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What Is Truth? Answers To Unlock Your Life A Companion on the subject of Wisdom
Volume 1: Self-Mastery: Diligence & Prudence
By Steve Wickham
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Preface .......................................................................................................... 6 Introduction ................................................................................................... 7 The Purpose of, and End in, Life Itself: Wisdom ................................................................................. 8 Principal Values ................................................................................................................................... 9 Diligence: ......................................................................................................................................... 9 Prudence: ........................................................................................................................................ 9 Shalom: ........................................................................................................................................... 9 Balance: ......................................................................................................................................... 10 Trust: ............................................................................................................................................. 10 Respect: ......................................................................................................................................... 10 Wisdom: ........................................................................................................................................ 10 The interdependence and intra‐relationship of the principal values ............................................... 10 Personal Mastery: Diligence and Prudence .................................................................................. 12 Life‐givers: Shalom and Balance ................................................................................................... 14 Relationship‐enhancers: Trust and Respect .................................................................................. 14 The Purpose of, and End In, Life Itself: Wisdom ............................................................................ 15 Reaching a Higher Standard... ........................................................................................................... 16
Diligence ...................................................................................................... 20 Famous Last Words – “I’ll Do It Later...” ........................................................................................... 20 Defeat Laziness and Achieve Anything! ............................................................................................ 21 Don’t Get Too Comfortable .............................................................................................................. 22 Be the Change! .................................................................................................................................. 23 Get Fit, Not Injured – Recreation ‘Change Management’ ................................................................ 25 From Reputation to Character .......................................................................................................... 27
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
P a g e | 3 Eliminating Negative Self‐Talk .......................................................................................................... 28 Bad Habits – Eradicating Them Forever ............................................................................................ 30 Haste – The Destructiveness, Hassle and Problem of Hurry............................................................. 32 Life is About Waiting ......................................................................................................................... 34 We Must Transcend The Things That Hold Us .................................................................................. 35 The Skill of Anticipation – the Way of the Diligent ........................................................................... 37 Fixing Procrastination – “Do it now” ................................................................................................. 39 Running Out Of Patience ‐ Running Out Of Warnings ...................................................................... 40 Meeting Destiny – Embracing The Sea Of Opportunity .................................................................... 41 Three Things That Cause Success And Three Things That Don’t ...................................................... 43 Spirituality Does Not Last .................................................................................................................. 44 Four Time Wasters ............................................................................................................................ 45 Simply 3 Things to Cause Success (and 3 Things to Avoid Doing) ..................................................... 47 Transform Yourself – Create New Mental Pathways ........................................................................ 48 Re‐Starting Life – Fresh Start, Fresh Hope ........................................................................................ 50 Demonstrating Personal Leadership: We Only Get One Go ............................................................. 51 2 Powerful, Resounding Words – “No” and “Now” .......................................................................... 52 Choose Life – The Way Of Spiritual Progress .................................................................................... 53 Happiness Lies In Your Own Hand .................................................................................................... 55 Being Stuck With A Terrible Reputation ........................................................................................... 57 Discipline That Works... Until It Doesn’t ........................................................................................... 59 Success, Failure Or Nothing: Are You A “Player”? ............................................................................ 59 Internal Versus External Locus Of Control ........................................................................................ 61 Life Is Like Preparing For A Bullfight ................................................................................................. 63 The Rewards For A Good Life Lived .................................................................................................. 64 Act While There Yet Is Time! ............................................................................................................. 66
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
P a g e | 4 Wisdom Is Making The Most Of Every Opportunity ......................................................................... 68
Prudence ..................................................................................................... 71 Communicating Confidently Whilst Achieving Restraint .................................................................. 71 Communications Bonanza – Keep It Brief ......................................................................................... 73 Loose Lips Sink Privilege .................................................................................................................... 75 When Is It Right To Complain? .......................................................................................................... 77 Simply Perfecting Your Use Of Speech.............................................................................................. 78 How to Read Body Language ............................................................................................................ 79 Fine‐tuning Roles—Maximising Your Impact in Life ......................................................................... 81 Becoming a Teacher‐parent: Giving Your Children the Goal of Success ........................................... 82 12 Steps To Recovery – Like A City’s Walls Broken Down, A Person Lacking Self‐Control ............... 85 Temper Management 101 ................................................................................................................ 88 Disappointing People When Trying To Satisfy Them ........................................................................ 89 Resisting Speaking Or Thinking Negatively Of People ...................................................................... 90 Wisdom In Listening Before Speaking ............................................................................................... 94 One Choice, Many Ripples ................................................................................................................ 94 Caution About Taking Advice ............................................................................................................ 96 A Good Idea In Life ‐ Think Beforehand ............................................................................................ 97 Distinctive Spiritual Insight ............................................................................................................... 98 An Exemplar Of Maturity – The Goal Of Life ..................................................................................... 99 You Can Upset Only Yourself .......................................................................................................... 100
Final Words ................................................................................................ 103 Gaining Personal Mastery Through Silence and Solitude ............................................................... 103 The Blessing of Time – Reclaiming Purpose and Control Over Your Life ........................................ 106 Managing the Moment – Endure and Enjoy! .................................................................................. 108 The Heart Of the Human Problem Is The... ..................................................................................... 109
P a g e | 5 What Legacy Are You Leaving? ....................................................................................................... 111 Linking Wisdom With Truth ............................................................................................................ 111
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Preface To be written.
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Introduction Biblical Wisdom literature declares certain attributes of character that go toward wisdom and foolishness. Among Proverbs, the key biblical offering from the ancient Near East, are around 900 proverbs that speak on the subjects of diligence, prudence, shalom, balance, trust, respect, and finally, wisdom overall, including personified Wisdom. Wisdom is commonly held as “thinking and living in accordance with how things actually are.” Folly, on the other hand, “is a way of thinking and living that ignores how things actually are.”1 The purpose and goal of this book is the advancement of wisdom and minimisation of folly in the reader’s life. Thinking and living in accordance with how things actually are is both a wisdom activity and a commitment to truth. Truth and wisdom are therefore inextricably joined-at-the-hip. During a routine though intense reading of Proverbs over more than a year, a system of thought evolved in my mind and heart; I continually noticed themes emerging from the text and I mused on their relationships with each other. When I analysed it further I found seven neat headings (which I now call “principal values”) that could categorise these proverbs that really stood out for me personally, and the more I looked the more I could see these seven distinctly; set apart as macro character traits. Then I noticed how well they interlaced with each other. Again still, I noted how each of the seven individual principal values paired up with another quite intrinsically and there evolved in my thinking a system for the development of three wisdom schemas: the first (the subject of this volume) is personal mastery combining the values of diligence and prudence; the second involves life giving and regenerational attributes of shalom (a complete peace) and balance; and finally, a third relating to social awareness relationship enhancers trust and respect. The totality added up to wisdom. At once, it appeared to me that one system of thinking could assist someone with intra-personal, inter-personal, and life sustenance, all in one. As mentioned, this first volume is focused on two subjects within a system of philosophy, diligence and prudence. These frame, for you the reader, ways you can align to truth and wisdom (how things actually are) in the development of your person regarding efficiency (diligence) and effectiveness (prudence) adding up to a life efficacy (or worth) I call personal mastery. That’s the basic theory. 1
John Goldingay, Proverbs: New Bible Commentary, D.A. Carson, R.T. France, J.A. Moyter & G.J. Wenham (eds) (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1994), pp. 584-85. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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The Purpose of, and End in, Life Itself: Wisdom Can we formularise life? Can we make up or discover a system that can guide us? Nothing is perfect except God. But we can venture into Wisdom and find within it an ideal ally and companion for life. I propose there are seven key virtues of life (“principal values”) that can guide us in growth toward the goal of a healthy, fulfilling life which seeks to both live abundantly now, and also leave behind a solid legacy after death. Combined and integrated, these principal values form a neat philosophy for personal growth and development. Wisdom is not simply the means to life. It’s an end in itself. God is wisdom, as he is love, as he is truth, as he is light, as he is salvation, and as he is grace; among the many other things he is. We are told wisdom existed prior to Creation. It was the first of God’s works. It is God’s nature. Therefore, if we want to make sense of life we need to see this as a big part of the key to it all. We also need to know that acquiring wisdom requires a search, and a lifelong day-by-day search at that! The depths of wisdom cannot be plumbed. As we search we will just keep finding more and more; much like a wealth of a certain resource in a bottomless mine. Using the mining analogy, we might have to employ varying techniques to get at the “ore” of wisdom and retrieve it, as well as finding varying qualities and quantities of this “ore” as we go. Some of our “finds” in this search are simply breathtaking, like the discovery of a large gold nugget or gemstone. Sometimes it is simply hard going, with few “nuggets” to find, and mainly dust, but we know we need to endure these times in order to discover more. Unlike mining however, wisdom proves itself miraculous in life. It’s worth far more than refined silver or gold. It proves sustainable whereas we all know that riches are transitory; we only have to look at the fragile, ebbing and flowing stock market to see that. The seven principal values; diligence, prudence, shalom (a Hebrew word which means a “whole peace”), balance, trust, respect, and wisdom, are all interdependent on and through each other. As one is activated and dealt with, so are the others brought in, at least in some small way. In other words, if we improve in one value or attribute, say we become more diligent, we will potentially affect and improve others. There is a Model that shows the interrelationship of these seven principal values with wisdom and truth.
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Principal Values We need to define and differentiate between the principal values:
Diligence: Diligence is order—an appreciation of the need for diligence to create order in life. It is being resolute and seeking resolution in all situations; working with tenacity, industry, and a focus on definable action. It is commitment and a firm intent—based on a heart for righteousness. It’s an unreligious piety, which is dutifulness. A focus on carefulness—a rejection of haste (haste is motivated by fear, laziness, and other ungodly impulses). Other adjectives are responsible, dependability, discipline, obedience, leadership.
Prudence: Is control over what enters and leaves the mouth. Everything in prudence can be rated on eating, other bodily intake, and communication. Taking care to be silent in tenuous times; adherence to temperance, moderation in all things, discretion and finery, always inoffensive and impossible to offend—overlooks insults, act out of knowledge and not from opinion, gives thought and consideration to ways/steps; always has the humility to heed correction, seeks refuge in dangerous situations, a constant awareness of one’s context and environment.
Tranquillity, in a word; achieving a tranquil state, wholeness in one’s being, at-peace, atrest, being still, and feeling good in self (and God if one believes); harmony in heart and Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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soul. It’s an absence of agitation/discord—no cognitive dissonance; congruence of heart and mind. It’s a feeling of completeness, and a thorough sense of self-awareness. And lastly, it’s probably the most important way to be—way of be-ing.
Protecting accessibility is vital to shalom. It’s the ability to be autonomous—to achieve autonomy. It’s a wise use of time that considers the various priorities and impacts of time. It is essentially maintenance of balance, and the ability to do the important things always, preferably in utter peace; it protects and enhances vitality. Is driven by, implemented with, and uses effectively the No/Now juxtaposition (this is covered under “Diligence”).
It takes trust to be courageous, and faith to trust. It takes courage and faith to be honest. It is love never failing, and a seeking for kindness. One must trust to be patient—a chief virtue. It is forgiveness—the grace to forgive and forget, gratitude in all things, acceptance of things that cannot be changed, detachment of one to one’s desires, openness to all good things, a call to perseverance; rarely, if ever, losing hope.
Justice with love are capital virtues—justice always, sincerity, giving honour to all people, listening more than what would be expected; an unquestioned integrity, driven by humility, compassion, gentleness, and empathy, fairness at any cost; consideration whenever it is due, and sometimes when it is not; tolerance for all people; being socially intelligent.
Truth is wisdom; longevity based in truth—it works always—being grounded in it. Truth and wisdom are interchangeable. Health and wellbeing from true motive, a true wholesomeness based in the fear of God; seeking to understand rather than be understood. It’s a simultaneously eternal and transitory perspective; a right curiosity and a true appreciation of beauty and excellence.
The interdependence and intra-relationship of the principal values It can be shown that if we apply trust for example, which can be demonstrated in many ways, like being courageous or having faith etc, we become beneficiaries of more shalom. It takes prudence and diligence to trust—it’s not just hard work (diligence) to begin with, and Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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it takes some self-control (prudence) to trust. It takes wisdom to be patient. Patience is a big part of trust. To trust means being honest; again, honesty is an intrinsic act of courage. To forgive anyone means we must trust, and in this way we also show respect for the person we forgive. To effectively and honestly trust we must be reasonably balanced in life—if our life is in chaos it will be more difficult to trust. Balance promotes the ability to trust. Lastly, we simply cannot implement wisdom living without a whole lot of trust. What about another principal value? Take shalom. To receive shalom, or as I like to put it, to “achieve shalom,” in the moment, we have to do our work (diligence), be careful about what we say and do (prudence), and we must have balance in life; we must trust God (have faith); we must be respectful; and, we need to attend to overall wisdom living, which is a summarisation of all these in any event—as well as having its own distinct characteristics. Shalom is always a moment-bymoment proposition. So, these principal values interact with shalom in a moment-bymoment way. I have just shown the interdependence of the other six principal values with trust firstly, and then secondly with shalom. It works with each of the others as well. Let’s now break the principal values down in a different way. It’s a way that illustrates the special holistic nature of this system of thinking or philosophy. It covers three key life functions or situations that recur over and again: 1. Personal mastery: diligence and prudence; 2. Life-givers: shalom and balance; and, 3. Social awareness relationship enhancers: trust and respect. Now, this theory posits that we need access to both personal mastery values and life-giving values to tap into the social awareness relationship enhancers, trust and respect. Again, interdependence. We could transpose the formula and it would work out true too. All three lead to, and complement and enhance, wisdom. They ‘add up’ to wisdom.
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Personal Mastery: Diligence and Prudence Diligence and prudence come first because they are personal. They impact us personally, and are most noticeably created or developed (one is [i.e. ‘you’] diligent or prudent) because of personal reasons, drives, and motivations. Diligence is order; an appreciation of the need for diligence to create order in life. It is being resolute and seeking resolution in all situations, working with tenacity, industry, and a focus on definable action. It is commitment and a firm intent, based on a heart for righteousness, and an unreligious piety which is dutifulness; a focus on carefulness; a rejection of haste. Other applicable adjectives as personal characteristics are: responsible, dependability, discipline, obedience, and leadership. Prudence is primarily self-control over what enters and leaves the mouth, and a heart that reflects same. Everything in prudence can be rated on eating/intake and communication. It’s taking care to be silent in tenuous times, adherence to temperance, moderation in all things, discretion and finery; it’s always inoffensive and impossible to offend. Proverbs mentions that the prudent: overlook insults; act out of knowledge and not from their own opinion; give thought and consideration to their ways and steps; always think and act with the humility in heeding correction; seek refuge in dangerous situations; and, have a constant awareness of one’s context and environment. Diligence and prudence are the centre-most character qualities that others look for in making judgments about us. They assess our character critically on these values first; on how diligent and prudent we are. If we are branded “lazy” or a “gossip” it has relevance personally.
These are character attacks that speak most cogently to our levels of
competence (or lack thereof) regarding both diligence and prudence. If we are feeling personally fulfilled it will be largely because we consider that we’ve been diligent and prudent in our attitude and behaviour. Our self-image and self-esteem is buoyed this way. These are key personal values, which have a tremendous impact on the next two. These two come first. Diligence and prudence are two complementary factors in developing a strong, focused, and pliable character to augment the development of wisdom. This subject is not for the faint of heart. It’s strictly for those in life who genuinely seek to grow without regard for the personal cost. This growth is obviously counter-cultural to the flow of secular Western life, which is so often pleasure-based and at odds with the development of character.
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It is argued that when a person can master both qualities of these principal values, and demonstrate high competence in living them in a consistent day-in-day-out way, then they have achieved personal maturity that God intends for them as a person. This is personal mastery over the desires, and competence in that person’s ability to test their own heart and seek God for direction along their way. Not only does this person live in a highly diligent way, they do it for the right reasons i.e. prudent perspective drives the diligent way.
They’re careful in their expression of
diligence. Conversely, this person is also highly prudent, yet they gird their discretion with a level of detached accountability that oozes diligence—again, their prudence is driven from the right heart or motivation. A person with low levels of prudence, but high on diligence may exhibit a brash boldness that gets things done hang the consequences i.e. simple greed or too carefree. The other extreme is a person low on diligence but high on prudence; this person, although careful, may be inclined toward motivational problems—they might know what they need to do but can’t do it for lack of the principal value of diligence i.e. simple laziness or lack of courage. What is confounding for people with both of these conditions is the lack of motivation or ability to do what the wise know is right—across the board—in spite of the personal cost.
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We can view these both on Quadrant model.
People fit anywhere on the Quadrant
according to their cross-referenced proficiency in both diligence and prudence. What people find is the hardest thing to get through is the “motive wall.” This is the biggest barrier to attaining high levels of both principal values. The key in personal mastery is determining where we fit on both scales and then it’s about setting goals to improve our motivation, increasing our character around both diligence and prudence.
Lifegivers: Shalom and Balance Shalom and balance go together because they are both life-giving. Though they are subtly (and importantly) different, they are highly interdependent with each other and the key to life today — the present age. If there was ever a time when we have lost focus on these it’s now! Shalom is many things, and not simply “peace.” It’s even a feeling of completeness, and a thorough sense of self-awareness. It’s tranquillity and harmony, a total absence of discord, and absolutely no cognitive dissonance. It’s the most important and best state for a human being to achieve. It’s simply heaven on earth. If we have shalom it will be because of our level of life balance. The contra is applicable. Balance is the thing that is missing in much of life today—it’s much more than simply “work/life balance.” It’s that and more. It’s also about autonomy and being (able to be kept) accountable. A balanced life uses time wisely and considers the various priorities and impacts of time; it’s a “focused life.” It protects our accessibility. It’s self-empowerment to be able to do things well, all the time. It’s consistently high performance. It protects and enhances vitality.
Relationshipenhancers: Trust and Respect Trust and Respect also go together and come last before Wisdom and are both relational. Again, these are highly interdependent on each other; if one does not respect people, trust is not afforded back in those relationships. If you don’t trust someone, they are unlikely to respect you — it’s a very reciprocal arrangement. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Trust is love never failing, and a seeking for kindness. It’s the grace to forgive and forget, gratitude in all things, and acceptance of things that cannot be changed. It’s also the detachment of one to one’s desires, openness to all good things, a call to perseverance, and it’s also never losing hope. Respect is a seeking for justice and righteousness, sincerity, and giving honour to all people; it’s listening more than what would normally be expected, as well as an unquestioned integrity, driven by humility, compassion, empathy, and fairness, at any cost; it’s consideration whenever it is due, and even sometimes when it is not, and tolerance for all people; it’s being socially intelligent.
The Purpose of, and End In, Life Itself: Wisdom Finally, wisdom is separated out as unique and special. Nothing is like wisdom. Wisdom is truth; the way things are.
Wisdom and truth are both synonymous and highly
interchangeable. Truth is wisdom; longevity based in truth — it works always — being grounded in it. Striving for health and wellbeing, a true wholesomeness based in the right fear of God, seeking to understand rather than be understood. It’s both and simultaneously eternal and transitory in perspective; it’s the totality of true perspective. It’s a right curiosity and a true appreciation of beauty and excellence. Wisdom is as broad as life, and many would suggest infinitely broader than even that. We look at wisdom from purely a life-perspective, however. (We take into account only this aspect of wisdom.
Theologically and practically, wisdom is as broad as “Creation.”)
Wisdom provides the three keys2 to life: long life and its associated benefits, prosperity in its different forms, and honour, which is your name, fame, and reputation—it’s what you will take to Heaven; the only thing perhaps. So, this philosophy is the answer to the question: “What is truth?” For when it’s all been said and done, there’s just one thing that matters: living for truth. Did you or didn’t you? That will be the question asked of you. Even at the 11th hour you may not have been, but it’s the finish that counts. Will you finish strongly?
See Proverbs 3:2, 16; 21:21; 22:4. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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The application of these seven principal values can catapult anyone into character growth and development that seeks only for truth; reality at any cost, even to the expense of the individual concerned. Because there is something more important than personal comfort and ease; it’s pleasing God. You can only come to know real peace, joy and love through a relationship with God. What is truth? This question is, in my opinion, the key to the purpose of life; a life, again in my opinion, that is only available through a true Spirit-filled relationship with Jesus Christ; only he can effectively answer our innermost searching questions and satisfy our deepest longings. With him, and him alone, truth is available; truth that finally and powerfully sets us free.
Reaching a Higher Standard... It’s one thing to reach a high worldly standard; it’s another thing entirely to reach an inspiring ‘heavenly’ standard in your living and relating in this world. The theory is simple. There are three levels. The first dependent level is sin. At the opposite end of the same continuum is the second independent level, an acceptable worldly standard. The third interdependent level is a clean and new heavenly standard -- a criterion that is rarely met. This third level is not on the same plain or continuum as the previous two. Let’s look at work ethic. The dependent (sin) level is laziness. The independent (acceptable worldly standard) is busyness. The interdependent (heavenly) standard is diligence -- just enough work, just enough rest, and just enough play -- the diligent get balance right. They’re diligent at getting it right and they try hard until they do, and they continue trying. They do not allow themselves to slip into ‘selectively sluggardness.’3 Bill Hybels suggests that a lot of people get 9 out of 10 right; they expend themselves properly 90 percent of the time, only to neglect a critical area of their lives (the final 10 percent). By virtue of this, they become plainly negligent in that area. We see this often in our Western society in the way the family and familial relationships are mistreated. They’re not a high priority for many. Sure, you might work hard, but do you really give your husband, wife, son or daughter the time they need or deserve? 3
See Bill Hybels’ book, Making Life Work, Putting God’s Wisdom into Action, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998) p. 36-8. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Diligence is a commitment to industry and action, it’s responsible and dependable; it’s also leadership, discipline, the right intent, order in one’s life, tenacity, resolution, and carefulness. What about speech; what we say? The sin level is clearly slander and its cousins. The worldly standard is double-talk and complaint -- it is entirely acceptable in eighty percent of life to talk good of people one minute and criticise the next, or to sprinkle whinging with joy. Even so-called ‘pious’ people do it. The heavenly standard however, one which is rarely reached, is that of prudence -- the ability to remain silent and utter words only which lift people up; prudence upholds, and links to, respect. It’s articulating words of praise not complaint. The prudent get balance right. They only speak when there’s something genuinely good to say. They also reap a blessing of peace (shalom) as a result of not having tenuous relationships to deal with.
Instead they are almost universally
respected; even by those they seemingly have nothing in common with -- or those whom might be tempted to be envious. Prudence is also about what enters our mouths, as a function of self-control; i.e. what we drink and what we eat, and most appropriately, how much we do of both. Prudence overlooks insults, is temperate, discreet, and acts out of knowledge. It heeds correction and takes refuge in the sight of danger. Then there’s peace itself. What are the levels of peace? The dependent level is chaos -- a world where chaos reigns and there’s an absence of peace. Wars with people are only matched with the inner war that goes on within the self. There is dissonance and then there’s escape -- the vehicle is often a substance; a drug. It’s all cause-and-effect. That’s the sin level. The worldly standard is relative peace, or in real estate terms, ‘quiet enjoyment.’ One has ‘earned the right’ to enjoy what one has. It is almost always a material enjoyment. It’s a house, car, boat, or “toy” that one derives one’s peace and contentment from. It lasts only so long before a yearning for more peace comes. The novelty’s worn off. Enter the heavenly standard; this is peace from within: peace only from faith in God. Here’s the trick. You can’t experience this peace that transcends human understanding unless you’re born again. To become born again you must express what is seen as ‘absurd’ faith from the worldly standard viewpoint. Peace includes the ability to rest and be still; it is wholeness and harmony, and ultimately a high degree of self-awareness. You can see thus far how the heavenly standard does not even fit in with the predominant ‘sin to worldly-standard’ continuum. It sits a whole world above and doesn’t even compare.
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Balance is the key to it all of course, and that is what I am arguing. Balance is heavenly in an intrinsic sense. It appears to sit smack bang in between the atrophied life and the burned out life, but in reality it’s on another continuum entirely as suggested above. Balance is only reached when the motive is pure and the whole life is compartmentalised; here selective sluggardness is entirely corrected -- every area of life is attended to adequately -- and therefore -- perfectly. The work ethic is “fitted” to each life circumstance and a full effort is expended in each area of life (i.e. compartmentalisation) that does justice to that area i.e. it meets objectives whether they’re stated explicitly or implicitly. We know the objectives are being achieved when we look at all our relationships and how well they’re going, and to how well we feel within ourselves. Balance is consistently meeting all objectives. I’m demonstrating the intrinsic diligence-balance link here. Balance also applies to prudence, trust, and respect, and ultimately wisdom. (The shalom-balance link has already been partially shown.) Balance is the wise use of time, a protection of accessibility i.e. relative autonomy, and vitality. Trust is a key resource in life. How does it fit here? The dependent level is about mistrust and lack of trust. It is complete self-reliance. Actually, it may even not trust self. It may rely mistakenly on others. It’s certainly pre-disposed to dysfunctional and co-dependent relationships, because mistrust drives the field of vision and this person can’t see the wood for the trees. They trust the wrong people for the wrong reasons. At the second, worldly standard level, trust is situational and it’s varied in level of trust shown. It’s very much dependent on being earned. The problem with that is we, as human beings, tend to occasionally let down our friends, family, peers, and customers (i.e. all our fellow human beings). What happens to trust when it’s dependent on performance alone, and performance standards slip? It’s a major compromise and trust is bound to suffer. At the heavenly standard level trust is implicit in the way a person lives. Trust is issued without ‘strings attached’ and it doesn’t even mind too much if it is not returned. Trust is an investment without a return required; it’s given freely. Of course, melding prudence with trust ensures that people don’t take advantage for long -- forgiveness happens and wisdom removes the matter of trust being required. It simply doesn’t go to the place where it will be taken advantage of. Trust includes faith, grace, courage, honesty, kindness, patience definitely, as well as gratitude, acceptance, detachment, openness, perseverance, and hope. It is a very broad concept at the heavenly standard level, trust.
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Respect is next. Trust and respect are so interdependent on one another it is often hard to separate them. For instance, if you respect someone they’re likely to trust you. At the dependent sin level there’s a lack of respect. I see this every day on the roads with people exceeding the speed limits, cutting one another off etc. Conversely, I also see situational respect (the worldly standard) on the roads when people concede for one another, allowing another car to enter traffic from a side street etc. But it all falls down when the driver who could allow another car in doesn’t, instead choosing to ‘hurry on.’ Respect at the heavenly interdependent level is about compassion, empathy, tolerance, and social intelligence. It is consideration and fairness, sincerity, honour, and the desire to listen rather to another rather than be heard. It is also personal integrity and humility. The heavenly standard is the consistently courteous driver. Now this will test every person reading this, including me. And we fail. We fail to meet this heavenly standard in each of the above areas. But, we do strive for it nonetheless. Wisdom oversees the whole process toward living at a higher ethical “heavenly” standard. The wisdom I speak of is not a worldly standard of wisdom which is just intelligent and savvy living; heavenly wisdom often cuts against the grain of worldly common sense -- it doesn’t appear very smart. And it’s often not in the short term. It’s costlier. But in the longer term it works out for the best. Wisdom confounds foolishness which is that base sin dependent level. We see plenty of folly around us. Wisdom combines the above Principles of diligence, prudence, shalom, balance, trust, and respect. It ‘clothes’ all these. It is far more valuable than fine gold or choice silver. It’s both beauty and excellence; it’s longevity, health, and wellbeing, perspective, and a right curiosity. Wisdom is ultimately truth and vice versa. It is the foundation of life and it is found only in one place: God.
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Diligence Main Entry: 1dil·i·gence Pronunciation: \ˈdi-lə-jən(t)s\ Function: noun Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin diligentia, from diligent-, diligens Date: 14th century 1 a: persevering application: ASSIDUITY bobsolete: SPEED, HASTE 2: the attention and care legally expected or required of a person (as a party to a
contract)4 1. constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind. 2. Law. the degree of care and caution required by the circumstances of a person. 3. Obsolete. care; caution. noun 1. conscientiousness in paying proper attention to a task; giving the degree of care required in a given situation 2. persevering determination to perform a task; "his diligence won him quick promotions"; "frugality and industry are still regarded as virtues" 3. a diligent effort; "it is a job requiring serious application" [syn: application]
Famous Last Words – “I’ll Do It Later...” We’ve all done it. We’ve all said, “Oh, I’ll do it later.” It’s a fair thing to put some things off to a later time, but some things just need to be started and some projects must be steadily and diligently progressed or we’ll never reach our objective. Delaying action will risk letting people down who’re relying on us to do the things we need to do. Taking the initiative requires effort. It means we have to resist the temptation to say, “I’ll do it later.” And the truth is every one of us struggles with it. There are so many areas in life we’d want to just relax and cool our heels, or do other ‘important stuff’. Another truth:
Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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our lives travel swiftly south and we’ll end up poorer if we don’t bite the bullet and do what we need to do, now. I’ve got “a round tuit” at home. It’s a round plaque that illustrates this exact point. It says, “This is a round tuit. Guard it with your life. Tuits are hard to come by, especially the round ones. It will help you to become a much more efficient worker. For years you’ve heard people say, ‘I’ll do it, when I get a round tuit.’ So now that you have one, you can accomplish all those things you put aside until you got your round tuit.” Doesn’t that just say it? It’s a constant reminder of the things we put off and put off and again and again, put off. Bill Hybels says in Making Life Work, “Excuses breed excuses. Laziness, sluggishness, indolence, slothfulness, whichever slow moving word you choose -- they all breed more and more of the same slimy stuff. It’s a thick soup you’re sinking into, and you’ll end up stuck in a life of ruin.”5 “I’ll do it later,” is a famous-last-words statement. Even if we do this thing later it won’t bring us the satisfaction it could if we just do it now. We need to break the pattern of procrastination by taking the initiative and by eliminating the excuses.
Defeat Laziness and Achieve Anything! Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. -Proverbs 6:6-8 Many people have problems with motivation. Truth be known we all have to learn how to work; it never comes naturally, not to anyone. Yet, we often look at the self-motivated 5
Bill Hybels, Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom into Action, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 35. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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person in awe as if they were especially blessed. Perhaps they have been blessed, but not with anything other than the knowledge that a good day’s work is reward all its own. Why do people choose the easy way out when time and again they’ll feel the sting of the negative consequences? Failure to achieve, the wrath of authority figures, a messy life etc. These sorts of people never really learn—until they do so the hard way. The sluggard is the type of fool who chooses not to learn. They prefer sleep and can’t be bothered spending themselves for their own (or another’s) benefit. Everything stands against them as a result. There is no blessing for the lazy person. They may crave but invariably nothing comes. Yet, the sluggard is wiser (in his or her own eyes) than seven others who answer discreetly. The sluggard is commanded to go to the ant to learn (finally) how to work. And what do ants do that’s so special? They work... little by little they work. One grain of sand at a time. One piece of food at a time, they march on and on and on. And so it is with us. If we employ this diligence to our work, we achieve! The longer we go with this strategy the more success we accumulate. Rarely is there a magic bullet in life and the same applies to becoming motivated. The old Nike by-line, Just Do It, is so relevant it’s not funny. Doing one thing at a time, whether it’s weight loss or earning a degree or saving for a car or home, add one thing to another... to another, and the principles of achievement are suddenly being applied and success is rapidly within sight. Diligence takes discipline.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable I know a manager who had achieved a marvellous amount of change and influence over several years and lots of hard work. He had made his mark. He’d achieved everything there was to achieve. He relaxed. The following year he was out of a job. Another man had done the same thing; he’d achieved everything in his field of endeavour, a high profile and brilliantly successful sportsperson, and then something happened that brought it to an abrupt end—he grew content with what he’d achieved. If there’s one thing in corporate life or on the sporting field (or in any field for that matter) which ushers in the death knell on that blossoming or successful career it’s getting comfortable.
It’s never a good idea in life getting comfortable.
Comfort zones are
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We’re only as good as our last performance; each day requires its own fresh effort. We can be on top of the world one day, yet it all starts again from scratch the very next day. It’s up to us. I heard once that it’s impossible to stay still in life—we either grow or we stagnate; we move forwards or backwards. So, if we’re not consistently striving to grow, and we rest on our laurels we can expect life to eventually go south, and go sour. Like our manager and our sportsperson above, who both grew comfortable with their lots, we’re destined for disaster if we stop trying in life. If we ever get to a point in life where we feel comfortable and satisfied, we should watch out. We should start looking over our shoulder. The truth is there could be a shake-up at any given moment and we could be shaken from your restful position in that ‘powerful’ tree of ours. We need to stay hungry and competitive. Most of all we must stay on the right side of all our relationships. We need to ensure we remain on the cutting edge of life. We need to keep trying and failing. If we’ve failed and we’ve tried, we’re growing.
Be the Change! “Be the change you want to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi This quote is an amazing truth regarding the ‘doing’ rather than simply the ‘saying’. Ghandi was without doubt one of the most incredible human beings who ever lived. What was it that he saw in the world that commanded him to believe this and therefore actually ‘do’ it? There seems to be so much talk and so little action in much of life; it is wearisome believing people who command your attention when they promise change, when we know to expect more of the same. Saying and doing. These two words are poles, even worlds, apart. When we’ve heard it all and seen very little, there can be an incredible sense of disillusionment that pervades us. This might look like a form of learned helplessness, as we see things in our world requiring change in response to the truth we see, yet there is no change, and may never be any. Now that’s not a good looking picture. It reminds me of sayings like, “Nothing changes if
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nothing changes,” or “What is the definition of insanity: expecting vastly different results from using the same methods.” It’s insanity alright. We’ve heard of the Intelligence Quotient, but what we’re more interested with here is the ‘Credibility Quotient’. How is a person to become credible and maintain credibility? I’m can’t suggest anything scientific, but I can suggest that if people say what they mean and mean what they say, and prove it by actually doing it, it makes a strong case for their credibility, and the efficacy of change. They’re easier to trust and follow the next time around. Credibility and trust are crucial in leadership. Without these elements a leader will struggle to command any sense of respect with his or her charges. So, what gives with credibility—what does it look like? It means that if we’re a leader we must be prepared to be ‘part of the pain’ of change if we expect to see it work. A leader needs to get in and get dirty with the change by getting involved. It is amazing how many so-called leaders simply don’t pay any interest in getting involved, and making the necessary sacrifices in leading people through a change process. The character (humility and respect etc) of the leader comes out when people see them actually committing to the changes they all see as required—they share a common understanding and a common goal. Change in the home is very similar. If we’re in a relationship and we’re suffering abuse or inequity, we want and need change. If we see no commitment to change, or our partner is simply saying things to appease us, it’s a worry. How do we facilitate the change we want to see? We could “be the change,” as Ghandi suggests. It’s a good starting point. Even more pointedly, if we are the partner who is the perpetrator of the abuse, “Be the change” we want to see; actually start doing it one-day or one-moment-at-a-time. We don’t make excuses or put it off any longer: we do it now! Continuing change in this environment is made simple if we do it one day at a time. Like giving anything up, we must simply keep going one-moment-at-a-time; and just QUIT. The forces that seem so powerful now won’t have the same influence in a month or two. That might seem a way off; focus: one-day-ata-time. “Doing change” means staying within our sphere of influence. This is so important. How many people get cheesed off with things that concern them, but they don’t have the ability to change? This is a waste of energy. Let’s explore the remedy. Let’s take a look at a unique characteristic we all have: the ability to form original perceptions. Perceptions are funny things; we all have them and they are so varied, and even subtle differences place us a long way away from each other. If we are wise we’ll seek to test our Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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perceptions far enough to say, ‘Can I do something about this concern?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ it is something we can influence: we can actually do something about it. This reminds me of the slogan World Vision used in their 2007 40-hour famine promotion... ‘Do something... Do something real... Do something else’ (i.e. other than procrastinate). There is no sense in getting ‘all in a tizz’ about something we can’t do anything about, so if the answer to our question is ‘no’ we need to learn to move on, and as the Serenity Prayer suggests, we need to “accept the things we cannot change.” Now, we commence a totally different ball game if the answer was ‘yes’ and we feel sufficiently passionate about it. This is where the work begins. We’ve done the easy bit, now the ‘proof will be in the pudding’ as they say. Enabling a change process to the “doing” requires planning, commitment, energy, and resources. It can only be limited by a lack of passion and commitment. I heard recently that a way to reach your goals was via the “bridge of self-discipline.” That’s correct isn’t it? We can’t achieve any worthwhile goal without needing to restrain our desires. Whether our desire might be stunted by laziness (procrastination) or fed by greed, the antidote is self-discipline; diligence in one word. This word symbolises the correct spirit in activity. It is everything dependable, done in the right way, and with the right intent. Doing the things our mind and heart says are important—those things we can actually do— is really important for our self-belief and self-efficacy. Doing things, over simply just saying them, is such a pointer of character because it shows people around us how diligent we are, how committed to ideals we are, and how compassionate we are. If you are able to consistently convert the things you say to the activity of doing them, “Then, my son [or daughter],” as Rudyard Kipling said in his poem If, “You will be a Man [or Woman].”
Get Fit, Not Injured – Recreation ‘Change Management’ I met a friend for lunch some time back and I was surprised to see him adorned in open shoes, but otherwise dressed for business. When I inquired about it he proceeded to tell me of the blisters he’d been battling with blisters from running. He had developed the blisters as a result of either poor footwear, excessive running, or for some other reason. One thing
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was for sure, he was sore, and what was worse he’d been forced to stop his emergent fitness regime. I got to thinking that my friend doesn’t normally run, or at least it isn’t characteristic of his routine. Then I got to thinking, ‘Is this from an over eager desire to implement change?’-to get fit, and in “getting fit” had he not sufficiently attended to the delicate balance required in the physical transition from being largely sedentary to becoming more active. This sort of thing has happened to me also. Returning to weight training with the availability of a gym where I worked was great; I love to work out. The only trouble was an ‘old war wound’ within my lumbar spine re-surfaced and I had to back off somewhat. It highlights the golden truth that getting fit is harder to get right than one might think. The degree of success of any change often depends on its sustainability over the initial months of implementation. If we last longer than a few months, we normally adapt and then continue the new habit, in this case the habit of exercise. There are many things that potentially de-rail our efforts to change. I’ve mentioned a couple above (risk management for continuity and ‘sticking to’ a routine). Change Management is quite an old practice in business circles, but it is not as well known in the business of everyday life. The principles are based in the processes of planning, assessment, consultation, and monitoring, amongst others. The overall key is the planning. With the desire for new and improved habits and routines, achieving good change management relies on effective thought and planning, whether it's in business or in our personal lives. The wisdom is this: plan to start a changed routine or new habit slowly, monitoring the change closely. Implement it gradually, particularly exercise. Be patient. An injury will set you back days, weeks, or months, and worse still, you could find that you NEVER actually continue the habit, or never get back to it, and this can be very de-motivating. How many people have failed once and never tried again? If you fail, keep trying. Don’t lose your motivation altogether. Good planning can inspire discipline and be highly motivating in itself. The cost in going slowly is easy to bear when you consider the enormous benefit, in looking back in the months to come, on how disciplined you were and what the rewards were. Diligence in this way demonstrates your leadership over yourself, your ability to ‘listen’ to what your body and mind is saying to you, and your commitment to overcome the significant obstacles of change. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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We need to manage change carefully and dutifully. Make sure you give sufficient thought to the planning so that you bolster your chances of success.
From Reputation to Character It never ceases to amaze me how maligned some people are in the eyes of some. It is as if some people could do anything to the contrary and still be seen a certain, negative way. It must be so frustrating for a person to find they have a reputation that they can’t shake. To illustrate the point, say two people have known each other for years; they grew up together. One grew up holding the perception that the other was ‘tight-fisted’ with money. Now the perception is a reality for them, even though there’s not been much to support this perception. Every now and then they still refer and comment about this person’s ‘apparent’ unreasonable frugality. The person thought to be overly frugal or miserly is not that impressed that one story or event of frugality meant this reputation ‘stuck’ for what seems a lifetime. The reality for this situation from others’ viewpoints is actually contrary; this person is actually nothing like that—in fact, they are perhaps, at times, a little wasteful with money, and they are anything but selfish with their money, sharing without hesitation. This is the difference at times between our real character and the less reliable reality of a reputation. People who seem intent on keeping negative reputations alive are usually the ones who engage in gossip and seem to love fiction in their own lives—especially if it is at the expense of someone else. This is obviously very damaging for relationships; they can never mature in love in this sort of environment. Character is a far more reliable gauge of a person; it is the truth about us. It’s how you’d expect that person to respond and how they will 95 percent of the time. Character and decision-making have an interdependent relationship with virtue. The more we actually decide to be good and practice good virtue, like being kind and compassionate, the more our character is reinforced, within us and to those external to us, in these kind and compassionate ways. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy to act a certain way, for instance, when we exercise self-control through a decision, we strengthen our character around the virtue of self-control. Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.’ Another, Thomas Paine said,
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‘Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.’ Yet another, Elbert Hubbard said, ‘Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.’ Whether compared as a shadow to a tree, or what humans know of us as compared with God, it seems these quotes reinforce the distance often between reputation and the truth of our character. Where does this leave us in the quest for a good reputation? It seems all we can really do is decide to be good, reliable, and faithful, and then let the reputations form as they will, hoping that our true character will actually be seen for what it is. But, know this: If you get a negative reputation and people are not keen to shift their perception of you even with evidence that you’ve changed to the contrary, know that they are probably malicious at heart and don’t fret; heaven and earth won’t shake the untruth out of them. The good news of course is people with a commitment to living in the reality of truth will notice your changes for the good and your reputation will change for the better. Decide for the good, and be consistent, focussing more on your character than your reputation.
Eliminating Negative Self-Talk How much anxiety and stress is generated in our own minds? Stay open to this: it is basic Toltec wisdom, and quite widely known within psychology circles, besides numerous other sources—we are, or become, what we think! Say you get a phone call from your boss, and you’re out of the office taking a long lunch. He calls and you don’t want to answer because you’re in an environment that’s ‘not the office’ and you feel guilty. You let it go to message bank. For a moment you think that he or she is upset with you... all because of how you see the situation; your guilt has produced feelings that they are upset with you. Let us get one thing straight. You are NOT thinking what the other person is! This is a truthful statement. Yet, we think and behave as if this was not true, and figure that we not only know what they’re thinking, but also that they think similarly to us. Test this out
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consciously during your next week or two. How much opinion-making is your mind doing for you on automatic pilot? We must be careful with this because not only will it mess with all your relationships, but it causes a huge amount of stress, anxiety and fear, and it is so unnecessary. It is surprising to find out that most of the angst we deal with begins and ends within our own minds—yet it shouldn’t be. If you’re like most people you externalise the stresses of life when there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Sure, there are things that affect our equilibrium but how we “see” things matters enormously. We’re inclined to “see” what we “see”. In other words, our perception in any given moment is affected by all our previous experience, held values and attitudes, and this explains why people get what they expect most of the time—the self-fulfilling prophesy. How we “see” or perceive things is a choice. When it comes to choosing to change it’s not easy: The older we get the harder the choice is to go another way we’re not used to since our brains have developed such well-worn neural pathways—we go with habit and prior attitudes simply because it’s “in the groove”. It’s the same with our minds and our thinking. We think all the time. We talk to ourselves ALL the time. Not all of it is positive. In fact, if we have a negative self-image we’ll be saying stacks of things to undermine ourselves. How do we break the cycle? How do we stop our negative self-talk or internal dialogue? 1. Become aware of it: try journaling about it. Write about what you discuss with yourself in your mind, and what you decide your perception is going to be. Write when you do it and for how long, and what effect it creates (the emotions evoked) within you. It will take some time to master this step. Be patient with yourself. 2. Make an agreement with yourself to challenge it: This is not an easy process but it is achievable over time. Developing the habit to challenge your self-talk is not easy but it is the first step, and it must happen in order to succeed. You need to form the habit of screening your thoughts with the “sieve of truth”. Only what goes through the sieve (i.e. is found to be entirely truthful) should be believed. 3. Make a commitment to stop it: Again, this will take time and quite a lot of effort and energy. Focus only on this for the time, and don’t try to do too much at a time. Challenge and correct your thinking with the truth. If it isn’t based in objective
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fact, simply reject and divert your thinking. You will know when you’re mastering this. When you’re challenging and accepting and rejecting thoughts on a daily basis; everything through the “sieve of truth”. Remember, people are not thinking what you think they are thinking. Be concerned only with what you’re thinking. Your thought-world can be controlled to a large extent. Give it a go.
Bad Habits – Eradicating Them Forever New Year’s resolutions are notorious for not being carried through. They generally last just a few weeks, a month at most. But it’s not the only time we make promises to correct bad habits is it? The Billy Field classic song in the early 1980’s summarised this sentiment so well, “Can’t help myself, bad habits...” The following riddle was given to me some five years ago; see if you can work it out. Guess who/what I am:
I am your constant companion, I have the brain of a human, and the precision of a machine, Half your job you might as well give to me... you only need to teach me and after only a few lessons I’ll do it for you automatically! You can use me for your success, or you can use me for your ruin. A warning however; you need to be FIRM with me; if you’re not, I have the power to destroy you. Who/what am I? This riddle proved prophetic in my life. On my way to an Australian airport I had a ride in a taxi cab I’ll never forget. The driver had taken me for a ride earlier and now had picked me up again for the final leg of the day. He was nice enough, but you know, he’s a driver and I was tired so I didn’t care much for his banter. But he persisted, and this somehow intrigued me, particularly after he’d parroted the riddle the third time, commanding my attention, luring my curiosity. I listened again, and Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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by virtue of this, the driver was even more intense in his rendition of it. I made a few fumbled attempts to guess it, unsuccessfully. As we arrived at the airport, he revealed the answer to the riddle: habits. The “who/what am I?” is habits. Read the riddle again if you like. Exactly one week later my world fell apart. And it all fell apart to a large degree because of my habits, my bad habits. In retrospect the warnings were there, but we rarely heed the warnings do we? ‘If only I had done something about these problems earlier’ I mused and agonised. Too late, my time was up. Keeping in mind we’re defined by our habits, what are you heading towards? You do reap what you sow in this life—it happens that reliability that it is foolish to live any other way. This might be your opportunity to heed the warning. What habit has the potential to destroy you, whether it be a relationship like a marriage, your health because you smoke or drink too much; is it your temper—are you too easily angered? What about the person with heart problems or high blood pressure and continues to eat poorly or not exercise? It doesn’t take a scientist to work out the end will not be pretty. It will more than likely be a tragic and painful end. Sow curses and bad things (on yourself or others) and you will reap cursing; nothing of real worth will come. On the other hand if you sow ‘good’ you will get it. The solution is using the power of the mind to break bad habits. Did you know that through good habits you can break bad habits? The mind has the ability to be ‘re-programmed’ through new myelination. This is a process where the neural pathways (brain wiring) are transformed and supercharged and go from being a ‘dirt tracks’ to a ‘super highways’—this means your brain uses these new and enhanced pathways in preference to the old ones and they are much quicker too—this is how habitual behaviour is created. This is what happens when we learn new things, and persist with them long enough for good habits to form. New and powerful pathways are created. To change a habit, you just need to stick at it long enough and a new pathway will be created and there you go; new habit. It’s not that hard in theory. This is why it is so important to not just give something up, but we must replace that bad habit with an equally powerful positive habit. We then create the new myelination in opposition to the old one.
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For instance, giving up smoking. Make a resolution to replace that habit with some others, like having gum to chew on as a reward—using delayed gratification it works well. Save it up, look forward to it. Get out and walk in the fresh air and marvel at the world we live in. Make the new habits highly personable to you. Cherish them. Think positively. One thing for sure with habits and changing them; we need to be vigilant and must not relent, because if you give the old habit one tenth of a chance and it will come back and grab you and plague you worse than before as you realise it wouldn’t have been as bad to continue your resolve as it is now that you’ve given in. Stick at it. It is always worth the upfront pain. You can do it, and you will, one day at a time.
Haste – The Destructiveness, Hassle and Problem of Hurry “Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake more work than I can go through with calmness of Spirit.” -John Wesley When driving in traffic recently I was again amazed by the gall of some motorcyclists... queue jumpers! There seems to be a mentality amongst many people who ride motorbikes that there exists a 'third lane' on the dual-lane carriageway. That they can zip up through the slowing traffic, to claim first place, is astounding. If someone did this while queuing at a bank, at a coffee shop or at the shops they'd be rudely mistaken, and roundly abused! The particular day I had this experience, I noticed something unusual--a motorcyclist obediently following a car, staying in the one lane, and being a model motorcyclist. I was taken by his behaviour to such an extent I was tempted to wind my driver's window down and applaud him. Sometimes we're disappointed in life... No sooner had I had seen this, I was confronted with four motorbikes (one after the other) zipping past me in the left-hand lane and driving in a manner that was not simply rude but downright haphazard—as if their homes were on fire. The long and the short of it was the “model” motorcyclist must have seen this behaviour and figured he was wasting his time being so obedient and considerate of other road users. Only a few kilometres down the road he commenced the same erratic and inconsiderate behaviour, albeit more conservatively.
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I have often wondered what happens at a deeper level with this sort of person—the average ‘queue-jumping’ motorcyclist. Does he become a person who seeks to be first at all times, in other areas of his life? Do they eventually become more selfish people than those who drive cars? What is their attitude towards obeying the law, generally? Do they flout it in other ways like they seem to on the road? Whatever the long-term psychological effect, it can't be a positive one, can it? I call on all motorcyclists to obey the road rules and prove they are not recalcitrant’s, oneby-one. I wonder if I will see in my lifetime a reform in the way motorbikes are ridden on the road; where they seek to courteously give way and ride responsibly. I want to respect every human being, but it is a huge challenge to respect those who appear to utterly disregard others. It is my prayer that something will happen that will cause reform, however. Perhaps car motorists who see respectful motorcyclists could give them some sort of kudos; perhaps give them the thumbs-up as they record their number plate and report them for some sort of award! Perhaps the State could get on-board with this? I know this was a tolerance test for me, and I’m thankful for it. It reminds me to breath-in and thank God that I’m not in such a hurry; that life is a little less frenzied for me. It reminds me to hasten slowly as the quote featured above suggests, and continue on my patient way, and to pray that these motorcyclists make it to their destinations safely—it might be a family member or a friend that is involved with them in a traffic accident. Needless to say (though I will say it) it causes regrettable suffering for any family who suffers the loss or injury of one or more of their own. When it comes to a road death, the rest is history. Rarely do we get ahead in life in our hurrying. As I’ve illustrated above, we can gain so much more with just a little patience. Queue-jumpers never really get ahead in life. And apart from everything else it displays a flagrant lack of respect for others. It’s not worth the ‘negative’ strain. In haste (often as a consequence of fear) we’ve all done silly things to get in front and then had to deal with the guilt that comes afterwards. It contributes to a loss of inner-peace. It’s ironically such a waste of time in the overall analysis of things! Alcoholics Anonymous have a saying “Just for Today,” as part of their one day at a time philosophy. They encourage newcomers with the terrible addiction, and a long journey of recovery ahead, to say: “I will save myself from two pests; hurry and indecision.” These “pests” have the power to rock anyone’s mind, shaking the resilience to continue the fight.
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It’s about appreciating the truth that says, “Don’t fret, it only leads to evil.” (Psalm 37:8) When we worry and fret, and that emotion has control of us, we can only be a destructive influence over those around us; think about it. Haste is a lack of care and diligence; a lack of foresight and planning, which usually comes from plain laziness. The most extreme form of this, of which haste is but one indicator is biblical “sluggardness.” This could be defined as “unbounded craving,” or a total lack of control of one’s desires; zeal that is motivated from the wrong source. Planning is key. Our approach to life should be considered, deliberate, intentional. Then peace can be ours, as we live in harmony and shalom with others and our Creator. Next time you’re tempted to rush and do something impulsive, take the extra few seconds because in reality that’s all you’ll lose. You stand to lose a lot more than that in your hurrying.
Life is About Waiting There is a story about the Confucian saying, “The ox is slow but the earth is patient.” A famous sporting coach once used it to describe the development of his struggling team. The crux is this: change and things and patterns take time to happen, grow and emerge, and that in reality is no real issue. We hate to recognize this but it is true. Things take forever to change and morph like we'd want them to. A bureaucracy is the classic example--the wheels of progress turn slowly; but they do turn! Interact with a government department (or worse, a series of them!) by partaking in a form-filling exercise and we all too soon know about the frustration of bureaucracy! But, it’s all necessary... it’s the process. I was reminded of a powerful principle recently that illustrates the truth of this point. Time comes. If we put something off, a large far-off goal, because we don’t have the patience to wait for the (say) three years to come, it will eventually. If you put off going to college or university to study that degree you’ve always wanted, to launch your dream career, that three or four years will elapse anyway; do you want to arrive at that point and have the qualification, or not? All that stands in our way is a little hard work, and that never hurt anyone. As Morgan Freeman’s character of “God” said in Bruce Almighty (words to the effect), “Some of the happiest people alive come home each night stinking to high heaven.” Diligence is rewarded. Look at the ant. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Patience. We’re all too often impatient. The Confucian quote was used by former West Coast Eagles coach, Michael Malthouse in describing his reflective approach after a loss. You can tell current West Coast coach, John Worsfold, has the same approach. At times, we just have to be patient and grin and bear it. It’s going to take some time, perhaps even years before the football club turns its fortunes around on the ground. If we think of it this way it might help. Life is about waiting. It’s the biggest waiting room. While we’re here we get to know and live with some wonderful people, we get to learn lots of things, and if we’re fortunate, we experience many wondrous (and not so many painful) things. Just think of the journey of developing this emerging young West Coast team that can’t quite win yet; that’s exciting in itself--a successful future awaits; possibly another premiership. The hunger within these young players will get them there. They have all of it in front of them, which is far better than having everything behind us. There’s everything to live for. All of us have to wait for things. Nothing worthwhile comes easy or straight away. But time does come and change does happen. It often happens slowly enough for us to enter into it, to get involved, to think, and to engage with it. Life is otherwise too quick for us. Why do we get frustrated that we have to wait? It will all be over far too early in any event. Life... ponder. Impatience brings discontentment.
We Must Transcend The Things That Hold Us These words of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s, in the motion picture of the true story, “The Hurricane” (1999) are etched in golden truth for anyone who’s had a real life battle of the titans and won. It’s like the summation of the movie in one short statement; how a fighter who had dealt with massive injustice all his life had to deal with it big time, to break a tortuous 20-year incarceration—the fight for his freedom against a system of inherent and rampant corruption. The part of “The Hurricane” when Carter (played brilliantly by Denzel Washington) says “We must transcend the things that hold us,” is particularly poignant. Facing incredible odds to fight the system, whilst simultaneously maintaining his sanity, Carter was faced with making such a resolve—it was crucial for his survival. It required a commitment to himself; a commitment to flip his world upside down in order to stay in the game. He begun
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to work and study at night, and sleep during the day—anything really, to remain sane and strong. There’s a key lesson here. It’s one of protection. It is about protecting the relatively clean spirit that exists within each one of us, guarding it against corruption. Carter identified it. He identified it and then put a plan into place and executed it. That takes courage and discipline, or put together, faith and diligence. So what holds people? And, how do people transcend these things? The key learning and inspiration here is this: there are many things, people and situations (things + people) that will make their most ardent attempt to ‘hold us’ in this life. It’s a hard fact of life. This is because many people and things want control over us. This is not love-based. To make this clear, a ‘hold’ is anything or any relationship that doesn’t or can’t stand up to truth; and anything that corrupts or potentially corrupts.
This includes anything
downright sinful, relationships that will never be a blessing, or anything that has a negative hold and doesn’t have a good reason for a person to continue with—taking into account the many things that might appear to ‘hold us,’ but in fact are actually good for us—these are not subject to this discussion. For instance, the job we must hold, or the critical mentoring relationship that is ‘difficult,’ but beneficial. We must contend with these things and endure them, until it is the right time to leave, and “move on.” Anything that you know implicitly is truth, will not seek to hold you. Eugene Peterson wrote of the 1 Corinthians 13 in The Message paraphrase, Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. The only exception to this is when ‘the hold’ gives you life, for instance, when someone is trying to escape a hold, perhaps an addiction.
At these times, in these
situations, it is critical to stick with it because the hold is actually because of love; often known as “tough love.” It is at these times and places in life when people need to be humble and accept what is good for them and their future. So, this wisdom is not about ‘healthy holds,’ which could better be referred to as ‘bonds.’ This wisdom is a call to address co-dependent style relationships6 whether they be personal (in the form of habits, addictions etc), with another person (classical co-dependence), or 6
A “co-dependent” can be loosely defined as someone who shows too much, and often inappropriate, caring for persons who depend on him or her. A “co-dependent” is one side of a relationship between mutually needy people. The dependent, or obviously needy party(s) may have emotional, physical, financial difficulties, or addictions they seemingly are unable to surmount. The “co-dependent” party exhibits behaviour which controls, makes excuses for, pities, and takes other actions to perpetuate the obviously needy party’s condition, because of their desire to be needed and fear of doing anything that would change the relationship. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependence Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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organisational (for instance, within a workplace, club, or religious setting including sects, church fellowship, mosque etc). A hold is like a veneer finish. One of our challenges is not only to see through the hold, but also to be able to break through this veneer, because holds are truly just that, veneer. Truth stands, but falsity crumbles once the veneer is broken through. One of the most important roles in life is to be able to recognise falsity and deal with it courageously by breaking through its veneer. Veneer is facade, appearance, the surface of the matter only. Truth is a foil for all sorts of lies in life; we must see through, and past the veneer, to gain ‘life.’ It’s about learning to dig deeper into such a matter so as to reveal the truth. The truth stands challenges and tests. Again, these matters (the things that hold us) are from things or people or situations (things + people). Once it has been recognised the thing/people/situation has a negative hold on us, there has to be a plan to break free. To do this properly at times requires guidance from those that actually love us and we can truly trust. We must break the cycle of dependency and this can be likened to an insect breaking the surface tension of water; a mosquito lands on it—it doesn’t have the weight or ability to break through the surface of the water; weight is needed to get through it. To break through the veneer of a co-dependent relationship requires strength and power; not physical strength and power, but mental, emotional, and spiritual strength and power. There must be a persistence to break the hold in unhealthy relationships. This can take months and in some cases years, and requires eternal vigilance.
The Skill of Anticipation – the Way of the Diligent Anticipation is one of the most important skills to teach young people or people of any age for that matter. It is a function of diligence, and the process of “foreseeing” the direct future. It’s so vital at the task level—when assisting with / affecting a procedure. There is little worse in the performance of work than to have someone assist you and their mind is not “on the job.” Anticipation was one thing that I learned during my apprenticeship years as a young man that has stood me in such fantastic stead, looking back now. In truth, the journey that
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began those years ago eventually took me years to master, much to the chagrin of the tradespeople I trained with. They weren’t always the most patient people, and like many young people, I suffered performance anxiety, got nervous and frequently made mistakes. There were of course many times when I was too lazy to employ this technique, each time probably to my ruination. Even now, there are times when laziness again gets in the way and my complacent-at-times mind gets me into trouble, and I suppose that is human nature. I remember when I eventually did start to master it, it was such a confidence booster; suddenly I was able to be of real value in all my relationships. There are two types of anticipation: planned and response. Both are critical to any performance. For example, professional sportspeople think strategically and tactically in their plan to succeed before a match. They analyse their opponent as well as their own game, and come up with a plan to achieve victory.
But at some point, during the
performance, all that planning is only so good as long as there is the ability to adapt the plan to actual situation, thereby responding to changes to conditions, mood and temperament etc. This is the demonstration of operational thinking, or the ability to ‘captain’ the ship and modify plans “in the moment.” The effective execution of any event or procedure requires sufficient planning and monitoring. There’s no substitute for getting the right people together and having a discussion, or series of discussions, and coming to sound decisions, where milestones are decided and roles are reinforced. This is good planning anticipation. It’s about asking “what could go wrong here?” and coming up with answers to reduce the risks that have been thought of and foreseen. Regarding response, focus and concentration in the moment are essential in anticipation; the person has to be on-the-job mentally, and daydreaming is not tolerable. If attention drifts even for a second or two, the outcome is potentially compromised. In the team context, you can also fail to anticipate if you’re too focussed on what “I’m” doing, a result of being too insular. Anticipation is crucial in event management. Actually foreseeing things before or as they occur is such a good risk management skill, as there are less delays and it adds hugely to the professionalism. It’s such a refreshing thing as an onlooker or spectator to appreciate good anticipation when you see it. An activity in anticipation: •
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o Who needs to be involved in the planning? Who are the key decisionmakers? o What is the purpose and goal of the event or procedure? o What could go wrong? •
Response Anticipation o Identify the need for pre-start and re-start meetings, marshalling focus. o If it is individual response that is required, develop techniques for mastering focus and concentration. o For the team situation, don’t be too focussed on your own performance; leave some of your focus on the overall team performance.
There’s quite a bit of spirituality involved in anticipation. A “planning” mindset comes from hope—when we view things positively, and there’s hope of a good result, we can begin to anticipate them; we enjoy anticipating things as we endeavour to maximise and capitalise on our capability, and perfect our performance, doing the best we can. It’s that winning feeling. Above all, anticipation is a sign of diligence and the mastery of discipline over self, both in the moment and on reflection of the planning that’s gone into the performance.
Fixing Procrastination – “Do it now” I was in an important meeting recently with my mobile phone on silent when a number I recognised rang three times in quick succession without leaving a message. This gave me the feeling this person felt they really needed to speak with me. On the final call, I picked up, to satisfy my curiosity more than anything else. The person on the other end of the line offered to send me an email instead of hassling me out of the meeting, but in a moment motivated to act now, I wanted to see if I could handle it without having one more email reach my inbox. The conversation could have gone one of two ways. Either I could have said, “No, let’s discuss it later,” or “Will it take long; perhaps we can discuss it now?” As it happened, I chose the latter path, seeking to deal with the hassle (and pain) now rather than put it off. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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The benefits of this action weren’t only about addressing the temptation to put it off i.e. procrastinate. Teamwork I actually had a very positive and pleasant albeit quick phone conversation that would otherwise have been dealt with over the email system which is a poor communication alternative. It promoted and reinforced a healthy working relationship. Accountability An additional benefit is accountability. I wasn’t avoiding or putting off the conversation. I was satisfying the caller’s need to have something addressed right there and then. I was allowing him or her to hold me accountable--this promotes many positive things including trust and respect. Our time management gets better when we’re proactive enough to get on top of things, so we are then at least able to see the wood for the trees. And there are so many roll-on benefits.
Running Out Of Patience - Running Out Of Warnings Fatal Errors are something more akin to computer system failures these days than real life instances of consequences of situations that have gone beyond repair, or warnings that have gone totally unheeded with the result of excrement hitting the fan. This is something that still happens, however. When we’ve clean out of warnings. The next time we ‘slip up’ it’s not going to be pretty. It’s judgment time. When we are warned about something it is best to take heed of the warning is it not? Diligence and prudence would advise us to ‘not go there.’ There are times when we fail to see warnings and we happily proceed in life without much pain or problem; you try it one more time, then whack! You’re gone! All of a sudden, seemingly without warning, there is a dire consequence that in retrospect was always a threat to occur, but we somehow never saw it or heeded it. A common, easy-to-understand metaphor is the speeding ticket. How many times do we speed, even marginally? How many times do we get a ticket? Not often. We implicitly know we’re getting away with it, and then we cringe when we finally do get one; knowing with an intense level of frustration and mild embarrassment that we should’ve known better! Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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So it was for the Hebrews back in around 586 B.C.E. They had been warned and warned and warned, and then they had been warned some more. Israel had become a corrupt nation. Although the odd monarch was relatively faithful and just, on average the holy nation was rotten to the core, and asking for divine trouble. This trouble was going to come from Yahweh, of course, in the form of judgment. They were conquered by the Babylonians as Jerusalem fell and they suffered 70 years of captivity. The words of Yahweh resound. “No remedy,” for the nation who had not listened to the prophets. No remedy for decade after decade of depraved practices and crooked rulers. No remedy for the people. The quote from Proverbs 29:1 is chilling. It’s alarming simply in its stark truth. “Whoever remains stiff-necked [and refuses to change] after many rebukes will be suddenly destroyed—without remedy.” It’s about making the same mistake and falling short, time after time and never learning. It is the consequence for not learning some key life lesson. Where is this happening in our lives? Where has it in fact happened? We’ve continued on intrepidly in a certain venture, and it has brought about ruin. We see it in others’ lives too don’t we? •
Where are you running out of time?
Are people running out of patience with you?
Is it time to change and respond to what they’re saying, before it is too late?
Some warnings bring quite dire consequences.
Are you ready for the pain of these consequences?
Or, are you willing to change?
Meeting Destiny – Embracing The Sea Of Opportunity Preparation is the key to life. Let me use a common everyday example to illustrate the point. At a train station recently, a middle-aged woman was in front of me fumbling with her handbag and in a panicked state trying to feed a $20 note into the ticket machine. A station officer approaches to see if he can assist, and he can’t. Getting frustrated at the station officer she leaves fuming to find out that the machine takes only smaller notes. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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I observe her as she leaves and she is very distressed. It was too late to offer her change for her money; I didn’t have the presence of mind in any event. The issue at its root cause is she didn’t prepare her journey well enough. She didn’t make/take the time to ensure she could get onto the train uninhibited. And this is so true to life for us all. We all end up getting caught out because we run out of time, revealing we haven’t planned effectively enough. It happens sooner or later, and more to some than to others. There’s a wisdom lesson here. Those who prepare well, go better in life. Actor Denzel Washington has said, “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” In other words, there’s no such thing as luck – we’re in the right place at the right time because we have prepared for the opportunity and were able to embrace it. We planned and saw ahead. The opportunities of life await, and they occur, and they wait for no person. When we’re prepared it’s great, when we’re not it causes us to panic as if the world were coming to an end. Most of the time the only consequence is we ‘have to catch the next train.’ I’m sure you’d agree it’s rarely enough to panic for. But we hate to be caught unprepared. I want to suggest that this idea, the one of ‘opportunity meeting preparation,’ is very similar to the theory of personal mastery I’ve written about previously. There are three stages that define both ideas. One: There is something we “can do.” It is to prepare. It is also in personal mastery terms accepting the current reality. Both things we “can do.” Two: There is something that “comes.” It is the opportunity. It is also in personal mastery terms the vision of personal mastery. Both come to us; we can create the circumstances that they come, by either setting up other things to support the presentation of the opportunity, and also by ‘visioning’ the idea of personal mastery at the individual, personal level. Three: Then there is the “outcome.” The former idea suggests that ‘luck’ can be the outcome. Like when someone says of you getting something you wanted, “You were lucky.” It is also the achievement of personal mastery. I suppose in theory, we never entirely and ultimately ‘get there,’ but in essence we achieve certain levels of personal mastery. Preparation is the key to life. It demonstrates: •
Wisdom through the foresight of seeing ahead and planning for the perceived eventualities;
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Patience through faith and courage to invest time, which at times is done without the guarantee of a return; and
Diligence that’s prepared to do what is needed to be done.
Preparation’s benefits are peace and well-being i.e. shalom. It gives us the opportunity for a balanced life; a life lived in true perspective. Perspective in turn is life-giving promoting every good virtue. It brings us to but the very beginning of a wonderful spiritual journey and reality. As the saying goes, ‘The best is yet to come’ for such a person on such a journey. As Baden Powell and the cub scouts movement used to say, “Be prepared.”
Three Things That Cause Success And Three Things That Don’t I love learning. This was something I learned recently, and it came to me as a sort of formula. These are basic things, so I’ll get right down to it. Don’t overlook the wisdom of these things simply because I’m not making a big song and dance about them. They’re states of mind to carry with you one day at a time... one moment at a time. Practise makes more perfect. Three (3) things causing success: Be an “overcomer”: Whatever challenges come your way you can overcome them -- every one of them. This is not simply theory. But, it requires courage, and take heart, courage, like any character quality, can be grown. Keep Life Simple: Don’t overly complicate things including relationships and plans. Be easy to satisfy. Take your time through life. Don’t over-commit yourself -- again, courage helps here. Get and remain focused: Focus is difficult to achieve, yet your will alone can get you to focus very powerfully. Focus is achieved when you have: 1) your values sorted, Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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2) your roles (and relationships with self, family, work, God) all working, and 3) meaningful goals that give you purpose, drive, resilience, and joy to power you through life. But, wait, there’s still more... Three (3) things to avoid: Stop complaining: We all complain. It’s human nature. To counteract our propensity to complain we need to become unconsciously competent praisers. If we complain in our heart, we will end up spewing out the words at some point. Defeat the temptation to complain with praise and thanksgiving. Stop compromising: This is a terrible thing. Compromise really is at the root of all evil. Think about it, the moment we compromise our standards is the moment we give birth to laziness, greed, envy... the list goes on. To stop compromising we need to discipline our minds by becoming aware as the temptation to compromise hits, and then with the will of the mind, take the firm road to a harder, sounder decision. Stop being indecisive: Indecision along with worry is a great energy waster. It’s often a contributor to what I call “mental fog.” As I mentioned above, we need the will of the mind to be decisive and to trust our instincts. We also need courage to make decisions.
Spirituality Does Not Last Getting a band new model mobile phone is something to look forward to. It has all this new technology and ways of doing things we couldn’t do before, or do so easily as now. We shop for it and then finally having purchased it, we eagerly get home, unpack it and learn how to use it. For some time, at least a day or three, it takes pride of possession and are so thankful for it.
Then the novelty wears off.
It becomes another tool; handy but
nonetheless any more special than the other tools we ‘can’t do without.’
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We know that material things will never satisfy us -- ultimately. But, an incredible lie is that spirituality will -- in the longer term. Some people believe that we can reach the ultimate in satisfaction through spirituality. This is wrong. Contrary to popular belief, spirituality does not last. It lasts no longer than materialism, though the basis is infinitely more sustainable -- and this is its truthful essence. We find this one way to more of our true selves -- the inner most being -- and having captured it, we must learn how to capture it more and more. It’s a lack of diligence, vision, and ultimately wisdom, that sees us lulled into thinking we’re ‘there’ already when in fact it’s not how far we’ve come that counts, but the direction we’re headed. The journey does not finish until bodily death. Staying hungry for spiritual manna is the key. We must continually stoke the visceral furnace of truth, breaking down within us the propensity to gorge life and scour it of meaning. And we only establish hunger with practice, based on the very real knowledge of need -- we need it -- nourishment from heaven. Material things are fine if we need them. But we take them for granted eventually. Taking the spiritual life for granted is the worst transgression of all; and this is not only a crime against God. It’s the worst thing we could do against ourselves!
Four Time Wasters There’s never enough time if you ask most people busy people. There are always things to do and when you’ve finished your ‘to do’ list there’s generally a raft of other ‘stuff’ just waiting to be dealt with. So many things to do. So many potential issues to consider with our time. Time is one thing that everybody gets in equal proportion; we all get the same 24 hours in our day. Some days we feel we’ve achieved a great deal, and others we don’t. When we do use our time wisely we gain a sense of peace. Yet, we often feel estranged from our core selves when we’re chasing after other people’s priorities, or simply when we don’t get time to do those things most important to us. Time for things like planning, preparation and recreation is a key to our happiness and overall wellbeing. Stress about time is a key issue for some. When we succumb to fear of the unknown and are left to think, “What’s coming next,” and we often find our thoughts drawn toward anticipation of the immediate future—this can be stressful; some in fact, have mild or even Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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major phobias about time in this way. It creates all sorts of effects short- and long-term. A potential remedy worth considering could be one of exercising mind-control and having something else to occupy our thoughts to distract us from this sort of cogent reaction. We must endeavour to balance time with our motivations; what drives us. We want to do many things that we might not have the time to do; the things that are most important to us. This will inevitably create dissonance within us as mentioned above. So how do we optimize our time? How do we make the best use of it? Well, one thing we don’t want to do is waste our time. I recently learned of four potential time wasters. Simply put they are e-mail, voice mail, interruptions, and procrastination, and they’re certainly relevant. This is not to say any of these activities is a complete waste of time, but we need to exercise some caution that’s all. We often get sucked-in by these things. Either we become lazy, or we want to please people, or we struggle with having the courage to do the right thing. Looking at causes for succumbing to these time wasters is worth the effort, so changes have a better chance of ‘sticking’. Change in its own right is hard—it has to be decided upon, and then persisted with for many weeks before it takes root in our lives. E-Mail is generally considered a non-urgent form of communication.
communication really demands other forms of contact, for instance face-to-face meetings or phone calls. Answer emails only a couple of times a day—we should not be spending any more than 30-minutes a day attending to e-mail, unless we have allocated extra time or have that time ‘up our sleeve’. Voice mail is a great innovation if it is used efficiently. To protect your accessibility make sure you let certain calls (especially from unknown callers) through to voice mail, and then delay getting back to people, unless it is urgent. At times, people will be able to work things out without you needing to get involved. When leaving messages be callercourteous. Leave your details clearly and don’t leave long messages unless it is going to help the receiver—in any event leave messages no longer than 60-seconds in length. Limit your time attending to voice mail. Interruptions that are counter-productive are both unnecessary and untimely. Reduce these by politely challenging the situations and people who create them.
interruptions are necessary but untimely—these could distract you from your focus on a high priority task. Bearing in mind that interruptions can cost you double-time (the time for the interruption, and the time taken to get your mind back on the original task), it is Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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wise to quickly plan for a response later and agree that with the person concerned. Don’t succumb to “urgency addiction”. Procrastination is tragic. We all suffer some procrastination. It comes from the Latin word procrastinatus: pro- (forward) and crastinus (of tomorrow) and has links with avoidance behaviour, particularly task avoidance. Avoiding doing things is usually caused by psychological factors like fear of failure possibly based, for example on a lack of clarity, or simply because the task might seem overwhelming, and for other reasons. Overcoming procrastination is the key. Do things that might be delayed early in the day or set a deadline and then reward yourself for keeping it. What do we do with information then? One thing I have learned: FAD. Either 1) File, 2) Act on the information, or 3) Delete it. When ‘acting’ ensure you either reply, forward or delegate the information. Acknowledgement to FranklinCovey (2002) Focus | Achieving Your Highest Priorities – course literature, Keeping Your Focus.
Simply 3 Things to Cause Success (and 3 Things to Avoid Doing) I love learning. This is something I learned recently, in fact 19-days ago it came to me as a sort of formula. These are basic things, so I’ll get right down to it. Don’t overlook the wisdom of these things simply because I’m not making a big song and dance about them. They’re states of mind to carry with you one day at a time... one moment at a time. Practise makes more perfect. Three (3) things causing success: Be an “overcomer”: Whatever challenges come your way you can overcome them -- every one of them. This is not simply theory. But, it requires courage, and take heart, courage, like any character quality, can be grown. Keep Life Simple: Don’t overly complicate things including relationships and plans. Be easy to satisfy. Take your time through life. Don’t over-commit yourself -- again, courage helps here.
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Get and remain focused: Focus is difficult to achieve, yet your will alone can get you to focus very powerfully. Focus is achieved when you have: 1) your values sorted, 2) your roles (and relationships with self, family, work, God) all working, and 3) meaningful goals that give you purpose, drive, resilience, and joy to power you through life. But, wait, there’s still more... Three (3) things to avoid: Stop complaining: We all complain. It’s human nature. To counteract our propensity to complain we need to become unconsciously competent praisers. If we complain in our heart, we will end up spewing out the words at some point. Defeat the temptation to complain with praise and thanksgiving. Stop compromising: This is a terrible thing. Compromise really is at the root of all evil. Think about it, the moment we compromise our standards is the moment we give birth to laziness, greed, envy... the list goes on. To stop compromising we need to discipline our minds by becoming aware as the temptation to compromise hits, and then with the will of the mind, take the firm road to a harder, sounder decision. Stop being indecisive: Indecision along with worry is a great energy waster. It’s often a contributor to what I call “mental fog.” As I mentioned above, we need the will of the mind to be decisive and to trust our instincts. We also need courage to make decisions.
Transform Yourself – Create New Mental Pathways The great thing about making mistakes is learning new and different responses to situations that work. It takes awareness first, and then the courage to act, and then thirdly, Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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the resilience to re-train our minds toward new habits; this means essentially building new mental “pathways” that become the ‘default’ way of thinking and acting. The theory is simple. The practice is much harder, though not impossible. In fact, it’s very realistic to re-train our minds no matter how old or engrained we might think we are. I look at the way I interact with people and how successful (or unsuccessful) I am, and importantly, how assured and comfortable I feel, and I see this as a major cue for learning things I need to change. For instance, if we have a problem it will normally affect other people -- there will be a complaint or a resistance from others. Or perhaps the complaint comes from within us ourselves. This occurs when we’re not happy with how others are relating with us. Both situations demand from us a response. When it’s identified we need to change we should consider how to do it and develop a plan to address what’s required. On the other hand, when we identify within ourselves a lack of tolerance for the other person, we need to deal with the lack of acceptance and choose to move on (from the issue) for the sake of the relationship. This could be viewed as a process: 1. Awareness: at this stage we need to somehow become aware of the many-times-daily that our awareness is piqued and then do something about it by problem-solving. 2. Problem-solve: chew over the problem by defining it and looking at the options. What are the best solutions -- the ones you can implement. (We can’t demand anything from others.) 3. Act: Requiring courage and conviction via mental will power, action is transformational. Acting is so counter-cultural to human nature. Most of us dream but do not ‘do.’ Acting is easy. Just do it. 4. Continue: This is the important bit. Keep doing what you’ve resolved needs to be done. Monitor how it is received. Reinforce the ‘continuing’ process your own way. It needs to be repetitive enough for the new pattern / mental pathway to entrench. Some people read affirmations; others have symbols to remind them; others again use triggers of some kind to prompt the new action, re-training their mind from the old and faulty ways of responding. Importantly, don’t give up. Be tenacious. Become resilient to your failures and simply continue. If anyone can change “you,” you can. You really can. Imagine how good you will Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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feel having conquered a large fear or having achieved that transformation you’ve always dreamt of achieving.
Re-Starting Life – Fresh Start, Fresh Hope Have you ever been trapped by a thing, perhaps a habit or an attitude (could be smoking, junk food, procrastination etc), and felt, ‘the only way out of the rut was... [Complete the sentence]. I have to share this because it is so vital for me and for restoring hope when I begin to lose my way. Do you ever lose your way? Do you suffer from a loss of hope and stop looking forward to things? Does your thinking ever polarise to the extreme negative? There is a way forward, there always is -- it’s just a matter of finding it. We all have within us the ability to turn our lives around, grow and adapt to new circumstances. No one knows us as good as we know ourselves. When we feel beaten and of no use to anybody let alone ourselves we need to find hope; enough hope to plan for, and execute, recovery -- one day at a time. (There is no recovery quite like ‘one day at a time’ recovery.) We need to give ourselves a head start in time and some ‘rev-up room’ as we prepare to hit our goal front on. Mental strength is key. We need to plan for hiccups, preparing for low days, with a strategy to get through. When we have a low day, it doesn’t really matter how we negotiate it. It must simply be negotiated without giving in on our goal, whether it’s to stop something and keep it stopped or to start something and keep it going. We don’t give our weaknesses any striking distance on us -- again mental strength is all important. Even so-called menial decisions or issues can threaten what we’re about, so we must be on our guard. Awareness is huge. We must stay vigilant on cerebral sneak-ups. Let’s not loosen the resolve. Keep motivated. As we negotiate our goals day-by-day, we should ‘chalk ‘em up’ and celebrate at least within our own minds and hearts via healthy reflection. This is a mental pat on the back and an encouragement to keep going. As we continue successfully we should be fair with ourselves and find a permissible way to reward the effort and ingenuity that’s gone in. We should be staying psychologically and spiritually healthy with a strong hope borne from lots of good things to look forward to. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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And we don’t forget to celebrate, whilst not losing sight of where we’ve come from.
Demonstrating Personal Leadership: We Only Get One Go Imagine arriving leading an international forensic team in Tsunami-ravaged Thailand days after with no time, no staff, and no money. With clarity of purpose, Detective Inspector Peter Baines ‘managed the chaos with certainty’ -- citing the example of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s leadership during the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Unique challenges require unique solutions. The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami was one of the most devastating disasters to affect the world in modern times. The level of devastation is hard to rationalise in human terms and it is a great blessing to us to learn more about the suffering and the triumph of these times. Regarding disaster recovery we learned, ‘Hope is not a plan.’ Wishing people well in times of need when we can help might be good, but it’s not good enough. This is Baines’ biggest legacy. True leaders are identified by their actions and reactions -- what they do. After all, it’s said, ‘Leadership is a verb.’7 These people lead without authority. They manage chaos with certainty. They have a way of staying calm through the storm; effective for the tasks at hand. They have clarity of purpose. Det. Insp. Baines describes the wall of water that took so many lives that it left very few families affected untouched. There are so many orphans. As a parent, you might identify with the struggle of trying to physically hold your child or children as the torrent swept through, rendering you powerless to hold them. Dealing with this level of grief would be overwhelming, if not for the most clear and clarified-withinyour-own-mind sense of purpose. There are many competing priorities for our care and attention, including those in our personal lives; we must be clear at the core level what we’re doing it for otherwise any good work and effective personal leadership we have could easily be undermined, broken down, and vanquished, leaving devastating consequences. Value statements mean nothing unless they can be backed up in action. Words may sound powerful, and we’re apt to say many things that we don’t carry through with. Our true values are refined through the sieve of reality. They come to the fore when our resolve is 7
Quote from Gino Valenti. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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tested. We truly know what we stand for when the heat is on. Words alone have limited power; action, however, speaks volumes and makes the difference. Communication leaves a lasting impression; it’s our choice. It’s the choice of viewing leadership as people need it, rather than as a process to achieve things. Entering into relationship with people, as a way of leading, might not seem to be a very efficient way of leading but its effects are powerfully paradoxical. Det. Insp. Baines says leadership matters and results, not excuses, are what needs to be focused on. This has relevance in our personal lives as much as in our corporate lives, as much as any area of life. Far too often we make excuses for ourselves in seeking to improve one area we’re not happy with. We lack staying power, and Det. Insp. Baines explains this as a process that affects motivation and how to counter it toward results. Results matter, not excuses. We must have the commitment of courage to meet adversity head on every day. The leader’s challenge goes on. That is why we’re all leaders. Our challenges continue on and we never truly conquer them. At the end of the day, in Det. Insp. Baines’ own words, “We only get one go” at life. More on Detective Inspector Peter Baines at http://www.peterbaines.com.au/AboutPeter.asp
2 Powerful, Resounding Words – “No” and “Now” There are words, messages and language all about us. Some of it makes no difference to us whatever, yet other communication truly changes and impacts on our lives. We all fall into ruts in life. What we need in those times is not meaningless words and thoughts taking up cognitive space; we need meaning that will produce in us the change required to get us back on track. Words, thoughts, meaning. There are two words that are very simple in meaning -- for this very reason their meaning is in power. “No” and “Now” are simply miraculous words. We must say no at times, yet we don’t say it often enough. At times saying no means having the courage of convictions; at times it’s to exercise self-control. We only realise in regret later on, having said “yes,” we wish we could have had the foresight, conviction, or temerity to say no. Saying no means: Acknowledging our weaknesses to temptations of a lack of self-control;
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Saves the regret of betraying self (our values, ideals and beliefs); and, We build upon our own empowerment -- we encourage ourselves to say it again, once more, later on. “Now” on the other hand is just as powerful, and just as engaging. It is the perfect corrective to the bureaucracy of the generations. As humans we put off most things to tomorrow, whether it be procrastination, indecision, lack of courage etc. Now is an important concept. Herein lies the secret simplistic power of the present. We’ve all seen it. Few people use the present to full advantage, yet the present lies captive to us, if only we’d challenge ourselves a little more. Consider “now” regarding the following: The habit that plagues you -- besides healthy planning to stop, do it now; Crush worry and indecision with “now,” and even if it’s not perfect, at least you’ve started; and, Investing in “now” with people shows them you’re dinkum (committed) with them. Commitment and faithfulness are all too rare virtues these days. The power of now cannot be underestimated. It’s a divine wisdom truth. Invest in “now” and you too will see what many successful people do all the time. “Now” is indeed a miraculous concept; even more miraculous is its simplicity. Now, be warned. “No” and “Now” juxtapose. They’re not mutually exclusive. There are distinct times for “No” as there are distinct times for “Now.” Caution beckons us to consider closely the differences and the potential applications. If we can consistently get the application right regarding these simple words, we’ll be living a vastly more wise and balanced life.
Choose Life – The Way Of Spiritual Progress I’ve often been either criticised or commended for an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to life of full commitment or no commitment at all. I find it bizarre that this very trait is a theological reality of life. We’re given the opportunity of either fully following the ways of God i.e. to be totally committed, or we can reject his divine offer of salvation and go the ‘no commitment’ path.
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Yet, the reality is -- even if we choose God -- we all skate between both extremes of commitment as we travel through life. We struggle to maintain the consistency of our love and devotion to God. It waxes and wanes through our somewhat broken time here on earth. Now, this is where the ancient commands of Yahweh through Moses are a great reminder. (True fear of God is never really forgetting.) Having set before Israel the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience -- to God’s holy law -- Moses reminds the holy nation to ‘choose life,’ so they and their children might live, so as to love God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.8 He stresses that this is not too hard for them: “This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it's not out of your reach. It's not on a high mountain -- you don't have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean -- you don't have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now -- as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!” -Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (Msg) And it isn’t too hard for us either. But it does require faith, prayer, and most of all surrender. We can’t possibly hope to do it ‘easily’ without resting on the power of God to assist us. Yet, if we’re trained (i.e. we discipline ourselves) to pray and surrender, daily, within the solid bounds of good faith, we can routinely live in a way that speaks of the blessings of ‘choosing life.’ Not that it is the perfect life we have. Grace fills the gap that we cannot hope to fill -- the gap of our imperfection. Spiritual progress is what I believe Moses is essentially talking about. The term ‘spiritual perfection’ -- as an end -- is an oxymoron. There can be no such thing until God determines it. Just because we’ll never attain perfection this side of eternity doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it. “Just do it,” is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase for this very thought. This is the matter of ‘choosing life.’ Striving for perfection, yet acknowledging and accepting we’ll never achieve it i.e. holding perfection in tension with fallibility, is the essence of a resilient commitment to ‘hold fast with God’ to achieve spiritual progress.
See Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV). Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Spiritual perfection, and there is such a state, is this: “To rob God of nothing; to refuse Him nothing; to require of Him nothing; this is great perfection.”9
Happiness Lies In Your Own Hand “Circumstance has no power over you. Your inner weather is always and forever at your command.” -Olga Rosmanith. Madonna, one would think, would not have too many top-charting gospel songs, notwithstanding her alleged Roman Catholic faith. But as I listened to her song “Secret” just recently I developed the notion that it was very much gospel-related. Perhaps it was the fact that in her video10 she had vision of various baptisms taking place -- a traditional Christian motif of death to the old life without God, and new birth into the spiritual life with him. But it was also the lyrics that caught my attention. “Things haven’t been the same Since you came into my life You found a way to touch my soul And I’m never, ever, ever gonna let it go When God truly comes to someone things are never the same again. Mostly he comes during times of intense pain and suffering. That’s how he finds a way to ‘touch our souls,’ otherwise we’d have no need of him -- that’s the essence. We don’t need God (apparently) until we do -- even then many resist and continue to reject him. The wise person, having felt that grasp, never lets go of the loving hand of God in Christ. Jesus is Saviour and Sanctifier. Bridge of the song: “Happiness lies in your own hand It took me much too long to understand 9
Fenelon, François de Salignac de la Mothe & Guyon, Madame Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Mothe, Spiritual Progress, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/fenelon/progress.vii.html 10 Video footage from the live “Drowned World Tour” concert recorded in Detroit, Michigan in 2001. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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How it could be Until you shared your secret with me Happiness indeed lies in our own hands. There’s not a truer statement -- though there are a myriad of statements that are just as true. Even in the depths of misery, suffering, and desolation, we can do a lot about our perception of happiness. In normal life, when we’re not in the midst of suffering, we can discover the truth that happiness does routinely lay within the grasp of our own hands. I know from personal experience, it took much too long for me to understand the grace and power of God; it wasn’t my time though. It was at my depths that God truly shared his secret with me, and only then was I able to ‘see the light’ so to speak. I praise God that, in the worst despair I could imagine, I found the love I’d always sought but sadly didn’t know how to get. Suddenly I my eyes were opened to all sorts of injustices, and not just in my own life -- significantly in others’ lives too. “You gave me back the paradise That I thought I lost for good You helped me find the reasons why It took me by surprise that you understood You knew all along What I never wanted to say Until I learned to love myself I was never ever lovin' anybody else Most of us are surprised to discover that God truly does understand humanity; and we finally perceive this truth, we’re shocked at our own insolence. How could we, a creation of the Almighty, begin to even think that he doesn’t care? He knew all along alright; right from the depths of time in memoriam. It’s only when we know God that we can truly begin to know ourselves -- it’s only when we truly desire to know and accept ourselves that we can begin to love the self. Without self-love how can we genuinely love others? Finally, the chorus (below) reminds me of someone having a salvation revelation experience. “Something's comin' over me My baby's got a secret” I remember bathing in the Presence, being baptised in the Spirit, for the very first time. Something came over me alright -- it was the breath of God showing me his love and grace Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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- as a deeply physiologically-felt force took my body and shook it, bringing me to tears of praise and thankfulness for some several minutes. I was one giant goose bump. Yes, even Madonna can preach!
Being Stuck With A Terrible Reputation “If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another [person’s] confidence, or he [or she] who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.” –Proverbs 25:9-10. The above proverb nails a particular situation. But getting stuck with a terrible reputation that’s just plain wrong is an altogether easy thing -- in fact, it’s too easy. People have such long memories. It’s a general rule in life that if we ever did something negative to someone, and worse still, memorable, it will take many months and even years to put right the incorrect perception people have developed. So, what to do? Fix it there and then! Here are more proverbs that hit this nail on its head: “if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this… to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.” –Proverbs 6:2-5. The essence is this. If we’ve said something or done something that we know is wrong, we shouldn’t delay putting it right. No matter what it costs, we need to go to the person or people affected and do what we can to put it right.
We might feel like fools but
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paradoxically we’ll gain a lot of credibility and respect from admitting our mistake and seeking to make amends. Many people will forgive and be inclined to give a person who does this sort of thing a second chance. Work hard to establish a good reputation with other stakeholders! If we’ve tarnished our reputation with some regrettable actions and there is one group or person who doesn’t think too highly of us, we can still work hard with other groups to establish what we don’t have with this original group. Again, the proverbs speak to us. “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” –Proverbs 6:6-8. We must work hard like an ant with industry, not complaint. When we allow complaint to well up on the inside we are half gone. Working hard to establish a good reputation is all about investment for the “tomorrows” to come. Of course we won’t see the results today, so let’s not expect to. When we’re not thanked for the good things we do, it means the ‘thanks’ are coming i.e. in the future. We must be patient. Resist the temptation to talk about others! So we return to the first abovementioned proverb. If we speak against any person, no matter their position, we can expect it will end up working against us. We need to be disciplined in order to not betray confidences or criticise others. We can think positively about people when others choose to be critical. Doing the above things can only advance our standing as people of integrity that have no warrant for a bad name… “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.” –Proverbs 26:2. Eventually, this is what occurs for those with integrity: any word against us works out for us. We have to believe it. It has the magic of God about it. All Scripture quoted is from the New International Version.
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Discipline That Works... Until It Doesn’t Andrew Symonds’ preference to fish over meeting with team mates highlights an ever present issue in professional sport, and life, today; it’s a lack of commitment to the greater team cause and good. The News press seems to perpetually feature these sorts of stories as undisciplined players ‘vote 1 for self’ and ‘2 for team’. It’s essentially a lack of values that foists a player’s teammates in preference to his or her own desires. Through their actions they lack understanding, heart, imagination, and courage to put the team first against their own desires and passions. Team discipline: a phenomenon that comes about when a player on a team turns aside to the collectively espoused code of conduct of the team. In a word, it’s rebellion. It’s a flouting of the agreed law for individual and selfish gain, and it brings with it the potential of undermining team unity. It must be swiftly and consistently dealt with. If team officials and leaders let it go unpunished they give permission for more of it to occur. Other members of the team watch on with interest with what will unfold. Most of all discipline requires leaders to keep faith with what’s established, tried and tested. They’ll be pressed to cave-in and compromise but they can’t allow this to occur. For when the worlds of truth and lies collide there is an explosion of emotion and any leader must anticipate and expect this and stand firm. The impact soon dies down however, and even if it didn’t they’d have to remain true for the greater good, no matter the collateral damage. We’ve all been guilty of lacking commitment. The best thing for us at the time was to receive what was coming to us. Without the courage to act, our parents, teachers, leaders, and employers would have done us a massive disservice. Discipline, in the spirit of good, works -- it always does; until we give in to compromise... then it doesn’t. Keep the faith.
Success, Failure Or Nothing: Are You A “Player”? The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt was famous not only for his 1901-09 Presidential tenure and the fact he was the first President who rode in an automobile and submarine, but also for his “credit belongs to man who is actually in the
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arena” quote. A man known for his vast range of interests and achievements11 left us this tremendously motivating legacy… the full quote is: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.” Players are those who actually enter the arena. They boldly try, and fail. They succeed too, but only after much toil and often much failure. We shall see, ‘playing’ in life involves inherent risk; we don’t get results without risk. And we’ve all heard of the financial term, ‘risk versus return’ -- what we don’t risk, we can’t possibly get a return on. The same principle holds in virtuous vs. vice continuum of life. The main point is there are good players and bad players. It’s no good being a player if you’re playing for the wrong team. The good player is represented by the Roosevelt quote - the bad player is not. The good player is courageous in his or her risk taking, but not foolishly so. They take calculated risks, which uphold good values, not stupid ones that show disregard for people and situations. Good players have integrity and choose worthy causes to spend themselves on. They’re often not driven by achievement whereas the bad player is -- they have to win for the sake of winning. The good player plays for the sport and winning is secondary. A battle lost (i.e. failure or momentary embarrassment) is worth it if the war (i.e. completing a life of integrity) is still up for grabs. The good player doesn’t mind a loss and they take it well -- in fact, they can often turn a loss into something good. The bad player is more likely to break the law in his playing; the good player never generally would. What is the game? What is the arena? It’s life. It’s no dress-rehearsal. Jesus told the story of the parable of the talents, where a man gave three of his servant’s ten talents, five talents, and one talent, respectively. The first two invested and were able to give their master a return with interest, whilst the servant having only one talent simply ‘hid the talent in the ground,’ as he was scared of his master. He was chastised for being a ‘wicked, lazy servant.’ Jesus’ moral is this: “For everyone who has [much] will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have [much], even what he has will be taken 11
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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from him.”12 There is a parallel here that only those who prove trustworthy with a little will be given more. This is a lesson in diligence based in the faithfulness of trust. The servants had a strict master; the last servant should have been hyper-aware of this (in fact, the Biblical record shows he was) and made sure he did what he could to please his master. Excuses are not acceptable. We can’t expect to be given promotions and further opportunities if we’re not already diligently doing the job -- ‘playing’ as planned and delivering innovative solutions to those of our ‘masters.’ And it’s only when we’ve proved ourselves faithful, and beyond, via our performance, attitudes, and abilities, that we stand to get those extra opportunities -- and, in their right time. Another way to look at this is via life’s rewards. Those who play well (I mean, faithfully) can easily become ‘inebriated’ in their loving relationships and earn good all their lives -that is, intoxicating joy. Countering this position is the player who plays unfaithfully -- their ‘reward’ is also inebriation -- but the kind that loses both the love of a partner (like in an affair) and wisdom.
It’s the ‘falling-over-drunk-in-public’ kind of intoxication that
generally leads to shame and disgrace.13 A reputation gone in this way is not recovered quickly, and in some cases may never be reclaimed. Do we have capital? Are we in a position to invest? The mere fact that we breathe and own (for a time) our bodies gives testament to the fact we have a capability -- we must play, and play well. We have all our childhoods and the rest of our adult lives to learn how to play, and learn, and grow; all for God’s glory. For this reason, we hope for good models and mentors; people who will, for a time, invest in our lives positively and teach us how to be good, faithful players. Are you a good player? Are you someone who gives his or her best with the best intentions? And, are you actually in the arena?
Internal Versus External Locus Of Control Isn’t it bizarre how differently people deal with adversity? Some people seem to get crushed very easily with the slightest thing against them, and yet others’ defences seem 12
See Matthew 25:29 (NIV). See Proverbs 5:15-23 which describes the outcomes of life and death for both good and bad (faithful and unfaithful) decisions and living.
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almost impenetrable -- they accept the worst, deal with it, and appropriate the truth about themselves into their very beings. And there are a multitude of responses in between those two great extremes. I find this is a key difference between those who choose the genuine Christian life and the rest -- though Christians don’t have a mortgage on this sort of resilience. For Christians however, faith and surrender means placing our trust entirely in God’s hands for him to dictate to us our moves, through prayer and his Word. Why do so many go the wrong way, and so often? This can be explained many ways, but one theory that’s worthy of exploration is locus of control. In short, an external locus of control suggests ‘stuff happens to me,’ ‘don’t blame me, it’s not my fault,’ and ‘how could I succeed in these circumstances?’ An internal locus of control however, is the opposite: ‘I failed the exam because I didn’t prepare adequately enough,’ ‘I create the stuff that happens to me,’ and ‘I know there must be a way of succeeding in these circumstances.’ Without getting into the psychological theory of Julian B. Rotter (1954), I think we’d all agree that having more of an internal locus of control i.e. being more responsible about our own role regarding the impact of things on our lives, is preferable to having a predominantly external locus of control that sees other things and people attributed for our success or failure. The interesting thing for Christians is this: we need to have a semblance of external locus of control. God creates things via his will and so circumstances generally occur because of his will. We attribute things and goings on to him, or to the devil, pure and simple. There’s at least a partial spiritual realm attribution. Where we come in however is our response to the things that occur in our lives, notwithstanding this attribution of God’s activity in the world. At one point we accept it, but if we have a predominantly internal locus of control we don’t rest on a spiritual realm attribution alone. Now, it seems to me to be a plain thing that most people want to blame others for their misfortune. It’s a rank folly and a deceit for people to believe this. If we fail, more often than not it is our fault and no one else’s, at least partially, and we should be able to see that. We should then learn from the mistake if at all possible. That’s a demonstration of internal locus of control -- for the person to ‘take on board’ ownership, problem-solve, and then search for solutions to adverse life situations. Moreover, if things happen to us and they Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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are unfortunate, and they genuinely had nothing to do with us, we need to have the resilience to cope; live to fight another day. Christian people of all people should be past-masters of this trade. They should’ve been discipled and mentored to such an extent that the true gospel message of repentance is firmly entrenched -- yet how few reach this ‘halcyon’ level? It is disturbing that many claim to be followers of Christ, and for many years, and yet still struggle with this elementary factor of faith. “Deem it pure joy brothers and sisters,” James says, “whenever you face trials, tests, and temptations of many various kinds.” (My paraphrase of James 1:2) We must expect them and not be surprised by them. This will assist us in taking these ‘on,’ ensuring that we, as much as possible, can continue in glee with the thing still bearing down on us -- because we know that the LORD is with us and for us. It is for him that we can assume ownership of all things that come our way. This is not just theory; we must be put into practice. We must resist the pity party. The prize accorded a predominant and healthy internal locus of control is maturity; of faith and of personality. It’s what others see, and the Spirit of God in us, that is the key. As the writer to the Hebrews suggested, “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.” (Hebrews 6:1-3 NIV) This maturity is hard work, but nonetheless necessary. Let’s not shirk our responsibility for the things that occur to us.
Life Is Like Preparing For A Bullfight Did you know that the Spanish national pastime of bullfighting is as revered in their country as football and cricket are in ours? That a matador can earn the equivalent of $1 million per day from perhaps five or six fights? That there have only ever been two deaths in the history of professional bullfighting (though many non-fatal injuries are sustained)? And I learned that the cruelty of death for the bull at the completion of the fight is counterbalanced by the fact they’re ‘groomed’ for at least four years in the best pastures -most cattle apparently don’t live much longer than two years. The things you learn whilst you’re waiting for a meeting to begin...
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It’s fascinating how some first-up interactions go. I met the guy who told me all about bullfighting before this meeting for the first time the other day and we suddenly were into another world -- he had holidayed in Spain last year. I got to thinking afterward of the life cycle of the bull, and its eventual demise. That life must be like that for many of us -- a fairly docile thing until we make the sudden transition from living to dying. The point of life is dying. It’s got to be the final test or examination. All our lives must point toward death and what is wrought from the legacy that was our life. Like the bull we’re grazing in the pasture right now, but at a pre-determined time unbeknownst to ourselves, the collector or our spirits will await us. Will the end we meet come suddenly or will it be protracted? Will it be painful or not? Tragic -- will our death be tragic? I’m sure it will be for at least someone, and possibly for many people. We live in the present and though there are more than six billion others who claim that privilege currently, there are billions more that no longer do, having passed through into eternity, and the chasm separating. And one day we will be there; no longer alive in this world -- survived by our children and grandchildren one would hope. Looking at death from this perspective, should that change our approach to living? I wonder if the bulls know of their fate. I wonder what more we can do or what we can change to bring about a better result in the end?
The Rewards For A Good Life Lived Paul Roos, Sydney Swans AFL coach, was awarded Father of the Year and I recall the press reports on the News, and the images of Roos with his wife and children. Here is a man, like a lot of others, who makes time for his family despite what would be a very busy schedule; that reality would seem to be at odds with holding family as the number one value in this man’s life. So many busy Dads and Mums don’t achieve it. Such a story is an inspiration to all fathers. Not only is he rewarded with great relationships with his family, he was awarded a prestigious honour to recognise the fact. And so it is with us. We shall soon find out what rewards there are for our earthly conduct. The apostle Paul says in Romans 2:6 (paraphrasing Psalm 62:12), “God ‘will repay everyone
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according to what they have done.’”14 And it would not seem to be too much of a leap to jump through to James 2:17, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”15 Grace might be one thing, but we’re not to “show contempt for the riches of [God’s] kindness, tolerance and patience,”16 i.e. his grace, when it was intended all along to bring us to repentance -- and make our faith based upon righteousness (doing what is right).17 We might think we’re here for a long time, but ask most octogenarians and they will say life’s swift. Looking backwards over a lifetime it certainly must look that way -- that life is fleeting -- even if we can’t see that now. The message is plain; we’ll get what’s coming to us. God sees even what happens in the secret places.18 Isn’t it interesting how sharply Paul turns to the coming wrath of God in this letter of Romans -- we’d normally associate this sort of chastening with the Corinthian correspondence, but it’s here too, from 1:18, as he builds the gospel story. The early section of Romans is a warning to obey, and not merely be legalistic and religious. It could even be entertained here that Paul departs from the traditional ‘call on Christ to be saved’ gospel message, as he decrees it’s better to actually do what the law requires than know the law and not do it, viz, “but it is those who obey the law (and not just hear it) who will be declared righteous.” (2:13b) The Message says, “Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.” Yet so many are blind to their own disobedience! And this is what discredits God in the sight of unbelieving, good-doers. Paul alludes to a quote from Isaiah 52:5 which says, “all day long, my name is constantly blasphemed,” [says the LORD] and puts it in his own terms thus, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”19 He actually talks in present tense. Every time we disobey the laws of love, grace, forgiveness, spirituality, or become hypocritical etc, we cause blasphemy toward God in the heart of the unbelieving good-doer who Paul says has more claim to the things of heaven than does the self-righteous Christian. Blasphemy is the opposite of what’s worthy of God. It’s irreverence, calumny, defamation, slander, and contumely -- it’s utter filth, and that, for God!? That’s an utterly oxymoronic schema. 14
Today’s New International Version. Ibid. 16 Romans 2:4a (New International Version) 17 See Romans 1:5-17 as Paul hooks faith together with obedience and righteousness. “The righteous will live by faith,” (Habakkuk 2:4) which also means the faithful will do what is right, living in obedience. 18 Ecclesiastes 12:14. 19 Romans 2:24 (NIV). 15
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At the end of chapter 2 Paul mentions what makes a true ‘Jew’ (read Christian). It is not “outward and physical,” but inward -- it’s a “circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit... [and our] praise is not from men, but from God.”20 The Pharisees, Stephen noticed, loved to gain notoriety from men. At the end of his long speech in Acts 7, he concludes regarding their ‘uncircumcised hearts,’ that they “received the law that was put into effect through angels but [did not obey it].” There are still many Pharisees about; 21st Century Pharisees. The heart of virtue is contrary to the Pharisaic. It is what God requires; “To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly.”21 That is the start of obeying God. We must think of the negative impact we can have for God out in the world. Let’s not dismiss it as small stuff -- it’s of eternal relevance. Christians and spiritual people draw to themselves scrutiny among others. People notice our initiatives, acts, responses, and general mood; when it’s negative, God gets it in the throat. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”22 And when he comes, “See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.”23 That time is coming. There is no delaying it. We will all account.
Act While There Yet Is Time! “And of all glad words of prose or rhyme, the gladdest are, ‘Act while there yet is time.’” -Franklin P. Adams. Are you ever guilty of putting the cart before the horse? What about doing the nice work before the necessary? Or do you find yourself rushing about constantly arranging urgent priorities? Most of us think we have so much time, yet we get trapped by our lack of time all the time! The title is a crucial imperative; but what does it mean? There is a good old farming proverb that takes us further into this cognitive territory: “Arrange your outside work, and 20
Romans 2:28-29 (NIV). Micah 6:8 (NIV). 22 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV). 23 Isaiah 40:10 (NIV); see also Revelation 22:12. 21
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get your things ready in the field; afterwards build your house.” (Proverbs 24:27 translation)24 It simply means we should attend to necessary priorities of life (and some of these admittedly that we have no control over) first, then, if we get the time, do the enjoyable, fulfilling things. Consider these things: Pay bills before they lapse; Exercise before you get tired; Sleep before you get overtired; Spend time with your partner or children before it’s too late; Do the work for your employer (your master) that you promised; and, Do your studies before you do more enjoyable things. It’s a case of planning to get our priorities right and then having the self-discipline to carry through -- this is what it means to be responsible. Responsibility is an adult behaviour and adults ought to manage their lives responsibly... though many do not. These people who constantly shelve the critical things in their lives to chase enjoyment merely ‘follow the wind’ and do themselves a lot of harm at the end of the day, though they refuse to see it. The simple advice; don’t be one of them! We see here wisdom is practical. The sages of old were practical people. They did their work first, and then they rested. They attended to their fields and then, and only then, did they build their farmhouses. “Preparation for the material needs... should be attended to first.”25 It means we must sacrifice what comes naturally for the unnatural. But it is an investment; no one has truly rested without having worked hard beforehand. We might think that if we don’t do such and such now we’ll miss the opportunities to do them; we must have faith that if it’s meant to be time will become available. This is where the good life is an expression of faith. Lastly, this is a call to be diligent. True diligence is selfless. It takes life as a bunch of even, level-ground opportunities where everyone and every situation might be judged on its real 24
Roland E. Murphy, Proverbs – Word Biblical Commentary (Vol. 22) (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), p. 184. 25 Roland E. Murphy, Ibid, p. 186. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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merit and then time apportioned commensurately. On the other hand, doing our own thing regardless of our responsibilities harms us and those who rely on us -- it’s inherently selfish. (There is another word that is the antithesis of diligence -- sloth -- one of the seven deadly sins.) Work, rest, and play. These must all happen. Let’s make sure we do our work so we can truly earn our rest and play. Let us act while there yet is time. Another thing, and let’s make sure we connect the dots, love while there is still time!
Wisdom Is Making The Most Of Every Opportunity Everyone knows we’re here not for a long time, but a good time, right? I know, there are two ways you can read that... typically, people use that statement as an excuse to do things with their bodies and minds that defy the laws of health and common sense. Just the opposite is true. How do we have a genuinely good time? Paul writes to the Ephesians on this very subject, advising them how to live: “Look carefully then how you [are] walking! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. “Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.” -Ephesians 5:15-17 (Amplified Version modified). Living wisely has the sense of ‘redeeming the time,’ and why? Because the ‘days are evil.’ Purely the fact that we will finally experience death is enough to suggest this; our days are numbered. That in itself is a cruel thought no matter how reconciled we might be toward death. The Devil would have us waste our lives, and those subject to carelessness, laziness, and neglect are subject as much to Satan as they are to anything, notwithstanding their core belief system. “Life is not to be squandered, but rescued from evil and lived to the full for God.”26 Once our time is gone it’s gone for good. Reclaiming time, therefore, is a wisdom activity. Wisdom in New Testament tradition is living as the saved do; it is the salvation experience, and that chosen on a daily basis. 26
Harry Uprichard, Ephesians – Study Commentary, (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2004), p. 291. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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The will of the Lord is more than a message for our individual lives; it is incorporating the overall plan of God. It is the Holy Spirit who calls us to the Father and the Son, exhorting us to a daily experience in the Divine, “in a more vital way in terms of practical living.”27 It is “the formation of a people into the likeness of Christ who will be pure and blameless on the final day” that reflects the true will of God.28 Just like we’re apt to remove things attributes of the Holy Spirit that don’t suit, (grieving him immensely)... for instance, those ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit,’ who might speak in tongues and prophesy, but who lack the interaction with the Spirit regarding justification and sanctification are kidding themselves. We cannot selectively take from the Spirit, or attribute one part over the other.
Relax, Cope Better: Recognise Unlucky Days You wake up late having slept poorly, the hot water’s gone cold, the kids are moody and so are you. Life is struggle and everything’s turning out just great thank you very much! We all have them. Nothing we do seems to hide the fact; it’s not our day. We play just as hard and just as fair as any other day -- or at least it feels that way -- but it won’t make any difference. We must plainly recognise unlucky days and deal with them best by being gentle with ourselves. This below is several hundred-year-old advice of Balthasar Gracian, the Jesuit priest and philosopher: Recognise Unlucky Days – “They exist: nothing goes well on them; even though the game may be changed the ill-luck remains. Two tries should be enough to tell if one is in luck today or not. Everything is in process of change, even the mind, and no one is always wise: chance has something to say, even how to write a good letter. All perfection turns on the time; even beauty has its hours. Even wisdom fails at times by doing too much or too little. To turn out well a thing must be done on its own day. This is why with some everything turns out ill, with others all goes well, even with less trouble. They find everything ready, their wit prompt, their presiding genius favourable, their lucky star in the ascendant. At such times one must seize the occasion and not throw away the slightest chance. But a 27 28
Harry Uprichard, Ibid, p. 300. Harry Uprichard, Ibid, p. 293. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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shrewd person will not decide on the day’s luck by a single piece of good or bad fortune, for the one may be only a lucky chance and the other only a slight annoyance.”29 It is truly an indescribable and unconquerable life; one that we cannot master completely. We find gaining balance, at all times, basically impossible. Every dog has his or her day. Herein lies the knack of choosing the time to employ the strategies of success. And in knowing that a day may not be ours, we delay our astonishing acts for when they may readily find ground and traction. A shrewd person may see some evidence that today is not going well and then avoid any big moves they’d planned to make; they might similarly decide to risk all on a better day.
“Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you’re gonna get.” –Tom Hanks (1994) in Forrest Gump. At the end of the day, from this angle, life is a game of chance. There are so many variables to consider; we know it not to be fate as there’s no such thing. The permeations of these variables alone mark the trillions. We can’t possibly hope to know if we’ll succeed or if we’ll fail. It’s all about how well we manage our risks, consider our environments, and control our minds. This is where deep prayerful thought is a boon. What we can conjure cognitively with our minds helps us prepare for success and failure outcomes, and the vast range in between -- most outcomes are ‘so-so,’ having both attributes, positive and negative. This is the wisdom we need: to consider any possible outcome that we can perceive and prepare for it the best we can.
Balthasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom, Available Online at: http://www.balthasargracian.com/?id=139 Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Prudence Main Entry: pru·dence Pronunciation: \ˈprü-dən(t)s\ Function: noun Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin prudentia, alteration of providentia — more at PROVIDENCE Date: 14th century 1 : the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason 2 : sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs 3 : skill and good judgment in the use of resources 4 : caution or circumspection as to danger or risk
Communicating Confidently Whilst Achieving Restraint TO THINK ABOUT CONFIDENCE in communication is a dream for most; to be able to handle any situation socially or vocationally and hold a room, or hold the respect of someone esteemed – to be esteemed no less; what a great thing! What about having the utmost control over what we say and how we say it? We could all do with more restraint. We all have desires that need to be checked. Desire is good so long as it is balanced with love and justice, diligence and discretion. Often our desires can be overblown and are revealed to be this way or that way by our speech. What we say can get us into a heap of trouble! Or it can get us out of trouble. Desire is good if it can be caged by the right motivation – a right and loving concern for self and others. Rotary International has a decision-making tool that effectively illustrates the point. It’s called the “4-Way Test” that ensures the desire for action is balanced with everyone’s needs.
With a motto of “service above self” it goes without saying that
Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Rotarians are compelled to restrain their desires for the good of all. There’s is the 4-Way Test of the things they think, say and do: 1. Is it the TRUTH? 2. Is it FAIR to all concerned? 3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? 4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? This test is used as a discipline for all their decision-making. It was first used with success in between 1932 and 1937 as Herbert J. Taylor turned the Club Aluminium Company around from bankruptcy to success during, and following, the Great Depression.31 This tool is timeless, and every much as relevant and powerful today as anytime. It continues to stand the test of time. The point is – and the reason it endures – it looks out for everyone’s best interest, not just the slick minority, the powerful, the cunning, or the influential. And this is the simple point in our confident communication; we can afford to be confident and at ease when we are a threat to no one! We don’t have to be an overlord with anyone. The trouble with our words is that they can’t be recalled like an errant e-mail before it is read. A couple of clicks after sending an e-mail and you have the power to recall it so long as the receiver hasn’t opened it yet. It’s not like that with our words in conversation with others; once it is said, once we speak, the listener “gets it” immediately, and if it’s negative and crass it’s too late, the damage is done! As the ancient proverbs indicate, discretion and prudence guards the hearts of both the sender and receiver of communication. It is so important to have the character that seeks to protect all parties. This sort of character has to be learned and earned in the rough and tumble of life – its driver is the right motivation geared to please God and not self. If we please God we please everyone including ourselves; if we try to please ourselves, no one wins, not even the person supposedly getting their own way. A good character regarding restrained speech is based in the fear of potentially upsetting the tenuous balance in our relationships. It’s the recognition that each person we encounter and have relationship with is a sovereign entity in that we all have unique 31
William Hodges & William G. B. Gant, The 4-Way Test: A Paper by Rotary International District Governor-Elect and Director, Rotary International. More information at www.rotary.org Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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significance to God himself. We’re all heavenly beings, spiritually speaking. We must respect all our neighbourly relationships for this exact reason; we hurt others, we hurt God. We can be best restrained and made more patient when we see love and justice as bigger and more relevant and attractive than we are in ourselves. The ‘true’ person sees this most if not all the time – yet, we all falter. It’s important to reinforce that a restrained character with the confidence to communicate with grace is learned – it cannot be “acquired” via a birthright! We can grow in wisdom but it requires time and sustained effort and study – and a propensity for resilience, to never give up. To be wise is to see how God sees and to want that reality in all situations. To be restrained is about not getting our own way – it’s foregoing the outcome we’d like and placing it back in God’s hands, recognising that it was never ours in the first place. It makes so much sense and saves so much pain when we hold back corrosive and caustic words in favour of a grace-filled, patient and loving approach.
Communications Bonanza – Keep It Brief James 3:1-12 is a self-contained essay noted for its brevity.32 In this way it is an ideal example of how speech should be: concise, packed with value, and full of information. The briefer the speech the less likely it’s going to waver in truth.33 James promotes brevity (Greek: brachylogia) of speech. Demetrius is said to have thought brevity has three advantageous qualities. Firstly, it packs a punch acknowledging that verboseness kills intensity of thought. Along with this power, much meaning is packed into succinctness. Secondly, it’s very appropriate in maxims and pithy sayings as its power is put to good use. Thirdly, succinct speech often allows the hearer opportunity to ask back questions for clarity due to a certain predictable ambiguity. This forces the hearer to think.
L.T. Johnson, The Letter of James – The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII, (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 202. 33 B. Hybels, Making Life Work- Putting God’s Wisdom into Action, (Downers Grover, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 88-97. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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“Brevity represents youth and power.”34 It cuts to the chase and addresses boredom and impatience in one foul swoop. It is also the sages of old -- the “professedly virtuous, who would treasure brachylogia as the ideal form of speech.”35 Johnson36 identifies the links between James 3:1-12 and Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, particularly “... Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.”37 “Quintilian declares that the ‘praise awarded to perfect brevity is well deserved.’”38 But in being so concise there is also a threat that one might come across as obscure. Seneca says that speech should be unadorned, plain, controlled.39 There is also the moral issue of self-control. Seneca states that “Speech that runs to fast or too elaborately reveals a loss of self-control and with it, the loss of modesty... [therefore] I bid you be slow of speech.”40 Silence, the ultimate in brevity, could take on a distinctly sacred flavour as Plutarch mentioned: “The solemn, holy, and mysterious character of silence.” He also said that “those who receive a royal and noble education ‘learn first to be silent, and then to speak.’”41 The wise therefore take on and master silence. “Silence is better than speech, that hearing, not speaking, is the pathway to wisdom, that speech when necessary should be brief, that above all speech should be under control and never the expression of rage or envy.”42 Sirach 5:13 says, “Honor and dishonor come from speaking, and the tongue of mortals may be their downfall.” Taciturnity is more than a matter of self-control. James shows us this when framing the command, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” with exhortations of both 34
L.T. Johnson, Taciturnity and True Religion: James 1:26-27 in Brother of Jesus, Friend of God – Studies in the Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans, 2004), p. 159. 35 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 159. 36 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 155-67. 37 Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NRSV). 38 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 158. 39 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 159. 40 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 160. The author cites pudor [40:13-14] as his source. It is suggested that Seneca translates aidos as pudor – “a strong emotion,” from F.S. Naiden, Ancient Supplication (United States: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 274. 41 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 162. 42 L.T. Johnson, James – New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes – Vol. XII, (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 203. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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creation and salvation, book-ending verses 1:19-20 with verses 18 and 21.43 James sees human anger and God’s justice diametrically opposed. underpinning the spiritual allegiances we have. the least of which an advocation of self-control.
He also sees self-control
But, taciturnity is for broad reasons, not
Brevity: a lot is said in a “remarkably short span of statements.”45
Loose Lips Sink Privilege We all live in a world of “all or nothing” at times, don’t we? For instance, the legal world operates this way around the subject of legal professional privilege (LPP)—the right to seek legal opinion to protect information, and the advice sought. But, there's a catch... Give a little away, and you give the lot away. The problem is LPP can be waived. This ‘privilege’ can, in other words, be given up. Waiving LPP by disclosing information (even only a little information) is quite a foolish business or personal practice, and is often only recognised in hindsight. To illustrate the matter, the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), in its dealings in Iraq, appears to have made important information, which could have been subject to LPP at a later date, available for subpoena by the Federal Court; all because it divulged the ‘gist’ of its findings and advice to the Commonwealth Government and the Independent Inquiry Committee of the United Nations (IIC) after commissioning its own internal inquiry into the scandal in 2003.46 Contrary to the many who might think the law is an ass, it seems to me that the law is a complex system set up on the ‘rules’ of wisdom, rules that can often appear invisible until it is “too late”--without the crucial benefit of 20/20 hindsight. The core of the matter seems to be around comments made relating to courses of action that may or may not be taken from the legal advice that is given. Commenting that a particular course of action is taken because of advice would threaten LPP; the protection of 43
L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 166. L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Abingdon, p. 204. 45 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Abingdon, p. 203. 46 R. King, “Loose lips sink privilege” in Government Risk Management (Vol. 8, Iss. 15, August 2007) p. 8-9. 44
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the information. The general message is, “The less said, the better LPP is protected.” Government personnel seeking legal advice are often referred to the State Solicitor’s Office, so LPP can be protected. It is almost a case of “‘getting advice’ before getting advice.” In the biblical wisdom of Proverbs, King Solomon is attributed for saying words to the effect, “All who act prudently protect knowledge, but fools expose their folly.”47 Further again, Proverbs 14:8a says, “The Wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” And at risk of overstating the point, we find written again in Proverbs 12:23, “The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.”48 The central message seems to be that we can act in one of two ways49 when it comes to knowledge. We can either act in consideration of known factors, and more importantly, in consideration of possible unknown factors, or we can simply exercise some level of blind (bad) faith, which implicitly is not qualified in knowledge50 but may be supported in some other level of ‘truth’—for instance, one’s (often) skewed perception. This would be risky, and by definition, “foolish.” This behaviour is the direct opposite of diligence. In legal terms, we cannot afford anything else but a complete commitment to diligence. Giving ‘thought to one’s ways’ implies a humble honesty51 and a healthy guarding, and respect, of the truth, or at least one’s view of the truth i.e. perception. In other words, it is acknowledging that one’s perception is often skewed, even slightly. In response, it is prudent to give thought to one’s ways—not doing so is dangerous. Accounting for a skewed perception, wise advisers are crucial i.e. advice. Perhaps the illustration of LPP is really about having foresight of potential consequences; of future outcomes. Isn’t foresight inherent in wisdom? So, what is the general message here for us? We might not all be in the position to need or require LPP in our daily affairs, however, we will often assert a particular position out of a lack of prudence, and that can have damaging consequences within a familial or business context. We must learn to respect knowledge and the power of information, guarding truth tightly and thereby protecting relationships and therefore life. 47
See Proverbs 13:16 in the Today’s New International Version. The actual rendering in the TNIV is, “All who are prudent act with knowledge…” 48 Both 14:8a and 12:23 are from the TNIV. 49 Refer to P.E. Koptak, NIV Application Commentary: Proverbs (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003), 343, 360, 375. 50 The distinction here is “knowledge” means something that is actually true. 51 Koptak again, 340-43. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”52
When Is It Right To Complain? If I think of one behaviour that epitomises the ultimate in character development it is withholding the need to complain. circumstances and relationships.
It is a full sense of grace pervading all life
It is the issuance of favour especially when it is
undeserved. The ultimate of the ultimate is almost inconceivable: that one might never complain. How hard would that be?! Is this ideology realistic? The Apostle Paul certainly thought it was. He mentions in Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining...” This is so we can be ‘blameless and pure... children of God.’ I wonder if sorting people out who are doing the wrong thing is ‘complaining.’ Like if there’s the need for that righteous form of anger, indignation. Practically speaking, there is a lot of sense in not complaining, especially over circumstances beyond our control. Most of life, and even the smaller things within it, are beyond our control. As the Serenity Prayer goes, ‘God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.’ To have serenity means we must accept things and that means not complaining, doesn’t it? This certainly applies to most things. I can think of some examples of times when it is right to complain. One example is if you’re living with someone, whether it is a wife or husband, a boarder, or other partner. When living space is shared, best the complaints come freely and in the right spirit; in love with truth. It’s also best that they be received in the same spirit. One of the worst things is to let the issue fester by not discussing it. On the other hand it is crucial to the relationship that it’s dealt with sensitively and correctly. This is a skill and an art form all its own – I’m certainly no expert! But I would like to become better at it. What we also must consider is ‘what war to wage.’ What issues are critically important and what issues can we leave alone? What are the ‘over my dead body’ matters which require immediate attention and lasting results? We can’t complain about everything or we’ll likely deserve the ‘whinger’ tag.
Proverbs 22:3 TNIV. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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We also need to take into account the personal psychological and emotional effect of the complaint. Will it ‘spoil our day’ to complain? We need to be able to complain without it then becoming the focus of our day. We need to be able to move on. Foci for ‘efficient’ and effective complaint: •
Frame the complaint as it affects objectives. If there are objectives for the relationship or situation and they’re not being achieved, there needs to a discussion about how to address the problems and find solutions that both parties can live with.
State the complaint once and ensure you’ve been heard. There’s nothing worse in this sort of situation than dealing with a ‘harper’ – someone who ‘harps’ on about something. Say it enough to be understood, ideally just once. We need to seek assurance that the other party has heard us. This is where reflective listening or paraphrasing are good skills for both parties to have.
Keep the complaint ‘issue-focussed’ and never attack the person. This is easier to achieve in an occupational situation than it is in a marital situation. Always keep your emotions in check and try to keep a balanced viewpoint for both parties’ sake.
Design a process for the complaint.
You might want to think about the likely
outcome(s) before you make your complaint, and then ensure you have a method for dealing with each outcome. How will you escalate the issue if it isn’t resolved? At what result is your ‘walk away point,’ and when will you be happy to consider it ‘resolved’? Everyone has complaints. It’s about knowing how to make them. It’s respectfully challenging the status quo in a loving or assertive way (which simply caters for both parties’ needs) that makes the difference. To complain in the appropriate way takes courage. Courage to seek the best solutions for both parties, and a vision for a better tomorrow.
Simply Perfecting Your Use Of Speech This is not so much about elocution, or nerves, but it’s everything to do with control over what we say. Most of us put our feet in our mouths, or we all say the wrong thing, or upset people, at least occasionally.
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Two rules on speech are: Say less generally.
You’d be amazed at how much training goes in for people on
communication skills that’s related to listening. It’s a common cause of communication and relationship breakdown -- failure to listen. Listening is not hard to learn per se but it requires much discipline. When you think about it, saying less and listening more actually relieves us of pressure to think of what to say. We’d get in less trouble by not saying the wrong things, or by not saying the right things at the wrong time, or in the wrong way. We also set ourselves apart to the ones we listen to as being more respectful and caring. That’s a great result! Speak only when asked to respond, or to not fail others by omission. Speech is quite easy in theory. 1) Don’t say anything unless it will contribute positively, 2) Speak up if you really need to, for instance, to warn others (through non-omission, i.e. tell them something that you don’t have to, but you know will help) and to defend others. How often do people speak about others out-of-turn and the absent cannot defend themselves -but, you can be their quiet defender. Don’t you just love that ‘goose-bumps’ feeling you get from standing up for others? Occasionally, you will be required to initiate speech; this is when the 4-Way Test should be applied, as you, the initiator, want every chance of successfully communicating the message. Speech was never really designed to be used to defend or boast of ourselves, yet we all seem to do abuse speech in these ways. Our challenge is to discipline our desires for kudos by speaking less, listening more, and using speak to build others up and not tear them down. Think of how good your relationships could be and how much respect you could command. Now, that’s kudos worth striving for... as the old Proverb says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”
How to Read Body Language BODY LANGUAGE IS AN INCREDIBLE COMMUNICATION TOOL. Here’s the case: Albert Mehrabian discovered in the 1950s that the ‘total impact’ of a message was a mere seven percent verbal, whilst 38 percent was vocal (tone, inflection, other sounds), and a massive 55 percent was non-verbal (i.e. body language). Ray Birdwhistell (1974) found also that Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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over 65 percent of communication is done non-verbally. If we desire better communication skills we best study body language. It’s important to know body language is an outward reflection of a person’s internal emotional state or mood. The key to reading it is being able to perceive the person’s mood state and putting this together with what they are saying and noting the conditions under which they are saying it—viewing the entire behavioural package, which is everything you can see. Amazingly, we are rarely aware of our postures, movements and gestures; they can be a dead giveaway to our incongruent verbal behaviour, and we hardly ever account for the non-verbal behaviour of others in deciphering their messages. This is a big communication trap. Men, be aware that women are generally more perceptive. This means they’re better able to spot contradictions between someone’s words and their body language than men. There are three rules for accurate reading of non-verbal communication: Rule 1. Read gestures in clusters: It’s about the total package. “It’s only when you put a word in a sentence with other words that you fully understand its meaning.” You simply need more information to put it all together. Try and observe if there’s a theme in the gestures, movements or postures. View the entire person, without making it look obvious. Rule 2. Look for congruence: “When a person’s words and body language are in conflict, women ignore what is said”—non-verbal communication is five times more powerful as a communication medium compared with words alone. We need to look for congruence in verbal and non-verbal behaviour. When words are not congruent with actions, the person could be lying. Rule 3. Read gestures in context: Look to the environment (hot/cold climate) and the situation (low stress/high stress) plus other contextual determinants to help read whether the body language tells you more or less what you need to know. The Pease’s suggest setting aside at least fifteen minutes a day to study body language purely by observing other people, and by also acquiring a conscious awareness of your own body language. It works anywhere people are gathered. Try turning the sound down on your television and see if you can pick what people are communicating non-verbally.
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Learning to read body language signals not only makes you more acutely aware of how others try to dominate and manipulate, it brings the realisation that others are also doing the same with us and, most importantly, it teaches us to be more sensitive of, and more attuned to, other people’s feelings. So, be a student of both non-verbal and verbal communication behaviour to not only learn more about others, but ultimately come to know yourself better too! Source: The Definitive Book of Body Language: How to read others’ thoughts by their gestures – Allan & Barbara Pease (2006), from the section “Understanding the Basics,” pp. 9-30. More information, www.peaseinternational.com
Fine-tuning Roles—Maximising Your Impact in Life Our lives can be summarised by the roles we play—metaphors for ‘who we are.’ They’re such an indicator of our life situations, status, position, and stage. Tell someone what you do and chances are they’ll have categorised you instantly based on their perception of the role you told them of—regardless of some of the other harder, visual evidence to the contrary. A little information and the rest is ‘filled in,’ such is the power of roles—a strong reflection of the society we live in and the nature of the average human being and the way we think. And people sort of know when you tell them your role(s) whether you’re happy or unhappy about it. It’s a part of our heart that we cannot hide, especially if we’re passionate to either extreme of happiness or unhappiness. We’ve all been “made” and brought up in certain ways—it’s good old-fashioned nature and nurture. Have you ever thought why you are perhaps good at sport but not academically, or that you can draw well but can’t read maps? You were perhaps good at maths and science in school but not in the arts or technical drawing; so you became a chemist. Little wonder. This can be perplexing. We’d like to be good at everything we do. It’s crushing to know that no matter how hard we try, we’ll probably never be brilliant in a certain pursuit; particularly if we desperately want to be. Ideas are not generally my thing. I get despondent to think that my ideas aren’t that often valued, yet it is my leadership and general coordination skills that come to the fore most times. Recently, whilst at work I found a problem came up with how a system that I had some control over wasn’t working for the end user—confronting in itself—and the feedback Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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was such that my ideas for improving the system weren’t really of any value; only the end users’ were. This was a little deflating I must admit, but my role was to coordinate the ideas and solutions and distil these into a plan—that’s where I came to be of value and got the kudos my ego required. I find it funny looking back that I couldn’t recognise this but I had the feeling of just flowing with it, which was probably motivated more by fear of not giving the end user the result they needed. This discussion purports being in tune with our roles—and more that that, it’s being in tune with the “style” that fits us. We have a style that “fits us.” We need to learn to work with this style and maximise it; and not resist or work against it. We need to be in tune with our roles in life—ensuring we can be of maximum benefit to ourselves and to those around us. Be in tune with your style. Work it out. Keep up to date with the trends in your own performance—where does it seem that you are always struggling as opposed to the times when you get easy ‘wins’ and things come very naturally? Chances are you get a ‘buzz’ each time you do this thing or that thing well, but you still may not be aware of the style that fits you. There’s real wisdom in being “in tune” with your own unique style within the framework of your life roles. It can bring you an enormous sense of peace and overall wellbeing when you’re at ease with your life roles and life styles. It’s also easier to see life as it really is, without being adversely influenced by performance anxiety. If you don’t have an appreciation of your style you could ask people who know you, particularly the people who know you really well, but be careful of family as they might not give you so much what you need to hear, as opposed to what you want to hear—this would be counterproductive. Also, if you have the opportunity, take part in a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or Hermann Brain Dominance Indicator (HBDI) questionnaire and find out what personality profile and thinking preferences you have. Roles and life “styles”—do you know yours? What’s more, do you work with it or fight it?
Becoming a Teacher-parent: Giving Your Children the Goal of Success
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Where do noisy people get off? They tend to venture through life completely uninhibited, totally free from responsibility for their boisterous behaviour. They completely lack social awareness skills, and if you’re unfortunate enough to be around this type of person, the effect is embarrassment even as a passer-by. It’s even worse if you have a friend or colleague who displays this type of behaviour. Yet, this is how it is for many teens finding their way in the world. I was in a coffee shop recently, reading, musing and generally minding my own business—I find it a great way to relax and become creative again, if creativity is sapped. Now, coffee shops are quite noisy places at the best of times I’ve found, what with coffee machines and many patrons happily producing a symphony of ‘harmonising’ decibels together. But what grabbed my attention this particular day, over all the other noise, was a group of four youths at the table next to mine—they were having a wow of a time! They talked much louder than any other table, which was occasionally boosted by a bout of uncontrollable laughter, and their bragging of drinking achievements was shared equitably for all to hear. And no performance like this would be complete without the odd swear word—there’s no doubt, theirs was a “complete performance.” It was obvious they were putting on a show for each other and for the rest of the patrons and staff. At one point I recognised that I was no longer “minding my own business.” Being a writer, I discretely picked up the pen I’d been using and wrote a few key words to remember the experience—because it made me think. It was a golden opportunity to observe group human behaviour of young people who’d not yet discovered the art of (or the desire for) containing their egos. As the meeting progressed, one of the girls said, words to the effect, “Why’d I get sacked (for bad language) from pushing trolleys – why didn’t they recognise my ‘good’ performance (16-25) trolleys.” This was a momentary, fleeting comment because no sooner had she said it (which piqued my ears!) the group was onto another quite unrelated topic of discussion. I got to thinking about this after I left the coffee shop. There was no apparent understanding in this young woman that no matter how good her actual performance of doing the job was, if she couldn’t relate with people her stay at that employer was always going to be very finite. She simply wasn’t going to last. “Bad language” is of course a cultural norm. Some working environments thrive on it, some don’t. Certainly pushing trolleys at a supermarket fits in the ‘working with the public’ realm and uncontrolled bad language just doesn’t fit into the job description.
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It poses a question: Apart from the display of bravado, and seeing her comment in that context, why didn’t the young woman know the social dilemmas she was getting herself into? Had no one taught her some social graces? It’s all too easy to start thinking about these kids as recalcitrants. On the surface they seem to be, and by definition, yes. Perhaps they’re different alone, but how often are they alone? It seems at this age, social life is “it.” But, can we really blame these kids entirely? I’m not sure we can. Too often I hear parents despairing over, or criticising their growing or adult children for running off the rails of life, and I just think: “boomerang!” Ninety percent of the time it only highlights the dysfunction that the parent in question cannot see, after all ‘they did a fine job’ in raising their kids! Didn’t they? Of course there are a lot of parents in truth who do see the problems, but are exasperated and are in no position to cause the required change in their son or daughter. I think this young woman’s story highlights the value of teachers. Teachers in life provide the basis for learning; academically, socially, developmentally, morally, spiritually. Teachers don’t just exist in schools. They’re found also in homes—in fact, a child’s most important teacher and influence, especially during their formative impressionable years, is the one/two they love the most—mother and father, or those who play these roles. This need not change as they mature, though they’re exposed to a greater number of “teachers.” Teachers are incredibly gifted and loving people in the main; investing themselves in the future of others, leaving a legacy to the world that will exist long after they’ve perished. Good teachers always push us just enough to learn what might be painful during but always rewarding afterward. We often don’t appreciate the extra pressure and attention at the time, but they are there; steadfast, firm, caring; not pushovers. When we’ve achieved a significant goal in life, how often do we turn around to acknowledge the one who guided us, and taught us... “Yet those who reach high stand on the shoulders of those who taught them,” says Paul Koptak53 of those of us who strive to achieve and eventually make it. A person playing the role of teacher probably helped us get there. Teaching in this way is inspirational—it is the best gift you can give your children—sound, firm but fair, teaching. Furthermore, it is often not recognised how potentially unrewarding teaching can be. “It takes fortitude, interest, and love of learning to stay in a teaching career.”54 53
P.E. Koptak, NIV Application Commentary: Proverbs (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003), p. 310. 54 Nancy J. Girard AORN Journal, Sept 2005 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FSL/is_3_82/ai_n15648882 Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Parents have a role as teachers. The good teacher-parent knows this and attends to it; the parent who thinks only teachers teach is crudely unaware of this hugely important life truth, and they’re on a highway to ruination of their son or daughter. Some parents are simply not doing their children any favours in being tyrants one minute, and pushovers the next. You can tell how the kids are going to turn out. There are no safe boundaries for these kids to base their behaviour on. How can they know what is right and what is wrong? Furthermore, the adult parent who isn’t a teacher behaves more in their “child state” because they’ve never matured or been properly weened themselves—there is little hope for kids of parents like this, unless there is someone else willing to step in and mentor them in life. Chances are these kids will attract the wrong types of mentors and friends and will never learn the way to life. The cycle continues. It’s obvious where society’s proverbial fools come from. They come from these types of unruly homes which are lacking the core value of teaching. On the basis of the above, how grateful are we of our “firm but fair” teachers? Who are they? Where are they now? Have you asked a question like: “Have I an opportunity right now to give them the loving feedback that they were such a positive influence over my life?” Am I grateful for them? They gave me much, and continue to.
12 Steps To Recovery – Like A City’s Walls Broken Down, A Person Lacking Self-Control It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one's own honor. Like a city whose walls are broken down is a person who lacks self-control. -Proverbs 25:27-28 Self-control, a sound mind, self-discipline, and prudence are all synonymous.
antithesis is the lack of self-control. The spirit of the person who lacks self-control is vexed
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i.e. not at peace/not free. The person cannot enjoy that thing they can’t control, and this dysfunction will often exert control over their life in ways they don’t choose. No matter how hard they try they’ll have an insatiable appetite or desire for that ‘thing’ or combination of things -- which is almost always linked to comfort or avoidance of pain. Do you have this vexation dogging you in some way or other? It’s very personal isn’t it? You’re probably ashamed that you can’t control this particular ‘little thing’ when it’s clear to you others can, and they seem to maintain control so easily. Indulge yourself for a moment and read along, you’ll find you’re not alone... everyone struggles with self-control as some point or other. Lack of self-control is often situational.
For instance, some lack self-control over a
substance like alcohol, drugs or food. For others it will be sex or gambling or work. The problem of self-control also works at a variety of levels of extremes -- from the sublime right through to the ridiculous. If a lack of self-control causes dysfunction in behaviour or relationships it needs to be dealt with. Whatever the problem is, it highlights denial; at the core, it is denial that there’s a problem. This is the biggest problem -- the person needs help, and it is most often help they cannot provide for themselves in an indefinite sense. There is a core character issue that prevents the option of self-help in this situation.
(For most minor self-control
problems are solved at the self-help level.) This is why Step 1 of the Twelve Step program is so critical. It goes like this: “We admitted we were powerless over [the thing that controls us] -- that our lives had become unmanageable.” Many, many people can never bring themselves to this point: that is to acknowledge freely and openly that the issue of the lack of self-control has taken hold of them and that they’ve lost all sense of genuine hope for a future of freedom from this dependency or addiction. It’s a desperate situation. This is why so many cannot bring themselves to this point. They don’t see themselves as “desperate’s.” Where there is a pattern of dependency coupled with an inability to break clear indefinitely it is desperate alright. Powerlessness in something needs to be seen very personally -- it needs to be owned. It is a person seeing the broken down wall of their spirit (their brokenness) and admitting they need help and direction -- we all require it in some way or other.
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Enter indolence. The indolent are “insensitive to pain” (Merriam-Webster). They are slow to heal and they also paradoxically resist pain -- they are naturally indifferent to the truth that could set them free; a truth that would be painful initially, but would provide a genuine gateway to emotional, psychological, and spiritual freedom. We are all somewhat afflicted with a propensity toward indolence (denial) and this is definitely a curse. Put another way, we put up with so much of one sort of indolent pain, prolonging it in fact, only to resist a sharper envelope of pain that once endured would actually set us completely free. The keys to recovery can be stated thus: “As summarized by the American Psychological Association, working the Twelve Steps involves the following.55 •
admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion;
recognizing a greater power that can give strength;
examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
making amends for these errors;
learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.”56
Lacking self-control in one single area in life can often have such an impact that it dominates the life of the afflicted -- to the hurting of self and the hurting of others. This correlation is basically interdependent (meaning, one thing happens and so does the other), which is sad. Your problems not only affect you, but others too, particularly lovedones. If you find yourself lacking self-control in an area or areas of your life, you could do a lot worse than consider it a very real problem; enough to seek external help, guidance, and support. You’ll find it infinitely worth it. In your own opinion, has your live become unmanageable? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? 55
VandenBos, Gary R. (2007). APA dictionary of psychology, 1st edition, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. ISBN 1591473802. 56 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_program Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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At the end of the day, “The [12-Step] program works if you work the program.” And it will work on any of your problems. It will be the miracle that you need and it will (later on) seem so ridiculously easy in hindsight. But, it only works if you ‘work the program,’ consistently and faithfully. A site like this: http://www.12step.org/ will help.
Temper Management 101 Pushed to Respond? Has the pressure been on and you’ve found yourself simmering and you’ve flared up? Does it sound familiar? For those who have a temper, anger management will be an issue to contend with for the rest of their life. No matter how long it’s been since you last ‘blew up’ it is only around the corner if you’re not aware of it, or if you haven’t done anything to deal with it. I know from personal experience that you can be in the middle of ‘an episode’ and have a vague awareness within that sort of says, “What’s going on here; what made you snap?” or, “Settle down, it’s not that bad... look at how you’re scaring your loved ones with your anger!” It is very rare that I snap these days, and when I do it is not that destructive, but the potential is there and I am one person who needs to be constantly reminded of the negative power of my temper. What are some general ideas to manage temper? •
Discover your trigger(s) and by becoming aware of the stimuli that produces the triggers in you to ‘fuse blowing.’
Find your own personal strategies to cope with stimuli productively. It needs to be your issue, owned by you.
You only get there with a tenacity to meet your nemesis and grow through it. It’s a case of trial and error and continual readiness to learn and improve.
If all else fails seek professional help.
Always say sorry, and always seek forgiveness. Even then, it might mean you’ve done your dash. Do you deserve another chance to be trusted? Be honest. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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In reality we have one of two options open to us in responding to life situations. 1) Respond in fear i.e. anger, temper, envy, malice etc, or 2) respond in love -- the antithesis of fear. We cannot respond in love without faith. If we don’t have faith we have no love to offer, and no strength of love to hold our tongues and resist blowing. Additionally, we need the sight of hope. We need to be able to ‘see’ hope. Feel hopeless and you’ve not got a chance. Anger never achieves anything of worth. By taking time to cool down and then address the problem in the cool light of day, there is always a way that will work in every situation.
Disappointing People When Trying To Satisfy Them I love this advice. Number 246 of Balthasar Gracian's The Art of Worldly Wisdom encourages us to save our best efforts for when they’re required. The 17th Century Jesuit priest chronicled many wisdom teachings that are as relevant today as the day they emerged from his mind. This particular gem refers to our propensity to try to please people and the folly of that plan. Here is the advice verbatim: 246. Never offer satisfaction unless it is demanded. And if they do demand it, it is a kind of crime to give more than necessary. To excuse oneself before there is occasion is to accuse oneself. To draw blood in full health gives the hint to ill will. An excuse unexpected arouses suspicion from its slumbers. Nor need a shrewd person show himself aware of another's suspicion, which is equivalent to seeking out offense. He had best disarm distrust by the integrity of his conduct. It’s best policy to remain unfazed by the querying of others. People will query us and our intentions but it’s our job to have the integrity of conduct that remains unaffected. When we have acted honourably, we should recognise this and have the quiet confidence reflecting our prior good work. We are apt at making excuses for ourselves. It’s not a good idea however to excuse oneself before the appropriate time as it arouses awareness in others that ought not to have been revealed -- this is not deceit; it’s actually focusing on what the other person wants and not on what petty failures or guilt we might be aware of -- that don’t, in any event, make any difference to the other person. This information is surplus to requirement.
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We should become skilled at sharing only what is required; by fitting to the need what we can bring to it. Why give more than is required? In planning circles, it’s a skill to deliver the right product, on time; not more product or before time. Bigger is not necessarily better. When we direct attention away from the issue at hand (no matter how good our intentions are) we bring contempt to the process and hold it up for the destruction of our own credibility. Rarely will it come off. It’s therefore a big and awkward risk we take -- it’s not advised. If we continue, we instead force others to re-consider their perceptions of us, and this is not from the positive viewpoint. Become adept at identifying and delivering on the actual need of the other party; on time, on budget -- per expectation. Now that is real skill. (The personal benefit to this is obvious: we gather peace for ourselves when we don’t react to others on a whim.)
Resisting Speaking Or Thinking Negatively Of People I was taken by the quotation below when I first read it. It resounded within me because it spoke truthfully and to the heart about what I struggle with and what I think all people struggle with, in our relationships. We wouldn’t admit it but how quickly do we undermine another person? If we don’t say it, it’s often thought about, particularly regarding people we’re threatened by. Read this: “If we find ourselves secretly rejoicing in the news of someone’s misfortune, we know we have some inner work to do. Somehow, that response suggests that we feel cheated in some way, perhaps because some expectations of life have gone unfulfilled. As we become aware of these inner reactions, we can also practice the inner generosity of wishing another well while refraining from any comment at all.”57 Let’s break this nugget of wisdom down... Rejoicing At Another’s Misfortune
P.E. Koptak, NIV Application Commentary: Proverbs, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), p. 446. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Let’s be honest. It happens. It’s our nature to instinctively do this. It’s not even our fault. However, it does suggest the following; It Indicates Some Inner Work Required Whenever we bear ill toward another person it indicates we have some work to do within our heart specifically and generally – specifically regarding the actual person the ill will is directed to, and generally because we’re obviously capable of a recurrence in the future. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but we ought to work on it. Is it that we feel cheated in some way and/or our expectations have surpassed the reality of our actual position in life? Awareness The biggest barrier to improving anything is a lack of awareness. If we’re aware of the issue then the only other thing that can get in the way is lack of will (or power of the mind) to actually do what you need to do, and do it often enough to create a good habit so we continue to do it. We must simply act on our awareness and do it over and over again by; Practicing Inner Generosity Replacing bad habits with good habits is a key to behaviour modification. People who wish to give up smoking succeed better when they replace smoking with exercise which naturally releases endorphins -- the ‘feel good’ naturally-occurring human biochemical. It impacts on their self-esteem too. Likewise, the way to resist speaking or thinking wrong of people is to get generous -- act with generosity. Generosity has magic spiritual juice about it; it frees us. Practicing inner generosity is wishing another well. Refraining From Any Comment At All We always seem to want credit for our good thoughts and our good behaviours. When we’ve suddenly replaced ill will with generosity, we’ll be tempted to want or take some credit. The most honourable thing to do, however, is not make any comment at all -- let it go. We should reject the inner need for our ego’s to be stroked. If our positive act is recognised, merely a humble and real ‘thank you’ should suffice. Likewise, and especially, this means refraining from bemoaning the person. We know we’re on the right track when we positively will not tolerate any bearing ill toward another. Awareness is piqued and we’re determined not to flay another soul. Perhaps it’s a pipedream to perfect this, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be our goal and ultimate aim.
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Communications Bonanza – Keep It Brief There are numerous advantages to keeping our communication brief and to the point. We’re beckoned to take counsel from the wise and watch closely what we say and how we say it. Brevity has both youth and power about it, and can assure us a mark of integrity of character we could only dream of. James 3:1-12 is a self-contained essay noted for its brevity.58 In this way it is an ideal example of how speech should be: concise, packed with value, and full of information. The briefer the speech the less likely it’s going to waver in truth.59 James promotes brevity (Greek: brachylogia) of speech. Demetrius is said to have thought brevity has three advantageous qualities. Firstly, it packs a punch acknowledging that verboseness kills intensity of thought. Along with this power, much meaning is packed into succinctness. Secondly, it’s very appropriate in maxims and pithy sayings as its power is put to good use. Thirdly, succinct speech often allows the hearer opportunity to ask back questions for clarity due to a certain predictable ambiguity. This forces the hearer to think. “Brevity represents youth and power.”60 It cuts to the chase and addresses boredom and impatience in one foul swoop. It is also the sages of old -- the “professedly virtuous, who would treasure brachylogia as the ideal form of speech.”61 Johnson62 identifies the links between James 3:1-12 and Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, particularly “Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.”63 Fear of God is the motivator for brevity in speaking.
L.T. Johnson, The Letter of James – The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII, (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 202. 59 B. Hybels, Making Life Work- Putting God’s Wisdom into Action, (Downers Grover, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 88-97. 60 L.T. Johnson, Taciturnity and True Religion: James 1:26-27 in Brother of Jesus, Friend of God – Studies in the Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans, 2004), p. 159. 61 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 159. 62 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 155-67. 63 Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NRSV). Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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“Quintilian declares that the ‘praise awarded to perfect brevity is well deserved.’”64 But in being so concise there is also a threat that one might come across as obscure. Be that as it may, Seneca says that speech should be unadorned, plain, controlled.65 There is also the moral issue of self-control. Seneca states that “Speech that runs too fast or too elaborately reveals a loss of self-control and with it, the loss of modesty... [therefore] I bid you be slow of speech.”66 Brevity has the Midas touch about it, preserving the character of the skilled whom use it; seemingly giving them the ability to turn their words into gold. Silence, the ultimate in brevity, could take on a distinctly sacred flavour as Plutarch mentioned: “The solemn, holy, and mysterious character of silence.” He also said that “those who receive a royal and noble education ‘learn first to be silent, and then to speak.’”67 The wise therefore take on and master silence. “Silence is better than speech, that hearing, not speaking, is the pathway to wisdom, that speech when necessary should be brief, that above all speech should be under control and never the expression of rage or envy.”68 Sirach 5:13 says, “Honor and dishonor come from speaking, and the tongue of mortals may be their downfall.” We are urged to take this counsel! Taciturnity (def: temperamentally disinclined to talk. [Merriam Webster]) is more than a matter of self-control. James shows us this when framing the command, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” with exhortations of both creation and salvation, book-ending verses 1:19-20 with verses 18 and 21.69 James sees human anger and God’s justice diametrically opposed within the schemes of life and eternity. He also sees self-control underpinning the spiritual allegiances we have.70 But, taciturnity is for broad reasons, not the least of which an advocation of self-control. Brevity: a lot is said in a “remarkably short span of statements.”71 64
L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 158. L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 159. 66 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 160. The author cites pudor [40:13-14] as his source. It is suggested that Seneca translates aidos as pudor – “a strong emotion,” from F.S. Naiden, Ancient Supplication (United States: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 274. 67 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 162. Both quotes feature on the same page. 68 L.T. Johnson, James – New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes – Vol. XII, (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 203. 69 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 166. 70 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Abingdon, p. 204. 71 L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Abingdon, p. 203. 65
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Wisdom In Listening Before Speaking “Let every (person) be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.” -James 1:19b Amplified (gender inclusive). This is a key to living in a world full of people. The moment we can listen without having something to say is the moment we begin to relate well. There is so much ‘higher order’ thinking of the neocortex involved here. From both physiological and psychological viewpoints, the thinking that allows us not to take offence is diverted away from the more primary thinking of the reptilian and mammalian brain. If we were to think only from these centres we’d not even think of listening. This process of higher order thinking can only occur with extensive myelination (i.e. training) of the neural pathways. In other words, we only get to better and more consistent thinking by going through the pain of either being taught or by teaching ourselves through self-discipline and this is impossible to do well without the right motivation. There must come a time when we truly believe that what others have to say is as important or as valuable as the contributions we might make. There are people who are impatient and wish to be heard, and there are people who patiently wait their turn before making known what their view is -- we desire to be the latter. Patience and trust in the moment is key; again, there’s a cue back to higher order neocortex thinking. The classic situation where this is undone is during a meeting where everyone wants their say. So, how do we make active listening work in meetings? Perhaps it’s a case of making a rule that people who speak after someone who’s just made a point should demonstrate understanding of that point before they move on to present their own? We do relate better with people when we’ve given them our fullest possible attention when they’re speaking; when we’re ‘other-focused.’ This demonstrates both maturity of character and physiological development of the higher order thinking pathways.
One Choice, Many Ripples Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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This is an amazing truth that explains many things from the reason few of us take the necessary risks to succeed in life, to the confounding nature of managing change effectively. We see an organisation or an individual make one simple change and there are often unforeseen ripples, creating potential incidents and issues for months and years to come. All from only one decision. We can see here why the wisdom of the experienced person steers them away from taking unnecessary risks, having learned possibly from their own and others’ flippancy. These lessons of experience are valuable in charting the way through shallow waters, avoiding the shipwreck. This is where the SWOT tool of risk management and organisational planning can be employed. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Weaknesses and threats When we do take the risk, and calculatingly so, we try and foresee what can go wrong-selecting our weaknesses and paying due diligence toward the threats--in our analyses. Threats spell potential disaster. We don’t like to think that one decision can bring us to the brink, but it’s true to a certain extent, particularly when the tumultuous ground has been ploughed already i.e. when the scene’s set. Strengths and opportunities We will probably maximise the strengths and opportunities as they come, but these too can bring us unstuck as opportunities sometimes reveal themselves later as traps. Our strengths can overpower the situation and we suddenly spoil what might have been otherwise okay. We shudder at the thought that our strengths might actually become a fatal flaw; it’s all about balance and the ego. Calming the ripples Without the appropriate level of thought and consideration regarding the risks, we will often tread a precarious line. There are many snares that lay ahead in managing change. Taking a moment to just sit and consider a decision is sometimes all that’s needed. Some of us (myself included) can occasionally have a tendency to act or react impulsively and it can bring more harm than good. Change is not always a good thing. When we do change things and they go pear-shaped, we need to find ways of calming the ripples and reconciling the situation so we can restore the credibility. Ah, the wonder of 20/20 hindsight! Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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Caution About Taking Advice “Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.” -Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen. There are some really relevant things to remember when considering advice. “All counselors praise the counsel they give, but some give counsel in their own interest. Be wary of a counselor, and learn first what is his interest, for he will take thought for himself.” –Sirach 37:7-8 NRSV. Consulting with people who have the opposite attributes to that we wish to be advised upon is a folly. It would make no sense to listen to a coward before going to war, or to discuss the approach required concerning a large task with a person adept at laziness. Why also would we ask a miser about how to give generously? -- Or an aggressive person about kindness? The person best placed to offer us advice is someone who is like-interested with us. This means they have our best interests at heart and will ‘go with us’ whether we fail or succeed. This is also sound advice regarding who to listen to: “And heed the counsel of your own heart, for no one is more faithful to you than it is. For our own mind sometimes keeps us better informed than seven sentinels sitting high on a watchtower. But above all pray to the Most High that he may direct your way in truth.” – Sirach 37:13-15 NRSV. Can we get much better than make the final decision to act based on the counsel of our own hearts? This is what is required in life -- for us all to make the decision for ourselves, based on whatever is before us. The heart informs the mind and vice versa. Thought and feeling consult each other and affirm to each other, truth, hopefully. That’s God’s resilient design for autonomous action toward survival and growth. Advice is good for decisions only. We need to decide, finally.
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Prudence is the last charge. ‘Be careful whose advice you buy (or consider), but, be patient with those who supply it.’
A Good Idea In Life - Think Beforehand “The whole of life should be one course of thought how not to miss the right path. Rumination and foresight enable one to determine the line of life.” -Balthasar Gracian. On thinking beforehand, the sage delivers a maxim that beckons us to consider our ways before regret sweeps over our troubled brow. We all have them, regrets. It’s therefore a very wise thing to minimise and mitigate them as much as we can, and certainly before they occur -- prevention’s better than cure. There is a real blessing for taking time out to do nothing but ponder -- asking ‘what are the risks of doing something regrettable here; with this day?’ It requires discipline to achieve it, a certain level of intelligence to capitalise, as well as some depth of holistic awareness of the totality of one’s life. There’s a key skill involved here. Preventing regrettable action beforehand with thinking may indicate a distinctive (in-the-moment adjustment) level of competence in emotional intelligence, where rich self-awareness and adept social awareness merge for doublestrength of character. Reflection is not simply musing about the past; it’s meditating on what’s recently transpired as a feed-in to what lays immediately ahead. It’s a very real form of planning toward life and relational risk management. Yet, it seems a gross luxury these days to spend large amounts of time daily, contemplating fruitfully, forth-telling our events and activities so as to ensure we protect both our own performances and the wellbeing of others. Is it really a good investment of time? Can we justify it on the balance of all the other balls we must keep in the air? Temptations to skimp on time to be alone and reflect as a springboard to better personal performance are always there. We cannot simply and easily take time to ‘be still’ and just “be” it seems. Life’s forces distract us incessantly.
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The noise has to be turned down for us to hear the gentle whisper of our spirit’s deepest yearning.
Then there’s the trust required to believe (and act on) the messages
communicated in silence. Possibly the greatest distinctive skill of reflection is being continually ahead in the thinking department; in the modality of time spans. For instance, being present and at the same time two hours ahead, whilst being simultaneously able to remain cognisant of what lays ahead two weeks from the present moment, and in the light of the lifeplan, requires a level of grounded wisdom we can only strive for. It is only achieved in the midst of engrained reflective practice that entrains the person to the right path and line of life.
Distinctive Spiritual Insight How many of us get anxious about the unknown? This is precipitated by the recency of flurried thought and action, yet it gets us in knots even now... in the moment, when all the concern is past. It's worried about untruth or non-truth -- the "reality" that may never happen. Nervousness of guilt is another example of playing with non-truth of the situation. It's skewed perception based on an incorrect paradigm or program of thinking. There's a feeling of 'something's-not-quite-right' that we have to deal with, and present before the known truth. We have to test our perception of things against what's actually apparent. It's being instinctive regarding our spiritual insight; able to discern the real state of things. Distinctive competence in spiritual insight is where observation meets truth, accepts it, and works with it -- in the moment. The person with it adjusts as stimuli changes. In other words, they're mature to the adult, and respond according to the truth presented. They remain unemotional unless it's permissible i.e. are emotional if it's appropriate. They lead people and situations from dysfunction to functional behaviour. They see the truth and have the ability of influence to control the circumstances: - away from persecution, aggression, victim playing, and rescue, - toward exploring, encouraging, and building. Competence ranges from the required to the discretionary, to the distinctive.
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We want to move from: Reflects on Action - Realistically and objectively self assesses performance and sets improvement goals. Thinks back and uses this to hope for different behaviour in future. -toReflects in Action - Can reflect on performance during each actual behaviour and make the changes required (in-the-moment) to perform more effectively. When a person can consistently reflect in action they are mastering competence at the distinctive level of spiritual insight, though, of course, there are other forms of spiritual insight. We might call this form 'relational spiritual insight.' When we can 'fix' our thinking and incorrect perception and paradigms using this skill of spiritual insight, we're well on the way. In emotional intelligence terms we're discussing self- and social-awareness. Being totally self-aware is the beginning of it all.
An Exemplar Of Maturity – The Goal Of Life “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” -1 Corinthians 13:11 (TNIV). The ultimate goal for the Christian this side of heaven is maturity of life and of faith. This is a faith life borne of love, hope, peace, and a myriad of other virtues all forged through the furnace of life, bringing the believer to a resilient core -- safe with self, and safe with others too and consistently so; a blessing in fact. Being an exemplar of maturity is a call to want it more than anything else; to want to be “adult” in the way we approach life all the time. Numerous times I’ve mentioned that being adult in transactional analysis terms means being predominantly responsible, reasonable, rational, realistic, and logical behaviour. It’s making the choice -- a decision of the will -- to engage the mind in a quest for beauty and wisdom, the achievement of a firm foundation based in the truth of what is, and not what could be or should be.
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To see the end in sight -- oh, what a gorgeous picture that is -- emerging from the tunnel into a brand new day where fears evaporate, and to know fear is not real. This is the point of knowing a foundation based in Jesus Christ and that the world is nothing without him at the core. Solidness of faith is the basis of exemplars of maturity. Nothing really fazes them; nothing could, but God. How can they see anything but true joy for they see life how it actually is, and what’s more, they’re at peace with it. The truth of reality is not a harsh picture. Strip away the lace curtain of fear and we suddenly see. ‘Light up the darkness,’ as Bob Marley once said, and we see suddenly that our faults and failings are covered by the brilliance of God’s grace. They always had been! The mature are not afraid of the truth, and therefore take no pleasure in lies, actively seeking truth and more of it; like love and wisdom, truth is a never-ending well of discovery. To eventually journey on toward being an exemplar of maturity means leaving behind childishness, fear that produces anger at what we find in reality, and belief finally in the lie. “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, and to provide for it.”72 -Patrick Henry (March, 1775). Truth stands for itself, and wisdom is found true, and is justified, by her children73 -- by what she, wisdom, produces. Truth and wisdom are tied together inextricably. Likewise, maturity is never found wanting. It always holds together. The process of maturity however, is a gently rubbing off of the chimeras that cling to the godly soul within. Praise God with every false thing revealed and subsequently dealt with. Let us put childish, unreal things far from us.
You Can Upset Only Yourself As a self-confessing would-be anti-complainant it breaks me up when I lose my cool and get seemingly angry for no real reason. I just did this very recently and I was perplexed as to
John Frost, The American Speaker, (New York: Arno Press, 1974) p. 92. Luke 7:35 (AV and Gk). Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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why! Almost whilst I was doing this I was troubled by it. It led me to the thought, ‘How do we control our responses to things, behaviourally?’ As I analysed my behaviour afterwards I realised that I was actually upset with myself first and foremost; I’d let someone down who was important to me and was embarrassed by that fact. Little did I know it though, this series of thoughts and self-judgments led to a series of behaviours that I would later regret; though they were not overtly harmful, it made the situation worse because I berated myself even more. The worst thing really was my discontentment could not be explained. Like fear which cannot be explained, and by definition therefore this becomes ‘anxiety,’ I had no way really of trouble-shooting bar sharing with my wife, who listened intently and supported me ably. The following day, however, I was able to see the situation in a fresh, more realistic, and certainly less harsh light. And this was my summation: I got negatively emotional. This was caused by my failing someone in a vital area that I personally value; I experienced guilt. That is normal. What did I do with it? I let it harbour. I know that the best solution to these situations, for me, is to surrender completely to the truth and not delay in doing so. I did not do this. I did not seek the blessings and reparation of God when a touch more boldness would have done the business; I missed the point of transaction. It underscores a thought. Getting emotionally upset is a form of a lack of self-control. It is a departure for the state of being “adult.” We all do it from time to time, even those most ‘adult’ amongst us. The key is quickly addressing this propensity we have to slip back into the ‘wounded child.’ The best people do this in-the-moment. I can think of times, and many of them, when I’ve done this and it so motivates me; it’s the power of God to turn to him instantly and experience his grace; then we just get on with adult living again--simple! The idea of wisdom is adulthood. Those who’re consistently adult-like are the sages. At the end of the day we can only ever upset ourselves; (sure, we can upset others, but that is not the subject in focus here. We’re discussing our own emotions and the corresponding control of them.) No matter the stimulus, we have the power to respond ‘in the adult.’ Recall that ‘adult’ behaviour is reasonable, responsible, rational, realistic, and logical.
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Final Words Gaining Personal Mastery Through Silence and Solitude It is heart space for today’s leader. The silence and solitude that time so ill affords is paradoxically such a necessary component for the busy leader in demand. There is one thing for sure, a disquieted heart trembling with fear, stress and anxiety is not a good accompaniment for anyone with drive to succeed in their mission or calling of life. I want to explore what it means to have personal mastery, spiritual peace, and relative enlightenment, within the context of silence and solitude.
These two concepts are
interwoven. Gordon MacDonald says we need to tend our inner garden, our inner world74 – we need to get away from the noise of life, routinely and regularly. He tells of Mother Teresa’s famous quote, “God is the friend of silence.”75 MacDonald says we need times of “rhythmic withdrawal.”76 We don’t like it; we’re uncomfortable with silence and aloneness. But, we can “nurture silence” in our noisy hearts if we “value it, cherish it, and are eager to nourish it.”77 To ‘reach’ this cherished “inner garden” of our souls takes at least fifteen minutes of resisting and fighting everything that will try to keep up from that goal.78 It simply doesn’t feel good initially, and MacDonald even admits he’ll never adjust – it’ll be a lifetime struggle. Those who take a day out of their busy schedules once a week to restore, refresh, revive, and re-vitalise, will benefit enormously from it spiritually – along with spinoffs in physical, mental and emotional spheres of life. The benefits continue to grow over time. Using part of this day to have a “desert experience” of silence and solitude is the key. The Russians have a term for it. A ‘Poustinia’ is a small space, typically a cabin, used for prayer and fasting and silence before God. Catherine de Hueck Doherty says the following in her book of the same title, Poustinia: 74
Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, Updated Edition, (Highland Books, Surrey, 1985, 2003), p. 170. 75 Quote originally from Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God, (Image, Garden City, NY, 1977), p. 48, in MacDonald, Ibid, p. 171. 76 MacDonald, Ibid, p. 171. 77 Quote originally from Wayne E. Oates, Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart, (Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1979), p. 3, in MacDonald, Ibid, p. 173. 78 MacDonald, Ibid, p. 173. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
P a g e | 104 “It seems strange to say, but what can help modern man find the answers to his own mystery and the mystery of him in whose image he is created, is silence, solitude – in a word, the desert [emphasis in original]. Modern man needs these things more than the hermits of old.”79
We can transpose Doherty’s quote today very quickly and say post-modern people (being gender inclusive) have more of a need for silence and solitude than ever before. This is the key to healthy and balanced mental, emotional, and spiritual life. Never before has the world seemed more transient, more rushed, or more unsettled. Change is a feature of life in the 21st Century. It is often unwelcome, so we need a way of coping with it that’s sustainable. Personal mastery through silence and solitude is the way to simultaneous healthy detachment and deep involvement. A leader needs to be involved with their people, but to be ‘most available’ they need to be able to ‘withdraw’ from the demands of life, and find that “cell” or quiet place to meditate and be alone. It can help in what Peter Senge80 says is the critical step in the process of achieving personal mastery.
“People committed to
continually developing personal mastery practice some form of meditation.”81 Personal mastery is an amazing theory. It is the “discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.”82 In short, it is the ability to assimilate, work with, and acknowledge and accept truth, both personally and totally. Another way of putting it would be achieving maturity. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”83 It is seeing the world for what it really is; and having an attitude of complete acceptance. We can’t achieve personal mastery without visiting the “cell” as Dave Fleming calls it.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty. Poustinia: Christian Spirituality of the East for Western Man. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1975. Revised edition with new subtitle: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude, and Prayer. Combermere, ONT: Madonna House, 2000. Quote available: http://www.hermitary.com/bookreviews/doherty.html 80 Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, (Doubleday, NY, 1990, 1994). 81 Senge, Ibid, p. 164. 82 Quote is direct from Senge’s book but without page reference. Available online at: http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/jfullerton/review/learning.htm. 83 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NKJV). Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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“Cell-less leaders” according to Fleming, do not make time for reflection.84 In a role that must envision and plan for the future, it is critically important to use the past, and be able to reflect on it as a platform for the future. Leaders who are learners seek lessons from their past, from the environment of reflection. “Cell-less leaders” do not do this well, and this can have serious consequences for their key family and friendship relationships—those key personal support networks that are so foundationally vital in ensuring all bodes well, for the leader and all his/her subordinates. It is the family and key friendship relationships that suffer most when the leader doesn’t reflect – and this has the effect of rebounding onto the key leadership relationships with sub-ordinates. The “Cell” is also required to help keep the heart pure and unadulterated from the more poisonous influences of life. A healthy “cell” life provides both flexibility and vigilance (diligence), so that the delicate balance can be maintained and we can continue in spiritual wakefulness.85 The truth is the “shallow me doesn’t want the rest of me to discover that the shallow me is an illusion that must be evacuated.”86 The process of the Poustinia or the Cell is necessary; vital in reconciliation with self. Fleming says, as MacDonald indicated earlier, the “stark cell” forces us to “continue in the inevitable discomfort it brings [then we will have] the courage to let go of the illusion.”87 This brings in with it the principle of shalom. It can be variously defined as peace, abundance, and wellbeing — all of which are signs of the good life lived in harmony with God and God’s creation.88 Further, shalom is worldly order, or better, universal order. God has set up an order and a ‘shalom,’ which is easily disturbed—“a balance that can be upset.”89 The goal is congruence and knowledge of that which is not good so it can be safely discarded. At once, shalom is achieved. Assuming the value of silence and solitude is incontrovertible, let us focus more clearly on this concept of personal mastery. It’s been said that it is the ‘creative tension’ between the current reality and the vision the person holds for the future.90 The vision draws us from the present situation toward the perceived goal. This is a passionate commitment to growth 84
Dave Fleming, Leadership Wisdom from Unlikely Voices, (Emergent Youth Specialties Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2004), p. 45f. 85 Fleming, Op cit, p. 45. 86 Fleming, Ibid, p. 57. 87 Fleming, Ibid, p. 57. 88 Paul E. Koptak, The NIV Application Commentary: Proverbs, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003), p. 122. 89 Koptak, Ibid, p. 155. 90 http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/jfullerton/review/learning.htm. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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by “learning how to generate and sustain creative tension in our lives.”91 Senge believes that meditative practices can augment productivity of the subconscious mind. No one can quantify the power of established personal mastery. It is basically unlimited in what it offers the person who can embrace the principle of maintaining the creative tension required. It’s the ability to create the future direction toward the main goal and have knowledge of the gap, its size and design, whilst having the ability to ‘get there.’ That’s enough to fight for more of it. It’s a sure process in the achievement of your most desired goals. To summarise, the key is to: •
Find time and the place to meditate or reflect in silence and solitude;
This is to: •
Continually clarify and deepen your personal vision or goals – make a choice to search for those things that are really important to you;
Develop patience in the midst of trying circumstances; and
See reality objectively – to be fully aware of the moment you’re in.
The Blessing of Time – Reclaiming Purpose and Control Over Your Life Time. Do you ever feel rushed and forever “on the go?” We all get the same 24-hour day. We all get the same number of days in one year. Time is the great equaliser of life; no matter your life situation, everyone is equal in this regard. Yet for a growing many people there simply “aren’t enough hours in the day.” There are a multitude of responsibilities, pressures, and demands. And if that weren't enough there are so many activities to get involved in; stimulation here, there and everywhere. No wonder there is such a thing as “spiritual attention deficit disorder” nowadays, with so many forced and unforced
Senge, Op cit, p. 142. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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distractions. Time it seems is ‘enemy.’ Why are we so time-hungry? Why is it we feel so stretched? In Western culture this type of time-pressure appears to have crept in over the years; particularly with the advent of 24/7 life. We want what we want now if not yesterday. There are obvious advantages; you don't usually have to wait, for one. Yet, the culture which seeks things “now” sucks us in, doesn’t it? Who these days isn't drawn into the urgency of life? This creates a busyness that is prepared to pile important thing on top of important thing--a ‘can do’ attitude prevails for all things. It has to, to survive. Is it busyness to the point of madness? Do we suddenly do these things because we are no longer comfortable in our own skins? Is it escapism? For some perhaps, though many would argue the opposite. We’d love to have the time to get in touch with our inner self; we just don’t have it: time. Today’s society embraces the principles of diligence that much we seem to be almost overly-diligent, at least partially. Of course, diligence in an accurate manner of speaking is careful to construct life so that order, responsibility and discipline are front runners. So perhaps it is a skewed version of diligence... diligence with questionable motives and outcomes. When a person looks at their schedule and they can’t find time for basic necessities like exercise and sleep there’s a real problem. ‘Where does all my time go?’ might be the heart cry, as a sense of helplessness pervades the victim of time-hunger. I can recall times in my life when I survived on 4-5 hours sleep a night and would forego exercise and even time to eat properly because I was always on the go and had so much on. When I look back to those times, no matter how important my life roles were, I was always miserable deep down, because there was no self-time and no time to recharge the batteries. Notwithstanding the present discussion, let’s flip it over and head toward a solution that holds weight. Consider the following: When we’re pressed for time we have purpose, but purpose without focus—that’s the real problem. We have too much purpose, if there were such a thing. The word “clutter” fits as the antithesis of “focus,” or a chaotic lack of focus. We should feel privileged to have purpose in our lives, but we begin to resent it when we’re expected to focus on too many things--in truth, many of these expectations come from within ourselves and our inability to simply say no; It’s not always about saying no to others, we have to have the discipline at times to say no to self as well. This is even saying no to things we might enjoy, things that Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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will bring clutter to our lives, not focus. Again, there’s so much stimulation and noise in life, we require discernment to protect ourselves. The good thing about purpose is that it is based in hope--for you see a reason for existence, and hope is based in the governing value of trust. Another way of saying this is: having purpose increases your reliance on the virtue of trust. Clarity in life roles is critical for anyone with a busy life. It’s simply a matter of focussing on important life roles and goals; these come from your values. The process of developing and achieving focus, effectively de-cluttering your life, goes in this order: 1) Sort your values out; what determines your attitudes and what you stand for? I have seven, but you could have more or less; so long as they are personal to you. Values can be trust, respect, honesty, kindness, discernment, generosity and so on. Values steer your approach in life; they help form you. You should focus on them each day and visualise them in action. 2) Clarify your life roles and don't do things that don't fit in here-this is key. I wouldn’t recommend you have any more than seven life roles, and no more than three of these should be major time-hungry life roles. For balance, self and family life roles are closer to the top in importance. Your secular roles should be closer to the bottom. 3) Get specific and set goals for each life role. This supercharges your focus and helps you stay motivated and in-tune with performing well in each key life role. Don’t get frustrated about your lack of time. Be intentional about your life and manage it as you would a good business; with enough planning to get the important things right, letting the rest go. It’s great to have purpose, but it is focus and removal of clutter that brings the contentment and peace of knowing you’re doing the right things. Time is finite. We need to appreciate it and use it and learn from it. A lifetime might appear to be a long time; the truth is, it isn’t.
Managing the Moment – Endure and Enjoy! How frequently do we lose control of a situation and only realise it when it’s too late? Regrettable actions highlight the tremendous value of managing the moment. We all have our weaknesses when it comes to being present and reacting to life stimuli adequately and appropriately. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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There are at least three (3) reflections in this sort of discussion: 1. Opportunities to make wise choices each moment Choice. Everything we do bar dying is a choice. As we traverse the moments of each day we have fresh opportunities to respond in one of many different ways. Making the most of our opportunities is a wisdom activity. This takes knowledge, awareness, diligence, discipline, and prudence. 2. Endure the tough moments Though they might appear longer than a moment, most of our tougher times in life (most, not all) are little more than a moment in all reality. They might last a few minutes, or an hour or two; a day or so at most. If only we’d have the foresight at the time to simply endure it. From this viewpoint we have a choice. Either we endure the tough moment and enjoy reflecting on our wise act later, or we submit to the situation and regret later not acting more appropriately. 3. Enjoy each moment When it boils down to it, life is to be enjoyed the best we can. Certainly, some of life must simply be endured, but most of life can be enjoyed. It bodes us well to approach life positively. Again, it’s a choice. Our lives in totality are not much more than a series of moments; one moment followed by the next, and the next, and so on. Sure, we sleep in between, and we engage in other ‘maintenance’ activities too, but we have only so many of these moments, then it’s all over!
The Heart Of the Human Problem Is The... ... problem of the human heart.” -J. John. For the man who is widely acclaimed to be the wisest ever (save Jesus), certainly in Biblical tradition, King Solomon certainly proved the above saying correct. The Bible tells us that though he sought wisdom initially, Solomon turned from God towards the idols that his 700 wives and 300 concubines had brought before him (1 Kings 11:3-4) and so God became angry with Solomon as his heart had turned away (11:9).
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How is that someone who started out so well, having been gifted a wish from God in a dream -- and having chosen to ask for “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong,” which revealed a true fear of the LORD -- would turn aside to the superficial and transitory? (See 1 Kings 3:1-15 for the full story.) The trappings of life on earth, that’s what. Imagine having 1,000 women... mmm, blessing or curse? Sure would make life terribly complicated. Solomon, it’s said, had more riches than anyone had ever had before. This too made his life more complicated and gave him over to more temptation. One of the more literal translations of Proverbs 4:2392 goes like this:
"More than all else you guard, watch your heart, for out of it, the surges of life." Moreover, “from it (the heart) [are] the goings of life.”93 It’s our life source. Whatever is present in our speech and behaviour, and in the representation of our body language, and use of our eyes, ears, mouths, lips etc, all stems from our hearts. The general message of Proverbs 4 is to “get wisdom” and to seek it with all one’s heart -- to protect and preserve one’s life. We’re to have ‘tunnel’ vision in this way, not swerving to the right or left on our way. I am Christian like so many others. And yet I know my heart, without God -- it is rotten through. Paul said in Romans 7:15-16 he cannot help at times do the wrong things whilst striving earnestly to do what is right. We all identify I hope. We are not saved from sinning but are made right in our dependence on God -- to gain practical wisdom and discernment, and without doubt, life, we cling to the Saviour Jesus -- the author and perfector or our faith. It is with him and only with him that we can think and act with pure hearts. People who are captive to sin (and cannot surrender to God) betray their own hearts and defeat themselves. And this is an absolute fact for all of us. Salvation is a continual process. We must always continue to grow in our journey with God, by daily surrendering our heart to him, or we delude ourselves. Fortunately, surrender is a process learned and mastered better the more we do it.
Roland E. Murphy, Proverbs - Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), p. 26. 93 Ibid, p. 28. Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 S. J. Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide. May not be used without permission.
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What Legacy Are You Leaving? At the end of your life what will you have passed on to your kids and grandkids, friends and neighbours, work colleagues and peers? What're you passing on now? This is the best wisdom I can offer at this stage: ONE. The main task of life is to meet challenges and overcome them. This takes insight (awareness, patience) and courage (power of will, perseverance, and resilience). When in pain, be gentle with yourself but address the stimuli. Learn... learn a lot. TWO. The best way to relate with people is to actively understand them by listening. Most of our own problems are solved in actively listening to others. That doesn’t appear to be logical... but by faith, try it. Speak less, listen more. Respect everyone. THREE. Take time for yourself and to be alone with God, which is simply thinking about the mystery of life. Get to know yourself; you're a good person worth getting to know. Find out what you want to do, and do it. FOUR. Stay on straight paths by finding wisdom and ‘watching your hands’ (be careful not to do devious things). Get to know how to trust. FIVE. Live each moment by forgetting yesterday and tomorrow. Be your best and don't regret. Don’t compare yourself with others. SIX. There’s no formula to life; no code to crack... as much as that might frustrate some (including me), it’s true. SEVEN. Love while you have the chance. The higher law has no rules (refer point SIX); only it ‘is’ or it ‘isn’t’.
Linking Wisdom With Truth The model featured in this book links seven (7) Principal Values with wisdom, and then wisdom is synonymous with truth; each is enduring and eternal.
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THE PRINCIPAL VALUES OF THIS SYSTEM OF PHILOSOPHY – “What is Truth?” DILIGENCE: Diligence is order—an appreciation of the need for diligence to create order in life. It is being resolute and seeking resolution in all situations, working with tenacity, industry, and a focus on definable action. It is commitment and a firm intent—based on a heart for rightousness. An unreligious piety which is dutifulness. A focus on carefulness—a rejection of haste. Other adjectives are responsible, dependability, discipline, obedience, leadership.
PRUDENCE: Over what enters and leaves the mouth. Everything in prudence can be rated on eating/intake and communication. Taking care to be silent in tenuous times, adherence to temperance, moderation in all things, discretion and finery, always inoffensive and impossible to offend—overlooks insults, act out of knowledge and not from opinion, give thought and consideration to ways/steps, always with the humility to heed correction, seek refuge in dangerous situations, a constant awareness of one’s context and environment.
SHALOM: Tranquility: achieving a tranquil state, wholeness in one’s being, at-peace, at-rest, being still and feeling good in God, harmony in heart and soul, an absence of agitation/discord—no cognitive dissonance. A feeling of completeness, and a thorough sense of self-awareness. Probably the most important way to be.
BALANCE: Protecting accessibility is vital to shalom. The ability to be autonomous—to achieve autonomy. A wise use of time that considers the various priorities and impacts of time. It is essentially maintenance of balance, and the ability to do the important things always, preferably in utter peace, it protects and enhances vitality.
TRUST: It takes trust to be courageous, and faith to trust. It takes courage and faith to be honest. It is love never failing, and a seeking for kindness. One must trust to be patient—a chief virtue. It is forgiveness—the grace to forgive and forget, gratitude in all things, acceptance of things that cannot be changed, detachment of one to one’s desires, openness to all good things, a call to perseverance, never losing hope.
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RESPECT: Justice with love are capital virtues—justice always, sincerity, giving honour to all people, listening more than what would be expected, an unquestioned integrity, driven by humility, compassion and empathy, fairness at any cost, consideration whenever it is due, or sometimes when it is not, tolerance for all people, socially intelligent.
WISDOM: Truth is Wisdom, longevity based in truth—it works always—being grounded in it. Striving for health and wellbeing, a true wholesomeness based in the fear of God, seeking to understand rather than be understood. Eternal and transitory perspective. A right curiosity and a true appreciation of beauty and excellence.
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The Model of This Philosophy
Published on Oct 24, 2009
During a routine though intense reading of Proverbs over more than a year, a system of thought evolved in my mind and heart; I continually n...