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Friday, September 23, 2016

The Parable of the Unfaithful Servant (Luke 16:1-13) with commentary by Don Schwager

Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you?  Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’

The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.  I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’ 

He called in his master’s debtors one by one. 
To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’


Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’
He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’
The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’


And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?  No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
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Commentary by Don Schwager 

How can a bad person possibly give good example?  Jesus obviously thought that the example of a rascal would be a perfect illustration for a spiritual lesson about the kingdom of God!  What's the point of Jesus's parable?  The dishonest steward is commended for his shrewdness.  The original meaning of "shrewdness" is "foresight".  A shrewd person grasps a critical situation with resolution and foresight.  Jesus is concerned here with something more critical than a financial crisis.  His concern is that we avert spiritual crisis through the exercise of faith and foresight.  If Christians would only expend as much foresight and energy to spiritual matters which have eternal consequences as much as they do to earthly matters which have temporal consequences, then they would be truly better off, both in this life and in the age to come. Ambrose, a 4th century bishop said: The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever. True wealth consists not in what we keep but in what we give away. Possessions are a great responsibility. The Lord expects us to use them honestly and responsibly and to put them at his service and the service of others. We are God's servants and all that we have belongs to him. He expects us to make a good return on what he gives us. God loves generosity and he gives liberally to those who share his gifts with others. The Pharisees, however, had no room for God or others in their hearts. The gospel says they were lovers of money. Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our hearts must either be possessed by God's love or our hearts will be possessed by the love of something else. What does your heart most treasure?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wells Fargo CEO pummeled on Capitol Hill over multiyear scam

"Well we hate to say we told you so!" - Bryan & Allen

Wells Fargo CEO pummeled on Capitol Hill over multiyear scam
  


Wells Fargo’s longtime chief executive John Stumpf endured more than two hours of pummeling Tuesday on Capitol Hill over a scheme in which bank employees created millions of sham accounts to meet aggressive sales goals.
“I have often said that banking is based on trust and that trust was broken at Wells Fargo,” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said during the hearing.
Stumpf, who has been at Wells Fargo for more than 30 years, repeatedly apologized for letting down customers. But the questioning was often tense, and Stumpf was interrupted and chastised by lawmakers for not catching the problem sooner.
“I am deeply sorry that we failed to fulfill our responsibility to our customers, to our team members, and to the American public,” Stumpf told the committee. “I have been with Wells Fargo through many challenges, none that pains me more than the one we will discuss this morning.”
The San Francisco-based bank has been in lawmakers’ crosshairs since being fined $185 million earlier this month after thousands of the bank’s employees created up to 2 million fake accounts — from credit cards to checking accounts — to meet sales goals. In some cases, bank customers faced various fees for accounts they didn’t request, or bank employees took money from an authorized account to create a fake one.
Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees between 2011 and 2016 for the scheme, including some managers and “one area president,” Stumpf said. The bank will review whether the conduct could have occurred before 2011, he said. “We don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” Stumpf said.
But that was not enough for many members of the committee, who grilled Stumpf for details about the scheme and repeatedly expressed astonishment that senior management allowed problems to fester for so long without taking more assertive action.
In one tense exchange, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) demanded that Stumpf explain why he had not offered to give up any of his compensation — he made $19 million last year — or resigned in the wake of the scandal. She noted that Stumpf repeatedly touted Well Fargo’s ability to sell more and more products to customers in quarterly calls with analysts, and then watched as investors pushed up the bank’s stock price, generating gains that increased his own holding by about $200 million over several years.
“Evidently your definition of accountable is to push the responsibility” to low-level, low-wage workers, Warren said. “It is gutless leadership. You should resign; you should give back the money.”
Stumpf stumbled while trying to respond to Warren.
Wells Fargo’s case has become a new flash point in the debate over whether, eight years after the Great Recession, U.S. regulators are doing enough to hold Wall Street accountable for bad behavior.
“There is simply no place for this kind of outrageous behavior in America,” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in a letter to Wells Fargo customers Tuesday. “Our economy depends on a strong and safe banking system to help keep it moving. But even after Americans spent years working hard to recover from the Great Recession, the culture of misconduct and recklessness that preceded that crisis too often persists.”
During the hearing, Stumpf faced tough questioning from lawmakers about whether the company’s top executives should return some of their bonuses over the misconduct. In particular, lawmakers took aim at Carrie Tolstedt, the former head of the company’s community banking unit.
Tolstedt was told that the company was “going in a different direction,” in part because of the misconduct discovered in her unit, Stumpf said. Tolstedt opted to retire in July. But lawmakers were peeved by reports that Tolstedt, a 27-year veteran of the bank, could leave with more than $100 million in compensation. Tolstedt and other top executives should be forced to give back some of their compensation, they said.
“So, 5,300 team members, earning perhaps $30,000 a year, have lost their jobs, while Ms. Tolstedt walks away with $100 million, give or take,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the ranking minority-party member of the committee. “Despite firing thousands of team members, Ms. Tolstedt seemingly decided it was not important enough to alert the head of the company or the board of directors or anyone else for two years, if ever, even though you both sat on the bank’s board.”
The company’s board is reviewing whether senior executives will face “clawbacks” of their compensation, Stumpf said. Though chairman of the board, Stumpf said he is not part of that discussion, which is being handled by a compensation committee.
Stumpf told lawmakers that he learned of the misbehavior in 2013, but acknowledged the bank did not act quickly enough to remedy the problem. “I want to apologize for violating the trust our customers have invested in Wells Fargo,” Stumpf said. “And I want to apologize for not doing more sooner to address the causes of this unacceptable activity.”

Monday, September 19, 2016

In speech, Pope Francis urges co-ops to promote an 'economy of honesty'

(Vatican Radio) It was another lesson in the economic thought of Pope Francis. In an audience with members of the Confederazione Cooperative Italiane (confederation of Italian co-operatives) on Saturday [2/28/2015], Pope Francis gave the 7,000 people present five practical suggestions for their mission in the context of the current “throwaway culture.”

First, the Pope said, co-operatives must continue to be “the motor that uplifts and develops the weakest parts of our local communities and civil society.” 

[Note: There has been a movement in a number of U.S. states after the 2008 financial meltdown to allow for Benefit Corporations which could be a better alternative over the current forms we now have.  A Benefit or B-Corporation is different from a Cooperative Corporation.]

The first priority is to establish new co-operatives, while developing existing ones, so as to create new employment opportunities, especially among youth, he said.

Second, the Pope urged the co-op movement to be a “protagonist” in proposing new welfare solutions, particularly in the area of healthcare. 

As a third point, he spoke of the economy and its relationship with social justice and human dignity. Speaking of the need to “globalize solidarity,” he urged the confederation to bring co-operatives to the “existential peripheries” and to continue to be “prophetic” by “inventing new forms of co-operation.” 

The Pope spoke of “a certain liberalism,” which “believes it is first necessary to produce wealth—and it does not matter how—to then promote some state redistribution policy.”

Others think it is up to a company to “bestow the crumbs of accumulated wealth” to those in need to then, in turn, “absolve themselves” of “their so-called ‘social responsibility’,” the Pope said.

“You run the risk of deluding yourself that you are doing good while, unfortunately, you continue only to do marketing,” without ever escaping the “fatal loop” of egoism, “which has the god of money at the centre,” he said.

Instead, the co-operative creates a “new type of economy” that allows “people to grow in all their potential,” socially and professionally, as well as in responsibility, hope and co-operation, he said. The Pope clarified that while he was not saying income growth is not important, it certainly “is not enough.”

Fourth, he said, the co-operative movement can exercise an important role in sustaining, facilitating and encouraging family life, by insisting on work-life balance, which would “help women to realize fully their own vocation and to put into practice their own talents.”

In this way, he said, women are “free to be always greater protagonists, whether at work or in families.”

Fifth, where few resources exist to start up  new projects, the Pope urged the co-op movement to “invest well,” in particular by putting together “good resources to realize good works.” He urged more collaboration among credit unions and co-op businesses and the establishment of resources “for families to live with dignity and serenity.”

He also warned against money becoming an idol, citing St Francis of Assisi in calling it “the devil’s dung.”

“When money becomes an idol, it controls man’s choices,” he said. “It makes him a slave.”

He exhorted the co-operative movement to join the global economy to promote both "an economy of honesty" and "a healing economy." He urged them to exercise “the courage and the imagination to build a just path, so as to integrate development, justice and peace in the world.”

He concluded by calling on the members of the Catholic confederation to maintain their Catholic identity and values in their current collaboration with other co-op groups in creating a large national association.

“Live your alliance (with these other groups) as Christians, as a response to your faith and identity, without fear. Faith and identity at the base,” he said.

“And this is also a Christian call to all,” he continued off-the-cuff. “Christian values not only for ourselves. They are to be shared. Share them with those, who do not think as we do but who want the same thing that we want.”

Italy's church-based co-op movement began in the late 19th century, inspired by the encyclical Rerum Novarum, written by Pope Leo XIII.   The Confederazione Cooperative Italiane was first founded in 1919. It was suppressed by the Fascist Regime and re-established in 1945.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

1 in 5 CEOs are Psychopaths, Australian study finds

In a previous article I posted: 1 in 25 Business Leaders May Be Psychopaths on June 25, 2016, I thought bad managers probably outnumber the good ones by at least 10:1.  I think this article supports my guess, so please read this article and decide for yourself. 


An Australian study has found that about one in five corporate executives are psychopaths – roughly the same rate as among prisoners. 
The study of 261 senior professionals in the United States found that 21 per cent had clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits. The rate of psychopathy in the general population is about one in a hundred.
Nathan Brooks, a forensic psychologist who conducted the study, said the findings suggested that businesses should improve their recruitment screening. 
He said recruiters tend to focus on skills rather than personality features and this has led to firms hiring “successful psychopaths” who may engage in unethical and illegal practices or have a toxic impact on colleagues.
“Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other,” he said.
“For psychopaths,  it [corporate success] is a game and they don’t mind if they violate morals. It is about getting where they want in the company and having dominance over others.”
The global financial crisis in 2008 has prompted researchers to study workplace traits that may have allowed a corporate culture in which unethical behaviour was able to flourish.
Mr Brooks’s research, conducted with a colleague from Australia’s Bond University and a researcher from the University of San Diego, was based on a study of corporate professionals in the supply chain management industry across the US. 
The findings, presented on Tuesday at the Australian Psychological Society Congress in Melbourne, are due to be published in the European Journal of Psychology.
The researchers have been examining ways to help employers screen for potential psychopaths.
“We hope to implement our screening tool in businesses so that there’s an adequate assessment to hopefully identify this problem - to stop people sneaking through into positions in the business that can become very costly,” Mr Brooks said.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you...unless you let them!

What are words? They're just sound waves that travel through the air, they make vibrations on your eardrum, and are processed in your brain. Words cannot even hurt a stone. Words can only hurt you if you let them! 

If you're innocent and don't deserve someone's unkind words or rebukes, don't let it bother you, don't respond in kind, just don't say anything. But if you are guilty, use it as an opportunity to make amends with others.

If you're too eager to please others and want to be liked, or if you resent being corrected for your faults and give excuses, then the words others say will hurt you because you don't want to be despised by others. This is just silly human pride. It's impossible to please everyone, so don't even try. Rather, strive to be humble of heart and just try to please God.

When you dread being abased and humiliated for your faults, it's clear that you are not truly humble. The reason people criticize others for their faults is because they are full of self-righteousness and human pride. They look at the speck in another's eye, but don't see the log in their own eye. Don't be like them. Don't judge other's weaknesses. Don't even judge your own weaknesses. God knows all our human weaknesses and faults better than we do. He is the judge and discerner of all secrets. So let Him be the judge, and ignore what others say to you or about you! Human judgement is often erroneous, but God's judgement is always true.

Even if all the evils, which the worst human malice can invent, were said about you, what harm can they possibly do you if you pay no attention to them? They cannot take so much as one hair from your head.

God knows how everything is done in the world, and He knows both the one who inflicts injury as well as the one to whom it afflicts. Nothing happens in life without God's permission. (This is a great mystery which theologians have pondered for thousands of years, but it's quite true.) God will judge each one of us according to the words we've spoken and the deeds we have done. So if you put your efforts into just trying to please God and not others, then the words said to you or the deeds done to you won't bother you one bit. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Communications by Allen Laudenslager

The military rank of naval Captain carries heavy responsibilities since they are the last authority aboard a warship. A lot of their authority is a carry-over from the days of sailing ships when the ship the Captain commanded was the fastest means of communications in the world.

This meant that the Captain was often dealing with foreign governments without the ability to ask his own government for instructions. He had to be trusted to make decisions on his own. This in the days when his poor judgment could catapult his nation into war!

Communications has changed so much that a Captain now has almost instantaneous communications with his higher command and can check for instructions in real-time. The problem arises when the higher command, relying on a summary, isn’t looking at all the key factors that might be obvious to the Captain on the spot. The following Dilbert cartoon is a prime example.


Have we reached a time when communications are so simple and quick that too many of us are not doing the fundamental research and background reading that good decision making demands? Because we can quickly and easily contact subordinates, we have pulled back their scope of decision-making and restricted their ability to innovate and respond to changing conditions?

Remember that what looks like a bad decision to the person who only reads the summary might be a wise decision to someone else who has access to all the facts and is taking into account the subtleties that a summary is DESIGNED to eliminate.

I remember doing a briefing for a senior manager shortly after I had been promoted from operations to my first “staff” job at the corporate headquarters. The person I was briefing didn’t seem to get my point so I used a whiteboard to illustrate the fact that we were spending a serious amount of time and money maintaining obsolete first and second generation equipment. All the other equipment had either been upgraded or replaced with third generation equipment.

Since all the equipment was customer owned, he asked how that had happened and the answer was quite simply that some equipment had been missed during the upgrades but the contract demanded that we maintain the equipment in its existing generation.

As the conversation progressed, he asked, “why didn’t I know this” and I referred him to the memos I had been filing with my reports asking for guidance on the problem. His reply was illuminating: “I didn’t understand the impact of what you were saying.” He didn’t understand because he was too far from the action. In effect, he could only see the forest but he needed to look at the trees.

He was reading the executive summary and not diving into the supporting details as it was too much information for him. His attitude was summed up by a comment he made earlier in the briefing: “I asked you what time it is and you tell me how to make a watch!”

He did need those details to make an informed decision but his impatience with that level of detail lead him to ignore the supporting information. He also decided that he didn’t need to take the advice of the person on the spot to invest in upgrading the few pieces of equipment to save even more money on the cost of maintenance.

Using the naval Captain analogy, the person closest to the action (in this case me) had the best knowledge of the situation and the best solution.

Senior management’s job is to balance the immediate needs against the long-term needs, but (and this is a critical "but") without meeting the immediate need you may not survive to get to that long-term need.

If higher command is only focused on one aspect of the business (e.g. short-term share price) they are likely to avoid spending money on long-term elements that the person on the spot will recognize as important to the long-term survival of the business.

As we move from promoting operations people to senior management and more and more into hiring managers with deeper academic training and less industry or company experience, then the subtleties can get lost.

Can those non-operations people be effective managers? Of course, but just as the Pointy-Haired Boss in the Dilbert cartoon doesn’t have the knowledge to judge what he needs to know, the key is to trust your subject matter expert. (In this cartoon it was Dilbert.)


When that naval Captain in the age of sailing ships made that decision, he had confidence that his higher headquarters would back him up!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The stuff we really need is getting more expensive. Other stuff is getting cheaper. by Christopher Ingraham (with commentary)

The stuff we really need is getting more expensive. Other stuff is getting cheaper.

 August 17, 2017  The Washington Post


Sociologist Joseph Cohen of Queens University is fond of saying that “America is a place where luxuries are cheap and necessities costly.”
recent chart from economist Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, illustrates this well. Since 1996, the prices of food and housing have increased by close to 60 percent, faster than the pace of inflation. Costs of health care and child care have more than doubled. The prices of textbooks and higher education nearly tripled.
On the other hand, the prices of things like mobile phone service, toys, software and televisions have plummeted over the same period.
For many Americans, in other words, that shiny new flat-screen TV is now more within reach financially than it’s ever been. But it has become harder to afford the house to put it in, food to eat in front of it, or the medical care to ensure you’ll outlive its extended warranty.
What’s going on here? Perry points out that most of the things falling in price are manufactured goods, and that prices of those goods have been falling for decades as a result of technological improvements and productivity gains.
“The ‘miracle of manufacturing’ delivers lower prices all the time, and would explain why those prices have decreased significantly over time, relative to overall price increases,” he said in an email.
Perry also pointed to trade as a factor. Many manufactured goods — like TVs and appliances — come from overseas, where labor costs are cheaper. “International, global competition lowers prices directly from lower-cost imported goods, and indirectly by forcing U.S. manufacturers to behave more competitively, with lower prices, higher quality, better service, et cetera,” Perry said.
On the flip side, things like education and medical care can’t be produced in a factory, so those pressures do not apply. Compounding it, many Americans are insulated from the full costs of these services. Private and public insurance companies pay most medical costs, so there tends to be little incentive for individuals to shop around for cheaper medical care.
In the case of higher education, the nation’s massive student loan industry bears much of the upfront burden of rising prices. To the typical 18-year-old, a $120,000 tuition bill may seem like an abstraction when you don’t have to start paying it off until your mid-20s or later. As a result, the nation’s college students and graduates now collectively owe upward of $1.3 trillion in student loan debt.
“Prices rise when [health care and college] markets are not competitive and not exposed to global competition,” Perry said, “and prices rise when easy credit is available.”
Hence, our current predicament. We can afford the things we don’t need, but we need the things we can’t afford. Whether the 20-year trajectory in the chart above is sustainable is another question entirely.
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COMMENTS

Allen Laudenslager: This is a trend I have been trying to get people to recognize for 10 years now. This is the way the government calculates how the economy fails!

Todd Neva: Exactly. This is why the consumer price index (CPI) is a bogus measure. The government says there's no inflation, but people are being stretched thin on their daily expenses.  And the lower your income, the more you'll have to spend on the basic essentials.

Bryan Neva: I totally agree. This is analogous to the way the government miscalculates the unemployment rate: they discount discouraged workers who have given up on finding a job. Currently we have the lowest labor participation rate in our history. I don't put much credence in the CPI or the unemployment rate.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Do Your Friends Actually Like You? by Kate Murphy (with my comments)

Do Your Friends Actually Like You?

New York Times

THINK of all the people with whom you interact during the course of a day, week, month and year. The many souls with whom you might exchange a greeting or give a warm embrace; engage in chitchat or have a deeper conversation. All those who, by some accident of fate, inhabit your world. And then ask yourself who among them are your friends — your true friends. Recent research indicates that only about half of perceived friendships are mutual. That is, someone you think is your friend might not be so keen on you. Or, vice versa, as when someone you feel you hardly know claims you as a bestie.
It’s a startling finding that has prompted much discussion among psychologists, neuroscientists, organizational behavior experts, sociologists and philosophers. Some blame human beings’ basic optimism, if not egocentrism, for the disconnect between perceived and actual friendships. Others point to a misunderstanding of the very notion of friendship in an age when “friend” is used as a verb, and social inclusion and exclusion are as easy as a swipe or a tap on a smartphone screen. It’s a concern because the authenticity of one’s relationships has an enormous impact on one’s health and well-being.
“People don’t like to hear that the people they think of as friends don’t name them as friends,” said Alex Pentland, a computational social science researcher at M.I.T. and co-author of a recent study published in the journal PLOS One titled “Are You Your Friends’ Friend? Poor Perception of Friendship Ties Limits the Ability to Promote Behavioral Change.”
The study analyzed friendship ties among 84 subjects (ages 23 to 38) in a business management class by asking them to rank one another on a five-point continuum of closeness from “I don’t know this person” to “One of my best friends.” The feelings were mutual 53 percent of the time while the expectation of reciprocity was pegged at 94 percent. This is consistent with data from several other friendship studies conducted over the past decade, encompassing more than 92,000 subjects, in which the reciprocity rates ranged from 34 percent to 53 percent.
Mr. Pentland said it could be that “the possibility of nonreciprocal friendship challenges one’s self-image.” But the problem may have more to do with confusion over what friendship is. Ask people to define friendship — even researchers like Mr. Pentland who study it — and you’ll get an uncomfortable silence followed by “er” or “um.”
“Friendship is difficult to describe,” said Alexander Nehamas, a professor of philosophy at Princeton, who in his latest book, “On Friendship,” spends almost 300 pages trying to do just that. “It’s easier to say what friendship is not and, foremost, it is not instrumental.”
It is not a means to obtain higher status, wangle an invitation to someone’s vacation home or simply escape your own boredom. Rather, Mr. Nehamas said, friendship is more like beauty or art, which kindles something deep within us and is “appreciated for its own sake.”
Yet one of the most recognized treatises on friendship is Dale Carnegie’s decidedly instrumental “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Pop stars like Taylor Swift and Drake are admired for their strategic, if not propagandist, friendships. And, of course, social media sites are platforms for showcasing friendships to enhance personal image.
“Treating friends like investments or commodities is anathema to the whole idea of friendship,” said Ronald Sharp, a professor of English at Vassar College, who teaches a course on the literature of friendship. “It’s not about what someone can do for you, it’s who and what the two of you become in each other’s presence.”
He recalled the many hours he spent in engrossing conversation with his friend Eudora Welty, who was known not only for her Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction but also for her capacity for friendship. Together they edited “The Norton Book of Friendship,” an anthology of works on the topic. “The notion of doing nothing but spending time in each other’s company has, in a way, become a lost art,” replaced by volleys of texts and tweets, Mr. Sharp said. “People are so eager to maximize efficiency of relationships that they have lost touch with what it is to be a friend.”
By his definition, friends are people you take the time to understand and allow to understand you.
Because time is limited, so, too, is the number of friends you can have, according to the work of the British evolutionary psychologist Robin I.M. Dunbar. He describes layers of friendship, where the topmost layer consists of only one or two people, say a spouse and best friend with whom you are most intimate and interact daily. The next layer can accommodate at most four people for whom you have great affinity, affection and concern and who require weekly attention to maintain. Out from there, the tiers contain more casual friends with whom you invest less time and tend to have a less profound and more tenuous connection. Without consistent contact, they easily fall into the realm of acquaintance. You may be friendly with them but they aren’t friends.
“There is a limited amount of time and emotional capital we can distribute, so we only have five slots for the most intense type of relationship,” Mr. Dunbar said. “People may say they have more than five but you can be pretty sure they are not high-quality friendships.”
Such boasting implies they have soul mates to spare in a culture where we are taught that leaning on someone is a sign of weakness and power is not letting others affect you. But friendship requires the vulnerability of caring as well as revealing things about yourself that don’t match the polished image in your Facebook profile or Instagram feed, said Mr. Nehamas at Princeton. Trusting that your bond will continue, and might even be strengthened, despite your shortcomings and inevitable misfortunes, he said, is a risk many aren’t willing to take.
According to medical experts, playing it safe by engaging in shallow, unfulfilling or nonreciprocal relationships has physical repercussions. Not only do the resulting feelings of loneliness and isolation increase the risk of death as much as smoking, alcoholism and obesity; you may also lose tone, or function, in the so-called smart vagus nerve, which brain researchers think allows us to be in intimate, supportive and reciprocal relationships in the first place.
It’s huge to have good vagal tone, because it modulates our instinctive fight, flight or freeze response,” said Amy Banks, a psychiatrist at the Wellesley Centers for Women who specializes in the growing field of interpersonal neurobiology and is the author of “Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link Between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships.”
In the presence of a true friend, Dr. Banks said, the smart or modulating aspect of the vagus nerve is what makes us feel at ease rather than on guard as when we are with a stranger or someone judgmental. It’s what enables us to feel O.K. about exposing the soft underbelly of our psyche and helps us stay engaged and present in times of conflict. Lacking authentic friendships, the smart vagus nerve is not exercised. It loses tone and one’s anxiety remains high, making abiding, deep connections difficult.
So it’s worth identifying who among the many people you encounter in your life are truly friends. Who makes time for you? Whose company enlivens, enriches and maybe even humbles you? Whom would you miss? Who would miss you? While there is no easy or agreed upon definition, what friendships have in common is that they shape us and create other dimensions through which to see the world. This can be for better or worse depending on whom we choose as friends. As the saying goes, “Show me your friends and I will show you who you are.”

Kate Murphy is a journalist in Houston who writes frequently for The New York Times.
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My Comments:

"Don't concentrate on all the people who dislike you; concentrate on the God who Loves you!"

As a practicing Christian, the way I live my life is to put God first, others second, and myself third.  I try to firmly cling to God, my one true friend, and not worry if others "like" me or not. People are fickle. One day they're your friend, and the next day they're not. So don't put your trust in people but rather put your trust completely in God!

God brings people in and out of our lives all the time; some for our good, and others (quite frankly) to build our character. It's quite rare to find a true and devoted friend who'll stick by you through thick and thin. 

Jesus himself experienced this in his darkest hour in the Garden of Gethsemane. While suffering mental and emotional agony before his passion, rather than trying to comfort and pray for him, all his friends fell asleep (it was like they didn't care); next one of his friends, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him; then all his other friends abandoned him to save themselves; after this, one of his closest friends, St. Peter, denied him three times! Ultimately, only three proved to be his true friends: his own mother Mary, St. Mary Magdalene (a reformed prostitute), and the young teenager, St. John, who all stood by him at the foot of his cross just being there for him while he suffered and died. The good news is that Jesus forgave all his other friends and they went on to be great witnesses for him. So don't worry about whether or not others "like" you, but rely completely on the unconditional love and friendship God has for you regardless of what you're going through in your life.

Try as much as you are able to be patient and stay humble of heart with others, trust in God completely and not in yourself or others. It's not possible to please everybody, but it is possible to please God. St. Paul tried to please everyone in the Lord and became all thing to all people in order to evangelize them, but he didn't worry about whether or not people "liked" him or not, but he put his faith and trust completely in God, his one true and faithful friend.

The important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter whether or not others "like" you or how they treat you, but how you treat others! If your friends betray you, abandon you, or mistreat you, don't treat them the same way, but rather be like Jesus and forgive them and continue to love them. "Loving" someone is quite different from "liking" someone. You're not going to "like" everyone and not everyone is going to "like" you. If others are unfriendly, rude, hateful, or disrespectful to you, then return love, kindness, and blessings instead. And pray for them that God will work in their lives so they can become better people.

When our lives are over, it really won't matter how many friends you had, but whether you were a friend to others by sharing the love God has for them and introducing them to your best friend, God, who also wants to be their best friend too.