This dollar bill was handed to me as change the other day. Stamped across Timothy Geithner’s name are the red words TAX CHEAT. It’s a reference to the fact that “investigators discovered that Geithner owed $35,000 in back taxes from unpaid social security taxes, which he repaid only after he learned that he was to be nominated. At the time, his critics questioned whether someone with this record of tax avoidance should oversee the Internal Revenue Service.” (Forbes 1/17/13) Clearly someone was making not only a political statement, but a statement about integrity.
It’s no wonder that Americans are losing confidence in their government. USA Today recently reported that more than half see government as a threat to their freedom. Consider the recent list of government representatives doing one thing but saying another:
The new normal is to expect hypocrisy and a lack of integrity in our elected leaders. That’s really sad. Join me in a call to honor and value integrity in our elected leaders. Make INTEGRITY your new political battle cry.
Monday, October 29th found me in Nyack, NY waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. As the day went on, the wind picked up, the chimney in the old brick house I was in along the Hudson River rumbled, and the trees swayed. Power went off twice that afternoon and each time came back on within 20 minutes. At 6 pm the power went off – the wind started screaming and howling, the trees bent to the ground, and Sandy was here. I taught the group in a circle of candlelight. When a power substation or transformer would blow, we’d watch through the windows as blue balls of flame and light illuminated the dark and stormy skies. Only then could we see the ferocious wind bending trees to the ground. The light show over, we would turn back to the discussion. At 10 pm, I slid into a bed in the third story of the house as the hurricane roared. Tuesday morning we woke to trees downed on power lines, uprooted along the river, and I found myself grateful for the protection God had provided. When I was able to get out to the Newark airport on Thursday, the power was still off at the house on the river.
This was one of those years in our lives when the trials and struggles felt much like a hurricane. As the winds of the storm batter our lives, we find the grace of God in the midst of it all. In April my father went home to be with Jesus and we spent the summer helping my mother, who has dementia, move into assisted living. Our daughter’s inoperable brain tumor spawned side effects around the same time, and the force of the hurricane winds seemed unending. But God was faithful in the midst of it all, with many answered prayers.
Over this year, we have felt our priorities shifting. Dan Webster, founder of Authentic Leadership, has been a strong influence in my life and and he says: “A lack of quiet in a man or woman’s life slowly leads to a condition of soul insanity. There are things that God does in the heart of a leader that only get done in quiet.” So I have decided to take a “sabbatical” from December 14th –January 9th. In order for me to be able to slow down, reflect, and relax, I will not be checking work email during that time period, nor answering any phone calls. In fact, because I anticipate over 2500 emails when I return, I’ll simple delete them all and start over. I suspect that making that commitment is the only way I’ll not be tempted to check email.
We are thankful for God’s real and loving presence in the midst of this year and are grateful for all we have experienced and been given. We pray that you will trust God for holy courage as you experience the storms of life. He is faithful.
I got a card in the mail today from my mom. It brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. She has dementia and after Dad’s passing in April, we moved her to an assisted living facility this summer. She was so confused when we moved her that she didn’t understand her new place was even an apartment.
I went back to see her in October and she had a wreath on the door she had made and a pumpkin on her TV she had painted. She had friends she walked with each day. She was doing well.
When this card arrived, I could tell she had made it at craft class. I haven’t gotten a letter from Mom in over two years. She wrote a brief note telling me about making the card and that she missed seeing me.This card is proudly displayed on my refrigerator. Every time I see it, I’m reminded that she’s doing OK.
Mom used to hang my art work on her refrigerator. I’m privileged and honored to be here to care for her as she ages. That’s what family is all about – loving and caring for each other.
I took the MBTI many years ago and scored as an INFJ. I was really close to the P, though, so I often demonstrate the characteristics of both judging and perceiving. As indicated by this type, I have a unique ability to tune out my environment and focus on one thing. This got me in big trouble in college.
I had been selected to be an RA in the dorm at the University of Evansville. At the end of the first semester, my reviews by other students were terrible. They called me rude, stuck up, and insensitive. The stories they listed were often of my passing them in the hall way or on campus and never acknowledging them. I realized that I was so focused on whatever I was thinking about, that I was not perceiving my environment. I worked hard the next semester to change that tendency with good results. It was an early encounter with how I was wired and how it affected other people. Now I spend most of my time helping others understand themselves and their impact on others. But once in a while, I’m reminded that I can revert to old behavior.
The other day I was in the Grassland Post Office. After mailing the packages, I came out and hit the clicker to open my 4-Runner’s doors. As I stood at the driver side door, I thought it strange that I hadn’t heard the locks unlock , but they were clearly unlocked so I hopped in and put my key in the ignition. It wouldn’t turn. I pulled on the steering wheel a little and it still wouldn’t turn. Frustrated, I got my phone out to call the Toyota dealer and find out what my options were. Right about then, I heard a woman’s voice say, “Are you in my car?” Suddenly all the little things I should have noticed came rushing into my field of vision – flip flops on the passenger side floor, a cat seat, and no big brush bumper on the grill. I’d gotten in the wrong car! My 4 Runner – same year, model, and color – was parked two spaces over. Embarrassed, I apologized profusely and slunk away, got in my car and drove off.
Once again, my focus had so narrowed that I didn’t observe or pay attention to any of the small things that would have saved me a lot of embarrassment. But it was a great reminder that I can fall back into behavior that could negatively impact those around me. I’m practicing my observation skills and reminding myself that relationships are more important than to-do lists.
Why do we call back numbers who don’t leave a voicemail?
I made a telephone call recently and when I got an answering machine, I realized I’d dialed the wrong number. I hung up, dialed correctly, and had a great conversation. About 20 minutes later, the phone rang and a woman asked: “Did you call 615-202-xxxx?” I explained that I had realized my mistake when I heard her answering machine and hung up. She then hung up on me.
I’ve come up with three reasons why we call back unknown numbers:
1) In our information deluged society, we fear we’ve missed something important, so we call back to make sure we are ‘in the loop”.
2) Curiosity gets the better of us.
3) We can’t stand not knowing who tried to call us.
I’ve made a commitment not to call back numbers that don’t leave a message. If it was important, they’ll make sure they connect with me. Why do you think we have this compulsion to return phone calls when they don’t leave a message and we have no idea who they were?
Last night NPR called me a “low knowledge” voter. They might as well have used the word “stupid” or “unintelligent”. The commentators were reviewing Paul Ryan’s speech, and reviewing the many “falsehoods” it contained. NPR pointed out that he criticized President Obama for inaction on the Bowles/Simpson commission report. Fox News had interviewed Ryan who said he voted against Bowles Simpson because it didn’t address entitlements. NPR also pointed out that Ryan criticized the closing of a plant in Janesville, WI and blamed Mr. Obama, even though the plant had closed under President Bush. Ryan in his interview on Fox acknowledged the closing under Bush, but said candidate Obama had stood in the plant and promised it would be open for 100 years with the help of the government.
NPR’s analysis was so strongly one-sided that they said the only people Ryan’s speech would appeal to would be “low knowledge voters” – those who didn’t bother to analyze the issues. One commentator even said that if you wanted to counteract Paul Ryan’s case on Medicare to these voters you would need to simply say he intended to abolish Medicare. Which, of course, is not Ryan’s latest proposal on Medicare.
I have made it a habit to listen to both NPR and Fox News. I get two very different perspectives on issues and then have the opportunity to weigh the information I’ve heard. I used to teach a class on critical thinking at Belmont University and have written a book on the topic. I make it a practice to look at both sides of an issue, explore the facts, then run my analysis through my values and make a decision. My values include fiscal responsibility. That is the piece NPR is missing. That any voter could actually be intelligent and vote for Romney/Ryan seems to be beyond their comprehension.
During the Juan Williams debacle in 2010, NPR was accused of not being objective. They asked for listeners to share with them times they hadn’t presented both sides of a story. In one segment, a listener joined them and shared his perspective of their biased journalism, and the interviewer couldn’t wrap his brain around the concept that he hadn’t been fair.
Last night NPR not only was blatantly pro-Obama and offensive , they lacked integrity. If they claim to be objective, they should walk the talk. Giving both sides of the story would have been the right thing to do. Take it from a “high knowledge” voter.
Last week I told you the story about my insensitivity in telling a story about being late to a woman who was late for unavoidable purposes. I had feared she might have taken it wrong and that wasn’t my intention. After I emailed her about my concerns – she sent me this story.
“I recently met with a networking contact, an established leader. I was right on time, and he was there waiting for me. I casually asked what time he had gotten there and it was 30 minutes earlier. He went on to say that earlier in his career he had met regularly with an established leader, and every time he arrived, that person was already there. He would come earlier and earlier, but could not beat this other person to the meeting place. He finally asked, and that person said that he would never be beaten. It was his way of showing respect. I thought that was such a picture of a leader with humility, besides all the practical reasons for being early rather than late.”
I love her story – and being early does indeed embody humility. We put ourselves second in order to make sure we honor the person we are with when we arrive early. If we can do it for an airplane, how much more should we do it for someone we either want to develop a relationship with or someone we already have a relationship with. It’s all about integrity.
I teach and coach emotional intelligence for leaders. That implies that I’m really good at it – and the truth is sometimes I am, and sometimes I’m not. Yesterday morning was one of the “not” days. I had an 8 am appointment and the woman was late due to traffic issues. She sent me a message and let me know she was running behind. Since I had a 9 am appointment at another location, by the time she arrived, we only had about 20 minutes. As I was preparing to leave, she made a comment about not making me late to my next meeting. Then, in a complete lack of awareness of how she might interpret the story, I told her a story about a summit I’d just returned from.
About half way through the summit, when many people were returning to their seats late from breaks, the very well respected leader took the stage and told us that any time we were late we were disrespecting the other person. Being late was a way of saying, “My agenda is more important than yours.” He did it in a very respectful and caring manner, but still got the point across. It is unacceptable to be late – and it’s a matter of integrity. I shared this story with the woman I’d met, never once thinking about the fact that she might think I was aiming the story at her. That’s a lack of emotional intelligence. I only thought about it 10 minutes later.
I’ve since connected with her and made sure she knew of my lapse in EI and that the story was in no way intended to send a message to her. So I gained two lessons – not to be late, and a reminder once again to think before I speak. Maybe one day I’ll get better at this EI thing.
I am so proud of our granddaughter for making a hard call. She was working for a day care agency, caring for infants. The agency was cutting corners to a point where she believed there were safety issues. An infestation of ants went untreated and she kept finding them in the diaper cabinet. Rugs in the facility had shredded backing, putting the infants at risk of choking. Her repeated requests to deal with these issues went unanswered. Finally one day, an infant playing on a rug, put a piece of the rug backing in her mouth and choked. Our granddaughter responded immediately and the baby was OK. But the daycare agency asked her to sign a report that lied about the incident. She refused and said she would stay late if she had to and let the parent know the truth about what happened. That took courage. For the following week, she was harassed by her supervisor – making her work environment difficult – and so she quit.
Today she joins thousands of other young people on the job market – but she takes with her the knowledge that she stood up for what was right and kept her integrity. She joins the ranks of integrity fanatics.
On our recent vacation, we flew through the Milwaukee airport. After going through security, we spotted what they call the “recombobulation area”. It’s the place where you
- Put your belt back on
- Put on and tie your shoes
- Put your wallet back in a pocket
- Get your laptop back in it’s case
- And put your jacket back on.
Most people end up feeling a little discombobulated after being screened. So it was great to see the airport had a sense of humor and provided an area where you can get it all together again.
When your life takes a tumble , or you are just are worn out from the cares of this world, you need a recombobulation areas in your life. As we stress out over work, as we are stripped of our dignity by others, as we start to question who we are and why we do what we do, spending time in quiet helps us pick up the pieces and put them back together again.
My recombobulation area is a small table at a downstairs window that looks out over a variety of bird feeders in our back yard. Time with the Lord, in prayer and journaling – where I can look up and see the beauty of His creation – makes all the difference in how I approach the world. It keeps me whole and helps me maintain my integrity.
“A lack of quiet in a leader’s life leads to soul insanity.” –Dan Webster