John George graduated into heaven recently. He was a man for whom I will eternally be grateful. At a time when I was a cocky senior at West Point, he accurately confronted me about pride and forever changed my life. John knew that the Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18 that “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” His exhortation scared me to death that God would not use me for His kingdom.
John the Baptist was discouraged. The imprisoned forerunner to Jesus was unable to personally witness Jesus at work. He begin to have doubts as to if Jesus truly was the Messiah. So he sent his disciples to ask the Lord, “Are You the One who is come, or should we look for someone else?” It was an honest question from a godly prophet.
Luke 7:22--He replied to them, “Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.
There is a popular phrase passed along by leaders, “Always praise publically, criticize or correct privately.” Unfortunately, this gets violated all too often in organizations where insecure or unthoughtful people publically criticize employees, family members, or co-workers. I once had a fellow team member complain to the program director over his offense at some of my closing remarks. Rather than just come and tell me, he went “over my head.” When the director mentioned his complaint to me I was surprised and lost respect for a fellow leader who prides himself in leading yet was unprofessional by not speaking directly to me.
Psalm 20:4—May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose.
Whenever a new year approaches there is for many people a sense of optimism. Yes, now I can start afresh. Yes, perhaps this next year will be a better year. Yes, finally the hardships or struggles of this past season may come to an end. But beginning afresh requires finishing the old year well. Very rarely, if ever, can you have one without the other.
Cabe and Rhonda are trashing their lives. He is an alcoholic and she is a spendaholic. While they love each other, their weaknesses create a bad spiral. Rhonda gets frustrated by the long hours Cabe works and so she rationalizes going on spending sprees. When Cabe gets the credit card bill inwardly he is so mad at Rhonda that he knows he will say things he will regret, so he gets drunk instead. Unfortunately what then comes out of his mouth is even worse. Sadly, both of them know God and inwardly understand that their behavior is unacceptable, but they will not be exiting their spiral anytime soon because of the way they are treated by fellow Christians.
My team briefed me at 3:30 p.m. The key slide in their operational brief that I would have to in turn brief my boss at 5:00 p.m. was awful. The words that were to describe our progress were not clear and there were too many confusing acronyms. And what was supposed to be a clear map for the location of the disaster in our exercise, with scope of destruction from a notional bomb, was just a big brown blob. Each subordinate unit that briefed me had much better graphics depicting roads, cities and key information. But I couldn’t use their work because by the time all the units finished speaking there wasn’t enough time for the staff to swap content. Inside I was fuming. This was our first chance to make a strong impression on our higher headquarters and our one slide was unprofessional.
Job 6:24—Teach me, and I will be silent. Help me understand what I did wrong.
As the manager of a midsize division, Lu was responsible for millions of dollars of merchandise and about a hundred employees. The CEO was impressed by her tenacity and creative mind in fixing problems. The board saw her as a rising star so almost everyone was shocked when she resigned. She gave her new boss Calvin virtually no advance notice of her intentions and left at a time of major restructuring. Lu had accepted the offer of a smaller division within the same company but located in another state. She felt the job, though less prestigious, was a better fit for her skill set and it was much closer to her family.
Four of us were enjoying an informal time of fellowship when the topic came up of how we identify with Christ around others. One of the men pulled out his cell phone and showed how it had an icon of Christ as his background photo. Ron said he had also had a picture representing Christ on his phone. He pulled it out to show us, but all we could see was icons of missed calls that blocked the picture underneath.
Cassidy sent out an email to her boss. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Grok Inc. cited several recent incidents that occurred and accused Konrad, a coworker and fellow executive, of harassing her and generally acting like a jerk. The boss was surprised because he had worked with Konrad for years and had never before received complaints like this about him or observed him to act in a way that was disrespectful to others. So he asked his CFO to call him. When she did, he questioned her as to what exactly Konrad had done. In the course of the conversation the boss realized that Cassidy was making several bad assumptions about her coworker. It especially galled him that she had not discussed her concerns with Konrad before sending him the negative report.*
Sometimes the Lord gives us opportunity to see our failings. A flaw noted should be corrected while a flaw ignored may grow into a character fissure. I was blessed to spend seven days learning about strategic leadership at the University of North Carolina. The Army paid for about thirty of us to stay in great accommodations, eat fantastic food, and learn from wise professors and senior military leaders.
Evu* lost his wife twelve years ago to breast cancer. He is still angry with God because He did not answer his prayer to take his life and spare Lori’s. Yet, Evu also readily shared that God had in many cases answered his prayers. And he clearly saw the hand of His Maker at work keeping him from death. Several years ago when a construction project at Portland airport collapsed killing three men, Evu’s life was spared because of a cell phone call from a friend that lasted so long he was not where he could have been when it rained cement. When Evu later asked his friend why he called him, the friend responded that he felt led to do so! Clearly, God has a plan for this gentleman with a special heritage. That’s not so surprising. His dad worked with Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement.
Julie* smiled at me but her radiant ivories could not hide eyes that hurt. In five years with Curt he had yet to give her flowers. She would drop hints. Once,she shared why her dad gave her mother special plants. But practical Curt mentally pictured shriveled bouquets and concluded why waste money on something that won’t last. Curt did not understand that flowers were not the real issue.
There are moments in life we never forget—life-changing encounters. One of mine came as a “firstie”, a senior at West Point. I asked an older friend known for his wisdom to meet with me to discuss the topic of serving. On the day we met, he looked me in the eye and said, “Danny, we don’t need to talk about serving, we need to talk about pride.” He then lovingly shared three specific examples of pride he observed in my life from one dinner conversation in his home.