Saturday, June 22, 2013

ON ANXIETY AND MONEY by Don Schwager

"We can be ruled by many different things – the love of money and possessions, the power of position and prestige, the glamour of wealth and fame, and the driving force of unruly passions, harmful desires, and addictive cravings." 
Don Schwager  

In today's Gospel Reading we read from Mt 6:24-34:

Jesus said to his disciples: “No one 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 God and mammon.  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more important than they?  Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.  They do not work or spin.  But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.  If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.  Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” 


The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2013, whose website is located at www.DailyScripture.net.  


What does the expression “serving two masters” and “being anxious” have in common? They both have the same root problem – being divided within oneself.  The root word for “anxiety” literally means “being of two minds.”  An anxious person is often “tossed to and fro” and paralyzed by fear, indecision, and insecurity.  Fear of some bad outcome cripples those afflicted with anxiety.  It’s also the case with someone who wants to live in two opposing kingdoms – God's kingdom of light, truth, and goodness or Satan's kingdom of darkness, sin, and deception – following God's standards and way of happiness or following the world’s standards of success and happiness.  Who is the master in charge of your life?  Our “master” is whatever governs our thought-life, shapes our ideals, and controls the desires of our heart and the values we choose to live by.  We can be ruled by many different things – the love of money and possessions, the power of position and prestige, the glamour of wealth and fame, and the driving force of unruly passions, harmful desires, and addictive cravings.  Ultimately the choice of who is our master boils down to two: God or “mammon”. What is mammon?  “Mammon” stands for “material wealth or possessions” or whatever tends to “control our appetites and desires.”  


There is one master alone who has the power to set us free from slavery to sin, fear, pride, and greed, and a host of other hurtful desires. That master is the Lord Jesus Christ who alone can save us from all that would keep us bound up in fear and anxiety.  Jesus used an illustration from nature – the birds and the flowers – to show how God provides for his creatures in the natural order of his creation.  God provides ample food, water, light, and heat to sustain all that lives and breathes.  How much more can we, who are created in the very image and likeness of God, expect our heavenly Father and creator to sustain not only our physical bodies, but our mind, heart, and soul as well?  God our Father is utterly reliable because it is his nature to love, heal, forgive, and make whole again.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray with confidence to their heavenly Father: Give us this day our daily bread.  
What is bread, but the very staple of life and symbol of all that we need to live and grow.  Anxiety is neither helpful nor necessary.  It robs us of faith and confidence in God’s help and it saps our energy for doing good.  Jesus admonishes his followers to put away anxiety and preoccupation with material things and instead to seek first the things of God – his kingdom and righteousness.  Anxiety robs the heart of trust in the mercy and goodness of God and in his loving care for us.  God knows our needs even before we ask and he gives generously to those who trust in him.  Who is your master – God or mammon?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

MAKING A DIFFERENCE AT WORK by Allen Laudenslager & Bryan Neva (2005)

You've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run.  —Kenny Rogers, from the song “The Gambler”

The famous Kenny Rogers song, "The Gambler" is about a gambler’s strategy for playing high-stakes poker games, but metaphorically the song is about the strategy for playing the game of life.  By knowing what battles in life to fight, we can live to fight another day, and survive the entire war. 

Often times in our working lives, there’s little or nothing we can personally do to make a bad situation better.  Regardless of our personal belief system, if we’re working in a den of thieves it’s easy to be overcome by evil.  So we must know when to tough it out and endure it, when to quietly leave, and when to burn our bridges behind us.  Having the street smarts to out-maneuver, out-fight, or out-run our opponents will give us the endurance to continue fighting the war to stop dishonest, unethical, and immoral behavior at work and in business.

We cannot force or coerce others into behaving honestly, ethically, and morally.  We’re responsible for our actions, and they’re responsible for theirs.  After all, companies are human organizations, and when each person in the organization starts to act honorably and ethically eventually it’ll make a difference.  But if each person perpetuates the cycle of unethical behavior, conflicts, hatred, revenge, dishonesty, and immorality then things will only get worse.  As business stakeholders, we can ask ourselves what we’re doing today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year to satisfy the needs of all the other stakeholders? 

Business owners who set unrealistic expectations on their managers will drive them to make unethical, immoral, or unfair decisions that harm the other stakeholders especially the employees.  On the other hand, if business owners set realistic goals and ensured their managers are treating their customers, employees, suppliers, and distributors the way they’d want to be treated, their business will thrive and everyone will benefit.

Investors who put money into profitable yet unethical companies just because they offer a high return on investment (ROI) are rewarding unethical behavior.  On the other hand, if each private investor decided only to invest in honest and ethical companies, in the long run, they’d earn higher dividends than ever imagined, and it would encourage the unethical companies to clean up their acts.  But it all starts with one investor making a choice to invest in companies that are honest, ethical, just, and fair with their customers, employees, suppliers, and distributors. 

Managers who are dishonest, unfair, or habitually mistreat their customers, employees, suppliers, and distributors will only perpetuate this ethical crisis in business.  On the other hand, if managers acted as servants to those who work for them they’d become much better stewards to the owners and investors of the business, and they would earn the respect and admiration of their employees.  Paying workers just and fair wages, ensuring a safe and friendly work environment, and being honest and fair in every decision will go a long way towards making companies better places to work.

Workers who don’t give an honest-days-work for an honest-days-pay are not only hurting their employers, they’re hurting themselves and their families, and they’re sabotaging their own livelihoods.  On the other hand, if workers do the best job they’re capable of doing each day they’ll help their companies become more successful.  By working smarter and harder, improving our skills, getting along with others, showing up on time, and not leaving early will pay enormous benefits.

To a certain degree, each of us is responsible for the impressions others have of us.  What others think of us is a reaction to what we say and do.  If there’s a difference between what we say and what we do, people will naturally believe what we do.  If companies do not publicly praise and reward workers who do the right thing, then they’ll discourage others from doing the right thing.  A lot of companies protect powerful and unethical managers at the expense of honest and hardworking employees.  Rather than standing up for what’s right, they choose the more expedient alternative of looking the other way. 

Shooting the messenger ensures that no one else will ever report that something’s wrong.  When honest and hardworking employees see good people sacrificed for unethical managers, they’ll learn not to stick their necks out.  And when employees stop reporting problems, companies eventually get into bigger trouble.  When employees start quitting in droves, maybe it’s an indication there’s something wrong with the management.  Nevertheless, you should always do your part to keep your company’s actions honest and ethical, and sometimes that includes reporting unethical behavior. 

It’s sad that some companies encourage their employees to report safety violations but not other forms of wrongdoing.  If you find yourself working for a company that consistently punishes employees for reporting wrongdoing, you’re working for an unethical company.  This is not to say that all reports of wrongdoing are founded.  Sometimes there are misunderstandings when people take things out of context or don’t know all the facts.  In these cases, an honest and ethical company will make sure that every employee knows that it’s better to report problems and discover it’s a misunderstanding than to allow real wrongdoing to go unreported.  At some point it will be clear from how your company treats people who report problems whether or not you are working for a company that truly believes in honest and ethical behavior or if they’re just paying lip service to it. 

Unless you’re highly placed within the organization, there’s probably little you can do to improve a bad situation and you’ll need to decide whether or not you should stay with that organization.  For some managers and workers, the issues may be important enough to put their careers on the line; however, we can both tell you from hard-learned personal experience that we don’t recommend it.  In most cases, it’s better to just quietly leave and find another job than to suffer the emotional and financial turmoil of fighting the system. 

How much do you really owe an organization that has demonstrated that you will have to commit professional suicide to solve problems?  And, how much do you owe your coworkers balanced against meeting your family’s needs?  At some point, senior management is being willfully ignorant, so if you’re caught in a situation like this we highly recommend that you run—do not walk—to the nearest exit!

At your exit interview, resist the temptation to blast them.  Just say that you were ready for a change, smile, and walk away.  Nothing you do at this point will make the slightest bit of difference for those left behind.  Getting ground up by the corporate machine won’t do your former coworkers any good and may ruin your future with a new more ethical organization.

Deciding to make a difference in the world takes genuine courage.  It’s far easier to keep a low profile and go with the flow than to stick your neck out.  But there are subtler ways to make a difference such as working hard and being honest and ethical in everything you do.  Sometimes this is very difficult when you find yourself working in a den of thieves. 

Given Allen’s German heritage and Bryan’s Scottish heritage, it has always come naturally for us to speak our minds.  But you may not have our genetic predispositions, so only you can decide how far you want to stick your neck out.  The old adage, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar really apply here.  Oftentimes you can do more to positively influence others just by doing the little things like working honestly and ethically, and treating others the way you want to be treated. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

DISCOVERING OUR TALENTS

Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life is a truism that we all should aspire to.  If we’re doing something we’re passionate about, work is no longer drudgery.  Even if we’re not paid very well, the sheer joy of getting paid to do what we love more than compensates for the low pay.

This is how Christians explain why some people persevere in low-paying service professions like teaching, law-enforcement, or public-safety; it explains why some become religious ministers and missionaries; and, it explains why some choose to live austere or altruistic lives.  So if we hate our jobs, it’s probably a good indication we haven’t discovered our true calling in life.

The recognition that we all have different innate gifts, talents, personalities, and temperaments dates back to 370 b.c. in the writings of Hippocrates.  In the 1920s, the famous Swiss physician Carl Jung, published a book called Psychological Types where he claimed that people have multiple instincts that drive them internally.  In the 1950s Isabel Myers and her mother Kathryn Briggs rediscovered Jung’s book and they devised a questionnaire for identifying different kinds of personalities; they called it The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

According to Myers and Briggs, there are 16 possible combinations of Introversion or Extroversion (I or E), Sensors or Intuitives (S or N), Thinkers or Feelers (T or F), and Perceivers and Judgers (P or J).  These 16 combinations, however, can be categorized into 4 dominant categories: NT, NF, SJ, and SP.

Since the 1960s, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been used to help employers better understand their employees and customers.  Organizational psychologists have developed even more in-depth testing to identify certain traits that will make an individual more likely to succeed in a position such as management or sales, and most human resource departments are trained to match individual talent with job openings.    

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans and first letter to the Corinthians describes various spiritual or innate gifts or talents that God has given each of us (chapters 12 respectively).  These are:

1. Perceiver or Discerner—the ability to quickly and accurately discern good from evil as well as the ability to reveal truth for understanding, correction, or edification; people involved in law enforcement, the legal professions, teaching, or the religious professions may have this gift.

2. Teacher—the ability to clearly communicate truths and applications in such a way that others can learn and understand; not only would pre-school through college teachers most likely have this gift, but also managers, corporate trainers, or soccer coaches to name a few.

3. Mercy—the ability to feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals who suffer distressing physical, mental, or emotional problems and to translate that compassion into cheerfully done deeds; people involved in the healthcare and mental health professions such as, physicians, nurses, psychologists, or counselors may have this gift.

4. Server—the ability to identify the unmet needs involved in a task and to make use of available resources to meet those needs. This is not one-on-one, person centered like mercy but task-oriented; people involved in the various customer or food service professions may have this gift, as well as managers and other people who plan things. 

5. Giver—the ability to understand the material needs of others and then meet those needs generously—above what is considered to be a reasonable standard for giving; philanthropist, social workers, clergymen, missionaries, or charitable volunteers may have this gift.

6. Encourager—the ability to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement, and counsel in such a way that others feel helped and healed; the religious clergy, professional counselors, teachers, coaches, or mothers may have this gift. 

7. Leadership—the ability to set purposeful goals for the future and to communicate these goals to others in a way that they harmoniously work together; politicians and business managers may have this gift.

St. Paul also described the one capacity that everyone shares—our capacity to love others (I Corinthians 13).  Love is the glue that holds us all together, and without love, spiritual gifts and talents are meaningless. 

The point of all this is that God gives everyone different personalities, temperaments, interests, gifts and talents in order to make the world go around.  Whether it’s Hippocrates, St. Paul, Jung, Myers and Briggs, or just plain common sense, it proves that we all have unique talents we can share with the world.  

Delving into the subject of personality types is beyond the scope of this blog.  To learn more about this subject, I’d like to recommend the following books: 
Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey; 
Do What You Are and The Art of Speed Reading People by Paul and Barbara Tieger; 
First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman; Now, 
Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.; 
Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts by Charles V. Bryant.


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