SO. MANY. posts and comments about leaders that are flat out mean and hateful.
I’m reminded of a blog post I wrote back in 2018:
…duplicity was the unacknowledged elephant in the room when the internet-infused courage of this person deflated like a day old birthday balloon during real life interactions: what happens online, stays online.
Except, it doesn’t.
Our words and actions, regardless of whether they are online or IRL, reveal something of our true beliefs and our character: “…surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.” [emphasis added] #IreadthereforeIquote
C. S. Lewis
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. This situation is incredibly complicated. I can’t imagine the stress of striving to make the best decisions in this no-win hornet’s nest while at the same time getting the $#!+ kicked out of me by both the media and hundreds of thousands of armchair commentators.
They have to be exhausted. And yet they continue to put themselves out there every day knowing they’re going to end up a target.
#seepeople and #edify because everyone is #justadifferentkindofbroken
#KindnessisContagious but so is #sarcasm and #criticism
I recently snatched up a $1 offer for access to a huge amount of content within an online writers group for 30 days and I’ve been DEVOURING it. The first day, I listened to a podcast interview with Albert Y. Hsu (pronounced “shee”), a senior editor with InterVarsity Press. Based on the description of the interview, I wasn’t sure if the content would be for me, but one teaser stood out:
“What publishers look for in an author’s platform (and it’s different than you think!).”
What PUBLISHERS look for wasn’t what drew me in, it was the WHY. I was hoping that the WHY would give me insight on how to identify and reach people who are interested in learning and practicing the communication methods I teach. And while I’m not currently writing a book that I want to pitch to a publisher, I do recognize some parallels between being an author and being a teacher: we both want to reach, inspire and help people.
Below are some quotes from the interview that I was still thinking about the next day – so much so that I re-watched the video in order to capture them and continue working through the answers:
“Part of what we do as authors, is that we meet people where they’re at and then we take them somewhere else. Take them further. There has to be a point of identification, but there also has to be a point of dislocation. So we are both contextualizing; saying our words in a way that people can receive, but then we are also being counter-cultural and giving them something that doesn’t just reinforce what they already know. It has to take them another step.”
This is huge for me in consulting and coaching. I ask a LOT of questions and – based on the answers – I ask more questions. Sometimes clients get impatient and want to skip this part of the process, but I have to start with where they ARE – and what led them to where they are – before I can help them explore options for their next best steps.
“Who is the audience and what are the channels to GET to that audience?…If you don’t have a channel to that audience, it’s almost like those readers don’t exist.”
How do I reach people? I’ve learned I have to meet them where they are. Forget the “if you build it they will come” mentality. That only works for ethereal baseball games and Disney.
“What do I have to offer that other people don’t. What’s missing?”
And look who just showed up. Imposter syndrome, my old friend.
In answering the question, “What would you tell first time authors?” he said, “I often ask them, ‘What’s your thing? What are you known for?'”
What’s my “thing?”
I know I’m passionate about communicating well. Effectively, respectfully and empathetically. I genuinely believe that the world would be a MUCH better place if we consistently tried to say what we mean without BEING mean. There would be less division, more respect and comradery and relationships would be stronger.
I think I’m known for that. but I’m not sure.
I’m also not sure who is interested in strengthening their communication skills or how to reach them.
After listening to this podcast, I had a tiny little epiphany. Am I having trouble finding these like-minded people because they are so quiet?
I have to remind myself again and again of the 1% rule:
“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (give or take) of the people actually viewing that content. For example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.”
And the internet population is only 40% of the world population.
But the 1% is so freakin pervasive.
On a daily basis, in every nook and cranny of the internet, I’m inundated with language that dehumanizes, mocks, dismisses, creates division and feeds polarization.
It seems like everywhere I look, language is used as a weapon to bludgeon someone.
Do the people doing the swinging genuinely not recognize the damage they inflict? Do they just not care? Are they oblivious to how they are perceived?
For instance, a facebook friend posted about the cruise ship that wasn’t being allowed to dock during the Covid-19 quarantine, sharing her disapproval of the passengers for even getting on the boat in the first place. But she backtracked pretty quickly when another facebook friend commented to tell her that a couple they both knew were stuck on that ship.
When “those people” became people she knew, she DID care how she was perceived.
Another commenter, not so much:
“I may be a jerk but they knew the risks…. stay on the ship. 🤷🏼♀️”
I held myself back from adding to the snark by replying with: “Well, you got one thing right. And how could they have known?”
I held myself back. Because if I had called her out like that in front of her friends,
1. I would be a jerk.
2. She probably wouldn’t care, because when I looked up that emoji she ended with, I found this:
The person shrugging emoji can designate ignorance, indifference, self-acceptance, passive-aggression, annoyance, giving up, or not knowing what to make of something. It could also be a visual form of the one-word response of indifference, “whatever.”
So here’s my take. When this person led with “I may be a jerk” she KNEW she was being a jerk. And she posted it anyway. I don’t know this person, but this is the first impression she made
1. with me and
2. with all the other commenters on that thread, and
3. with all the friends of the original poster and
4. with all the friends of every other commenter.
Because that’s how facebook works.
But I digress.
My thing. Being passionate about communicating well.
Who needs what I have to offer?
I believe everyone could benefit from strengthening their communication skills. I’ve been studying and practicing communication methods for decades and I’m still learning and growing.
But who wants what I have to offer?
What about within the other 99%? What “channels” should I use to reach them?
Looking at local, in person and possibly off-the-grid people, I already know some first steps to figure out who is interested: networking, public speaking to special interest groups, continuing with the consulting, training and coaching I already do…but moving beyond that…
Talking through my thoughts with the hubs:
“I’m wondering if one reason I’m having such a hard time [identifying people I can help] is because they are so quiet. Are they hidden in the 99%?
If 60% of the population isn’t even active on the internet and of the remaining 40%, only 1% is posting, then we’re talking about a fraction of that 1% who don’t seem to care whether they add to the negativity in the world.
I know so many people who, in real life, seem so kind and gracious. Then they get behind a keyboard, post a passive aggressive remark and sit back to watch and stir up the $#!+storm they’ve created.
Do they not recognize what they’re doing? Do they not care?
I genuinely don’t understand the duplicity.
And I don’t think I ever will. But I think that for the first time, I do understand those are NOT my people. They aren’t interested in communicating well or how they are perceived. When they post something that tears down, they either don’t know, don’t care or don’t care that they don’t know. I don’t comment on their negative posts because it’s pretty clear I would be the odd man out. WAY out.
The comment threads are full of 1%ers. The 99%ers are quiet. We all know that if we counter-comment on a negative post, one of three things will happen:
1. We’ll get attacked and it won’t be pretty. 2. We’ll be covertly blocked from their posts in the future. 3. We’ll get unfriended.
Maybe the people in the 99% are staying quiet because they’re taking a look at what’s being posted and instinctively responding with: “Hard pass.”
So, while the 1% may be the loudest, it’s definitely not overflowing with people who want to be intentional about communicating well. Those are the people I’m looking for.
Are they all in the silent majority?”
Hubs, after listing to my rambling stream of consciousness thought process: “You need to work on this some more. You’re onto something, but you’re not there yet.” Me: “What do you mean?” Hubs: “A cow has four stomachs.” Me: “So…what? I’m on stomach #2? Hubs: “I love how you knew what I was talking about.”
So is my thing metaphors? I do love metaphors.
And so I continue to work on it.
I remembered something else Albert Hsu said in the podcast:
“We don’t write apologetics books for the non-christian. They’re not going to pick up a Christian book. We write the book for the Christian friend…to serve them to reach their friend.”
Translating that to helping people strengthen their communication skills: I can’t help people who don’t care that they use language as a weapon. I can help the people they hurt – to respond effectively, respectfully and empathetically.
I can help those who DO care about the impact of their words and those who are silent, not because they have nothing of value to contribute, but because because they feel marginalized. If I can find them, I want to equip some of the 99%ers to become effective peacemakers, to model respectful debate and to resolve conflict empathetically.
And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, some of the negative 1%ers will notice. and begin to care.
you find what you look for.
What if you questioned your assumptions?
What if you asked questions?
It’s easier and faster to assume you’ve got someone figured out based on your first impression of them. It’s easier and faster to assume you know someone’s motivations based on your interpretation of their words and actions. It’s easier and faster to assume you have no blind spots or biases when it comes to evaluating another person or situation. It’s easier and faster to write someone off as not worth your time or a second thought. as less or an idiot…or a bigot or a zealot. It’s easier and faster to dehumanize someone by categorizing them with an adjective or labeling them with a derogatory term or encapsulating them with a pithy meme or quote.
What if you’re wrong? What does that say about your character? Do you care?
People are inconvenient.
They take time. and effort. and sometimes risk and and humility and vulnerability.
But consider this. People take the faster, easier path when they encounter you.
If you are a person of faith, consider this. If you take the easier, faster path with people in your life – whether in fleeting encounters with strangers, casual interactions with acquaintances or the hard work of closer relationships – are you missing something? What would God have you do in each of those opportunities? What would you do differently if you prayed about it?
Would you choose easy and fast? or risk and humility and vulnerability?
Dismissal? Or an opportunity to be an encouragement and a witness and a testament for the grace and unconditional love God has freely given to you?
Will you attempt to act and speak on your own or will you ask the Holy Spirit to guide and equip you to be His hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice?
Don’t miss a blessing in disguise because you’ve dismissed the possibility that God could use THAT person to speak into your life.
Don’t miss an opportunity to be a blessing in someone’s life for the sake of an easier, faster path to your own goals and comfort zone.
#SeePeople and #edify because everyone is #JustaDifferentKindofBroken
Some of you know I serve as a career coach. Just last week I found myself in a Panera Bread working with one of my current students on their resume.
This particular location is extremely thin on power outlets, so while working on battery power, we pretty much stalked every person at every table near a coveted outlet until finally we scored a “Power Table” with about 17% battery power remaining on my laptop.
A few minutes later, I looked up to see a super tall and impressively muscular guy walking around the restaurant, holding his phone and a power cable, clearly looking for a free outlet. I knew he was out of luck. He went to the cashier to ask where the outlets were and then he knew he was out of luck.
I watched him go back to his seat and join a large group of his friends seated at a span of tables.
I could have dismissed him and gotten back to work. It certainly would have been easy. and safe.
The entire restaurant was loud and bustling and nobody was paying any attention to me, so the walk toward him was mindless, fast and easy. But, the moment I stepped up to that particular group of tables, every. single. person. seated there abruptly stopped talking and turned toward the interruption. .
that would be me.
every single face was silently staring. at me.
I admit, I was immediately uncomfortable. When I’d reached for the charger and while I was walking toward the table, I hadn’t considered the possibility that my attempt to help might be viewed as an unwelcome intrusion, but at that moment, from my perspective, 8 people halting their conversation to openly stare at me had “intrusion” written all over it.
and I was suddenly, extremely and self-consciously aware of the fact that I am white.
Did I not mention that every single person staring at me was black?
I held out my phone charger.
“Would you like to borrow this?”
There was a noticeable pause, then a look of disbelief and confusion, followed by a “REALLY?!?!” as his friends looked back and forth from me to him like they were watching a tennis match.
Ball was back in my court.
I pointed to my table and my student. “I’ll be sitting right over there when you’re done with it.”
I’d like to say that he charged his phone, returned my phone charger and that was that.
In reality, I forgot about him and my charger for about a half hour and when I looked up, he – and all of his friends – were gone.
Me: “Did he leave?”
My student and I scanned the restaurant. He was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly she said, “There he is! Outside.”
We kept working for another 20 minutes or so and then she noticed him get up and walk toward the parking lot, out of our line of sight. I stepped outside and saw him dump his drink cup in a garbage can at the edge of the parking lot, so I said, “Are you leaving?”
He immediately assured me he wasn’t and joined his friends who were now sitting at tables near the garbage can where he dumped his drink cup.
I went back inside, my student and I got engaged in a particularly challenging section of the resume and we both completely forgot about him.
Until he quietly slipped the charger on our the table, thanked me again and left.
Would I have left the building without saying something to me if I were him?
No. It was thoughtless, but not malicious or devious.
Did I think he was trying to steal my $20 rapid phone charger?
No. I thought he forgot it was in his pocket.
Did he think I thought he was trying to steal my phone charger?
I don’t think so. He didn’t seem offended.
Did I regret loaning it to him?
No. I knew when I stepped outside my comfort zone and handed over my phone charger to a complete stranger that it would be easier to keep to myself and let his phone die.
I know that reaching out to help someone is a witness for Christ even when His name isn’t spoken.
I hope and pray that by evidencing “Love God, Love Others” in that simple action, my student watched, processed and was inspired to step out of her own comfort zone and extend a helping hand when it would be easier to be quiet and stay comfortable.
Will I do it again?
Even more so.
But I also think that the next time I go back to that particular Panera, I’ll be bringing a power strip with me to share with my fellow power-needy laptop cohorts.
Lord, please help me tobe aware of your presence in every moment of my life and to recognize your promptings. Please bless me with the courage and motivation to be immediately obedient when you nudge me to do or say something. Don’t let me miss an opportunity to bless and be blessed because I’m held back by fear or because I want to cling to my comfort zone. AMEN.
In this dream, my daughter was being stalked. And NOTHING we did could stop the stalker.
If you’ve read my blog before or follow me on facebook, you already know my daughter LOVES people. Genuinely, empathetically, compassionately, passionately loves people. She gets a high from encouraging people that I think actually fuels her. When someone hurts, she hurts. And she prays. She prays for people she loves, she prays for people who are mean to her and she prays for people she doesn’t even know.
She prays because she’s already figured out that most of the time, while she can make things better by loving people, she can’t fix some things. Some things are too big, but she knows God can do ANYthing.
And that’s how the horrible dream started. She befriended someone in pain. And he latched onto her. It wasn’t long before he began telling her she was an inspiration to him. “You are my inspiration” soon led to “You are the only one who understands me.” He gave her gifts. She caught him staring at her often. He began saying things that made her worry that he might hurt himself and she began to feel responsible for his emotional state.
In real life, she shares everything with me, so of course, in my dream, she told me all this. In my dream, I coached her to still be herself and not to hold back from being kind to him, but to never be alone with him, to always be in a group and to always make sure she didn’t treat him differently than she treated anyone else.
Then everything changed. Instantly.
(remember, this is a dream)
In the dream the chronology was all over the place. Her age ranged from 13 to 18, but one thing was a constant. We were desperate. We tried everything we could think of. We started by changing her schedule so she didn’t have classes with him. We took her to a therapist to help her cope and to help her understand how he was trying to manipulate her. We resorted to changing schools, which broke her heart because she had to leave all her friends. We sent her to relatives. She and I moved. The entire family moved. Across town and out of state. Her dream of working as a Disney princess was impossible because he would stalk her at work. He broke into our house. He vandalized our house. Sabotaged her car. Followed her. Restraining orders did nothing. If he was arrested, he started up again as soon as he was released.
NOTHING we did made any difference at all.
And then (don’t forget – this is a dream)
I remembered. God can do anything. We had spent years trying to handle the situation on our own and nothing had worked. So I gave it all up to God. I prayed like a widow (persistently, like in Luke 18:8).
And suddenly, PinkGirl was 13 again. It was like I rewound the dream. None of the horrible, unpreventable things had happened yet.
And in my prayers, God reminded me of an article I read a while back written by an elementary school teacher. I don’t remember the specifics, but she was heartbroken about a school shooting or maybe the Boston Marathon bombing, I don’t remember. She wondered about the childhood of these people who kill. She was burdened. And in working through that burden, she recognized her influence. The power she had to impact young lives and maybe, hopefully, change the trajectory of those lives. She wrote about her teaching philosophy. In her classroom, every single day she was identifying the subtle way some kids were being excluded and isolated and she was not only lovingly, creatively and intentionally putting stop to it, but molding the character of the other students as she taught them to see people. Really SEE people. Compassionately. And in the process, that isolated kid, the one who felt invisible and unloved and unaccepted began to change his opinion of himself and of the people in his life.
So (remember, this is a dream) I went to the administrators of PinkGirl’s (private, Christian) school and told them what was happening with this boy and PinkGirl. I told them about the article. We made a plan. Every. single. middle school teacher began to intentionally speak into this boy’s life. To SEE him. To validate him, encourage him, mentor him. To constantly reinforce that God loves him unconditionally. That Christ loved him so much He died for him. To teach him that even though the people in his life might fail him, God never will. Everyone involved began praying that he would find and accept Christ and that these teachers who interacted with him 7 hours a day, 5 days a week would have a chance to disciple him before he moved on to high school.
As the teachers began to draw him into group activities and the other kids began to really see him too…
I woke up. (At the crack of dawn, way before I needed to, I might add.)
And I remembered these two facebook posts I wrote about my daughter back in February:
I LOVE my daughter’s school and the middle school teachers. She just called me in uncontrollable happy tears to tell me how much she loves me because she just came out of a class where her classmates (PinkGirl included) just “poured their hearts out about everything they were all going through and how we’re all so thankful and blessed that we have Christ in our lives to help us and…” Her next class was Bible and she asked to go to the office to call me and ask me to come up to school so she could hug me. I’m outta here. #ilovemydaughter
Just got back from going to PinkGirl’s school to give her a requested mid-day bear hug. One of the kids involved in that heart-wrenching discussion was sharing really, really hard things and everyone was telling him it would be okay. PinkGirl said: “I can’t promise you everything will be okay. At least not the way we see our life. But it will be okay the way God sees it. I think God is using the things in our lives to mold us into the people we’re going to be. It’s like a blacksmith. Sometimes, a blacksmith has to heat stuff up and hit it really hard with a hammer to mold it into something beautiful. The blacksmith knows what he’s making.”
#ilovemydaughter #seepeople #reachout
And I remembered how my daughter had told me that this boy had later told her she was an inspiration to him. And how he had given her a few small presents. She told me it made her uncomfortable. And I remember how I had coached her to continue being his friend, but to always stay with a group when she was around him. I had explained that she wasn’t equipped to help him, so she shouldn’t give him any advice, but she could be his friend and pray for him.
There was no going back to sleep.
So I went downstairs to curl up on my loveseat with a cup of coffee and my prayer journal.
And I wrote this:
“Lord I HATED that dream. Please help me use whatever I learned from it. I pray Lord, that if we are ever in that situation, that’s exactly how we would respond.”
“I pray for PinkGirl’s friend from school. Can’t remember his name Lord, but you know who he is. Please draw him close to you and let him know You love him.”
Driving PinkGirl to rehearsal later that morning, I asked her about the boy from school, and she reminded me that for some reason, he wouldn’t be returning to her school next year.
So. That’s that, right?
Except that when I went to pick her up, I found out that the boy had come to her theater company asking about auditions.
I had a flash of fear. The dream wasn’t even 12 hours old.
But then I realized. This theater PinkGirl goes to? SEEING kids is what they DO. It’s saturated in their culture. They don’t just help kids develop their talent, they also focus on helping kids develop strong character and confidence. They mentor kids from teeny to teenager. When a kid first comes to them, they start with the assumption that each one wants to please and to be validated. They search for aptitude and potential and try to help kids grow into their strengths and to gain confidence and become self-motivated by providing age and skill appropriate challenges and holding them accountable. Any sign of kids excluding kids isn’t allowed. The more outgoing kids are mentored and taught to be intentionally inclusive and specifically encouraging to the shy and quiet kids. Constructive criticism isn’t shied away from, but shaming criticism and demoralizing sarcasm isn’t tolerated for a fraction of a second. Like the teacher who wrote the article, these kids, if they stay with this company, begin to recognize the power of their words and actions and their ability to influence others through encouragement and inclusion.
This boy is a beginner, so if he does come to PinkGirl’s theater, it’s likely he won’t be in the same productions, at least for a while. But I’m confident that if this boy comes to this theater company, he will be seen. He will be included. By the time he interacts with PinkGirl in that environment, she will not be the only person who inspires him.
Or prays for him.
No matter who you are, there are people in your circle of influence. People you are in a continuing relationship with and people you will interact with today and may never see again. Start with prayer. Ask God to show you who those people are. Ask God to equip you. Because God can do anything.
You can spend years trying to handle a situation on your own or you can give it all up to God. And pray like a widow that He would bless you with wisdom and discernment and patience and stamina and…pray like a widow that He will guide you. Pray that you would have the courage and motivation to be obedient.