A conversation is said to have taken place between a hen and a hog. As they passed the town hall, they saw the subject on which the mayor was speaking that night, "How Can We Help the Poor in Our City?" After a moment's reflection, the hen said, "I know what we can do. We can give them a ham-and-egg breakfast!" The hog protested, saying, "The breakfast would be only a contribution for you, but for me it would mean total commitment!"
As hoggish as he may be, the hog saw right through the hypocrisy of the hen who would so voluntarily give of her abundance, while suggesting her friend gives of his very livelihood..
We all benefit from what is given to us. We all owe our peace and quiet to the civil servants, soldiers, firefighters, policemen, EMTs and doctors, around us. We owe it even to our neighbors who, out of a simple sense of community, would warn us if something fishy was happening in our house while we were gone. That’s why we live in communities for support, strength, and security. We are in a sense indebted to the society around us so that when we give, we only repay what has been laid at our feet for free.
When we give, we are really just give back of what has been extended to us. Real giving goes beyond that. I heard it said one time, “It doesn’t count till it hurts!” Indeed, it is when it hurts that we start really giving and investing in others. That’s when we go beyond and give more than has been given to us.
I love JFK’s words, “Seek not what your country can do for you, but rather seek what you can do for your country!” and we do so through our giving to the community. The thing is, do we give like the hen or like the hog? The measure of our giving is not in the gift, but in what we’ve got left after we’re done giving!
At our last leadership enhancement class at the station we broached the subject of micro-management vs hands-off leadership. It was enlightening to partake of Joko's analysis of the flaws in these opposite leadership styles. The conversation that platformed from it was also quite interesting. The deduction we came to was that micro-management eventually provoked the collapse of the leader, while the over hands-off approach provoked the collapse of the team.
At the end of the day though at least one question remains. Why is it that it is so difficult for us as humans to keep a proper balance between these two types of unproductive leadership?
I'd like to propose a possible answer: Fear.
I heard a counselor one time giving advice to the spouse of someone who had an inordinate tendency to control everything in their home. That particular person seemed to have the same issue with their employees at work. The counsellor advised that we should feel sorry for such people because they are plagued with fear. That made a lot of sense to me. Whether it is fear of failure, fear of displeasing, fear of the optics concerning their actions or fear of the opinion of others, it is the same animal she suggested. This type of fear causes us to lose confidence in others so we over manage. That same fear can also cause us to disengage, and that under a cloak of trust and overconfidence.
What is the solution then? As a possible answer, I'd like to offer parts of one one of my favorite poem, a poem that ponders on the dichotomies of everyday life: “If”, by Rudyard Kipling.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
As former President Franklin D Roosevelt said, “The only thing to fear, is fear itself.”
The recent attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh opened some old wounds in the Jewish community. Can the specter of ancient prejudices ever go away? Jews have never been openly persecuted in the United States but there was a time in the 50’s when Jews were not allowed within the upper echelon of society.
The ACLU (Anti-Defamation League), a century-old advocacy group for Jews and other people targeted by discrimination, found that 2017 saw a nearly 60 percent surge in reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States—which came on top of a 35 percent increase the year before.
Throughout the millennia, Jews have made efforts to assimilate in whatever country they have lived in. Today there are Jews all around the world. They are black, white, brown, and there are even blond hair blue-eyed Jews, but wherever they are persecuted, it is not because of the color of their skin, but because of their appurtenance to the Jewish community. Even Christian-Jews who remain culturally Jewish, are sometimes prejudiced from the general Christian community as has recently happened to me in Estacada OR, the town where I live. The irony is that a Christian Jew is often also rejected by the Jewish community, as I have also experienced. Since it is therefore not a question of skin color nor of cultural groups, what is it then that causes these ancient prejudices to resurge?
Is it one’s personal philosophical worldview? Is it pride or a penchant towards hatred? Is it an extension of nationalism or patriotism? Is it Religion? I am a God-believing and God-fearing man. I have learned from History that religion has the power to make us love the “unlovely” but also to make us hate those different from us. I am not saying that religion is bad, but I am saying that when one’s religion or theology translates into prejudices against certain people groups who differ from his, it is a testament to how little of God that person owns.
If God is God, He is the God of all human beings made in His image and those of us who claim to represent Him need to do a better job at it. It is sad that today, we cannot promise that crimes related to religious-hatred will not happen again. May we ponder on these things during our celebration of Thanksgiving, a time when the survival of a small community came thanks to a people different than them, who accepted and helped them.
Every other week we get together at the station to discuss principles of leadership. We platform from a book written by former SEAL Jocko Willink called “THE DICHOTOMY OF LEADERSHIP”
Last Monday we were able to wrap-up our session with one of the quotes at the end of the first chapter. The quote lists certain dichotomies that leaders, at least wise leaders, face. He mentions that a leader must know when to lead and when to follow; that he must be confident without being cocky; that he might sometimes need to be aggressive in his style, while still remaining cautious. What we seem to get from that is that the essence of wisdom comes from the balance conceived in the fight between two extremes.
Even the founding fathers of America have created a system of government where every branch checks the other out. None can work without the input and the agreement of the other. The founding fathers of America adopted this system of check and balances in order to limit anyone’s power by forcing them to work with opposing factions. They did that in full historical knowledge of man’s temptation to always push the boundaries of his permitted leadership.
Taking the imagery of opposing forces bringing balance, our own physiology has much to teach us. We as humans tire to always stand upward. We tire in that position because the earth’s gravity always pulls us down. We have to fight and consume energy in order just to stand but this very fight is what strengthens our muscles. Thus the fight against opposing forces strengthens us.
Life is a constant struggle. We struggle with finances and with health, but we also struggle trying to bring our dreams to pass, as well as our projects and our work. In these, we might feel that we always fight against opposing forces, but as we do, may we remember that these opposing forces are our “friendly foes”, so to speak, enemies that make us stronger and wiser.
I was trying to explain to one of my Bible students the principle behind the following statement by Paul, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom 7:15) I then remembered the story of two wolves that I had heard in the movie, The Matrix. The story is actually an old Cherokee Indian tale.
We all want to the right thing, the altruistic thing, the loving thing, and the caring thing, but our natural selfish and egocentric nature seems to always get in the way. In order to explain this principle, I described what the old Cherokee said in the story when a child asked him, “Why do people fight?” The old Indian answered, “We all have two wolves inside us, There is a white wolf and a black wolf. These wolves are constantly fighting each other. The black wolf is filled with fear, anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The white wolf is filled with peace, love, hope, courage, humility, compassion, and faith. They battle constantly”. The child then asked, “But which wolf wins?”. The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that we feed.”
There is another twist to the story. The black wolf may sometimes deceive us into feeding him by pretending he is a white wolf. He might even convince us that white is black and black is white. With time, we may tend to believe it. As Thomas Paine said, “A long habit of not thinking something is wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right!”
And what is the moral of the story? It is important for us to know who we feed in us. Do we feed our natural animalistic instinct that leads us towards a spirit of fear, anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance? Or do we feed our God-given ability to promote peace, love, hope, courage, humility, compassion, and faith?
We are the ones who hold the key because we are the ones who hold the food box through our media intake, our inner thoughts, and the company we keep. These two wolves do eat different food and we need to make sure to feed the right one as it is the strongest of the two who will rule over our lives.
If you appreciate these articles, support their upcoming publication in a book called, "REFLECTIONS OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN"