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Life’s too short to be defensive

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The power of agency

We’ve all found ourselves in situations where it seems apparent that something we have done–or failed to do–has caused a problem.

Most of us work in collaborative environments where we are part of a process that creates value and offers it to the market.

The very nature of process means that each stage of the work is predicated on earlier work being done well and on time.

Life in the modern workplace–full of trade-offs as it is–is also such that colleagues will periodically disrupt the process.

When this happens, there’s a choice to be made. The choice is how you’re going to react to it. And it’s important here that we remind ourselves that we have agency over our reactions–we can control them.

It might take some time.

It might mean a walk and a talk with ourselves.

Either way, in the end we can have the power to choose what we will do with this obstacle.

Defensiveness wastes time and energy

Many of us, myself included, find ourselves easily jumping to defensiveness. It’s not my fault. I did my part. That’s your problem.

While these sorts of reactions are readily understandable and possibly even justified, they are not helpful.

When we become defensive we give away our agency. It’s as though, in an instant, the our challenging situation becomes one to which there is only one possible outcome and that outcome is bad.

In defensiveness we waste time and energy in attempting to remove culpability from ourselves.

We treat a conversation or meeting as a referendum on our worth in the world and our value to the company–it’s not the right place for that sort of conversation.

As Seth Godin puts it, “Make mistakes, own them, fix them, share the learning.”

Default to can-do and can-learn

Challenges are a laboratory that offer us the chance to learn some valuable lessons about ourselves, our colleagues, our processes, and our values.

Most of the time it is difficult to learn these lessons in ways other than challenge or even failure. Don’t squander it.

In the midst of challenges I want to default to can-do and can-learn. I want my first response to be “if there’s a way to make this work we’ll find it.”

I don’t want to overpromise. There might not be a way to make this work and if that’s the case, such is life. However, I’m not going to give myself an out to give 66% to solving the problem.

Similarly, I want to have a can-learn attitude. I want to be able to say, “here are the factors that contributed to this outcome and here’s what we can change to lessen the chance of having the same outcome again.”

I don’t want to waste a challenge. Don’t you, either.

When a pastor renounces the faith

Read in 2 minsIt’s never easy when someone renounces their faith. It’s especially difficult when that person has served as a pastor.  The news broke (on Instagram, of course) that celebrity megachurch pastor and author Joshua Harris is not only ending his marriage, but he no longer understands himself to be a Christian;
The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.⁣⁣
In addition, he’s decided that he was wrong to hold to and teach the traditional understanding of human nature and sexuality:
‘…to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.⁣⁣
How ought we to respond?  Remember, God’s Kingdom will endure The first thing to note is that God’s Kingdom was not built on the shoulders of Joshua Harris. That Harris has changed his mind and moved on or away from the Christian faith makes little difference. Sure, he was a persuasive preacher, a decent writer, and for a moment he was a big deal and sold a lot of books. Those things are, however, pretty superficial. They don’t add up to much in the long run. Don’t forget to have compassion Christian internet reactions to famous people who renounce the faith are often shrill. That’s likely because the faith of those denouncing the apostate isn’t all that much stronger. Whatever you think of him, Joshua Harris is clearly someone who is struggling and suffering. And just as he was certain when he penned I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he’s certain now. Chances are that before he dies he’ll be certain in another direction. Say no to proxy wars Really, what’s happening in episodes like this one is that the life of a famous person becomes a morality play or proxy war used as a prop in a larger ideological struggle. The narrative that Harris has embraced does just that: I was a sex-averse, legalistic fundamentalist who spent time and energy judging others. I have now become free to love all and have turned my back on my prior ignorance.  There will be a book to follow. I guarantee it. Don’t let the veracity of the Christian faith be litigated on the basis of Joshua Harris’s life and faith. It’s not worth it. For every best-selling Christian personality there are myriads of simple, faithful, orthodox pastors who preach the gospel and love their people. Look at them, not Harris. Or better, look to the great shepherd of the sheep–Jesus himself.    

Humpty-dumpty church members

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We all know people who are especially sensitive and susceptible to harm. There’s a wonderful term in civil law for these sorts of people: egg-shell plaintiffs. An egg-shell plaintiff is someone who is harmed more seriously by an action that other plaintiff’s might be. They’re like Humpty-Dumpty. If they fall off the wall, they’ll shatter into so many pieces that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” won’t be able to make them whole.

Humpty-Dumpty church members and Humpty-Dumpty coworkers are part of life in a broken and fallen world. In civil law the fact that you harm someone and they are harmed more by the action than most others would be, isn’t a defense. In other words, you cause the hurt (even if you feel it’s over the top) then you’re liable to make the person whole.

The same is true in the church and the workplace. Harm an egg-shell coworkers and its on you to make it up to them–even if you think their reaction is over the top. However, it pays to learn quickly and well who these people are. 

And once you know, be careful. Make sure the spiritual leaders in your church are aware of who these folks are and develop and plan to intentionally care for them and prepare for the next time they fall off the wall. 

At work, take a similar approach. Make sure to invest in your relationship with them so that next time they come off the rails you have a credit balance in the relational sphere.

It’s impossible to avoid Humpty-Dumpty, but she doesn’t have to ruin your day.

Sunday Sermon – The Way that Leads There

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I had the pleasure of preaching at Immanuel Presbyterian Church this weekend. This is the community we have belonged to for the last couple of years, and a place we have grown to love.

I preached on the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. You can read the bulletin here and follow this link for sermon audio. Here’s the sermon manuscript uploaded with my personal notes:

 

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As conservatives, we have a duty to our ancestors, ourselves, our children, and their children to remember and conserve what must be remembered and what must be conserved. While the West has made more than its share of mistakes—after all, the West is no different than any other civilization, in that it is made up of men and women, some who choose to do good and some who choose to do ill—it has also done some things better than any other civilization, or, at the very least, introduced things to the world that the world than claimed for all of humanity.

Bradley J. Birzer, “What the West has Given the World