Month: June 2014

Time and the Elements

Image credit: “safe” – © 2007 Paul Keller – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

In most cases, a strong safe is a trustworthy container. We keep in it our valuables, our money, our important papers, and other things we don’t want lost, damaged or stolen.

Yet, two things work on even the best safe: time and the elements. Time simply goes by, so how can it affect something as durable as a safe? Time itself allows the other thing to work, the elements. Without constant maintenance, even steel will slowly deteriorate until rust and decay take over. Steel will weaken and lose it’s ability to protect. These same effects happen to houses, homes, neighborhoods, and relationships as well.

How about your life? Is the proper maintenance being done to keep it strong, protected, and hopeful? Or, is it being allowed by neglect, decay, and a lost sense of purpose to rust and decay from the inside. I see a number of people on the edge, and their lives could go either way. We need to see what we can do to make some difference in at least one of those lives. Hopefully, I have already started today. How about you?

Blanket Statements

As we waited on our vehicles to be serviced at the dealership, I mentioned how like the hospital waiting room it was. A “technician” (we used to call them mechanics) would come out and give the results of the “procedure” (oil change, alignment, or even an intake runner control valve), and that the vehicle would be brought out shortly. I expected to hear there would be recovery time, but thankfully vehicles don’t require that.

After I made the comment, the guy next to me mentioned how his wife had surgery at our local hospital, and they were told it would take two hours. Four hours later, no one had spoken to the large gathering of family and friends, and they were obviously worried. She had actually been in recovery for two hours, but no one told them. He then simply mentioned the name of the town as his explanation of the lack of communication. An indictment of a whole town resulted from an individual not doing his or her job.

It then occurred to me how someone could have simply said, “Everything went fine, your wife is in recovery. We’ll let you know when you can come see her.” Obviously none of that was spoken to him that day. His comment was heard by maybe four people, but what if they told others? It seemed to confirm an attitude in him that didn’t expect any better.

I didn’t tell him I work there, nor did I say that he should have been informed. That went without saying. I wish he had said something more specific, perhaps that one person needed to do better. But, he didn’t, and not only an entire medical center, but even a city suffers from that incident. Trust is fragile, and can be lost so quickly. It then takes many good experiences to overcome that loss.

How Deep is Trust?

We encounter plenty of people who would like us to trust them without much reason to do so. How do we respond to them?

We could become untrustworthy ourselves by assuring them of our trust (and support?) when we have no intention of doing so. But then, what would be the point? We could also tell them no, since they haven’t proven themselves, but we could miss out on a good relationship.

There is way we could maintain our own integrity, and at the same time let them know we are carefully considering trusting them. It’s best to be honest to them and tell them we want to trust them, but many before them have wasted our trust, so they will have to allow us some time and effort to verify their integrity. If they are genuine, that will be all they ask. If not, they will likely walk away, or react in a way that proves they do not deserve trust. We need to allow trust to go as deep as it needs to go. The value we place on that person’s word is directly proportional to the care we both put into verifying it.

Truth and Trust

There is a difference between an honest mistake, and perpetuating a lie. While both may be equally untrue, one has a different effect on the one who believed the lie and may have been hurt by it. An honest mistake should be admitted, and corrected. That’s simple enough, and will likely result in trust regained. I have written more letters in recent years to those who are supposed to represent me when I feel they are not being honest with me. While allowing for honest mistakes, I also look for the corrections, if they were mistakes. So far, I’ve gotten no corrections of bad information, but vague explanations of why the initial information was given. The lack of directly answering my questions reveals much!

There are those who would have us not be aggressive in pursuing truth, but would rather we believe them, simply because they tell us something. That approach to truth will not lead to it, will allow those with ill motives to lie to us, and will result in our believing whatever we are told, regardless of its veracity. When lied to, we naturally are skeptical afterward, and require more proof next time.

When told a lie, how do you handle it? More and more, I’m being up front and clear when I feel I wasn’t told the truth, and that I expect to be. I also let the person know they have some work to do now to regain the trust lost. I would encourage you to be up front also, so we might get straight answers more often.

Planting Seed

Recently, I went to a local business for an oil change, which really is a good deal. When I made the appointment, I told the manager, “Don’t bug me about my tires. I know I need tires, but I’m not ready to buy any yet. I’ll let you know when I am.” He chuckled because he knew he would have mentioned the wear and then moved right into what he could do for me. I don’t mind that exchange because I know him, (and he didn’t mention a word about my tires!) 

We’ve all been bombarded by advertisements. The advent of social media and electronic devices just gives more opportunity for those who would sell us something to keep their product or service before us as often as possible. I appreciate the ability to control those somewhat.

Yet, I still am more impressed by those businesses and people who deliver what I need when I need it, without endeavoring to create the next need immediately. I know the psychology behind the “constant contact” approach, but I also know what I like and don’t like. I like the availability of a product when I need it, without someone telling me I need it now. Is there a lesson in that for us in our interaction with people? At times, we are all in a position to convince someone of something. How well we do it depends on our ability to know the other person, and the ability to let them decide how to respond to our offer. I like the idea of letting them know I’m here with help, and moving on to let them think about it.

The Everyday

There are times when we need a change. Things seem dull, and not nearly exciting enough. The mundane is too, well, mundane.

That is true, until something happens not planned by us, and beyond our control. Then we feel like we’re on a roller coaster and we can’t see what’s over the next peak, or beyond the next drop. Then we long for something more “predictable”.

Life is like that. We usually do like to get back to the everyday, and there is a good reason for that. It is the gauge by which we measure that which is interesting, or exciting. Short bursts of “out-of-control” may be good for the adrenaline, but not for the sense of well-being we need. That which is the same, predictable, and mundane, gets us back to feeling enough in control so our nerves and our lives can be sane again. So, here’s my plug for the everyday, today.

Barnacles

We have all heard of barnacles, which are a type of arthropod, related to lobsters and crabs. They also attach themselves to hard surfaces. This is where they have an economic impact, particularly on ships at sea. They can interfere on any hard surface, and must be periodically removed before they cause serious problems.

Have you ever felt become bogged down with extra weight? Not necessarily pounds on your body (though that could be the case as well), but emotional and spiritual weight. It happens so gradually and over time, it’s hardly noticeable until we are overwhelmed with things we realize are not necessary to our survival or happiness. They can come in the form of overextended commitments to good groups, such as civic organizations or volunteer groups. It can also simply be family expectations or just a full schedule of recreation that robs us of any time to actually think.

If we lack time for reflection on things past, or giving full thought to a future project or challenge, we have too much to do. In the past, the term used was “leisure”. While usually avoided today due to misunderstanding of the word, it still means simply time to consider our plans or position in life. We need that, or we will make bad decisions based on emotions, or what seems urgent, and not on what is best. In any given week, set aside time (schedule it if necessary) where nothing is required except to just contemplate who you are, what you need to do, or where you are in life. This may be the most valuable time of your week. So, get rid of the barnacles that slow you, weigh you down, and rob your life of needed time. The world will survive without you for a little while.

A Leader

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone,the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”  
— General Douglas MacArthur 

This quote is on a plaque I received upon graduating a leadership class held in the county where I work. The nine-month class gave us a greater knowledge of businesses and resources within our county, and enabled us to form long-term friendships as we worked and problem-solved our way through a book and workbook. As we were presented with challenges, and met each one, we learned about each other. We also gained confidence, courage, and hopefully, established integrity with new friends.

I recommend taking such opportunities when possible. A leader never stops learning and growing. If we do, we likely will cease to be leaders.

A Key to Leading

James Carl Nelson writes in his book, “Five Lieutenants” about young men training to be army officers preparing to enter WWI. Officers training at Ft. Sheridan, near Chicago, had to learn some things prior to leading men into battle. Many of them had never put on any kind of uniform, and most had never been in charge of others before.

Nelson states the following about those young officers-in-training, he cites from the camp’s history, “More than learning to command, their first month, they learned the really first essential – to obey.” This statement struck me as being basic, yet uncommon in today’s thinking. Many leaders have never learned that first essential, so can never understand those they lead. As a former army officer, I had to spend time being led prior to any time leading. This served to prepare me to be a better leader by being the best follower possible.

No matter our station in life, there is always a need to be obedient in some form to someone. Until we learn that, we will lack trust from those around us.

Support System

Fellow chaplains and friends gathered at her request. She gave two reasons for wanting to talk with us. One, her dad has stage three lung cancer, and she asked for our prayers. Two, she may have to be away for awhile, and wants to make sure her chaplaincy duties are covered in her absence. We assured her of both.

Part of that comes from a mutual dependency on common shared faith. But, more than that, we have worked together in various roles over the past few years to know we are reliable fellow-travelers.

I could offer recent experience of not thinking clearly after a family emergency. Others could offer similar past experiences. We all know that it’s easier to be chaplain than to be family. She is family now, and we are both. It’s good to know there are people around you that are trustworthy.