Racism is the killer of the will. Be willing.

America has had a tough week. Never mind that MLK was an American. Never mind that we went from segregated schools and “colored” bathrooms in the 1950s to electing an African-American President roughly 2 generations later. Charlottesville is where we are now. And where we are now doesn’t look very good.

The enemies of the will are walking about.

The will: it’s¬†a posture, an attitude, a way of living. A willing¬†person¬†takes life as it comes and doesn’t keep count of what they deserve, or whether they’ve gotten a fair shake. A¬†willing¬†person looks at the hand they’ve been dealt and fights tooth and nail to turn it into a winning hand because they know the alternative is not acceptable. People are counting on them.¬†Life¬†is precious. And every minute they spend being un-willing is a minute not truly living.

So what does it mean to be un-willing?

Bitterness.

Bitterness is that ultimate killer of the will. Bitterness says, “I’ve got a bargaining chip in the game of one-upmanship, and the only way it’ll be taken from me is if it’s pried from my cold, lifeless hands.” The thing is, every moment we hold onto that chip, our hands get a little bit colder and less lively.

When have we seen bitterness this week?¬†If the photo of the crowd of men carrying tiki torches is not an example of mass bitterness, then I don’t know what is. That image is an incarnation of bitterness, a terrible visual representation of the attitude that grasps for bargaining chips in every imaginable nook and cranny of this life, and spreads its sickness wherever it goes. That attitude does not help create a healthy society.

Dishonesty.

Honesty is the ultimate ally of the willing; it’s opposite is present wherever bitterness thrives. Dishonesty enables us to create fictions that venerate us and our kind, and to spread lies against an enemy that in reality does not have the power to harm us.

What has been dishonest? We, the members of the majority culture, have been caught up in a seemingly benign dishonesty for decades, that has allowed us to think we can save face, and avoid the consequences of our history of sins against the minorities living among us.

Willing¬†people don’t back down from the truth because they know they can’t. The truth is just another part of life that they take by the horns, just like everything else. But they take it because they know that if they can face their history, they will not be doomed to repeat it.

Fear.

Fear is the enemy that dooms us to inaction. It takes our dishonesty and bitterness and uses them to encase us and cement us down — ensuring that no matter how bad our situation becomes, then one thing we will never, ever do is¬†change.¬†

Where is fear?¬†Fear is the barrier that keeps us from seeing past¬†the next step. Fear prevents us from seeing that living people are more important than stone and metal, and that another type of will —¬†good will¬†— at times is more valuable than the gold domes in our capitols. It paralyzes and prevents the chance of a step in the right direction.

Be willing.

Honesty, courage, and action — those are the¬†allies¬†of the willing. Those are the things that we need now, more than a statue, more than a carving. Regardless of how we got here, this is where we are. Individually, we’ve got to find the will to let go of the things that hold us back, and take hold of a future that will bring people together.

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The Manipulation Behind the Millennial Myth

I wrote at length about what I call the Millennial Myth yesterday and how feeding the myth is destructive to our relationships and culture. Today, I was able to find the above video, which captured the essence of my point very clearly.

Here’s the main thing I want to take out of the video: for decades, Americans have been operating based on this chart:

Every 25 years or so represents a new generation, and there are 4 generations,¬†in general,¬†that are alive and entering adulthood right now. This is the conventional wisdom that we have all grown up with, and it’s perfectly normal to hear Gen-Xers complain about Millennials in their workplace, or Baby Boomers talk about how everything was different for their generation, and so on.

The truth is that generations are a myth.

While we all have been told that the above chart is relevant and helpful, we all actually should have been operating with this chart in mind:

The truth is that there are just people — not generations.

There are people around us, and some are young, and some are older than us, and as we live, work, and play we interact with them. That’s it. That’s the truth.

Why is this more true than the Generational Myth?

  • The Generational Myth tells us that Millennials are flighty and frivolous with their¬†money, but actual research reveals the opposite.
  • The Generational Myth told us that Baby Boomers were narcissists (The “me” generation), and now so-called Baby Boomers tell us that the real narcissists are Millennials.
  • The Generational Myth, when you really get into it, doesn’t actually help us describe anyone any better than if we just relied on actual research. That’s because the Generational Myth isn’t real research — it’s just a marketing tool, and it doesn’t help real people learn about other people in any meaningful way.

If you read about generations and feel resentful or superior, there’s a reason for that.

The generational classifications are made to divide people into groups. In order for people to accept the classifications, two elements must be apparent: the majority of each group must:

  • identify in some way with the description of their group, and
  • be content with how they are different from the other groups.

The Generational Myth promotes feelings of how we are better than other groups. This is called superiority. 

The Generational Myth also promotes resentment, because it highlights things we don’t like about people who are older or younger than us.

The Generational Myth also leaves people feeling unaccounted for, if they feel they don’t identify with the description of their group. These people can feel a little superior or a little resentful of their group.

What can you do with people who are resentful or superior?

TELL THEM THINGS!

Once a common enemy is well defined, it is possible to spread messages across groups of people. Now, we might not think of Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers as enemies, but in each generation, there is an obvious message to rally around: we are us! We are not them! And people like us believe this!

SELL THEM THINGS!

This is obvious. Kurt Cobain wrote music that was resentful and individualistic, and people who were resentful and individualistic bought it. Now, Cobain was an honest artist, but marketers didn’t take long to catch on to his popularity and were able to sell a lot of things to a lot of people based on the fact that they all wanted to buck authority.

So if you seem to be alienating another generation, the best thing to do is to quit seeing them as a generation!

Just try to think of them as people, and ask yourself, “What are we doing (or not doing) that may make it hard for some people to identify with us?”

People — not Millennials, not Baby Boomers, not Gen-Xers — are the key.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Questions To Ask When Watching the News

Sit down. Turn on the tv (or the tele for you non US). Flip over to CNN, Fox, or BBC. Listen to their account of current events.

Pick up your phone. Open Facebook, tap on this article and that, and read about how the President is corrupt or good, or how our society has forgotten this or that custom, or whatever.

Sit in the car and turn the radio dial to the “news” station. Listen to traffic reports, headlines, and some talk show that you mostly agree with.

I bet¬†that these are the main ways in which we follow what we call “news”.

Here’s the problem: Good things in life require that we go out and get them. Why should we think any differently about news?

What’s the goal in watching the news? How do we resist being¬†tossed about amid the various winds of what we perceive to be current events?

Things to consider:

  1. Things portrayed on the news programs as important are often insignificant in relation to the myriad of other things happening in this world.
  2. Stories we are shown on such programs may shrink our perspective on the world, instead of expanding it.
  3. We sometimes forget to distinguish between facts and opinion in the channels we follow, and we end up taking on opinions of others without realizing it.

3 good questions to ask

  1. What are they NOT saying? What is the reporter, writer, or news network trying to communicate with their coverage of this story? Can we see an agenda behind their reporting, or are they simply reporting pure facts? People rarely report events without some basic agenda that they are trying to advance. Having an agenda in itself is not bad, but we run the risk of being manipulated if we are unaware of them.
  2. Is this really worthy of my time? I believe stories about Ryan Lochte’s escapades, for example, are inconsequential and unworthy of our time. However, most of CNN‚Äôs broadcast in the closing days of the Olympics was devoted to this story. When the news becomes a soap opera, don‚Äôt complain ‚ÄĒ just turn it off.
  3. Does this make me better? Many times, we take in stories gossip and conflict, and we are no better informed about the world than we were before. Many stories are in fact distractions, taking our limited time and energy away from the things on which they should be focused.

What then do we do?

As I said before,¬†if something is important, we’ve got to go get it. I think that information¬†is the same way. Rather than an end in itself, the news¬†should be thought of as part of the means by which we journey toward truth. So, perhaps, as we watch the news that does come in front of us, we ought to ask ourselves, does this help me grasp the truth of what is happening in the world around me?

Here are some stories that may help:

Over 100 Children Among 338 Killed in Aleppo Attacks This Week, W.H.O. Says 

Many of us seem to have forgotten, or at least lost our concern for, the civil war that still rages in Syria. Just days after things were supposedly dying down, the country continues to be torn apart by war.

 

ISIS Crucifies 11 Christian Missionaries, Cuts Fingertips Off 12-Y-O in Front of Preacher-Father Before Killing Them

Christians are still being tortured and killed in areas controlled by ISIS, an area that has not seen peace in a long time.

 

After Hurricane Matthew, Devastation in Southern Haiti

While Americans get back to business after the hurricane, people in Haiti are devastated. We ought to ask many questions; Haitians have endured much suffering over the decades.

 

Bosnian Elections A Triumph For Nationalist Parties

Unfortunately, nationalism still prevails in many Eastern European nations, which stifles the economy and keeps people from working together.

 

Thousands Fasting After Russian President Putin Signs Law Banning Evangelism Outside of Churches

Many of my friends have been nervous about this situation in particular.

A Video That Will Change Your Life.

Watch this video on the ESPN website here.

To understand me, you’ve got to know something about basketball.

When I was a kid, I loved basketball. I would play all day, and on the weekends I would watch it on TV. But I remember, about halfway through my teenage years, TBS, one of our Atlanta TV stations, began broadcasting NBA basketball on Wednesday nights. And that is when I became acquainted with Ernie Johnson, Jr.

Ernie was the host of the weekly broadcast — called “Inside the NBA” — and Ernie still is the host, nearly 20 years later. On the rare occasions in recent years when I’ve been in the U.S.¬†during the NBA season, I’ve watched it a few times. I am not making this up: I think there are few things that can immediately take me back in time to my teenage years like watching that show.

Ernie Johnson, Jr.

I remember reading about Ernie coming down with cancer and announcing it publicly on the show. By that time, I was out of college and was already in the process of moving to Sarajevo, but I remember it. I didn’t know him — to me, he was just¬†someone I had seen on TV — but I felt sad for him as I knew he was in a difficult situation. It made me appreciate the show a bit more and look for a chance to catch it if I was in the right place at the right time.

Then, today, I saw the video I embedded above from a post on social media. At first I thought, “Oh, I know who that is.”

And then I saw him, shaving his son’s face. And suddenly this minute-long video became potentially life-changing.

Suddenly the man I used to only know through seeing his face show up on the glass and plastic box in my living room became a fellow Atlanta church member, a fellow struggler, trying to navigate through the waters of the life that God gave him. Suddenly there was a lot more to him than basketball.

More to the story

Ernie Johnson lives in the Atlanta area, and has been working in broadcasting since 1981. His father, Ernie Johnson, Sr., was a major league pitcher and famous play-by-play announcer for the Atlanta Braves. That’s how most people know of him. But what many¬†people who hear his voice don’t know is that the man and his wife have adopted 4 children during their 30-year marriage, in addition to having 2 biological children.

The son in the video is Michael, who is ethnically Romanian. He suffers from muscular dystrophy, and today breathes through a ventilator. His family cares for him completely; he is unable to do anything for himself.

From an interview for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

‚ÄúHe‚Äôs on a ventilator with a ‚Äėtrake‚Äô (tracheostomy tube),‚ÄĚ Johnson says. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve all become very good nurses, everybody in the family. We know how to suction his lungs. He has overnight nursing, but during the day it‚Äôs me or my wife or my oldest daughter if she‚Äôs got a day off.‚ÄĚ

Anyway, to make a really, really long story short, the video and my subsequent research got me to thinking.

Ernie and his wife take care of Michael, day after day. They take him to the car show down at the World Congress Center. And they love him — not just in words, but in deed after deed after deed.

And then you hear Charles Barkley say, “I don’t have that… courage.”

You hear Shaq say, “Man, if it weren’t for Ernie, our show would be torrrrrible.”

And you hear all these people talk about what a great person he is.

Now, I know that nobody is perfect. Everyone lets a cuss word slip (even my 6-year-old!) every once in a while. Everyone does things they wish they hadn’t done. And I’m sure that is true for Ernie.

But when you see the story of him taking care of his son, the story of his battle with cancer, the stories of how much people admire him, the stories of his generosity… you begin to realize that you are observing something really significant. And you begin¬†to wish or hope that you could¬†be so¬†generous, admirable, or kind.

You Wanna Adopt?

 

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I don’t care about being admirable, really. It’s not that important to have people say a whole bunch of nice things about me. But I think the thing that¬†is¬†important is something called¬†will.¬†

I don’t need to have all of Ernie Johnson’s experiences. I don’t need to have cancer, and I don’t really need to adopt a boy with muscular dystrophy. But what I need is to be willing¬†to do so. If I’m not willing, then my life is going to be just all about me.

All about how other people have disrespected me.

How other people have done me wrong.

How I’ve had life harder than so many other people.

But if my will can be altered just a little, so that I am willing to give a little bit more of myself if necessary, then I think that might be the key.  I want to be willing.

Tonight, as I held my 2-week-old daughter, I looked at my wife and said, “do you think we could ever adopt?”¬†

That thought had never seriously crossed my mind before tonight. And, to be sure, it wasn’t just because of a 2-minute video that someone posted on Facebook, that I asked my wife something so serious. But tonight something was different about it. Tonight I wanted to do it — not because I wanted to be like Ernie Johnson, but because I wanted to be willing to give more of myself than I ever thought I could in a situation that I never thought I would experience. Deep down I knew somehow that giving myself away was the key to becoming who I was created to be.

I want to be willing. Do you?