Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Right Way To Be Wrong (Part 2)

Everybody fails, but some people seem to go on to achieve great things. It's as if the failure didn’t affect them at all, or maybe that it had somehow made them stronger. Others, seem to get flattened by their failures. They become more cautious and less confident as time goes on. They settle for average, even though most people around them believe them capable of greater things.

What’s the secret? What makes some people wither while others grow and excel? In the first post in this series we looked at the danger of blaming others when we fail (The Right Way To Be Wrong (Part 1)). Blaming other people for our mistakes (even when they have made mistakes of their own) ensures that we will not grow. Many people choose not to blame others, but make an equally disastrous choice. They blame themselves.

Toxic Response to Failure #2: Blaming Yourself

Blaming yourself isn’t the same as taking responsibility for what you’ve done.

Most people by now have seen or heard the famous slip up Steve Harvey made in announcing Miss Universe 2015. It would be hard to imagine a more public forum in which to make a more horrible mistake. The social media universe exploded in response. Memes were created. Parodies were worked up for TV shows. Many spewed outrage, others mocked, and still others took the opportunity to criticize the pageant system as a whole.  But as the hours ticked by there was another group of voices that grew steadily in Twitter and Facebook streams. Many people began defending Harvey, or at least expressing their admiration for how he handled his gaff.

As soon as Harvey realized what he had done, he stepped up, corrected his mistake and took full responsibility. It’s hard not to admire that sort of courage. The ability to accept responsibility for your mistakes is a life skill that all successful people share. Blaming yourself is a different thing all together.

When you choose to blame yourself for something you have done wrong, you are choosing to make a wrong decision or action an indicator of your personal worth. It wasn’t just the failure that was bad, but you were bad too. That may sound noble, but it’s actually quite toxic.

When you live a life of blaming yourself and beating yourself up whenever things go wrong, your confidence slowly erodes. You doubt yourself more and more.  Blaming yourself also prevents you from accurately diagnosing and correcting the mistake you made in the first place. There are thousands of reasons we fail or make bad decisions. Having the courage to understand why we made the mistakes we made allows us to make corrections and thereby to grow. When you are blaming yourself you are saying that you are the problem, Which means that you will be bringing the problem with you to the next relationship, job, or life decision you make.  

So, if you have a habit of blaming yourself when anything goes wrong. Stop for a second and give yourself a bit of grace. Nobody is perfect, but we all can grow. Blaming yourself all of the time makes that grow incredibly difficult. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Readings for Advent - Love

Christmas is a season of love.

We love candy canes. We love Christmas lights strung around trees and across rooftops. We love the smell of freshly cut wreaths and the sound of children singing "Silent Night". We love Peppermint Mochas with whipped cream and Hallmark movies with sappy endings. We love tearing open neatly wrapped boxes, and even more we love giving the perfect gift.

Christmas is a season of love, but one love stands out above all of the rest. Over 2000 years ago, people in a small inn in Bethlehem pulled their blankets up to their chins and settled in for the night. Just a few feet away, behind the inn, God was blessing mankind with the most perfect gift of all.

God’s gift of Himself that night in Bethlehem was the outpouring of a love that extended back before Adam took his first breath.  God’s love for all people has never wavered. Jesus’ arrival to earth was an emphatic declaration of that love. John, one of the disciples closest to Jesus said it this way, “This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about – not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”1

I pray that this Christmas you will be reminded of how deeply you are loved by God. Also, I hope you will take time to tell those you love how much they mean to you. 

Picture Courtesy: "Gift-wraping" by BlairSnow - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

1 - 1 John 4: 8-10 (The Message)

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Right Way To Be Wrong

To err is human…
-Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope knew us pretty well. We all mess up. We all fail. It’s a given for all humans. How we handle our failure and mistakes is what sets people apart. How can we respond to our own failures in ways that lead to growth and success?

If we are to deal well with failure we have to rid ourselves of the toxic responses we often have when things don't go well with us. Few things are more toxic than blame.

Toxic Response to Failure #1: Blame Others

This response to failure goes back all the way to the beginning. The first man to walk the planet had made his first mistake, broken his first rule, failed his first test. He ate the one thing that was off limits. How did he respond? 

Eve made me do it. 

And how did Eve handle Adam dumping all of the responsibility on to her?

The snake made me do it. 

We’ve been blaming others for our problems ever since.

       Why did you yell at your sister?
            Because she made me angry!

       Why is the project late?
            It's not my fault, Bob took too long getting the numbers to me.

We do it without even thinking.

And who can blame us? Anger feels much better than hurt. It hurts to admit you were wrong. It’s much more fun to be angry. Also, there’s an added bonus. If it’s someone else’s fault, then fixing it is someone else’s responsibility. Not only do we not have to feel the pain of being wrong, we don’t have to do the hard work of fixing the problem. It’s a win-win.  Except that it isn’t.

When you blame others, you effectively stop growing. If there are parts of you or things you have done that you can’t be honest with yourself about, growth is impossible. The truth is that we are impacted by others, and many times their mistakes do indeed impact our own, but we alone are responsible for our decisions, our emotions, and our attitudes.

So, don’t pretend that others haven’t hurt you. They have, and mostly likely they will again. But, be honest with yourself about your part of the mess. That’s the only part you have any power to fix, and owning that is the beginning of true growth and character development. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Readings For Advent - Hope

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.1

Advent is the season of waiting and expectation that leads up to Christmas Day. During that time many churches pause to remember all that Christmas meant and all that it still means. One of the meanings of Christmas for followers of Jesus is the presence of hope.

First century church planter Paul wrote the words above to remind the people living in Galatia that the time they had all been waiting for had come. In a small town, a small baby was born as the Old Testament Scriptures had foretold. That fragile baby brought with him unbreakable hope for all of humankind. Our deepest hope that somehow we are not alone, was fully and forever confirmed. While our sins are great, God’s mercy once again proved to be greater. God had come to earth to be with us.

God’s people had waited for that day for hundreds of years. They waited in hope that God would do as He promised. People love to twist the Bible to make it promise things that it never intended. Flip through its pages all you like, there are no promises of earthly wealth. We are not promised health or a life free of conflict. We are not even promised our next breath, regardless of how closely we try to follow its teachings. But, God did promise to never leave us alone. In Jesus, He promised to be everything we couldn’t be ourselves. That promise brings with it unsinkable hope.

Today we wait, much like the people we read about in the Old Testament. During his short stay on earth, Jesus promised that He would return to earth again one day at which time everything would be set right. No more sorrow. No more wars. No more poverty. All of the misery that we inflict on others and on ourselves will be broken. That’s the hope that we live in. Our hope is in Christ who kept his promise over 2000 years ago, and who we believe will keep his promise to return to us again.

This Christmas season, our hope is also that Jesus would visit our hearts in new ways. Hope is essential to our lives as Christians.  May we all maintain our hope in the God who is with us, Emmanuel. 

1 - Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How Your Family Can Avoid A Christmas Letdown

It’s the most wonderful time of year! 

Christmas is rapidly approaching. Christmas lights line the streets.  There are baby Jesus’ in mangers all over the place. Peppermint Mochas flow like rivers. How could this not be a great time for families?! Every year, we head into the Christmas season with hopes of making it the best Christmas ever. But after all the packages have been opened and all of the egg nog consumed, we are left feeling disappointed and a bit empty. How can we get the most out of this Christmas, without the disappointment? Here are a couple of thoughts:

Slow Down

There are a thousand different things to do and see at Christmas. There are parties and plays and parades. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you can’t see them all. If you try, you will be exhausted and your family will become more irritable as each day passes. The best way to enjoy some special moments this Christmas is to choose your moments deliberately. Say “yes” to some things and “no” to others. It’s hard to enjoy a moment, when you have 10 other special moments planned in the next two hours. Slow down. Make space to be where you are without feeling the need to rush someplace else. Sometimes the most memorable moments occur when you have nothing planned at all.

Abandon Perfection

We all have a perfect Christmas in mind. Everyone is getting along. Christmas dinner is cooked to perfection. The kids enjoy each gift more than the last, inexpressible joy streaming from their faces. A light snow falls outside the window while you enjoy the perfect cup of hot chocolate. Every ornament is in place. Every light twinkles, and all is right with the world.

As a writer, I never want to make guarantees. Few things in life are guaranteed. But here’s one: this Christmas will not be perfect. Your dog will tear ornaments from the tree. The pumpkin pies will burn. Your husband will wear his 15 year old pair of pajama pants with the unfortunately placed hole in them to the tree on Christmas morning, providing Christmas sights that no one wants to see. Christmas will not be perfect, but it can be wonderful. Remember, ordinary is ok. Embrace this season, imperfections and all. Expect things to go wrong and don’t let them derail your attitude or enjoyment of the people around you. The sooner you give up on perfection, the sooner you can enjoy each day for what it is.

This Christmas doesn’t have to be a disappointment for your family. Slow down and enjoy every moment as best you can. Be thankful for those in your life and be mindful of those who have no one. Take time to tell the ones you love that you love them, and have a wonderfully ordinary Christmas!

Picture:"Piazza Portanova Natale 2008" by The original uploader was SOLOXSALERNO at Wikipedia - Own work by the original uploader. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -