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Beautiful, timely piece by Father Richard Hendricks
by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
March 13th 2020
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
You are a leader. You’re a leader in your home, at work, in your community, and most important of all, the leader of your own life.
But are you the best leader you can be?
There are many attributes to great leadership. I believe the most important one by far is the lost art of ‘modeling’. It’s a lost art because so many of the good models have disappeared.
Author and prolific TED talker, Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, and his most recent, Leaders Eat Last, says the following about ‘modeling’ without ever using the word, but illustrating it lavishly.
Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown.
They rush toward danger.
They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future.
Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours.
And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.
And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly, to see their visions come to life, and proudly call ourselves their followers.
Have you ever had a leader like that?
I think it’s time to raise the battle cry and call out to a new generation of men and women to strive to be models of exemplary conduct.
The problem in our industries and communities is that many supervisors and leaders are not living out the very things they are asking others to do. There is no congruence between what the boss says and what they do. This causes untold pain in a work atmosphere. It does the same in a home.
We can do better.
If you were blessed to grow up in an environment of encouragement, start counting your blessings. Unfortunately, the reality is that many of you began life under less than ideal circumstances. Perhaps broken homes, absentee parents, crumbling ethical world, all of these and more, factor into the making of a human being, for better or worse. You didn’t have leaders—parents, teachers, employers—like Sinek describes. You didn’t have a ‘model’ to trace your life on.
So if this was your lot, how do you go about changing? You can sit around and do what my coach calls ‘wallow’ about your lot in life, but eventually you have to ‘swallow’, because nobody really cares. Really. Sad to say, but unless you care enough about your situation to improve it, it’s going to be a miserable life.
But if you want to move on, one of the best places to start moving is to find a model.
The late Albert Bandura who pioneered social learning theory in the 60s and 70s said,
“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” – Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977.
In case you rushed through that last paragraph, read it again slowly, especially this sentence, “Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for actions.” There is hope if you lacked good modeling.
This seems to concur with Albert Schweitzer’s adage, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing”.
Perhaps an overstatement but not too far from the truth.
If you have a purpose or dream or mission in life, it goes without saying that you will not get anywhere without a ‘role model’, someone who has gone ahead of you.
Can we agree that ‘models’ have gone missing and that you are willing to rise up to the challenge of becoming one of ‘those’ for someone, and also committing to finding a model of someone you can follow to improve your life radically?
Another word for ‘model’ is ‘pattern’. Have you noticed that when someone sews up clothes, they use a ‘pattern’? Why? Because using a pattern shortens the process. It saves time. It prevents mistakes. It makes the task look easier. There are some amazing things that happen in your life when you choose the right pattern or model.
I would suggest that one of the best ways to achieve your goals is to find a model whose already achieved what you want– financially, spiritually, and relationally. Find someone who is where you want to be and then set about figuring out how they got there. That is the quickest way to learn. Study. Go on active search mode.
Have you noticed how babies learn most things? They learn by copying. I go work in my garden, and water my plants, and without me providing any instruction, pretty soon, my grandson is walking along, stumbling with his little pail of water, to water my tomato plants. Does he drip water? Does he miss the plant by a country mile? Yes, but who cares, he’s getting the right idea.
If it’s true that we learn the most by copying and modeling, then the challenge is choosing your models.
If you were blessed to have someone who had great habits and was success oriented in your life, then you probably grew up to be a high achiever. On the other hand, if you saw negative behavior modeled you may have innocently become a negative, fault finding person.
As a child you didn’t know what was right or wrong. You just had these people in your life, and in many cases, they said, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”
If you grew up as I did watching people ‘explode’ with their anger, you may have grown up with a temper. This happened to me. All through my young adult years and into the early part of my marriage, I struggled with managing my outbursts of anger. It took some coaching to discover that I had come by this innocently. What was encouraging was that just as I learned this by copying, I could relearn new patterns. I am a work in progress but surrounding myself with healthy models of anger expression has fueled my desire to manage and express my anger in constructive ways.
If you grew up being shamed and being a fault finder, it shouldn’t surprise you that you walk around in your daily life shaming the people you love the most and work with. There is hope. Find a new model.
How do we find a model? There’s two ways: The indirect method; and direct method.
The indirect is through the plethora of self help resources available to us today in all kinds of ways—audio programs, books, and reading biographies of people who overcame their ‘issues’ to achieve greatness. For example, as I move on in life one of my goals is to become a more teachable and coachable person. I suffer from having ‘china doll feelings. ‘ At the sound of the slightest criticism I used to get my back up and I would ultimately be the loser. My own coach has helped me overcome my fear of feedback by having me read the book Thanks for the Feedback, as well as exploring some of the reasons why I get my back up. I am growing.
There’s also the direct method of having a specific person in your life. I have had a few of these in my life. First as a teacher, then as a pastor, and now as a life and leadership coach. I am always looking for healthy models in areas I am aspiring to be great in.
One of the greatest benefits of having models is that they inspire us to crash through self imposed limitations. For years it was known that no human being could break the 4 minute mile running record. But in 1954, Roger Bannister broke that barrier, and right after him 1000s of people started to break it. That’s what a model can do for you. Help you crash through self imposed barriers.
You and I need models. Who are your models today? Who are the people who inspire you? Who could you get close enough to, to learn from?
Don’t let your ego get in the way of transforming your life. A lack of humility and over-exaggerated sense of self importance is the only reason to not make others our models.
When my kids were young, I was obsessed with being the best dad I could be. I am still obsessed with this value although now they are in their 30s, and my hope is that they will make being great role models their ambition, and that they will never stop seeking out models that will inspire them to achieve greatness in the areas of life that matter to them.
I memorized the following poem 30 plus years ago. It still resonates with me today. It’s a daily reminder that your attitudes and actions set an example for everyone around us.
Little Eyes Upon You
There are little eyes upon you and they’re watching night and day.
There are little ears that quickly take in every word you say.
There are little hands all eager to do anything you do;
And a little boy who’s dreaming of the day he’ll be like you.
You’re the little fellow’s idol, you’re the wisest of the wise.
In his little mind about you no suspicions ever rise.
He believes in you devoutly, holds all you say and do;
He will say and do, in your way when he’s grown up just like you.
There’s a wide-eyed little fellow who believes you’re always right; and his eyes are always opened,
and he watches day and night.
You are setting an example every day in all you do;
For the little boy who’s waiting to grow up to be just like you
– Author Unknown
So Luch, what’s your word for the year?” I first stumbled onto the idea of choosing a word for the year while having bacon and eggs with a coaching client. I was immediately intrigued and asked him to tell me more.
He explained that he had been choosing one word to ‘accompany him’ through the last few years. He shared that his most recent ‘word for the year’ was ‘Clean’. ‘Clean,’ I said. ‘What are you going to do with that word?”
His response? “I am going to eat clean (I looked at his plate and his food was cleaner than mine). I am going to wear clean clothes. I am going to drive a clean truck and car. I am going to have cleaner relationships. I am going to have a clean body and I am going to run a clean business.”
Wow! His reflection of ‘clean’ stirred within me a determination to find my own word for the year.
Since that eventful breakfast, I have been choosing one theme word for the year. I still write goals and have deadlines, yet I love the process of searching for a defining word. Sometimes I diligently look for ‘the word’ but often the word finds me.
Words that have helped me navigate the last few years have included “Flourish” in 2013. One morning, during a quiet time, I was reading my Bible and stumbled upon Psalm 92:12-14
I thought to myself, “Wow”. I want to flourish in my walk with God. I want to flourish with my bride, our adult sons and their wives. I want to flourish with my 4 grandchildren. I want my ministry to flourish; particularly my mentoring, my discipling of others and my coaching. I want my finances to flourish. I want my body to be flourishing. I want all of my relationships to flourish.
You see, one word can create laser-like focus that lasts.
Flourish became like a friend to me during some difficult challenges in 2013 when I wanted to do everything but flourish.
I have had other words since, including “Unbroken” for 2014. This word was found in a movie I saw and a book that I read. It was the true story of Louis Zamperini, a World War II hero who survived 40 plus days stranded in the Pacific Ocean after having been shot down. He was subsequently taken as a prisoner by the Japanese for 2 years.
My wife Rosetta has also used the word of the year. One year her word was “rest”; a word that truly marks her life. In fact, her spiritual “directees” refer to Rosetta as a ‘non anxious presence’. I believe that the daily cultivation of spiritual, emotional and physical rest is the source of how she shows up in a healing way for others.
Another year she chose the word “Stand”. At times she has felt that she ‘cringes’ in certain situations and among certain people. She began to pray that she would stand, and began to act in a way where she didn’t cringe but took a ‘standing’ position in her heart.
My 2017 word of the year is “Hero”. Yes, “Hero”. There have been times in 2016 that I just wanted to run away from situations and people. I wanted to do everything but be a hero. After reading Christopher McDougall’s, “Natural Born Heroes”, he gives this unique insight from the Greeks about heroism. True heroism, as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength of boldness or even courage. It’s about compassion. A hero is actually a protector.
“Hero”, “Protector”…There are so many in my immediate circle of family and friends I want to be hero-protector to. I talked about it so much that one of my creative coaching clients made me this plaque, which I keep in my office to remind me of my word and guiding light for 2017 and beyond.
The DeliberateU team has the word “remarkable” as the word for the company. We are absolutely committed to having our team and clients enjoy a “remarkable” experience as they engage in every facet of our business.
So where do you start to find your word? Like I wrote above, search for it everywhere.
Below is a link to the process we gave at our last Deliberate U gathering.
“Wisdom shouts aloud in the streets,
she makes her voice known in the public squares.”
Sometimes you may find your word in the Scriptures, other times in a movie or a book. Sometimes, you may hear someone share their word and you are inspired to discover yours.
This is so much fun. I have used this year’s word “Hero” to even define the movies I see. Right now I am watching a great series called “Blue Bloods”. It’s about a New York Irish Catholic family who are so united and heroic on so many levels that it fuels my desire to be heroic at home, in my work and my world.
Of course, in real life, there is no shortage of opportunities to be the hero, should I choose to do so in any given moment.
Even though it is four months into the year, what might your word be?
A Deliberate Application:
- Does the idea of the “word of the year” resonate for you?
- If ‘yes’, share the idea of identifying it with a couple of close friends.
- Download the worksheet and work through it.
- Begin to leverage the power of focusing on your word and enjoy the fruit.
These days we must work harder than ever to do good, instead of adding to the growing divisiveness in our world.
And we must resolve to own our lives fully rather than be owned by what happens around us, and yes even to us.
I found two thoughts so encouraging and empowering to live a better life than my world is currently offering.
The late Father Henri Nouwen encourages us to ask a series of life altering questions:
Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love?
These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.
And then Dr Bessel van der Kolk says to traumatized people….
The big issue for traumatized people is that they don’t own themselves anymore. Any loud sound, anybody insulting them, hurting them,saying bad things,can hijack them away from themselves. And so what we have learned is that what makes you resilient to trauma is to own yourself fully.
There you go–go out and do good, and own yourself fully.
Fact is we all live within ‘walls’ we wake up within ‘walls’, we work within ‘walls’ , we go to school within ‘walls’, we go to bed within ‘walls.’. Anything else we do? Oh ya, we are protected by walls.
Another more politically correct word for walls is BOUNDARIES.
In my coaching I encourage people to have healthy boundaries, or you could say ‘walls’. To protect them from people or situations they see as dangerous and toxic. Anyone disagree with that?
Let’s redeem the word in spite of Trump’s harsh view of it and the media’s twisting of the concept.
And because I don’t march to the orders of Donald Trump or Justin Trudea but to King Jesus, the king and true benevolent Lord of my life, I did a quick survey of holy scriptures mention of walls.
This is not exhaustive but it helped me see that we need to give ‘Walls’ a high five and stop damning right kind of wall building.
Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.”
Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit.
“I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.
It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.
Next time I will address bridge building. We need walls and bridges.
Christmas is a time to remember Christmases past, and Christmases when loved ones were still with us.
I have been without my brother who passed away tragically at age 42 in 2000. Six months later my codependent Italian mamma died of lung cancer. I actually think she died of a broken heart at the tragic loss of her youngest.
Then in 2009, my dad passed away of natural causes, often reminding me that even though life had been hard, that ‘la vita e bella’–life is beautiful.
I never fully imunderstood my brother and the direction he chose to follow that inevitably led to an untimely death, nor my mamma who felt that she could never let my brother face consequences of his choices.
In all our lives we have people we can love completely although we may not have fully understood them.
In the movie, A River Run’s Through It, a dad, also preacher, is speaking at his son’s funeral, who suffered an untimely death due to a reckless life. In this end the father gives us all hope.
Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.
One of the ongoing challenges that I have and those I coach have is keeping perspective on what they are actually becoming and accomplishing. And especially in the arena of parenting.
It’s so easy to let the details of any day or any responsibility that has become routine, drag you down into the lands of Futility and Boredom and yes, Frustration.
On one of the early days of raising 3 boys under 10 in the 1980s, I was reading Gordon Macdonald’s The Effective Father.
Like many dads, I was really having a hard time managing my own life well, doing exceptional work at my career, and oh ya, raising three boys. Truth be told, I was raising my blood pressure more than raising my boys.
In Macdonald’s book he shared the parable of 3 ancient masons which was a parenting vision breakthrough for me. Over the last 40 years of marriage and parenting, I am still building, forever trying to keep a ‘cathedral’ view of my calling.
“A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.
”A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”
”A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!”
Boom! I had a huge epiphany that day which I immediately applied to my calling as a dad.
Three dads, three different attitudes, all fulfilling the same role.
I am not just raising nice little boys, I am raising boys who will someday take their place in the world and be responsible, compassionate, visionaries and catalysts in their respective spheres. Having this vision of ‘I am building a cathedral’ has continued to inspire me to never lose sight of the big picture.
As you look at your various roles and responsibilities, especially if you are a mom or dad, how do you see your role?
What would you say you’re building?
On this second Sunday of Advent, waiting expectantly for the Babe in the Manger to show up mysteriously and gently into my life and the lives of my family and friends, I am encouraged by my favourite spiritual life guide, the late Fr Henri Nouwen.
Unlike many believers today who have capitulated to the secularizing of The Christian faith, I choose with Fr Henri to believe there is more than trying to make heaven on earth. There is another Reality I and millions of others long for as did Fr Henri and others who have departed this life.
Call me naive, call me a fool, call me whatever you want but I long for More than this life gives.
You On this second weekend of Advent I choose with Fr Henri to claim my identity as one of God’s beloved sons, and live fully today with a view to meeting Jesus face2face someday, and sharing the story of how my life and His worked themselves out over however long I am blessed to live.
Quoting Fr Henri on life after this life—
Even though I often give in to the many fears and warnings of my world, I still believe deeply that our few years on this earth are part of a much larger event that stretches out far beyond the boundaries of our birth and death. I think of it as a mission into time, a mission that is very exhilirating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent me on the mission is waiting for me to come home and tell the story of what I have learned.’†
For any community to function there must be rules. Yes. Rules. We like to think we can function without them but unfortunately it seems to me the ‘rule of respecting one another’ is no longer, if it ever was, humans’ default in challenging relationship situations.
While at the Venice, Florida YMCA today I saw this photo.
As I read these I thought these would have been good for recent presidential election.
In a sermon a few weeks ago pastor Bill Hybels highlighted 10 rules he wanted to see restored in his community and our world.
In their community 1000s of people are engaging over these ’10 rules’ for treating each other with respect.
1. See People As Image-Bearers.
Every person who crosses your path bears the image of God. We have never locked eyes with someone for whom this is not true. All people matter to God. Furthermore, there is no person on earth for whom Christ didn’t die.
2. Differ without Demonizing.
Respectful people learn how to hold differences well. We must train ourselves to respect others while disagreeing rather than devaluing, diminishing, or demonizing them.
3. Believe the Best.
It is simple to judge people before ever meeting them. However, we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13:7, among other things, to believe the best of everyone. This requires an open mind and one without cynicism.
4. Don’t Interrupt or Dominate.
Respectful people genuinely want to hear the opinions and feelings of others and demonstrate this by listening rather than controlling the conversation. They are curious to know how others think so they might be sharpened themselves.
5. No Incendiary Words.
Those who show respect are very careful in choosing their words. Proverbs 15:1 states: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words make tempers flare.” It is the wise and respectful person who takes stock and decides to use words that will adequately reflect who they want to be. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us: “Let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth but only words that build up others.” Respectful people only use words that build up others, even when writing in the context of social media where it may be easy to be careless with words.
6. Courteous to Everyone.
Respectful people are kind and inordinately courteous to others. They demonstrate kindness in seemingly little ways like opening doors for others and noticing people that might otherwise be overlooked.
7. No Stereotyping.
A stereotype diminishes the value of a person by categorizing them, rather than valuing their God-given uniqueness. Learning to respect others means to absolutely refuse to stereotype a person or people group.
When we have wronged another person, the right thing to do is to apologize. Respect is demonstrated when we apologize quickly because we recognize the other person, as a fellow image-bearer that we have slighted or harmed.
9. Form Opinions Carefully.
Respectful people practice the discipline of considering many viewpoints as they form opinions. They also prayerfully revisit an issue and consider changing their mind when new information becomes available.
10.Prompt and Faithful.
Those who respect others show up on time and do what they say they’re going to do. If someone is late, the message given to others is: I am more important than you. Honoring others’ time and following through with what you promised to do is a tangible way of respecting others.
While in Venice, Florida for some work and vacation I, like many others, have become weary, even sick at the way people have ripped each other apart on various social media platforms, and to see the way the presidential candidates have not been able to rise above their inane accusations against one another, is also disheartening.
Can you imagine if Hillary and the Donald and all their surrogates and ‘handlers’ could be in a room together, graciously disagree, but still offer each other a blessing–to speak well of each other for only a moment.
As the adage says, speed of the leader, speed of the team.
I have relatives I am at odds with because of my inability and their inability to be gracious in our disagreement.
I need this soul medicine of blessing more than anybody. Our proclivity to insist on our rightness creates friction, factions, grudges and an overall incivility.
So how do we give a non religious but necessary blessing as a way of life? Listen to Fr Henri.
To bless means to say good things. We have to bless one another constantly. Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends. In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings. We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts. Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs. Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.
Who needs your blessing today?
Bless them with words, thoughts or deeds, or all of the preceding before the day is done.