If I can feel Your music this morning
I can get a taste of Your infinite beauty
Maybe with these senses I will see
A glimpse of You here beside me
And my mouth will say the words
With the melody of Your song
Lifted with the voices of others
In a chorus of love proclaimed strong
Father, great and good Father, welcome
Welcome to this place and in my heart
Make the room You wish and must
That Your stay be a pleasurable part
Of my humble offering to my King
Which includes these simple declarations
And a swiftness to correct my wrong
That I may experience You lifelong
If I can feel Your music this morning
Note: Sometimes I write about parenting and relationships. I have to say that most of my thoughts are from observation and study, as well as from the perspective of a son, since I don’t have any children of my own at the moment. I say this because I want to avoid a common response people have when reading a single or even a few posts on a topic: thinking its gospel truth.
It’s an opinion and a perspective that still needs individual contextualizing and application. I don’t believe that one has to be in a relationship to have wisdom about it, just as I don’t believe only married people understand marriage, or parents understand parenting. If that were the case, why are we taking the word of Jesus, and if you argue He is in a relationship with the church “His bride”, then what about Paul, who is responsible for much of what we believe about the topics.
The point is wisdom, if wisdom at all, is wisdom no matter what the source. The tricky part is discerning what is truly wise. That’s why don’t be a lazy thinker and do your part: Study. Besides, no matter how dumb a point can be, is there always some insight, if not even some entertainment, to be found. This is why it’s good to remain open minded.
I think two of the most important and fulfilling gifts (among many important gifts) parents can give their adult sons and daughters are freedom and unfailing love. And by “adult” I include teenagers as they should be acting like adults with responsibilities and accountabilities by this point. If they’re teenagers or older but not acting like adults, they’re not adults as adulthood is more about character than a number. (I don’t know why people think there “should be” this teenage period that we’re allowed to waste because it’s a normal stage. Why waste the time that life is made of?) If supposedly adult sons and daughters don’t understand the importance and reality of responsibility and accountability then that’s a big problem, and I would not advise treating a non-adult as an adult no matter how old he is. Keep in mind we do them no favors by not having allowed them to develop.
To give someone freedom means to allow someone to live as they see fit, to allow them to meet the opportunity and challenge of choices, and to make their own decisions. This means they are free to reap the rewards of their decisions – but also the consequence of their mistake – which can be very serious. Now of course this doesn’t mean letting them do “everything”. Even as you let them enjoy freedom, they still need to understand that “our freedom ends where the freedom of others begins” meaning we still live in community, and to preserve the harmony of that community, we must govern our personal freedom, if not internally (through love, kindness, self-control, etc.), than externally (through governments and laws). This means that we have the power to hurt others, but that also means they have the power to hurt us. This means we’re free to be selfish but they are free to be selfish towards us as well. Freedom doesn’t make things right or wrong, it only means it’s possible for you to choose the route and reap its consequences. This also means that we have the freedom not to choose God but that also means He has the freedom to accept our choice.
A great example of a wise father granting freedom is the story of The Prodigal Son. The Father accepted what the son wanted even if it hurt them both in the process. (I just want to note, again, this is an adult son who thought he knew what he wanted. Also, this son had the guts to move out. The worst is someone who wants the freedom, is too weak to move out, yet still feels entitled to living like a prince or princess.) God didn’t try to prevent a disaster. He knew, that if his son’s heart was like that, the disaster was just a matter of time. I think too much parenting these days are extremes of disaster prevention and disaster neglection. Too much disaster prevention can lead to stifling, which is a disaster in itself. Too much disaster neglecting can lead to… well… Disaster. Either extreme, you have a disaster.
The Bible says to train up a child in the way he should go. What does the word “train” mean? It means to lead forth. Parenting is leadership. It is influencing and serving our sons and daughters in a way that they, out of their own decision-making, choose to do what’s right. It is not merely disaster prevention and it definitely isn’t disaster neglecting.
Training them, and then giving them the freedom to strengthen their own decision-making is important. It’s like how mother Eagles are said to push their babies out of the best to learn how to fly. I’m convinced many people are weak today because their parents didn’t push them out to fly, and worse, encouraged them NOT to risk falling. One cannot fly without risking falling. The funny thing about this is, when one who soars falls to the ground, he lands where those who never flew have been all along. At the very least, the guy who flew, experienced the sky, even if briefly, which is better than someone who knows only dirt.
This leads me to my 2nd gift: unfailing love. Part of soaring is falling and unfailing love is the best fall back. Think about it, when a child learns to walk, he will inevitably stumble, his legs have yet to develop the strength and technique needed to walk effortlessly. What more when a young person who is trying to navigate the the outside real world (assuming they were given the freedom to go out in the first place)? They will most probably stumble more than a little bit. For someone who has the guts to reach for greater heights, his chances of falling and falling hard are even more likely. People ask, why do great men fall so greatly? My answer is: because they’re the only ones who can (only those who have reached great heights can fall from great heights) and it’s the only way they can (when you’re flying high that’s the starting point of your fall). Knowing how to deal with failure, especially great failure, is not just a survival technique but a success requirement for imperfect people wanting to achieve beyond themselves.
To have the confidence that someone will love you no matter what brings confidence to dare, to try, and not give up. Just like a parent will encourage their baby to walk, to try, to stand up again, encouraging him with words like “That’s ok. Dad is here. One more step.” Parents can provide that support even as they encourage their children to take more steps in ways they have not done in the past.
I like the analogy of a walking child for a few reasons. One lesson is this: A parent cannot learn to walk for a child. A child has to learn this skill on his own. Another lesson is: A parent cannot carry his child forever nor walk for his child. The child has to walk on his own if he is to go far. And a third lesson: Despite not being able to walk or learn to walk for his child, a parent can still provide encouragements, strength, and guidance for the child that’s both learning a skill and gaining the strength to execute that skill.
Many times, when I’m talking to young people, I am saddened by the weakness of the character someone reinforced in them, most of the time unknowingly, by emphasizing the fear of failing, pain, discomfort, and embarrassment, or by crushing them and tearing them down with words and actions thinking that’s the best way to “toughen” them up. You don’t build something by never laying the first stone (out of fear of things not working) neither by tearing it down (through lack of love). What fear and harshness produces is a discouraged person or a hardened person, both of which are bad for society.
No one learns without risking these things. No child walks without falling. We don’t learn how to ride a bike without a few scratches and scrapes. The complications of life can be even more daunting. We reinforce fears by framing every failure as “ultimate failures” and permanent consequences. While I agree there are some things that cannot be undone, one does not have to remain defined by past mistakes. Parents can take the lead in framing every failure as a learning opportunity, a bond strengthening activity, and a chance to reinforce the principles of forgiveness, mercy, faith, hope, redemption, humility, perseverance, and whole bunch of other important values that many times are best taught during low points. I myself have had to work hard to block out comments people have said regarding my failures and mentally reframe them as motivation to fight harder and do better next time. By keeping unfailing love available, partners create a safe place for broken wings to mend that they may heal to become stronger than before, and that their owners may soar once more.
The goal is for sons and daughters is to thrive and someday grow into the adults who help others thrive. The goal is not sanitation nor to survive with the least scratches. Nothing will thrive if it is suffocated – even if the suffocation is well-meaning. You cannot choke the life out of something with a burden of expectations and expect it to flourish. Also, nothing will thrive without the attention and care that love brings.
In short, parenting is a tough job, not so much because it means having a lot of responsibility (though that can be difficult too), but more because it’s probably the most selfless example humans have of what it takes to have a thriving community: People who daily choose to overcome their limitations and fears to provide a better future for another, even as they are prepared to embrace that same person when he or she fails, simply because they are loved.
One of the most rewarding things about work is developing people. While I believe that financial rewards are important (people have to survive and thrive), fulfilling a shared purpose is a greater reward for a successful career. This being said, it isn’t easy to develop people. Development is not something we command out of people (unless your in the military maybe). When dealing with more creative and intelligent people, you need to be able to appeal not just to the strength of positional authority but the mind and heart as well, which Jim Collins calls Level 5 leadership.
A level 5 leader has the qualities of the first 4 levels he identified, which are: Highly Capable Individual (able to do job), Contributing Team Member (helps team succeed), Competent Manager (organize groups to achieve specific goals), and Effective Leader (able to galvanize group to achieve a great vision), PLUS a unique blend of will and humility that’s necessary to truly be great. There are a lot of people with strong wills and a lot of people with humility but it’s the rare blending of these two that in a person who has the capabilities and management skills that make level 5 leaders rare.
My honest assessment of myself after reading about this concept was: NEEDS GREAT AND IMMEDIATE IMPROVEMENT. Since then I have been looking for new ways to lead and achieve, that not only get things done, but also develops the necessary trait of humility in me.
I came up with the following framework to explain the importance of personal humility, it’s logic, and benefit to the teams I work with. It’s not original in the sense that I draw from things other people have taught me. One of the benefits of not being brilliant is that I’ve had to develop ways to simplify things in order to make sense of anything. I just couldn’t understand stuff as quickly, as deeply, or as broadly as others. I needed it in a simple format just like I needed lines on the sheets I wrote on. This has actually becoming sort of a strength, the ability to make an idea simple enough to understand and execute, and has been beneficial for working with others effectively.
Let me take you through it:
1. Let’s start with a PROBLEM.
Problems are opportunities in disguise. Knowing this, our job shouldn’t be to avoid problems but to wisely uncover them for the gem they’re hiding.
2. Problems have 2 common causes: Lack of Clarity of Objective and Incompetence
– LACK OF CLARITY OF OBJECTIVE
What’s the goal? What’s our purpose? Why are we doing this? These are some questions that need to be answered in order to align on an objective. Many of our problems are caused by a disagreement in objectives or a miscommunication of the objectives. Having different objectives, even if it’s by mistake, will lead to a gap between results and expectations. Failed expectations cause problems.
Are we capable of achieving the objective? Setting an objective is one thing. Setting the right objective is another. Achieving the set objective is a completely different thing. Setting a goal is important but having the abilities, resources, and intelligence to make it happen, and actually making it happen are critical. Many problems arise not from not knowing what to do but from not being able to do what we know we should.
3. Let’s start with Lack of Clarity. We’re left with a few options:
– I need to change (in this case, I need a clearer picture of the objective)
– They need to change (they need a clearer picture of the objective)
– We both need to change (we need a clearer picture of the objective)
4. If we choose the 3rd option (We need to change), we’re back with options 1 and 2.
5. Whether we choose “I” or “They”, we’re left with 2 options: “Change” or “Don’t “Change”.
4. If we choose “Don’t Change” we’re left with the following options:
– I suffer. (Because the problem hasn’t been addressed)
– They suffer. (Again, because the problem hasn’t been addressed)
– I let go. (Meaning I leave the company, the group, or the situation that’s in a problem)
– They let go. (Meaning they leave or they let me go)
6. Choosing the options that include “Let Go” can only lead to the end of the engagement or a dead end. Choosing the option of “Suffer” leads us back to problems.
7. Choosing problems leads us back to the start of our decision-making process.
8. But if we choose to change, and we can truly only change ourselves, we improve and this leads to progress.
9. The process is the same for problems stemming from incompetence.
This simple way of tracing the decisions and end-results shows us that having an attitude that is willing to improve is important for progress.
Why would anyone not want to progress? I don’t think it’s so much the idea of progress that people don’t like but the risk of not benefitting from it that holds us back. This is selfish and stems from our own self-importance, which is simply pride. When we put our interests first, particularly our own validation and security, we will inevitably cause the roadblocks that prevent the success of others and ultimately our own success. If everyone has to change but we don’t then the people who keep progressing will outgrow us. If no one progresses in the organization then competition and modernization will beat us. But if we set an example of true humility that constantly learns, grows, stays open, and isn’t defensive, the hope of progress remains alive.
This is why, along with empathy and grit, I’m adding humility to the list of most important traits of a great leader. There’s just no way to progress without it during our tenures and beyond.
Humility is a highly logical assurance for never stagnating and never becoming obsolete.