I heard a story on the radio recently of a policeman who was searching a man. As he went through his pockets he discovered several bags full of illegal drugs. Before he could say anything, the man gave him an exasperated look and said, “These aren’t my pants!”
Did you know that bugle calls are sometimes used for giving commands to large formations of soldiers? Rather than have the adjutant or commander of troops yell out the command, a simple bugle call suffices. But if the bugler accidently sounds the wrong tone or series of notes, the formation will be in trouble. They might present arms (salute) instead of coming to attention, or go to parade rest instead of making a facing movement.
My son Bryan was invited to share his story at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He was one of two featured speakers on a night when almost every participant in the room shared some kind of disability. Disabilities included Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), asthma, depression, cancer, arthritis, etc. Each person was asked to write a poem about their challenges and to highlight what was bad as well as what was good. Then, throughout the evening, volunteers could come to the front of the room and share what they wrote.
Mary was in the process of leaving physical therapy in her car in a parking lot. She looked to her right and saw nothing but didn’t look to her left. As she began to pull out the oncoming driver laid on the horn letting Mary know her displeasure. Mary quickly realized her mistake and put up her arms to acknowledge her error and rolling down her window told the other driver, “I’m sorry.”
Later as Mary was pulling into a fast-food restaurant she noticed the woman she had almost cut off was in line in front of her. When it came time for Mary to drive up to the window and pay for her food the attendant said the woman in front had paid for her meal!
Do you remember growing up hearing the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!?” The intent of that couplet is to steel us against teasing and badgering but, the reality is, words can internally leave nasty marks. Cruel, mean-spirited, or foul comments may inflict enduring damage and color the way we view the antagonist.
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.
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.*
In reading through the Bible in 2009, my selected theme was truth. Earlier this week, Chris primed our pumps asking us what truth is. I am going to finish off the year sharing what I learned from this vital Biblical topic hoping that it encourages and challenges you as much as it did me.
Psalm 85:11—Truth will spring up from the earth, and righteousness will look down from heaven.
A small crowd of perhaps a hundred gathered for the tree lighting. Four strands of multicolored lights ran up the 40-foot fir. The air was festive and the mood light. Christmas songs were sung off-key while boys and girls eyes roved frantically for Santa. One after another dignitaries walked forward and gave their remarks. Then the emcee asked the Chaplain to give the blessing.
For nine years I’ve led an adult coed soccer league in the city of Tigard. This is the second year we have run the league without referees. The first season we tried it there were complaints and it was a rocky transition. It was clear that some players preferred refs because they could cheat. They could bend the rules to their advantage. If the official didn’t see the infraction, then that was part of the game.
I picked up the sports section of The Oregonian dated February 5, 2002 and read Selena Roberts article about a sixteen-year-old ice skater, Sarah Hughes. Selena wrote:
“You know Sarah Hughes? She flutzes.” The words usually have come in the form of a whisper in some back corridor of a rink, in the back alley of a figure skating competition, from adults turned adolescents . . .Who started it, no one really knows. Maybe an opposing coach, a certain judge, a chatty critic. But from every direction, Hughes is hearing and reading how she takes off on the wrong edge as she enters her lutz, making it what’s called a flutz.
“What’s wrong with you?” The question stung. Bryan replied from the safety of a carpeted banister, “Hey, this is my first time and I don’t have very good balance.” “So, it’s easy,” the boy retorted. Then with a look that said, “You’re a dork!” he took off. A friend skated to Bryan who then shared what the kid had said. He was appalled at the boy’s rudeness. He went over to some of their mutual friends and reported the insult. They devised a plan to body check the smart aleck. Not a godly response—but humorous. For Bryan, the balm of supportive friends covered the sting of criticism.
Have you ever considered the notion that what you and I say is a form of planting? For example, if I whine constantly I create an environment of dissatisfaction and I reveal an inner discontent with life. If I have a critical spirit and am harsh in the way I feel towards others I create an atmosphere of distrust and rob my surroundings of joy. If I talk only of myself I establish a place of pride and self-centeredness that leaves others with no desire to linger. If I speak of others with unflattering terms or negatively I produce gossip or slander and cause the reputations of those of whom I’ve spoken to wilt. At the same time I’ve created the perception in the listener “I wonder if he talks about me like this when I’m not around.”
Here’s a great word for you—logorrhea. It literally means excessive use of words which is comically close in sound to a word which communicates an excess of another problem!
The furnace of character development is heated for many by speech. Growing up, I was the butt of “short-people” jokes. Remember the song that came out in the ‘80’s making fun of short people?—“short people got no reason to live.” Unfortunately, I learned early on that an effective defense against cutting remarks was the use of sarcasm. A witty putdown can become an art-form. It feels good to sting the stinger. But does it really?
Have you noticed how desperately our society yearns for good moral role models? Yogi Berra, the master of chaotic one-liners once quipped, “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.” God says in Leviticus 11:44, “Be holy, because I am holy.” In other words, “Be like Me.” Virtue doesn’t come easily it takes effort. Just ask the employee whose integrity is tested by the boss who wants to cut corners. Often our virtue is measured by our words. Either we strive to be honest or we become masters of “spin” slighting altering the picture to our benefit. If we were born holy virtue would come easily. Instead we strive to overcome a nature that at its core is selfishly wired. By following the example Jesus set for us on earth, we allow God the privilege of making us new creations! Take courage, your character matters!