If you are jerk, you better be good at what you do

There is an old line in business that goes something like this, “If you are a jerk to others, you better be good at what you do.” The corollary to this is once the value of what you do diminishes, you will likely be given your walking papers. Colleagues and bosses won’t have to tolerate your being mean if you don’t add value.

So, when elected officials, business leaders, and public figures are mean to folks, they better be good at what they do. Saying this bluntly, you better not act like a jerk and an idiot, as well. If you do, then you find yourself persona non grata.

The best term for treating others well is you create goodwill. Goodwill helps you through when you make mistakes or mess-up. Your goodwill will grease the skids for forgiveness or glean a helping hand. The person who is mean to folks will get fewer opportunities for forgiveness and help. Goodwill takes time to build, but it can be easily destroyed.

I think back on Johnson and Johnson who had this terrible incident where someone was unscrewing the bottle tops of Tylenol in stores and poisoning them. J&J’s goodwill helped them, but they also immediately sprang into action and invented the now common internal seal to bottles. Now, customers would know the bottles were tampered with. Their goodwill and compassionate fast action saved the brand and lives.

You need to look no further than the swift demise of British Prime Minister Liz Truss. She started out being consdescending and short with reporters who asked questions. Then a series of poor decisions required backtracking and eventual blame that was shifted to a colleague before he was fired. As of this writing, Truss’ party has given up on her.

Or, you could pick out several of Trump sycophants here in the states who are both mean-spirited and less than competent in their rhetoric and governance. This would include the head of the Trump party, as well. From a number of books by insiders, the former president tends to be mercurial in behavior, so people walked on eggshells around him.

One of the things I detest is smugness, basically bullying people into submission with a condescending tone. This is a style that the creator of Fox News, Roger Ailes, sought out in his opinion hosts – ones who could have as a guest a subject matter expert with an alternative view and beat the hell out of them.* If you don’t allow the other person to speak, the host would lay claim of victory, when in fact all he or she did was not allow counter-argument. It is interesting to me, that Ailes asked Roger Stone who he knew from the Nixon days, to help him recruit Donald Trump to run for president.

So, be mean if you want to, but if you are, then you better be very good at what you do. Yet, even if you are very good, people may still vote with their feet and avoid you or leave. And, that may make the mean person’s job a little harder.

*Note: This was the premise of the movie “The Loudest Voice” starring Russell Crowe as Ailes, based on an unsolicited biography penned by one of Ailes’ right-hand men.

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There are many times I feel we need to return to kindergarten for some key lessons in behavior. These poor teachers have to deal with five-year-olds in larger numbers than a regular day care class would contain. The rules of behavior are likely written on the walls in large colored print and repeated often as a mantra and when needed.

With too many folks following the lead of childish acting politicians (we all know who they are and even their fans know), we have lost the ability to have civil discourse and amicably disagree. So, class, let’s join together with Ms. Johnson or Ms. Jones or Mr. Thompson and repeat the following:

Treating others like you want to be treated is often called a Golden Rule

Threatening folks who disagree with you is not good behavior, nor is it wise

Promoting violence to resolve perceived or real problems is unlawful

Rationalizing lies is the same as lying – sometimes these folks are worse as we know the liar is lying

Denigrating classes of people because they seem different is mean and shortsighted

As I have said many times before, Alan Turing, a gay man shortened WWII by two years and saved 750,000 lives per Dwight D. Esienhower – what if he had been arrested and jailed for committing gay acts which was unlawful in Great Britain at the time?

Dr. Vivian Thomas, an African-American man helped develop a procedure in the middle of the Jim Crow era to save the lives of babies dying from poor blood flow, called “Blue Babies” – some doctors at Johns Hopkins did not want him in the operating room; what if he was denied the ability to practice?

The Tuskegee Airmen, consisting of African-American pilots, were at first not allowed to fly combat missions during WWII. So, they practiced and practiced honing their skills. They got so good, bomber pilots began asking for the Tuskegee Airmen to protect their planes. Something about putting your life on the line does that to people.

Katherine Johnson received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her contribution to America’s Space Race, as the first woman and African-American to work in a room full of white male mathematicians who guided the space effort.

Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn have penned the difficult to read “Half the Sky” about the maltreatment of women and girls around the world. Treating women like chattel is not only wrong it is economically short-sighted as these communities are competing in a world with only half their assets. Women hold up “half the sky” per a Chinese proverb.

I mention these five examples out of many others as contributions to our planet and country have been made by all kinds of people. If we allowed bigoted perceptions to unduly restrict, criticize and denigrate these folks to the point that they were not allowed to function, the world would be a different place. It matters not how warply twisted and seemingly self-righteous one’s cause, treating people like you want to be treated is still a mainstay of the Christian and other religions. It is a sin to do otherwise at least how I read it.

We must allow civil discourse. We must give people opportunity. We must not denigrate them or their efforts. And, we must not tolerate those who do the opposite of those things to certain people, especially those who are elected officials. To be brutally frank, an elected official has no business conducting themselves in this way. If they do, they need to resign or forced to resign. Full stop. This is especially true when you have more extremists that follow their lead not knowing these folks are just spouting BS to get elected.

Two Proverbs I find of interest – a reprise

The following is a reprise of an earlier post. The gist is in bold. Please know as I mention below, all religious text is imperfect and biased as the passages were written and edited almost entirely by imperfect men.

A definition of a proverb that I find most telling is “a simple and concrete saying.” If we could be so communicative every day on matters of import, what a more wonderful place it would be. While we have English, Chinese, Hindu, Italian, Greek, American et al proverbs, I wanted to pull a couple from Proverbs in the Christian bible that resonate with me.

From Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

I have often said that God gave us a brain, which in and of itself is a miracle. To not use it, would be a waste of a glorious resource and would dishonor Him. King Solomon, who is known for his wisdom, uttered the quoted proverb above. He said “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” People pray for a miracle, but often they have the ability to take steps to solve their own problems, if they thought about it more. In fact, I would suggest we pray that God give me the wisdom to determine for myself what needs to be done. And, if I cannot do so myself, I should pray for wisdom to find good help.

Some religions do not want to use current doctors or medicines to cure their family members. To my way of thinking, this is an insult to God and even arrogant, as the miracle you are praying for to cure your loved one may be the one standing in front of you wearing the doctor’s clothes and holding the iPad. I am truly saddened when I see a young person die because they are denied help based on a religious belief. Modern medicine is a miracle and we should use it judiciously at the hands of a capable doctor.

From Proverbs 8:11 – “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all things one may desire, cannot be compared with her.”

I like this quote as well, as God is instructing us to value wisdom more than personal possessions. He is encouraging us to become learned and cherish our wisdom. Coupling these two quotes together to me says, continue to seek instruction to gain wisdom and value it once obtained. I mention this, as in our country, we have an ultra-conservative group of people who are not valuing science like they should. The reason is it is conflict with our limited understanding of what the bible is telling us. When data flies directly in the face of what the bible is telling us, it does not mean the science is wrong, it means when the bible was written by men, they did not have the advanced knowledge of science we have today. In the Jewish faith, one of the reasons shellfish and pork are unclean as people were dying from the spoiled or bacteria infested meat for medical reasons, not biblical ones.

My point is we should not substitute what exists in the bible for science, no more than we should substitute science for a person’s faith. We believe because we do. I personally recognize a number of inconsistencies, but I also hold true to the good that is represented in the bible. But, before people jump all over me about the bible being a strict interpretation of God’s word and will, I would ask a simple question – have you really read all of the bible? Including the parts the ministers don’t talk much about that show a fearsome God.

There is an old saying “if you want to create an Atheist, have them read the bible.” There was actually a study done a couple of years ago by Pew Research; the conclusion is Atheists know the bible better than Christians do. If someone wants to read the bible, I would suggest they start with the New Testament and add in a little Proverbs and Psalms. Reading it start to finish will not be as comforting.

With that said, I would add that Atheists also know the bible differently. There are many things therein which are more parable than fact. Jesus often taught us using parables and often used agrarian ones because of his audience. Further, the bible was written, edited, translated and rewritten several times by men, who even if divinely inspired, were imperfect and who wrote in different languages and long after certain events happened. The gospels were written between 30 and 75 years after Jesus walked the earth. They were also men, so their biases are reflected therein. There are many good teachings in the bible, just as there are a few things that are not as applicable anymore and some which should be set aside.

God gave us a wonderful brain and we should use it to the best of our abilities. He did so as He wants us to think for ourselves. We have done and can do so many wonderful things to help people and advance our lives. Let’s pray we use our wisdom for the greater good. And, let’s treat others like we want to be treated.

That is what I believe. I would welcome your thoughts and impressions.

There are no caveats – a mantra from a help-oriented church

We were catching up with an old friend whose wife had passed away earlier this year. He is a devout man who sings in the choir of his Baptist church. His church is not an evangelical church as he notes their mantra is “God loves everyone.” He added, “there are no caveats.”

As evidence of their mantra, his choir will be singing with a LGBTQ+ choir at an upcoming event. I think this is very cool. It is a big tent approach to sharing their faith. They are walking the talk so to speak.

As further evidence, a charitable organization I was involved with has benefited greatly from working with this church. The organization helps homeless working families to get over a rough patch and place them in housing with a temporary subsidy and social worker support. The church provides space for the administrative staff of the organization and one of its shelters which can house seven families until they get placed.

In my advocacy work with churches for this organization seeing churches who focus on outreach to those in need is a joy to see. I have seen exemplars like this one. I have also seen some that are not so organized. That is unfortunate.

To me, there is a psychic income to helping others. The giver gets as much good out of the encounter as the recipient. So, when I see churches focus on being exclusive, it makes me sad. Using the Bible as a weapon to divide does not serve its mission very well. Using it to invite and connect with people is a far better message. The same goes for other religious texts. Inclusion is a much better sales approach than exclusion.

We should remember our desires as humans are the same regardless of religion – love and raise our families in a safe environment where we can feed, clothe and house them. That is the mission we should enable. Remember, there are no caveats.

Christianity without Jesus is an empty suit

John Pavlovitz is a minister who writes a blog that speaks to the key tenets of treating people like you want to be treated. He is not too keen on performance religion which is too closely aligned with politics. A recent blog called “Actual Followers of Jesus Don’t Want Conservatives’ Compulsory Christianity” is a good example of his work.

“There’s nothing more dangerous than professed Christians who have no real interest in Jesus. They’re rather easy to spot if you’re paying attention.

They’re usually the ones most loudly claiming things like religious liberty while methodically swallowing up the personal freedoms and elemental rights of other people.

They incessantly broadcast their devotion of God on their bumpers and bellies, while living antithetically to the compassionate heart of Jesus actually found in the Scriptures.

Their spirituality is largely performative: a showy firework display of culture war talking points and religious buzzwords that distracts from the truth that their lives are yielding almost nothing truly loving to anyone but people who agree with them on everything.

This blog caught my eye as the key tenets of Christianity surround that Jesus fellow. Absent that, Christianity is just an empty suit. Gandhi once said, he admired Jesus, it was just Christians he was not too keen on. I understand his point as too many ministers in our history had a fear-based ministry, rather than a love-based ministry.

Teaching people to fear the other is not inclusive. Religious scholars have noted Jesus probably spoke four languages. He needed one language for trade as a carpenter, as well as others to communicate as a Rabbi and to his followers. Where he preached and worked had numerous types of people. So, he spoke inclusively. It is a message we should emulate.

There is an old line that speaks the truth to me. If you want to create an atheist, have them read the old testament. In Pew surveys on religion, atheists did better on biblical quizzes than Christians did. If you want to reach more people with a message of love, start with the new testament. That is the part where Jesus’ words are found in red. Those are where the messages of love exist. I might throw in a few Psalms as well from the old side.

Treat others like you want to be treated. This rule of Jesus’ is so important it called “golden.” It is also found in other religious texts in one shape or another. Also, he threw in a few messages about taking care of your neighbor and the downtrodden. Nice words and actions he spoke and he followed. Those are among the words in red.

If you are not a Christian, the last paragraph can still offer governance of a good life. Maybe that is the beauty of what Jesus said. Something that can touch others. Inclusivity.

Check out the rest of this and other posts on johnpavlovitz.com.

A solicited prayer for all

I follow a young woman’s blog she calls the Christian Tech-Nerd. Recently, she offered several biblical based prayers for various events or challenges and invited readers to submit theirs. Here is one I submitted, which is less biblical and more on treating others like we want to be treated.

“Thanks for sharing. My prayer is our leaders, both religious and non-religious, can act and speak as if they are among our better angels and not our worst demons. To me, it is poor stewardship when they act and speak like we tell our kids not to. 

My prayer is we can civilly disagree with one another and not hold grudges if we cannot find agreement. My prayer is we can be the best version of ourselves and treat people like we want to be treated. We are an imperfect lot and we all sin. So, let’s not forget that and do our best to learn from our mistakes.

I recognize this is not a biblical prayer, I just feel we have lost our way and we need to act better than we are. Thanks for asking.”

This prayer seems to resonate with several folks. My thrust is on walking the talk. Words are easy. Actions are hard. As someone who has worked with religious volunteers to help people in need, those outreach people are where that Golden Rule lives. Those are the people we should be following, not a minister or elected official who is using their power to act like a bully to denigrate others.

Letter to the editor – concerns over attacks on others

I sent the following brief letter to my newspaper this weekend. It will likely go unprinted, but I want to share it with you in case you would like to modify and use. Maybe it will get printed somewhere.

Reading about the increase in verbal and physical attacks on LGBTQ+ citizens or the denigration of the rights of women or people of color concern me. This is especially troubling when it comes from people who espouse the teachings of Jesus. When he said treat others like you want to be treated, he offered no caveats. Full stop. If we would only follow that one rule, which is so important it is called “golden” and also appears in in other religious texts, we would be in a much better place with our civility. We have two ears and one mouth, we should use them in that proportion. We all deserve such treatment.

People died for our country to preserve the freedoms for all its citizens. That guy Jesus chose to spend most of his time speaking to and hanging out with the disenfranchised people in his time. We should remind ourselves why would they choose to do that. Our country has had fits and starts of trying to live up to our ideals. Yet, we should never stop trying to be the best version of ourselves.

Interesting quote about church going

Sometimes quotes come at you from surprising sources. The following quote comes from a good movie called “Burning Bodhi” about old friends grieving the sudden death of one of their own from an aneurysm. The character was from a God-fearing community in West Virginia with a number of churches. When asked if she went to church, her reply was priceless.

“Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than hopping into a garage makes you a car.”

The profound simplicity of that statement floored me. It also reveals the act of going to church is not as altruistic for everyone as it is for a group of truly devout people. Having grown up going to not only church, but Sunday school as well, I saw all kinds of people there. Just like in general society it was a collection of imperfect people with biases, faults, and sins.

There were good lessons to be learned as well as some that were not so good. This church had an excellent youth program called “Tell it like it is,” where young people could get excited about their faith. Yet, on the flip side the church eventually split in half over an argument regarding the overt nepotism of the pastor in hiring practices. I have seen churches and synagogues have active outreach programs even starting charities to help people in need, while I have also seen churches led by ministers whose ego and greed got the best them.

Having worked with church and synagogue leaders on outreach programs to help those in need, I have witnessed both sides of the coin as well. I have met the most wonderful and kindest people who want to help, but I have also witnessed some who were there for themselves, not the people in need. The charity has to be about helping people help themselves, not doing something that makes you feel good about yourself.

I am no longer a church going Christian, so many would not even call me such. I am imperfect just like everyone else, but I do feel we should walk the talk. I do feel it is more important to help people climb a ladder out of the hole they find themselves in. I do feel we should treat people like we want to be treated with no caveats. And, if a church leader does not espouse those things, I would suggest finding a different place to worship.

Wednesday wanderings on a spring day

It is certainly a great day to wander about, but I think I will mow the grass first. Mowing has always been a chore I don’t mind, as you can see your progress as you go. Plus, freshly cut grass has a fresh smell. Since I have a battery powered mower, I don’t have to worry about inhaling gas fumes.

As I mow or wander, I can do some good thinking. I find myself thinking about past events and friends, since some of the current day issues are puzzling at best. I read a post (it may have been Jill or Joy’s) that some celebrity said “act like a grown up” used to be an admonition to misbehaving children. Now, we have too many grown-ups that act like spoiled toddlers. Of course, when some stand firmly behind one of the biggest acting toddlers as a former and possible future presidential candidate, it truly shows how low we have fallen.

We have too many that forget there is a responsibility that comes with our liberties. When my freedom to do things could be harmful to your freedoms, then we must cease or reconsider those actions. The opposite should be true. It reminds me of the caution to the newly launched Spiderman, when his grandfather said “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our freedoms to do things that are not permissible in some countries is a great power. Yet, we must honor it, nurture it, protect it for all.

Some have taken reaction to actual or perceived offenses to an awful degree. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not entitle you to hurt, threaten or kill the other person. Full stop. Just because you cannot tolerate failure, does not entitle you to turn over the chess board, throw a tantrum, claim cheating or instigate an attack on a branch of government. Full stop. Just because you are in a position of authority does not entitle you to ignore the people you represent. A good leader listens to others. A foolish one does not. Full stop.

There are many old lessons that are getting ignored these days. A key one is if someone has to tell you how great he or she is, then maybe we should look a little deeper as to why he or she is having to tell us such. When a colleague was complaining about being removed from marketing to a prospective client, unsuccessfully over several years, he said “I have known John for twenty years.” The thought running through my head was “And, he has known you.”

Whether you are religious or not, in many religious texts is some variation of Jesus’ golden rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. Let’s be responsible to each other. Let’s be civil in our discourse. Let’s protect their freedoms like they were our own. Let’s try not to be blowhards and listen to each other. Spiderman’s grandpa has a good lesson for us all.

Build Bridges not Chasms – a redux

I wrote the following about ten years ago and repeated it a couple of years ago. I edited it some, but the message is still needed today. Please offer your thoughts and reactions.

The title is a quote I heard recently from a new hero of mine, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She was being interviewed on PBS Newshour about her book “My Beloved World.” She said we should “build bridges not chasms” which is a tremendous life lesson. This one resonates with me and echoes my admiration for the “dot connectors” in the world. It is also the serum for the toxic fever of chasm building our legislative and some religious leaders seem to be infected with.

Well, how do we go about living this lesson? How do we build bridges and not chasms?

– First, we should look for ways we are similar. While we remain diverse, as humans there our similarities that cross all faiths, ethnic groups and countries. We want a safe and secure future for ourselves, but especially for our children. When I look at various religions, I am not surprised by the common thread of the Golden Rule which permeates them.

– Second, find these common threads. When I walk into someone’s office or home, I search for common experiences. I look at pictures of children, diplomas displaying education, trophies or pictures of sports or activities, etc. What can I talk about that will connect us better? Also, I take delight in finding out a similar passion or story. The other day I learned of a similar passion to help the homeless people among us from an unexpected source. We are now sharing information, books, etc.

– Third, an old boss said, “you have two ears and one mouth” use them in that proportion. We cannot listen if we don’t hear. We need to know what people’s concerns are before we can begin to help them. We have far too many people who like to hear themselves talk. My wife is the best listener ever. As a result, people flock to her as she will listen to their issues, interests, aspirations and problems.

– Fourth, look for the opportunity to compliment someone or reinforce an action. I am not advocating false praise, but I am advocating a supportive word or gesture. When you step up to the counter to be served by the exhausted clerk who is doing the best he or she can when the boss understaffed a shift, you can make a world of difference by some acknowledgement of their tribulations.

– Fifth, along this same line, you can never thank people enough. We tell our kids “people don’t have to do anything for you.” So, when they do, you should thank them for it. And, mean it. Even in this Twitter, text, Facebook and email world, a call or handwritten note speaks volumes. Yet, use whatever media you prefer to say thanks.

– Sixth, an old colleague used to say “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Remember that and reach out. It is a low-key investment of time as it is not as intrusive as a meal. And, conversation will occur.

– Seventh, never hesitate to include others in meals or outings. Especially meals. If a friend of your child is over, ask them to stay. My wife and I made a conscious decision to have a house the kids like to come over to. Our kids love this. Their friends do as well as we make them feel welcome. Trust me on this. There is no greater sound on earth than hearing your children laughing.

– Eighth, laugh at yourself. Let me say this loud and clear, “you are not perfect.” Neither am I. So, be prepared to laugh at your mistakes and don’t be afraid to tell the stories. It will truly endear you. I found that my kids like me telling about the times I screwed up. We sometimes are in stitches. Why? Because they see it is OK to screw up. The world will not end. And, the old line is true, “laugh and the world laughs with you.”

– Ninth, LTFU. This is a pre-Twitter acronym. It stands for “Lighten the F**k Up.” We take ourselves too seriously. We make mountains out of very small mole hills. Many of the things we fret over are not that important. Trust me. Those folks that are reading texts and emails at stop lights (and God forbid in traffic), I can tell you right now, that text is not that important, even without reading it. I told a colleague one day, “I am going to take your I-Phone and throw it in the ocean.” He was constantly reacting to the messenger and not the message. So, issues got blown out of proportion.

– Tenth, help people in need. You both benefit from the transaction. Those in need benefit if you are helping them climb a ladder. You benefit from the psychic income of helping someone. It is a powerful elixir.

– Eleventh and last, getting back to the Golden Rule, treat others like you want to be treated. That is by far the best lesson in the bible and the ones some religious leaders tend to forget. If we do only this, the world will be a better place. This is especially true in dealing with folks who are serving your needs and are more overwhelmed these days. You may not like their efforts, but please remember you are no day at the beach either. Kindness is not a weakness.

These are a few thoughts on how to build bridges. I am sure I have left off several good ones, so please feel free to share. We are a planet of fixer uppers. We should give each other a break as we need a break from them. Justice Sotomayor has it right – let’s build bridges.