Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What's in it for THEM?

"What's in it for me?" is not an unusual question. If someone is trying to sell an idea, sell a service, sell anything - we want to know what we get in return.
A successful business sells a product or service that someone wants and that person believes the product or service is better than the next person's product or service. As purchasers we need to believe it benefits us in some way that is a measure of the price we pay. It is our "return on investment" - value.
We love a vehicle that gets us from point A to point B every time and with the level of comfort we expect. We will pay a price for that at the level of our ability and expectations.
At the grocery store we decide if generic or brand name is the best value. Sometimes we pay more if we think it is worth more.
Value, incentive, and some benefit are all tied in somehow. All relationships are like that - business ore personal. They are not so far apart. Through our selection we drive changes in the way people do business. Through our selection we drive changes in the way people around us behave.
Perhaps we need to sometimes ask "What's in it for them?" What are WE offering the other person? Not just in business but in all aspects of our lives.
It's easy to get in ruts of expectation. We slack a little at work. We let our family take a little more on than we do. We ask people for things. What's in it for them? Am I adding value to all that I am part of in this world?
Am I giving my employer an honest days work - greater than the value of my pay?
Am I making life better for my family - greater than the value they hold alone?
Am I making life better for my friends - giving them more than I ask of them?
If we all seek to add greater value in all we do, we will make a better world. Instead of "what's in it for me, " ask "what's in it for them?"
The next time you ask someone for anything it may be interesting to consider this question. What answer would you want the other person to give - the person asking YOU for something.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Isolation?

What parts of your life would you like to have others comment about? What parts of your life do you feel are everyone's "business"?
We live in a society. We have neighbors. We have family. We are visible in many aspects of our lives. There really is nothing that is not somehow connected to something else. Nothing happens in a bubble. Nothing is totally isolated from everything else.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thank you - Why I write....

Often someone asks, "why do you write all that?"
The stories vary from what pets are doing - to community - to current events - to deeper thoughts. The best answer that I can give is that getting my thoughts in writing is kind of like satisfying an itch. It's there and I have to scratch it. The thoughts roll around in my head and I just have to write them down.
Within my blog domain lies many drafts that are never published. A thought comes but it doesn't seem quite complete or cohesive enough to share. Often I go back and fill it in or re-write or.... I'm curious that people do read it once it's posted. I'm curious to see what old posts capture someone's attention. But if no one reads them, I would still have to write. I cannot explain it. And I cannot dismiss the underlying sense that someone, somewhere, sometime, will think the words are meaningful. So, it is not for me alone - scratching an itch. Indeed, there is hope that someone may not feel alone in their questioning or their experience - whatever it might be.
Often I can write something easier than I can say it to someone. The words can be reviewed and changed as often as needed before sharing. That is comforting. Then once released, I must accept that someone may not understand - they many not agree - they may not like... I try not to let them go until I am ready to accept that agreement.
Now this blog is nearing 16,000 views. In the larger scale of the world, that is not too big. But I am a tiny little fish in a small pond. Why would people visit me this many times if I am not somewhat interesting? I am ok with those viewing and not agreeing. I thank you for giving me a few moments of the precious time we share. If I have only made you think and caused you to smile a bit, it matters to me. Because of you, I am not alone. And if you have found me, you are not alone.
Quite likely, I will scratch this itch as long as my days allow. Thank you for tagging along.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom

Recently we passed the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
A few months after closing arguments but before their ruling I wrote - "When discrimination is prevailing and accepted, it takes great effort to overcome.  We've had to hear the real stories of real people who have been harmed by the effects of discrimination.  We've had to overcome the myths and lies that justified the discrimination.  And we have had to force the issue until it could be raised before the Supreme Court."
Once again, the issue of marriage equality is marching toward review by the Supreme Court. In state after state, same sex couples have tested bans on their right to marry. While many are still pending and some are destined for appeal, EVERY ruling so far has deemed marriage bans unconstitutional.
I believe that's 14 to ZERO at this point.
Opponents, at first, determined that "activist judges" were hearing the cases - thus the reason for losses. Now, even Federal Judges appointed by conservative republicans have ruled that marriage bans were unconstitutional. Why is this happening?
These judges are hearing real stories from real people who have been harmed by these marriage bans. They require factual testimony from both sides. Plaintiffs have provided substantial evidence of very real harm to their lives. Meanwhile, defendants (anti-gay) have provided UN-substantiated evidence of potential harm. They have tried and continue to desperately argue that their position is much more than one of religious belief and that there is some pending danger if marriage equality becomes the law of the land. Judges weigh the facts and the facts favor the plaintiffs.
Anti-gay forces are now trying to gain traction with the argument that their religious beliefs are being trampled. It's like the moment the playground bully gets confronted and cries that he is being picked on.
The issue of marriage equality will continue again to the Supreme Court. It actually is a religion versus constitution issue and it's not the only one. We are watching the boundaries of religious dominance shift. We are seeing it with marriage equality, issues of contraception and the ability to religiously limit access, and with attempted legislation to allow various forms of discrimination based on religious belief.
While lower courts are consistently ruling more in favor of individual civil rights, it's difficult to determine how the Supreme Court will rule. The majority seems to favor large corporate and institutional dominance. The DOMA ruling was close.
But now, Massachusetts has had marriage equality for a decade. The state has not been unusually struck by any form of catastrophe. Tens of thousands of same sex couples are now legally married across the county. The biggest question remaining is how "religious freedom" is defined. Does religious freedom allow you to impose your religious beliefs on your employees or customers?
The majority at the Supreme Court seem to be supporting freedom for the powerful over individual freedom. They appear to be leaning, with the Citizens United and Hobby Lobby ruling, toward granting protection for entities as though they are individual "people".
As the marriage equality cases make their way up, the court will likely seek hearing of a case that includes religious objections as a "religious freedom" issue. There actually is precedent when applied to civil rights. The court ruled against religious exemption in a case where the argument was that a businessman had deeply held religious convictions that demanded he segregate the races. But that was decades ago and a very different Supreme Court.
It will be interesting to see what this Supreme Court does.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What do you worship?

Many church leaders are frustrated that fewer and fewer people are filling the pews. The predominant reaction is to criticize those exiting and question their commitment to God. They should be asking why people no longer feel committed to the church.
Many who have felt alienated from the church have learned God and Church are not one in the same. The church is an institution that can be more focused on preserving itself and its dogma than growing in spiritual understanding about God. Those who worship the church are strongly vested in preserving its teachings and beliefs as "non-negotiable" and stagnant as though everything to be known has already been written.  The "spiritual" experience needs to be prescribed and locked in step with whomever is driving the message. The teachings drive an inextricable web of connection between God and church in hopes that followers feel more connected to God through greater connection to the church. That connection is the driving message.
There is very clear evidence that God and the church are NOT one in the same. If you believe in God, certainly you believe God is never wrong. Through the years the church has been wrong on many issues and in many practices.
The church is simply a group of people sharing what that institution believes. There is nothing wrong with that. It can be a wonderful source of community and support. But the church is not God. Promoting and leading the church as if it is infallible and specially chosen as THE voice of God is a huge mistake. It's spiritual poison for those within the church and it is spiritual poison for those who question church doctrine.
This type of thinking within the church causes followers to view those not in the fold as inferior. Those not sharing their commitment to the institution are seen dis-connected from God, not as spiritually driven and in need of fixing. Those who grew up in this type of church and realize a disconnect with church doctrine have a difficult time separating the church doctrine and God. It causes an unnecessary spiritual storm. In both situations it's a destructive result of church worship as opposed to a path of spiritual growth.
God is everywhere in all things. God is the connection of all things. When churches teach connection instead of separation, there will be a spiritual movement that has momentum. The connection is not church and God. The connection is all things and God. The only separation is in one's own mind and that is an illusion.

Friday, June 27, 2014

1 to 10

Long ago a friend listened to my ranting about a situation. She listened quietly until I took a breath.
"May I ask a question?" in her calm voice. "On a scale of 1 to 10 - ten being death - how important are these things?"
On a scale with death, they were not so very important.
Often I was caught up in my own whirlpool of emotions and attaching way too much meaning to the lack of reaction to my emotional need and not objectively assessing the importance of the actual issue. In other words, acting like it was a life or death situation when it was really small - on a scale of 1 - 10. The issue usually grew into "if the person cared about ME, they would..." type of thinking.
We've all heard stories about couples getting into great arguments over toothpaste lids and toilet seats. One side or the other cannot get over needing to have it their way. Of course, one side or the other has to give. Otherwise, what sounds like a very small thing remains a constant source of tension. The consequences of the issue grow larger than the issue itself.
Once we've wound ourselves up, it's really hard to wind back down. Maybe the 1 - 10 scale can help. It kind of helps think a bit further and consider consequences. 'Is this really going to kill me?" Maybe even more importantly, 'How is this affecting those around me?'


Monday, June 23, 2014

Taking Stock can be a Good Thing

Sometimes we just need to take stock - measure where we are, review where we need to go, and count what we have achieved. It used to annoy me that we had to create objectives and review them regularly at work. But now I see there is great value in setting a formal time to measure progress and discuss things. It's a forum for ensuring that everyone is on the same page and it can be a time to celebrate progress together.
Being blessed with a great team of dedicated people makes this kind of "taking stock" a great pleasure. Six months ago we thought we would achieve XY and Z. As we review those plans and compare them to the reality of what we accomplished, we are able to see where we need to put more energy. Most enjoyable to me, is the discovery of how very much was actually achieved.
Maybe we need to set aside days - several times a year - where we take measure of every aspect of our lives. Celebrate accomplishment. Review where we can do better.