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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Strength or Weakness?

My grandfather used to say, “Any attribute you have, when taken to the extreme, becomes your weakness.”

It was a job interview years ago, that brought the wisdom of these words to the forefront of my mind, in an effort to answer one of those interview “trick questions”.  The interviewer asked me ‘what I thought my weaknesses were?’  Who wants to answer that question about themselves in a job interview?!  As I pondered my response - wanting to answer with truth but not torpedo my opportunity at the position - I was able to again employ my grandfather’s wisdom to save the day.

Have you ever taken a moment to consider this?  It’s true.  Anything that you can taut as a personal strength easily becomes your “Achilles’ Heel” if you take it too far.  How is that?  Ask yourself, do you know anyone who has a great sense of humor?  Do the ever “play too much” or make light of serious situations?  Maybe you know someone has been blessed with looks that can also be very conceited or shallow.  Why is it that some people with great inner strength and determination can be so overbearing or stubborn at times?  What about you?  What are your strengths? Are there times you take them so far that you repel those around you?

The key in recognizing the point of extreme is by being observant; paying attention to the small details and warning signs that you may be taking your strengths too far.  Often it’s the post-event evaluation of an experience that can best illustrate this point through the 20\20 hindsight of life.  With some considerate evaluation, you will soon be able to avoid mistakes and make instances of failure more of a learning experience rather than a mistake.  For more on that line of thought read my post “Well…what do you know.” (Click here to read)

Better yet, as we learned from my post “A word to theunwise” (Click here to read), you can get ahead and actually avoid potential moments of weakness by paying attention and learning from the errors of others.   My prayer is that you take a thoughtful moment of reflection if you encounter a situation where your strength has developed into a weakness.  Evaluate the incident, recognize the signs, and if needed, ask a trusted friend to help you realize when you may be taking things too far.  Put this in practice and you will surely grow.  I am sure you will see other people’s respect for you grow, as you grow in self-control.  Be Blessed.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Win an Argument

My grandfather used to say “The best way to have the last word in an argument is to say…I apologize.”

Ever had an argument and the other person just would not shut up?  I mean they kept on and on talking in circles about the same issue.  You didn’t see it their way, they didn’t see it your way and before you know it, you were both saying things that you didn't mean.  Eventually, someone storms out angry or just shuts down and nothing gets resolved.   Here is the crazy thing, if I asked the other person about the same argument; would they say that I was describing you?

My grandfather made two very profound observations concerning arguments:

First – Arguments and communication greatly differ in that once the communication is broken down – an argument is all that you have left.  You see, communication is a two-way exchange; information (hopefully productive) is being delivered AND received by each participant.  The goal of communication is aimed at moving forward towards a common goal. In an argument you care more about “winning” than commonality.  It’s more about making the other person “see it your way” versus finding a solution, compromise or common ground.

Second – Arguments perpetuate and erupt in many cases because both people want to have the “last word”.  Not sure who decreed that if you get the last word that means that you are right.  Whoever they were...they're wrong.  The need to get the last word only deteriorates an argument to its lowest form.  This is typically where we say things that we don’t mean, because we want to “shut the other person up” using offensive comments, insults or sarcastic commentary.  Ever seen that happen?

The truth is, life is too short to argue.  Ultimately, arguing is fruitless and the results of it are wasted time in anger, frustration, resentment and unforgiveness.  I compare it to raking leaves in a windstorm.  No matter how hard you rake the leaves, you will not get anything accomplished.  The difference is, with an argument…you control the weather.  How’s that?  You can end the argument because an argument takes two.  Want to get the last word – then apologize, yes even if you don’t feel that you are wrong.  Why?

It’s the wisdom in my grandfather’s quote above and in the words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth. (I Corinthians 6:7-8)  What Paul basically said was if you can’t settle a dispute among yourselves you have already been defeated.  Why not accept the injustice and leave it at that?  Why not just be cheated in the pursuit of peace instead of returning the wrong and malice, even to those we love.   In short, sometimes maturity says “Be the bigger person.”  In a month, most arguments will not have significance, but the pain they can cause might be very significant.  If you offer a sincere apology in efforts to end the conflict you may feel like you lose a battle, but in reality you win the war of maturity. 

I was once on a flight with a lady returning from her sister’s funeral.  In a moment of reflection she became emotional recalling her last conversation with sister.  They argued about some inconsequential issue and hung up, not knowing they would never speak again.  Later that evening as I pondered her pain I penned this poem.  I hope that it encourages you to pursue peace the next time you have the opportunity to argue.  Be Blessed.


Wait up time don’t fly so swift, I want to return to yesterday.
I said some things that weren’t so sweet to my friend that passed away.
Our quarrel was quite unnecessary a selfish tantrum on my part.
The doctor said that it was a coronary, but I know it was a broken heart.
Life is a lesson we all must learn, experience is the price we pay.
How foolish it is to use tomorrow as an excuse to waste today.
I can’t go back, father time won’t wait remember this, next time you fight.
You’ll never forget the pain and regret when you were wrong and can’t make it right.
Copyright © 1999 by William T. Holt

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watch Out for Snakes!

My grandfather used to say: “There are always snakes in the grass, just be sure you know where they are.”

I learned this paragon of wisdom in one of those times where my grandfather took an ordinary event and transformed it into an extraordinary moment of understanding.  It was a hot North Carolina day and as we toiled away at yard work, I was explaining how betrayed I felt when someone I knew tried to embarrass me behind by back.  I employed a cliché to describe my perception of them time and related them to being a “snake in the grass.” The more infuriated I became about it, the more my conversation developed into hate filled threats of what I would do the next time I saw them.

As my grandfather presented this quote, he pointed out a small black snake he noticed earlier near the firewood pile.  “Do you see that snake over there?” he asked.  “Yes sir,” I responded.  “Should I go kill it?” he inquired.  “I guess not, it really isn’t bothering us at the moment.”  I answered.  He agreed and further explained that black snakes are not poisonous and actually help control rodent populations.  Thoroughly confused, I asked the relevance.  He eloquently related the same situation to people and relationships.  How’s that?

He explained that, as social beings, its human nature to gravitate toward building relationships with people that we come in contact with.  There are people in our lives that we choose to build relationships with and there are those with whom we have to engage by virtue of circumstance such as work, school, church or some other group gathering activity.  Each relationship is different but one thing that we can count on is that there will be people who disappoint us, betray our confidence and many who don’t display the courage that friendship and truth requires.  In some cases we have the luxury of ending our involvement in those relationships, but much like working in the yard, often the job has to get done, even with the presence of a snake or two.

What we have to remember is that people are not perfect, we ourselves are not perfect and there will be disappointments.  However, it is not always beneficial to take an aggressive approach to every relational challenge.  What would happen if we killed all of the snakes on the planet?  Our ecosystem would likely implode and we would ultimately doom ourselves – why because even snakes have a purpose.  So what do we do?  We learn.  It is the same concept discussed in my post “Conquering Fear” (Click here to read).  Like my grandfather educated himself on black snakes, our goal would be to understand who those “snakes” are in our yards and realize where you are likely to encounter them and respond appropriately.  This is how to combat the “fear” of a detrimental incident with them.

In a further evolution of thought, my post “The Ratio of Life” (Click here to read), elaborates on how life is truly 10% what happens to you, but 90% what you do about it.  Going around and attacking every snake that appears in your life would be wasted effort in a crusade that will never end because there will always be snakes.  My prayer for you is that you learn how to deal with the snakes in your life appropriately. There may be some truly poisonous relationships that you will have to “kill” – as for the rest, just keep an ever watchful eye to know where you may have to deal with a snake.  More importantly, remember to be quick to forgive the bites and close calls as you learn from them, because we are ALL imperfect and you never know when you have become a snake in the life of another.  Refresh your perspective on this line of thought by reading my post “Emancipation by Forgiveness.” (Click here to read)  Be Blessed!

“In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.”
Psalm 56:11 (KJV)