Living Well

June 3, 2010

Moving Right Along

Filed under: Uncategorized — dlneidert @ 6:45 pm
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“Moving Right Along.”  That is the cheerful song found in the first Muppets’ Movie from some time ago.  My kids were little and I sported a darker hair color.  But times have changed.  My children are now in their late twenties and early thirties.  They have moved along….and so must I.

I am not going far, but I am moving…to a new blog site.  That blog site is connected to my brand new personal web page.  On that site I will be continuing my Living Well blog ideas as I try adding value to those following me on the internet via Twitter and Linked In.  All of this to say I am moving to 

Moving Right Along…good days are coming still.  I hope you will join me there for expanded resources and all the things that a more mature writer has discovered over the years.  Looking forward talking with you there.


May 29, 2010

Having Fun with our Children and Youth (and Living Well)

I have to confess, I wasn’t a good “player” with my own children as they were growing up.  I was too busy doing what most fathers tend to do in their thirties….focus on earning money, providing for one’s family, and establishing a place in the organization so he can climb the corporate ladder.  It is a time for a lot of men of ongoing justification for not taking time to play…to just remind everyone that they have to earn their way in the world…there is, thus, no time for actually having fun with our children.  The many men who live with this same philosophy as I did are really not helping teach children to live a blessed, balanced, less stressful life…one that has joy in it and helps them learn to live well.    

 Now I am a grandfather and learning how to play.  I am thankful that I have learned it early and not late in my journey.  So I have been thinking about playing and involving myself in my grandchildren’s lives.  In this blog I am simply brainstorming 100 (and more!) ways to be actively involved in the lives of children (and youth) for the purpose of being present with them and helping them to live well while they are young and open to the adventures of life.

The following list is merely my brainstorming some activities that we might enjoy together with children and youth.  Children and youth need adults in their lives as mentors and role models.  This list is not by any means all-inclusive, but you will see with a little imagination, you can add to the activities that will be meaningful to you and a child or youth.  The items cover a range of ages and types of relationships, including mentoring.  Experiencing these together will help them grow into response—able adults because of the potential dialogue and teaching that may come from the shared activities.  I haven’t completed the list myself, but have been playing more and more.  Try them….have fun…and allow them to slow your pace on the corporate ladder as you gain a perspective on what matters in life!

  1. Set mentoring goals together with the child that you are working with.
  2. Undertake career planning or life planning with a young person you mentor.
  3. Converse about what it takes to succeed in life, from character to personal appearance.
  4. Write thank you notes together to people you agree are doing good in your community.
  5. Spend time talking about personal values.
  6. Take time for listening to this young person’s dreams and hopes.
  7. Visit a college, technical school or place of education together to see what the future might provide for the student or just to experience a college campus.
  8. Share about the importance of relationships.
  9. Talk together about the need for balancing all aspects of life.
  10. Talk and learn together about finances.
  11. Discuss the opportunities for networking.  Set a plan for planting and cultivating a network of people.
  12. Take this young person to your workplace.  Share with them what is needed for success in your profession and in life; how to balance them both.
  13. Go to the public library together, just to think about what is available in the learning housed there.
  14. Learn new aspects of computer language and application together.  While the young person may be able to teach you shortcuts or software techniques, you may share about the computer’s relevance to the work world.
  15. Introduce the young person to your friends or be a part of some activity with them.
  16. Talk about living with financial stewardship.
  17. Discuss together the pitfalls of living above personal income level.
  18. Role-play a job interview.
  19. Create or develop a resume.
  20. Visit a museum or historic site and discuss the legacies we have from the individuals honored.
  21. Include the young person in a business luncheon.
  22. Work on a community project together.
  23. Discuss the need for philanthropic attitudes.
  24. Share your personal story of volunteerism in your own community.  Relate why you are actively involved in civic opportunities.
  25. Help this young person find employment that matches their abilities.
  26. Talk about the responsible use of credit cards.
  27. Develop a fitness plan together.
  28. Exercise together.
  29. Talk about healthy life choices.
  30. Help them locate health and life insurance.
  31. Share what you may have learned from a tragedy or difficult time in your life.
  32. Talk about each other’s favorite music and why you like its style, artists and presentation.
  33. Learn a new sport together.
  34. Go to an art museum.
  35. Sip tea or lemonade in a park as you just talk about life.
  36. Design and build something together.
  37. Repair some kind of equipment together.
  38. Take a trip to a new place for both of you.
  39. Go to a movie that appeals to the young person.
  40. Take the young person to a movie that appeals to you.
  41. Together watch a PBS special of some educational value.
  42. Discuss current events, whether locally, nationally, or internationally.  Share together your ideas of why these things occur, how you might solve conflicts or what might be the benefit that comes from these events.
  43. Go camping or hike a wilderness trail.
  44. Make a meal together.
  45. Visit a nursing home several times a year.
  46. Attend church together.
  47. Read a favorite book or new release together and dialogue about it.
  48. Take this young person to a friend’s work site.
  49. Discuss the latest trends in business, fashion, music or culture.
  50. Learn about politics together.
  51. Play on the swing set.
  52. Tumble down a grass-covered hill.
  53. Volunteer to work with a political campaign.
  54. Fund raise for a worthy community agency.  Do a telethon or canvass a neighborhood.
  55. Develop a business plan for a dream company or enterprise.  Share this plan for critique with your local chapter of SCORE (Society of Corporate Officers and Retired Executives).
  56. Visit a friend or family member in the hospital.
  57. Talk about taxes.
  58. Set up an internship in line with the pupil’s abilities.
  59. Lie in the grass and visualize shapes in the clouds as they pass by.
  60. Play blocks together.
  61. Set up an internship that will stretch the young person in new ways.
  62. Attend a community lecture or forum.
  63. Go to the ballet or opera.
  64. Go shopping together for a friend.
  65. Discuss the issues of relationships in marriage.
  66. Talk about the responsibilities of parenting.
  67. Discuss the importance of personal accountability for actions and decisions.
  68. Talk about your own inevitable death and your plans for this event.
  69. Together attend a funeral or wake.
  70. Study a historic figure together.
  71. Talk about building self-esteem and the barriers the pupil encounters in having a healthy picture of themselves.
  72. Talk about prejudice and stereotyping.
  73. Attend a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration together.
  74. Learn together about gender issues.
  75. Volunteer to work with a Hospice Patient.
  76. Discuss sexual responsibility, such as fidelity, integrity and commitment.
  77. Play board games that involve strategy, like Chess.
  78. Play board games just for fun.
  79. Challenge each other with cross word puzzles.
  80. Have the young person write a paper on some topic of leadership or mentoring.  Serve as a teacher in how well the paper communicates an idea, as well as the grammar used.
  81. Color pictures in a coloring book.
  82. Have the young person give a speech.
  83. Get down on the floor and play with the toys the child likes.
  84. Plant a garden together.
  85. Discuss the virtues of patience and persistence.
  86. Visit a farm to talk about planting, tending and the legacy of the earth.
  87. Learn about environmental issues.
  88. Attend an ethnic festival.
  89. Learn a second language together.
  90. Talk about your generation and what their generation expects.
  91. Tell each other clean jokes.
  92. Spend an evening eating popcorn and watching Three Stooges or Little Rascals videos.
  93. Work on building a house with Habitat for Humanity.
  94. Pick up litter in a section of town that needs it.
  95. Let the young person order for everyone at your table while attending a restaurant.
  96. Help someone elderly, disabled or disadvantaged to work around their property.
  97. Take cookies to the neighbors.
  98. Attend a professional sporting event.
  99. Drive around your city, county or region and discuss the heritage and history expressed in its culture.
  100. Purchase, wrap and deliver Christmas presents to a child enrolled in Prison Fellowship’s Project Angel Tree.
  101. Visit a courtroom trial.
  102. Visit a jail or penitentiary to share with inmates (always check with the local authorities in these matters).
  103. Attend an outdoor symphony.
  104. Volunteer time at a children’s home.
  105. Let the young person drive in the driveway of your home.
  106. Go to a carnival or fair.
  107. Pay a young person for chores around the house.
  108. Help the young person open a bank account.
  109. Collect clothing for someone who has lost his or her possessions in a fire.
  110. Work in a soup kitchen on a Holiday.
  111. Try an ethnic food or restaurant in your region.
  112. Wash evening dinner dishes together.
  113. Collaborate on writing an article about leadership or mentoring for possible publication in a newspaper or magazine.
  114. Discuss what it means to be a servant leader and whether it is a real possibility or just a great hope.
  115. Play video games together.
  116. Discuss what real success truly is.
  117. Work on a plan concerning management of time that promotes a balanced lifestyle.
  118. Sing songs together.
  119. Pray together.
  120. Rake leaves in the fall.
  121. Go swimming.
  122. Make S’mores at a campfire in your back yard.
  123. Camp in your backyard in a tent.
  124. Get a pet and make the young person responsible for its care.
  125. Teach the young person to drive.
  126. Play badminton.
  127. Jump rope.
  128. Play basketball together.
  129. Blow bubbles with gum or soap.
  130. Play “I Spy,” a game where one person picks an object and announces, “I see something blue.”  The other person needs to guess what it is until the object is located.
  131. Tell stories with the young person filling in the blanks, such as, “There was a little girl named ______.”  Let the young person put in the name.
  132. Do this until you have a whole story.
  133. Let the young person make up stories to tell you.

Open your mind to all the possibilities of sharing, talking, playing, and living fully together with a child or young person.  Help the next generation to live well by sharing your life now.

Blessings, grace and peace for the days to come.

David Neidert

May 16, 2010

Two Sides of Computer Technology

Really, I am a novice when it comes to computer technology.  I don’t fully understand all the do’s and don’ts and how it all actually works.  I spend time every day with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other avenues of the computer age that are of help to me, but still don’t fully grasp it or all its applications.

I do, however, understand its value as well as how easily we can be swept into its Black Hole of poor use, abuse, addiction and self destructive behavior.  The convenience of computer technology, for me, has allowed me to share with friends worldwide, keep current with news happening in the furtherest reaches of the planet, and find thousands of educational articles and resources that enhance my life, teaching and being fully human.  This marvel of our age has also helped me understand the business environment and how the web is essential for today’s commerce.  Computer technology, no doubt, has helped me to live well, engage colleauges everywhere, and live a more informed life than ever before.

The other side, however, is that the convenience of our computers can become a Black Hole with power to suck us into its more unseemly side.  There are many places on the web that are of the most unsavory and morally degrading places we can go.  These places beckon us to the most inhuman and morally flawed places of human existence.  But this technology can also simply just suck away our time; time from doing good work, advancing relationships, or merely spending energy in quite meditation on the blessings of life.  Technology can make us merely spectators to life, never engaging or really living it.  Computer technology, for all its good, can suck us into passivity and ambivelance to what is happening everywhere.

The two sides of computer technology.  We are forced to make ongoing decisions about it daily.  And that, to me, is where character, mission, and personal choices step in to guide us.  Over many months of blogging, I have tried to lay out the items that help us to live well.  In the end, it all comes down to choices we make based on our character and who we really hope to be over our lifetime.  It all comes down to whether we will be only observers to life or actively engage life with all our energy and passions.

No ranting or raving is embedded in this blog about the evils of computers and technology in general.  My post is simply about choices; choices we have to make every time we click our mouse on the computer.  I encourage you to make choices that help you to live well.  Always know that both choices lay at the end of your index finger.  Blessings, grace and peace as you make that daily conscious decision on the side of living well and engaging the best computer technology has to offer.

David Neidert

April 30, 2010

The Challenge of Moral Courage

I was so struck by the quotation I lost concentration during the meeting at hand.  My attention was arrested by an elegantly refined calligraphy quotation of Dante Alighieri seated in a beautiful frame.  The quotation pierced me in a way not many quotations have in some time.  While many quotes focus my mind on a topic, this bold statement by Dante forced a deeply personal inquiry, “Have I been or am I now morally neutral on issues in this world that truly matter?”  The quote simply stated, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”

The question that ran across my mind is a frightening introspection among a host of possible beliefs about oneself.  We may believe we are honest, just, respectful, and kind when it comes to others.  These are traits we can exhibit at any moment and in various ways.  I can show kindness by taking a plate of cookies to my neighbor or I can be honest by not cheating on my income taxes.  These acts may cost me time, energy, a bit of inconvenience or money in demonstrating personal character ingredients I believe about myself.

But moral courage is at the highest level of our willingness to demonstrate our character.  Moral courage asks us to pay a price with our reputation, friendships, or even our lives.  A striking aspect of moral courage is that it calls us to be other centered.  While some of the “others” might be friends or family members, it is quite likely they would be strangers, people who are normally just faces in the crowd.  It may also be that these strangers live in another time zone of the globe, whose skin and culture are very different from our own.  It was moral courage displayed when fire fighters, police, emergency personal and ordinary co-workers and selfless airplane passengers gave their lives to save others that fateful 9/11 morning.

So what might be ideals calling for our moral courage?  When we look around our globe, it is easy to find any number of stages for demonstrating moral courage.  The environment, unjust labor markets, war, human rights violations, abortion, racism and genocide are just a few that come to mind, but there are many others that we could name.  In considering these moral and ethical issues, the haunting question remains, “Would I be willing to pay a personal price for the well-being of strangers or future generations by confronting and overcoming these issues?”  It may be one of the most deeply personal and spiritual questions we will ever answer during our existence.

This is not new landscape to navigate.  Across the horizon of moral courage are signposts bearing people’s names that have paid a personal price for standing boldly against the flaming arrows of the issues they confronted.  Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln are just a few individuals most recognized for wagering their lives in moral courage.  There are, however, countless others with moral courage, nameless and unheralded by historians, who have sacrificed their lives to become voices for reason and justice.  We may not know them, but we are eternally in their debt for attacking the severest issues that face humankind.  In recent years, filmmaker Steven Spielberg has shaped our concept of moral courage by delivering dramas of unknown heroes; simple women and men who gave their lives for causes set before them.

In reality, we are being summoned to moral courage whether we acknowledge it or not.  It may be our voices of reason are needed for stamping out human rights violations in some remote region of the globe or maybe our courage is needed in “downtown anywhere” where racism and hatred are choking sanity.  We are in reality indelibly connected to each other, no matter what corner of this planet we occupy.  By looking away, we grant permission for oppressions to continue and loud voices to prevail.  Our answers to these human cries must be our willingness to carve our names on the signposts peppered across the landscape along with those that have responded with their sacrifices, even if it was their own life.

It is a choice to live isolated or to “make our business that of humankind.”  I am not naïve in believing this is a decision made lightly or that our actions will stamp out the moral perplexities of our world.  But these decisions and personal choices to act with moral courage may carry eternal significance like no other.

So ask yourself, “Would I be willing to put my reputation, possessions or life ‘one the line’ so that injustices may be made right?  Why or why not?  Would I be willing to join a picket line or demonstration that would require my taking a public stand on some moral issue?  Would I be willing to boycott products or services that perpetuate human rights violations?  Do I value my personal safety and well being above that of others?  Why do I make this stance?

Moral courage.  It may be the highest test of living well.  Blessings, grace and peace for every day of your life.

David Neidert

April 21, 2010

A Proper Perspective breeds Humility

Filed under: character,Personal Leadership — dlneidert @ 8:56 pm
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Say humility and your mind might fashion an image rather quickly.  It might conjure someone with a mousy appearance who is frail in weight, socially awkward, and a stifled voice on matters that would require any confrontation.  It might be an image of the “ah shucks-bashful” kind of person who is embarrassed to receive accolades given to them.  If that type of image splashes across your cranium, it would be wrong.

Humility is a mid place between self-abasement and self-exaltation.  Humility lies between these opposites where personal self-perspective knows one’s own worth in relation to other human beings.  It is, as the Apostle Paul writes, “knowing not to think of oneself more highly than you should…to think with sober judgment.”  We might, however, better perceive this appropriate mid place if we more fully understood the extremes.  It is as Dag Hammarskjold wrote, “Humility is just as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exultation.”

Being self-abased is one extreme.  We are self abased when we disgrace ourselves through conduct or dishonor our own character.  We are abased when we discredit or in the ultimate sense degrade ourselves.

While there might be those that would see humility residing here, they would be mistaken.  Humility does not rest with self degrading behavior, no matter how we attempt to make that definition fit.  In the Greek understanding, humility never has to do with this negative connotation, but always with something good about a human being.

Likewise, humility is not self exaltation.  At this end, self exaltation is haughty pride and self promotion that may take us close to delusions of grandeur.  This extreme is the residence of arrogant pride, where English novelist, Emily Bronte writes, “people breed sad sorrows for themselves.”  

Humility is that exacting mixture of self esteem and self worth.  In sober self esteem, we have a healthy opinion of ourselves, a confidence that does not tend toward either self abasement or arrogance.  Likewise, in healthy self worth, we see ourselves of value in relationship to others, a confidence that permits us to see our worth as equal to others, not as inferior or superior to those we encounter.

In living humbly, we know we are not the center of the universe, but also know we are not “scum;” we understand our proper place within our relationships and world.  Rudyard Kipling seizes the essence of humility when he encourages, “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue or walk with kings…and not lose the common touch…If all people count with you, but not too much…” then you have found that mid place where self esteem and self worth give confidence.

So ask yourself, are you living at the extremes of self abasement or self exultation?  If you are, what emotional satisfaction do you receive from living at these extremes?  Do you view humility as weak or as understanding your place in the universe and among others which allow you to relate confidently to the world?

Humility helps us establish a fair belief about who we are.  Grace and peace to you as you discover where you reside on the continuum.

David Neidert

April 8, 2010

Keeping Promises

How good is your word?  When you say, “I promise I will do this or that” does the person receiving your words walk away in confidence that what you offered will be done?  Could that individual go about their usual business without giving even another thought to the conversation they had with you because they know the promise you made will be fulfilled?

It is easy to make promises, because we view them today as a description of intention, with an unspoken caveat that depending on the circumstances, our pledge may or may not be fulfilled.  Promises, however, are pledges of assurance that we will or will not act as we have stated.

Promises are a gift that we give people about our actions and intensions in the future.  Critical to this whole issue is that when we give a promise, we also give the receiver every reason to expect that the intent of our promise will be carried out.  Our stating we promise to do something is thus a guarantee.

It is easy to make promises, but much harder to keep them.  Promises we make to others is about our character, about who we really are; a description of our reliability and dependability in a given circumstance.  As Aeschylus, the ancient Greek dramatist observed, “It is not the oath that makes us believe the person, but the person the oath.”  It is not then our words, but our actions.  It should be remembered that a single promise unfulfilled does not discredit us as an unreliable person.  But if we are prone to not keeping our promises, people will over time stop believing in us and may even withdraw from us because we are not reliable or dependable when it counts.

We not only make promises to others, but we also make promises to ourselves.  David Allen, guru of time management, believes we create internal stress, self doubt, lower self esteem, and a sense of incompleteness when we break promises we have made to ourselves.  He calls this string of broken promises and the induced stress that comes with it “The Gnawing Sense of Anxiety.”  And the promises don’t have to be big ones.  They just have to be made and consistently broken.  Take the example, “I will lose 25 pounds of body weight in the coming six months.”  Now, to do this a man needs to eat only about 2,100 calories a day over six months instead of eating 3,000 or more daily and increasing one’s physical activity.  But it is easy to break the promise and commitment.  It simply goes like this.

You eat well for three or four days and then you “slip up.”  So, you chastise yourself and promise not to do it again.  This works for another 24 hours, but then that late night bowl of ice cream looks too good, you just don’t have any willpower, and there go 600 calories.  The result: agony about the eating of the ice cream and another pledge.  You know the cycle.  If you have ever tried losing weight you know the drill.  And so it goes.  Over time then, you stop making the promise because “I am just worthless and cannot control myself.” Again, many have been there and know the kind of self talk, self ridicule, and self loathing that creeps in.

So how to succeed?  It goes back to my last blog posting; if you make a promise, are you willing to be disciplined enough to fight through it or find those who will help you in the instance so that you might persevere and gain your goals.  Are you, as Muhammad Ali observed, willing to suffer a little now for a life of success and happiness?  Are you willing to expend the needed energy to keep the promises you make?  It isn’t easy, by any means, but it can be done when we are willing to put in the time, effort, and keeping the promises we make to others and ourselves.

 Blessings, grace and peace in this most difficult, but beautiful discipline of keeping one’s promises.

David Neidert

April 2, 2010

Personal Discipline Can Bring Success

The Macedonian phalanx subdued the ancient Near East by 323 BC under the command of the youthful general, Alexander the Great.  The phalanx was no military or technological marvel, but was in reality a crude war machine compared to the chariots, calvray, and Special Forces of other ancient cultures.

The phalanxes, comprised of heavy infantry or foot soldiers, were armed with no more than a helmet, breastplate, shin guards, shield, a small sword, and an eight foot long pike with bronze tip.  Yet when these soldiers marched in formation and coordinated effort, they conquered the largest land forces of ancient warfare, the Persians, with decisiveness through strategy.  As a side note, I would encourage you to read about Alexander the Great and his victory at Gaugamela in a history book.  That battle portrays an ingenious strategy and confidence rarely witnessed in the ancient world.

What made this rudimentary, foot soldier driven phalanx unstoppable by the great military forces of the ancient world displayed in Persia?  Arthur Ferrell, author of the book Origins of War (1985) writes that this type of fight and formation places a “heavy premium on training, discipline and courage.”  Ferrell notes that ancient fighting is brutal and requires soldiers to supplant the instinct toward self preservation and the fear that goes with it, “even if it is only for a little while” during a battle.  That fear to quit was only overcome by the “rigid discipline” and training of the Greek soldiers, sometimes severe compared to our thought of training today.

Discipline is a necessary personal quality for living well and developing personally.  The Greek word for discipline is sophoronismos, literally meaning, “to save the mind, admonishing or calling to soundness of mind or self control.”  This soundness and self control for our mental, moral and physical powers comes through instruction and exercise.  Without these two ingredients, we will fall in the face of mounting opposition.

Muhammad Ali is considered without much debate the greatest boxer that participated in the sport.  Ali trained hard in his early years realizing that the pain of the present must be overcome for the champion’s life.  A disciplined body and mind permitted him to subdue his opponents with decisiveness, even predicting the round the challenger would be eliminated.  It is as Ali said, “I hated every minute of the training, but I said, don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”  That discipline catapulted him to declare often and rightly, “I am the Greatest.”

We may not have enemies as fierce as those of the Greeks nor opponents as physically challenging as Ali’s, but we do have challenges regularly throughout our lives that require a disciplined personality to overcome their advances. If we are to face life’s challenges with resolve, then we must follow the advice of Ali and the practice of the ancient Greeks.  We must put in the time and effort now to develop self control and discipline that can guide us in the tough moments that life routinely provides.  We can live well by living disciplined lives; that practicing discipline will allow us to stand even for a little while longer when the moments of opposition come.  Blesssings to you as you live with discipline that may lead to actions and attitudes of peace and grace.

David Neidert

March 29, 2010

The Power of Mercy

Power is bestowed in a plethora of ways, including many symbols.  In ancient Rome, the encompassing symbol of power for the king was called the imperium.  This conferred ‘oath’ gave emperors and senators the right of power over wealth, military control, and issues regarding justice.  Under this mantel of power, kings, emperors, and counsels could grant life or death, freedom or slavery, fortune or famine to individuals and society.  Unfortunately for the Roman Empire and its later history, the imperium mantel made numerous men singularly self-serving to the detriment and destruction of those they led.

William Shakespeare wrote in “Measure for Measure” (1604), “No ceremony that to great one’s long, Not the king’s crown, not the deputed sword, The marshal’s truncheon, not the judge’s robe, Become them with one half so good as grace as mercy does.”  Great ones, glimpsed Shakespeare, long not for external mantels or symbols of power, but for a power that changes both the giver and receiver both internally and externally.  Mercy is a becoming quality that is powerful and captivating.  No outward symbol, no matter how elegantly embroidered or crafted, comes close to matching the transforming power of mercy.

Power resides in mercy.  The giver of mercy, by its own definition, must have some form of power over another.  Whether the giver has been offended by deed or word or injured physically by the one seeking mercy, the holder of mercy has a decision to make regarding healing or harming, restoring or rejecting, because they have the power over the seeker.

Mercy is our willingness—a deliberate personal choice—to forebear an injury from another and not treat the offender as severely as is rightly deserved.  It is a kindness or favor beyond what can rightly be claimed by a person who may have harmed or injured in either word or deed.

Being merciful does not always mean that consequences of the offender are ignored.  Sometimes those decisions are outside the mercy holder’s sphere of power or ability to alter.  Yet mercy is a willingness to choose not to treat a person “as severely as deserved” even if the consequences cannot be changed.  A merciful act could override consequences deserved in favor of restitution or wholeness of the receiver.  To make another person whole by merciful acts may be the greatest empowerment which a person can receive.  Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th Century, is a powerful testimony to what mercy and grace can do to alter life.

The Bard also noted “the quality of mercy is twice blessed.  It blesses him that gives and him that takes.”  We are never obligated to display mercy.  It is ultimately a free will offering of ourselves because we desire to bring prosperity, wholeness, and redemption instead of retribution and retaliation.  Mercy is a gracious matter that re-forms the human spirit, both in the giver and the receiver.  It may be one of the most blessed acts of being human. 

What about you?  Have you ever received a free gift of mercy from another, even though you deserved punishment?  How did it feel?  How did you feel restored, not only in your heart but with the other person?  Giving that same experience of restoration to another is freedom—both for those who give and those who receive.

Blessings for you today as you use your personal power in whatever situation you find yourself for mercy and restoration and redemption.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

March 27, 2010

Kindness can change everything

Filed under: character,Personal Leadership — dlneidert @ 10:48 am
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Connoisseurs of fine wine tell me there is a significant difference between an expensive aged wine and a lesser, bottom of the shelf grade vino.  The difference is a fine wine is smooth, fragrant, and robust, while its distant cousin is at times bitter and never very full bodied.

Kindness is like a fine aged wine.  It is mellow and helping, not sharp or bitter.  The Greeks thought of kindness like wine, in that as wine was purified, it became flavorful and mature.  And just like wine becomes robust through the aging process, so we become kind by being kind to others.  Philosopher Eric Hoeffer said it this way, “It is futile to judge a kind deed by its motives.  Kindness can become its own motive.  We are made kind by being kind.”

Kindness can be expressed in our tone of voice, facial expressions, and overall actions as we encounter and interact with others.  Being kind is a choice we make, no matter the exchange.  As I said, it can come even in the tone of our voice. 

A while back, I received a telephone call from a person conducting a survey.  I receive many of these calls in the course of my work assignment, so I have a fair understanding of how long they take and the flow of a good interview.  But during this particular survey, I knew it was not going well after just a few minutes.  I could tell the person conducting the survey was older, as she labored through every question.  She often repeated the questions, asking me to restate my answers two or three times.  Internally I was becoming annoyed, with my mind often wandering toward work stacked on my desk.  But I had agreed to the survey, so I answered the question asked of me respectfully as the survey taker painfully proceeded through twenty-five minutes of questions.

It was the end of the interview that startled me.  It was the final encounter with the survey taker, who was on the other end of a twisted pair of copper cable in a telephone conversation, that made me aware our words and tone of voice matter.  In a slowly delivered statement, this older sounding woman said, “Sir, thank you for being so nice to me.  This is my first interview on the telephone.  Your kind response has given me confidence to keep doing this job.”  Needless to say, I was humbled and somewhat ashamed that I had not been undividedly attentive to her every word.

Sir Humphrey Davy summaries the real essence of kindness when he writes, “Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things in which smiles and kindness and small obligations given habitually are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.”  It is the smile in our voices, over a telephone line to a person we will never see or meet, that can demonstrate our kindness.

Wine was an important ancient commodity.  The presence of wine at festivals and social gatherings was a sign of bounty and blessing.  Kindness, too, is a blessing and a sign of the bountiful goodness that is resident in our character.

Blessings to you today as you give kindness to someone you encounter.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

March 16, 2010

Do your words cut like a knife?

Filed under: character,Personal Leadership — dlneidert @ 8:54 am
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The adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me” is a lie.  There is a commercial I see occasionally on television.  It never ceases to capture my attention and make my heart race.  The commercial shows only a mouth speaking phrases like, “You’re stupid;” “You’ll never amount to anything;” “I don’t know why I bother with you;” “I wish you were never born….”  Words, careless words do in fact injure and wound people just as sticks and stones do break bones.  The problem is you cannot see the broken “bones” of the spirit caused by this constant battering.  Cher’s pop song, “If I Could Turn Back Time,” blasts a melody that should remind us of our speech when she sings, “Words are like weapons, they wound some times.”  So while the bruises from sticks and stones may heal over a few weeks, careless and harsh words can cause a person to bleed internally for a lifetime.

The way we speak reveals a good deal about us personally.  While we may not talk or comment in the ways seen on the commercial I described, we may do just as much damage if we share in gossip, rumors, or regularly engage in conversations that continue stereotypes of gender, race or ethnicity.  The tone of one’s voice, clothed in sarcasm or mocking is like a weapon….it carries a barb that deeply pierces another person’s soul.

Jesus challenged a crowd that gathered near him by observing, “Out of the same mouth come both blessings and curses.  It should not be so.”  The Proverbs writer also instructs “reckless words pierce like a sword.”  The careless word is like an uncontrolled missile.  Its power is devastating, inflicting pain and suffering on everyone near its point of impact.

Jesus also said, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”  What if you were on trial for your life solely on the basis of what you said to or about others?  How would you survive a trial for your life if it was based on your words alone, spoken to those around you or who are in relationship to you?  If we were on trial for our lives by what we said, I believe we would surely think before we open our mouths in hurt, gossip, rumor, or other ways that inflict pain on others. 

Today challenge yourself to think about how you normally respond to those closest to you, like colleagues, neighbors, friends, and loved family members.  Do you support them, encourage them, and give a healing word or are their encounters with you full of venom, sarcasm, and deflecting the weapons of hurtful words?

Blessings for you today…”May the words of your mouth be pleasing….” Grace and peace.

David Neidert

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