we say that final line and describe the actions that support it? How would the person on the receiving end of our love describe the reality?

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, growing our capacity for unconditional love, especially for those closest to us, is a worthy endeavor and it will not be an easy task.  When we examine our lives, many of us realize we have layers of experience that have shaped our love as conditional.  If we want to be brutally honest with ourselves, we most likely place the toughest conditions on those closest to us in our own homes.

When we look back on our lives, we probably find the simplest examples of unconditional love from children when they are very young.  They don’t care about our title at the office, our bank account, how many friends we have, how clean our home is, how many times we have pizza for dinner, or even the areas of darkness in our lives, they just love us.  Whether we wear a bad day or a good day on our face, they still reach out and squeeze our neck and say, “I love you.”

Somewhere along the journey for all of us, we learned about expectations and conditions for love.  We smile more, reward more, and love more when kids bring home good grades, comb their hair and wash their face, show interest in what interests us, and to expose the most painful reality, become what we want them to be.

As adults, we drag those experiences into our relationships and we find most of our love is built on conditions; what we do for others, how much money we make, how organized our home is and how elaborate we make our holidays.  Inevitably, those expectations and conditions are not met and the cold, hard reality we face is many friendships and close relationships lack the love we displayed as children.

Conditions on our love hold us back from experiencing the simple, pure love we all desire in our close relationships.  Here are a few steps to help grow our capacity for unconditional love and display “I love you just the way you are” to the people that matter most in our lives:Authentic

  • Overcome Fear: We fear that our love will not be returned.  We offer our love unconditionally and fear that nothing will be returned.  This fear is built on an unhealthy view that relationships should be measured by a ratio of love given compared to love received. Measurement is not an act of love.  Giving is always better than receiving in building healthy relationships.  If we are feeling unloved, most often, it is not because we are not receiving our “fair share” of love, it is because we are withholding our love.  Love unconditionally.
  • No Retribution: Many times, when the actions of others do not meet our expectations or when real-life shatters our fairy-tale version of life and love, we hold back and deal with our pain by withholding our love from those closest to us. We are so ready to describe our hurts and how we have been wronged.  However, the act of withholding our love out of retribution is much more serious than someone close to us falling short of expectations.  Love unconditionally.
  • Keep It Simple: Love is first and foremost about being present…mentally, physically, and emotionally.  We don’t need to fret over saying something brilliant, sharing our experiences to make us feel relevant, or making sure everything is perfect before we act.  Just being present is a great foundation to build upon. Love unconditionally.

When we grow our capacity to act in manner that demonstrates “I love you just the way you are” to those closest to us, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to support building strong and healthy families that can positively impact our world.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Don’t Wait: Thursday, November 3, 2016

“Are you sure you want to do that?”  For many of us, there is that little voice inside our head that causes us to exercise some caution and delay in making a decision.

With many financial transactions, exercising delay in making a decision to buy that new car or new house probably proves to be a wise decision in the end as there is always another car or house on the market despite how “perfect” this one might be.  With that second piece of apple pie, a little delay and caution is probably a good thing for our health.  With new technologies and gadgets, we can always wait to get the “new and improved” version coming out and save the hassle of transitioning now.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, exercising caution and delay on some decisions is a wise move.  However, there is one area in life that we need to be reminded, “Don’t Wait.” In building and maintaining healthy relationships with those we care about most, we need to act now.

Every relationship has moments of highs and lows.  The truth is, the closer the relationship, the more extreme are the highs and lows.

  • A parent is going to miss a “signal” when a son or daughter needs them.
  • A spouse is going to miss a “moment” when they should have listened.
  • A son or daughter is going to miss a “chance” when a parent needed to know they mattered.
  • A brother or sister is going to miss a “time to connect” because of another priority.
  • One of us is going to bring judgment and shame into the situation instead of understanding.

Life is full of imperfection.  We will make mistakes.  However, our most important relationships deserve our commitment to stay connected. Don’t waitMan and woman holding hands at a table

  • Don’t wait for the perfect time. There is no such thing.
  • Don’t wait for the other person to take the first step. Set the example for others to follow.
  • Don’t wait for the holidays to reconnect. The holidays are stressful enough.

Start small, reach out and take a few steps to reconnect.  We will all benefit from the connection.

When we act now and reach out to work on a struggling relationship, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to bring health into the relationships we care about most.