coming together

I carry a heavy burden on my heart for the way our world is so fractured and divided these days. I have lived a lot of years, and I do not remember it being like this before – a very clear and determined “us versus them” – with anger, hatred, meanness, and unwillingness to listen to each other prevalent in every sector of our society.

While some segments of our population struggle for equity or validation, others defend their positions or past privilege without any heart willingness to consider a contrasting point of view with an open mind or compassion. We take sides, brother against brother, and spew ugly contempt on anyone who presents a differing story or opinion. 

Every work style preference or personality assessment I’ve ever taken – and I’ve taken a lot – has shown me the obvious truth everyone else is not the same as me. Even the most simplistic assessments usually categorize people into at least four different types.  This tells me that at least 75% of the world may experience any number of life issues from a perspective or preference that greatly differs from mine. Those assessments also tell me that it is important to know myself AND respect others. They remind me that I desperately need other people – who are not like me – to fill my gaps.

What has happened to our respect for others?

What has happened to appreciating differences?

What has happened to human kindness?

Brené Brown addresses the “sorting” that we often do and experience today in her excellent book, “Braving the Wilderness“. She claims that although we desperately desire belonging, we will not find it by picking sides and lobbing grenades of division and defensiveness at each other. As a social work PhD, she is greatly concerned, as I am, by the current status of our world. Thankfully, she does not dwell only in the negative reality, but she also offers some positive alternatives:

“People are hard to hate close up. Lean in.”

Brené explains that as a social species, our greatest strength is not found in “rugged individualism” but rather in our ability to communicate, care, and work together. Connection matters – and it is in getting to know people up close that dispels the generalizations, false stereotypes, suspicions, and fears that drive us apart.

Getting to know each other up close requires honest curiosity about people who are different from me, the courage to step out of my comfort zone, and a willingness to enter into tough conversations. Not always easy to do, but the benefits gained from collective social connections make it worth the effort.

This post only scratches the surface of this topic – Brené presents a deeper perspective in her book. I highly recommend it.

For now, I chose a few action points:

  • Admit when I am no expert on a topic and ask good questions to learn more
  • Intentionally initiate to get to know people who are different from me
  • Actively listen to understand – especially deeper heart issues
  • Speak up about those beliefs I hold strongly
  • Invite others to tell me if they experience me “sorting” people

How have you experienced “sorting” or the “us versus them” mentality? 

How have you attempted to come together with others – especially those who are different from you?

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**You might also enjoy this post, “standing alone” or check out Brené’s website (she offers free reading guides for her books).

upside down life

squirrel webSquirrels do best in or around trees. Running free. Outdoors.

This little guy found his life turned around when he got stuck inside the screened porch of the club house of our apartment complex. Not a good place for a squirrel. Scary. Unexpected. Life-changing.

My life changed this Christmas too. A few days ago, my mom had emergency surgery to remove a tumor, and the doctors declared it terminal cancer. Treatments options are ugly and time is uncertain. Her life has been turned upside down… the same for her husband, her sisters, her children, her friends. I had already written a post anticipating a different Christmas this year; I just didn’t expect this kind of different.

To be honest, my head and my heart are in a sort of fog right now. It is hard to process the emotions and still live in the midst of Christmas festivities – now with an added urgency and importance.

How do I live this new upside down life? I am learning day by day… about cancer, about my mom, about my family, about myself. There will be many more lessons as we go, but I have a few in mind now that I thought I would share with you…

Lean on community 

I don’t know what we would do without the support of our family and friends. Prayers, calls, notes, offers of practical help are all invaluable and give strength to our souls. It is not easy for any of us to ask for help, but we cannot “Lone Ranger” this one without leaning on others. This is not time to let our pride get in the way.

Work at communication

The stress of an unexpected surgery and a horrible diagnosis is causing tension between family members who each try to help in their own way. Exhaustion, emotions and different personalities, opinions, and availability cause misunderstandings and conflict. My family is trying very hard to believe the best, clarify doubts, give grace, and respect the interests and needs of each one. It is not easy, but we don’t want to lose our relationship in the process.

Grow in compassion

I don’t think my family has ever had a Christmas disrupted by a tragedy like this… but others certainly have. We usually go about our merry way buying gifts, preparing meals, and playing games without a thought for those who are spending the holidays in the hospital or at the funeral home. This year, I know what it’s like to feel little interest in parties, gifts, or food as emotional upheaval dulls my senses. I have empathy for those who are hurting now, and I hope that I will be more aware and thoughtful in the future that while some celebrate, others are suffering or struggling. 

During this scary, unexpected, life-changing time, I treasure the deeper moments with faith and family. I am grateful for our network of friends and support. I am learning and growing because of this upside down life.

I appreciate your prayers for my mom and my family. Please share any lessons you have learned when your life was upside down…

want to be a hero?

Julien Tromeur – stockvault-superhero113321

Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. Spider-man. Have you ever dreamed of being a hero for someone?

Webster’s Dictionary defines a hero as: A person of distinguished valor or enterprise in danger, or fortitude in suffering; a prominent or central personage in any remarkable action or event; hence, a great or illustrious person.

A hero is also described as someone regarded as a model or ideal, or someone who fights for a cause.

Walt Emerson said, “Each man is a hero and oracle to somebody.”

Being a leader today provides us with many opportunities to be a hero.  There are enemies and suffering in this world of all types; there are battles to fight, needs to meet, people who hurt… God has called us to make a difference in this world and there is so much to do.

Being a leader “hero” today requires:

COMPASSION – God has given us the ability to care deeply about people and situations. I get a an aching pit in my stomach or energetically pound the table because I feel strongly about something… What is it that causes you to want to DO something? …lost souls, abused children, human trafficking, orphans and widows, injustice, pollution, teamwork?

Think about it… consider it… it doesn’t matter what it is, but if God has put the passion in your heart, I have learned that He will also give you the opportunity to get involved, and you can be a hero to someone (or many!) in that area.

ATTITUDE – Phil Collins describes a “level 5” leader, one who will leave a legacy, as one who has the right combination of humble modesty and confident will and resolve. Our world needs more people who are willing to give, to serve, and to go… and who can work hard and hang in there to get the results needed.

Most superheros didn’t go looking for their job; some tried desperately to avoid the responsibility… but eventually yielded their own desire for a quiet life of anonymity to meet the needs of others. I want to be the kind of leader who does not “lord-it-over” others, but who is strong in character and willing to persevere to get the job done. I want to honestly evaluate any growth area that might get in my way. How about you?

POWER – All superheros have a special source of power… and so do we! God has promised that when He calls us to something, He will also enable us with all that we need. We have His Word; we have His Spirit; we have an amazing variety of resources in His people. We have no excuse!

The trick is relying on His power and not my own, working together with His people and not alone. I remember that the hero usually gets in trouble when he forgets to use his special power – I need to remember who is in charge.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE – Superheros take on the enemy and trans-form their world. Nothing is too big, too scary, or too hard for them. They know that people are “worth it” and that people can make a difference. We are created for a purpose; when we let God work through us – even in seemingly small ways – we can make an eternal impact in someone else.

I want to see challenges from God’s perspective and remember that He put me here for a reason. I think there are too many negative role models in our world today and too many huge needs for any of us to sit on our thumbs and not get involved in the supernatural adventure of being a “hero”.

What do you think?  Do you want to be a hero with me?