Living Well

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

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March 3, 2010

How Brave are You?

Filed under: character,Personal Leadership — dlneidert @ 9:13 am
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During a recent time of recovery from a surgery, I had hours to watch many news casts.  In addition, I am a news hound reading and listening to what is happening in the world.  I am regularly reminded of a war raging inside every person.  From criminals to politicians to corporate CEOs to those involved in all kinds of civic projects, I am reminded of the internal battle over our personal, often selfish, desires.

Aristotle wrote, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self.”  The Apostle Paul captures the ultimate essence of this in the book of Romans when he wrote, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  This internal collision, where self discipline and the ache for living out our personal desires intersect, is common to us all no matter our heritage, background or culture.  This intimate battlefield is a battlefield we all have to engage during our lives.

Aristotle pointed to one fact that we must never ignore; we are separated from the animal kingdom by reason and our ability for mastering our desires.  This mastery is not a simple war to wage. Yet if won, it moves us closer to being other focused and living effectively in the day to day.  If we are not able to master ourselves, the desires and pleasures we seek will control us, living little room for valuing people or situations as nothing more than a means to our personal end.  We are more like animals if we follow our instincts only. 

I am not saying we can win all these internal battles by shear willpower.  There are many battles that take trained professionals and advocates to help us make progress and find victory.  We need them to confront us and help us work through sometimes what we cannot overcome alone.

Yet, for many, Aristotle names people brave that seek self-control.  He may be right that those courageous enough to strive against personal desires and self gratification as our highest good are the most valiant warriors.  The consequence of not facing ourselves and controlling emotions and desires in our life can exact a heavy toll on us as well as others.  When our unchecked actions seek to fulfill our desires over the welfare of others, we are apt to leave carnage not only now, but possibly for generations to come.

So we might wonder, “What might be the consequences in my life (and for others) if I am not willing to have some self control?” “What good or bad might be the result of my living without self control?”  “What good, rewards, or benefits might come if I could have victory over selfish ambitions or desires?”  Not easy questions to undertake, yet the reward for having acknowledged and fought them may bring well being and living well now and in the future.

Blessings to you for this day and in this engagement.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 29, 2010

You have the Tools: Now Write a Mission Statement

“Live in such a way that when you die the preacher doesn’t have to lie.”  That statement on a student tee-shirt has always been humorous to me and captures what I believe about personal mission.  It is unfortunate that people spend a lifetime working on “something” thinking that “someday I will do what I am supposed to do in life.”  Problem is it becomes like St. Augustine observed, “By and by never comes.”  Often we wait, but for what?  What are we waiting for to live out that we cannot start to live at this moment?  I love the comment by Tony Campolo, “When we get to the end of life, we ought to be about all used up!”

If you are following my blog, you are at the point of trying to write a personal mission statement.  Take the legacies you want to leave behind, the values you believe identify you, and write a sentence that will help you set before you those areas of life that are important.  Whatever you write at this moment does not have to be polished because it is a first attempt at writing a mission statement.  Mission statements are not at first an exact science, but a fleshing out of your thoughts, dreams, and what you believe about yourself and your future.

After you write out your personal mission statement, test it by asking, “Can I really affect my world and the people in it by living out my mission?” If your answer is yes, then how will you do this?  If no, how must your mission read in order to keep you actively working toward its fulfillment?

Your personal mission statement will guide you and give you focus related to your preferred future and legacy.  The statement you write should be challenging to you and something that you are passionate about.  It does not need to be a statement exciting to others, but must extract your best abilities, passions, use of time, and daily actions.  When you read your mission, it should give you an ache to live well in what it commands from you every day.

Here is also a way to test your personal mission.  It comes from Laurie Beth Jones, international bestselling author of Jesus, CEO.  As a side, it is an honor to also have her as one who endorses my book, “Four Seasons of Leadership.”  Jones believes your mission statement should be a single sentence (in standard English this is about 7-10 words); simple enough for a 12-year old to understand and recite, and; you should personally be able to recite it from memory at “gun point.”   Jones received criticism for this last element, but she is right….sometimes we have to make split second decisions that require us to know exactly who we are and what we will stand or not stand for.  Life sometimes forces us into its corner where we have to decide that quickly.

I originally wrote my own personal mission statement in 1989.  It was a few sentences.  It did not fit Jones’ criteria above.  So I worked on it over time.  I honed it over a few years until it now reads, “inviting people to abundant life by choosing God’s best.”

Now it is funny, but I actually have people say to me occasionally, “What is your mission statement?”  Some know I teach leadership courses and this concept; some just hear about this activity I believe deeply in.  These are my “gun point” moments.  And so I recite it to them from memory.  It is my agreement for how I will live in this world, both today but also in the days ahead.

In the end, here is the real point of having a personal mission statement.  The purpose is in not having a written statement to impress people, but to use it for goal setting, making decisions, determining what really matters in life, and “living your life in such a way that when you die, the preacher will not have to lie” but only recount what you did during the years you had on this planet.

I am convinced that if you ponder your life, figure out a personal mission, and set it into writing you will live well daily and you will influence those around you both now and into the next generation.  In the end, having a personal mission will influence the quality of your relationships, career, community service, and how you make potentially critical decisions should they come your way.

There is freedom in knowing your life’s purpose and in living your personal mission.  The Apostle Paul writing in the First Century challenged “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:1-2).  We can be transformed and live well—fully living what we were created to be IF we work out our personal mission.  It is a task worth agonizing over.  It is a choice that will lead to a life lived well.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert

January 22, 2010

Contentment has to Come from Inside You

Filed under: Uncategorized — dlneidert @ 10:29 am
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I taught an introductory course on business at the college level many years ago.  During the class we discussed marketing concepts at length, particularly promotion and advertising.  It was fun sharing the multifaceted stages of promotion and advertising used to capture a consumer’s attention.

One assignment students enjoyed was analyzing various advertising methods.  I asked them to consider only one question as they dissected these enticing ads; “What is this advertisement honestly selling?”  Students often reported that the bulk of advertising sells a better life with little effort required, pleasure as the only purpose for life, or sex.  Visually captivating sound bites often persuade consumers to spend billions of dollars for products they do not need in order to grasp a “better life.”

The French author Francois Duc de la Rochefouchauld wrote, “When we cannot find contentment in ourselves it is useless to seek it elsewhere.”  Goethe’s character, Dr. Faust, is the epitome of seeking contentment outside ourselves.  In Goethe’s story, Dr. Faust makes a pact with Mephistopheles—the devil—to provide contentment through pleasures found in the world around him.  But over time, Faust realizes there is no fulfillment in pleasure seeking.  Faust sadly acknowledges that satisfaction and meaning to life comes when we are content with ourselves, find love, and give compassion.

Seeking fulfillment and wholeness in things—possessions, fame, or power—can never lead to contentment if we are not internally at peace with what we are doing in life or who we are.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.”  Paul could accept whatever externally life provided because he knew internally whom he served and what brought him lasting life.  Paul was so sure of his purpose, calling, message, and the meaning of life that he went to his death in AD 64 rather than give it up for fleeting earthly existence (we believe Paul was beheaded under Nero’s reign during the Roman Empire).

Intimately knowing one’s life purpose and what is truly important does bring contentment.  Failing to know what will lead us to live well may cause us to make choices that will lead us to circumstances we never intended or thought would happen.

So today ponder, If I lost everything I owned materially, would I still be a contented person?  Why?  If I would not be content if I lost all my possessions, why would that be my response?  What does fame, fortune, or prestige give me that are necessary for my feeling of completeness and purpose?  If I discovered I would be dead in six months, what would I focus on?  Why would this draw my attention?

Blessings as you discover what really matters in life….Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

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