Archive for category Wayne

Watch What Happens

I wise mentor once said to me, “If you want to know what people really want, watch what happens.” Words are fine, actually more than fine. I love words. I make a living putting words on the page in a particular order to get a particular message out. But when it comes to character, watching what happens will tell you more about a person than their words.

Watching what you do will also tell you what you really want, no matter what you insisted upon verbally. I can tell you I’m over your slight when you stood me up at the movie theater. It’s OK. All is forgiven. But if you call me again and get the cold shoulder, you’ll know what I really think.

Words can be used as a subterfuge, to disguise our real desires and inclinations. Words can be true and direct, or they can misguide. But it’s much harder to cover up with our actions. Our actions display what we really want.

This is true even of larger issues.  People have ended relationships–marriages, jobs, business associations, sports teams, etc.–not by stating openly that they want out. Rather, they acted out until someone else–a spouse, boss, coach, etc.–ended the relationship for them. This gives the one who wanted out the advantage of being “out” without taking responsibility. They can say, “He left me!” “They fired me!” “The coach threw me off the team!” But it’s what they truly wanted all along.

The tricky part is, sometimes we act out what we really want, yet we are so adept at self-deception that we don’t realize what we’re doing. We can complain about happened–and mean it. We can feel the pain of loss and the grief of separation–and it’s real. But something down deep really wanted the outcome we got.

As my wise mentor said, “If you want to know what people really want, watch what happens.”

Wayne

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Lessons from the Dead

Over the years as a pastor, hospital chaplain and hospice chaplain, I’ve had the privilege of sitting at many deathbeds listening to, and praying with, the dying. It’s the great moment of transition, the final days, hours, minutes, seconds of our life in the “here and now.”

A Single Theme

And what happens? For those who are able to engage, who don’t die suddenly, but who have the time to focus on what matters to them the most, a single theme emerges. First, let’s describe what this theme is not.

I’ve never heard anyone say, “Bring me my art collection.” “Show me a photo of my former corner office.” “Let’s talk about my BMW M5.” You get the idea. I’ve never heard anyone talk about stuff.

What Remains

Instead, if the person who is dying can speak or communicate, they want one thing: God and people. Relationships. They want to be with the ones they love. They want to hold hands, look into loving eyes, share words both tender and ordinary. Many want to mend fences that seemed irreparable before. They want love.

This is the time when all the inconsequential stuff of life, the temporary and soon forgotten, is pushed to the side, and only the vital and exceedingly important remains. That’s what people overwhelmingly gravitate to in the dying process. And, exceedingly important can be a quiet moment of silence, with a gentle touch, a loving presence. A quiet word, “I love you.” “Remember when we laughed so hard . . . ” kind of stories. You know, the really valuable things of life.

Kittens

And then I wonder, why do I let things I won’t care about soon enough (sooner than I think, no doubt) give me so much grief? Why am I as easily distracted as a kitten who darts after every moving object?

I find that I want to focus more on what matters most. If it’s what the dying are talking about, then maybe that’s where the majority of my attention should be now. Why wait? Why let the jibber-jabber of life get more attention that it deserves?

I’m trying to learn the lessons the dying are inadvertently teaching.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading.

Wayne

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Facebook: Friends Without Benefits

I’m on Facebook now and have been for many months. At first, a few of my close friends found me, although I’m not sure how. Good stuff. These were people I was invested in and who felt a strong tie to me. We had a nice time catching up and sharing information about our lives. We chatted, shared photos, and it all worked well because we knew each other. So, calling them my “friends” seemed right and appropriate.

Long Lost Acquaintances

Then something interesting happened. People I used to know, but haven’t had contact with in 30 years began to request “friendship” status. Because I’m a nice person, and because it might be interesting to see what they had been up to over the last three decades, I began to accept their invitations.  I also extended friendship requests to a few long lost acquaintances.

But after I accepted their friendship, I never heard from them. I offered some initial contact with some of them, and had a few responses that were brief. Most, however, did not respond at all.

A Collections of Names

I noticed that some of my “friends” had hundreds of friends. I saw one “friend” who had almost 2,000 friends. Wow! Then it hit me. They are not in contact with most of their friends. They have simply accumulated a list of names and photos that represent people with whom they have no intention of having any serious dialogue. It’s as though they simply liked to collect “friends” without the concomitant real relationship that typically characteristic friendships. Like a baseball card collection. They were friends without the benefits and responsibilities of friendship.

So, for the most part, I’ve stopped accepting such “friend” requests. It’s not (let’s be  honest) very interesting to have my Facebook account filled with the musings and quips and of people I don’t know. I really don’t care what they had for dinner. I don’t need to spend time gazing at photos of their grandchildren—as cute as they are. So I’ve stopped.

How Does This Shape Us?

What does it say about the nature of friendship, when we claim to have 500 friends, most of whom we never correspond with or really care about.

How does that view of friendship shape our character and how we live in the world?

Thanks for reading,

Wayne

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The Ground of All Character

How do we know what good character is and what it is not?

I read a fascinating blog post this morning. The author spoke about compassion, love, kindness, and other life-giving things. I agreed with him. But I wondered: where do they come from? How do we get them?

Some say that such attributes are built-in to the human spirit. They come with the base, out-of-the factory model. I agree with that, somewhat (the “somewhat” is for another post). So OK, we come with these things. But where did we come from? And how did these attributes get put into us?

The Source

Because I’m believe in God; and, more specifically, in the God who came into the world in Jesus the Christ, I believe that God is the ground of all character.

All of the character attributes we value–love, gratitude, kindness, compassion, etc.–are available because they are part of the person of God.  Without a source or ground for our character or morality or way of life that’s outside of ourselves, then it could well be something we’ve made up. And who says what I make up is better than what you make up?

Otherwise, we’re Just Making it Up

Your idea of character may contain the feature of being honest. Someone else may laugh at that and say it’s better to do what you have to to get what you want, even if that means lying when it’s convenient. (The truth is not always convenient.) Who’s to say who’s on track and who’s off track unless the entire concept of character and how to live it out comes from outside of ourselves–a great source that gives us guidance and knowledge and the strength t0 embody it?

Our great source and strength is God, the one who made us and who put into us–into the base factory model of humans–God’s own image (with attributes like recognizing that love, compassion, kindness, etc., are good).

Otherwise, how will we know what character is and what the best way of life for us could be?

If we say it’s strictly up to us to decide, then we are on shaky ground.  I have no way of demonstrating that my way is most helpful. Neither do you.

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Inside and Out

Ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner is  hoping that someone will do something really bad–newsworthy bad, so that the scandal-loving press will leave him alone and let him attempt to rebuild his life. That’s my guess, anyway.  No, we’re not going to bash Mr. Weiner. First, we’re not inclined to do that. Second, it’s been done ad nauseum.

Public and Private

But Mr. Weiner’s “situation”  brings to mind a key element of character: Integrity.

He was one person in public and quite another in private. He espoused one set of values and principles when the cameras were rolling, but seemed to leave many of those values and principles at the office.  I wonder how often I do that? How often do you do that?

A Different Person with Different People

How often do I portray one set of values publicly, but then leave them in the car before I go inside my home?

Do you do that? I know I have.

It’s natural to have some differences when in private. We’re more relaxed, more at home. We’re not “on.” We lounge in our grungy shorts and favorite T-shirt with the sleeves torn out at the elbows that your wife would love to get rid of but you’ve made it clear that she’s never to touch that beloved garment (sorry, a little stream of consciousness leak).

But we’re not talking about that kind of difference. We’re talking about differences in what we claim in public and who we are when nobody’s looking. Do we live out in private what we profess in public? Are we kind to our co-workers but dismissive and rude to our families? You get the idea.

Wholeness

Integrity isn’t about being perfect in some rules-based, moralistic sense. Attempting to achieve that will make us crazy, and will makes us really awful people to be around.

Integrity is about wholeness, about the elements of our lives fitting together with a sense of continuity.  It’s about being the same essential person in public and in private.

This is what I want: wholeness, not perfection–consistency throughout. The temptation to be “on” when in public, to put on an image for the crowds is tremendous for many of us.

What I Need

I’m not strong enough to get this wholeness on my own. I need to be close to a power greater than my own to make it happen. I need grace, the grace of God. And, I need good friends–people who’ll love me and even, at times, put up with me.

What do you need to have wholeness, to have integrity?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this.

Thanks for reading,

Wayne

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But You Have To!

How Perceived Obligations Get in the Way

We tend to get fussy when we think that someone owes us something and then doesn’t come through. We feel cheated, hardly-done-by, perhaps even hurt. Often, though, these kinds of “obligations” are internal; that is, they weren’t agreed to or even discussed with the other person.  We just, well, created them ourselves.

A husband expects his wife to take on certain responsibilities. But she doesn’t. He becomes upset when the “thing,” whatever it is, isn’t done. The problem is, he hasn’t discussed it with her, hasn’t asked her what she thinks. Maybe the “thing” he expects isn’t something she wants to do, or maybe she simply doesn’t see it as something that must be done. Either way, he’s upset, annoyed. Tension builds between them.

What’s the source of his irritation? An internal deal or contract he created, all by himself. How often do we imagine that someone owes us something only to be upset or stressed out when they don’t come through?

The Source of a Lot of Trouble

The truth is, people usually don’t owe us anything (unless you have a contract that all parties involved understand and agree to). Parents don’t owe their children Disney World or a car (new or used) or a particular vacation or set of clothes . . . the list goes on. Parents can give their children those extras, but out of love and grace, not obligation.

The person at the grocery store doesn’t owe us a “cut-in” because we have 2 items and they have 20. They can let us jump ahead out of kindness, but they’re not obliged to do it. Adult children don’t owe their parents a phone call each week, but if the kids choose to call, it’s out of grace (who wants someone to talk to them strictly out of guilt or obligation, anyway).

A Caring and Free Life

We’re not talking about neglecting to love others or living a selfish life. But we are saying that one of the most difficult lessons in character formation is to realize that no one owes us anything.

When we get this, we increase our peace. We don’t get fussy with people or live with inner stress because someone “should have” done this or that for us. Instead, when the kids call or when someone does something nice for us, we realize that they didn’t have to do it–and we’re grateful.  If they don’t do it, that’s OK too. They didn’t owes us to begin with.

Gratitude

A grateful heart is a heart at peace with God, itself, and others.

Can you think of a time when you became angry or upset because someone didn’t come through? Were they really obligated to do what you wanted, or was it something you created in your own mind?

What are your thoughts on obligations?

Thanks for reading.

Wayne

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