The Responsibility of Following

I’ve heard the idea hundreds of times.

“True leaders are those others choose to follow.”

Today, voters in the United States will go to the polls and vote. In so doing, we will signal to our government and to others what we hope and desire for the direction of our country for the next four years – perhaps longer.

Tonight, I will disappear into my home and watch election news stream in from all over the country. I will hear the predictions of ballot counts. Undoubtedly, I will go to bed long before the final results are in. After all, I’ve done my duty for this portion of our political process. I voted.

Tomorrow, I will awake to a new duty. We will know who our president will be come January – absent the pernicious presence of hanging chads. And I will begin my work – my responsibility – of following whoever that is.

If you can believe the pre-election polls, almost half of my countrymen will be disappointed in the morning. However, I hope that each and every one of us will rise to the challenge of making this country better in the next four years.

We don’t have to agree with everything an administration is doing or how they are doing it. In fact, we have the privilege of being outspoken about our values and beliefs.

But what we can do is make the best of what we have. We can teach our children to disagree with respect. We can find places to serve others. We can encourage that behavior from our elected officials, as well. And, if we are faced with others who don’t disagree with respect and who refuse to serve and officials who spew negativism, we can pray for them and for all of our leaders.

Tomorrow morning, I will choose to follow whoever is elected. I may not have voted for him and I may not vote for him to lead again. But I will follow . . . because it’s the right thing to do.

Art Credit – Creative Commons: DonkeyHotey

What If the Quiet Words Were . . .

What if the quiet words between the two men were filled with respect?

As they enter the arena and make their way to center stage . . .

What if the greetings they shared were genuine in their concern for a fellow traveler on a difficult path?

As they smile broadly and shake hands . . .

What if they made every decision — what they will say and what they will do — based on what they really believe is right?

As one emerges a victor . . .

What if they both commit to work together to  make the world a better place?

What if the quiet words were . . .

All You Have to Do is Ask

“I don’t know what to do.”

Those six words are familiar to me. I’d like to tell you it’s because of my position and because people seek me out for advice. While, that statement would have an element of truth, the deeper foundations are set on the bedrock of my own experience.

How many times have I struggled with the questions, “What should I do?” and “Why am I plagued with problems?”

In recent years, in those moments when I can slowly exhale and gather myself, I turn to one of my favorite biblical passages, the letter of James. The writer (probably the brother the of Jesus) takes on the important issue of true leadership . . . by thoroughly calling all of us to be servants. He begins by addressing our fears and our feelings of inadequacy.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 Trials, tribulations, sorrows — all should be greeted with joy?!

But that seems stupid . . .until you focus on the reason.

Challenges must be faced. By so doing, we develop a spirit of perseverance. And perseverance — keeping on — allows us to grow and mature.

We all know that in times loaded with worry, grief, and pain everything becomes more difficult. Even thinking about the obstacles can leave us fatigued, frightened, and even angry.

I’ve often been embarrassed to go to others for help. Even asking for advice is difficult. I’m sure part of that is my pride and ego. Sometimes, however, it’s because I don’t want to hear someone else’s counsel. I don’t want to believe that there is an answer for me and to grapple with the next prescribed step.

Yet James promises that I can always ask God for wisdom and that He will always deliver it.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do.

One caveat: I’m not allowed to doubt that God will send wisdom my way. 

Doubt is uncertainty. If I allow two thoughts to struggle for my allegiance, I become . . . double-minded. I must place my trust in God. If I ask him for wisdom, I should expect for it to come. And ultimately, I must act on the wisdom He provides. Doing anything else interferes with the promise.

God wants single-minded servants. And single-minded servants make the best followers and the best leaders.

Today’s New International Version, Holy Bible, James 1:2-8.



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The 3 Most Important Words

For years, I’ve been passing on the three most important words in mediation to my students. I say “passing on” because I was taught these three words by my professors, Randy Lowry and Peter Robinson.

In those special moments when I share this valuable advice, I’m met with one of three reactions. The most prevalent response is laughter — some deep-hearted, others just a nervous giggle. The second is a look of disbelief. And the last, is a knowing nod.

Yet, these three words comprise one of the wisest sayings of all times. Like many other bits of wisdom, the message can be heard as being trivial or dismissive or arrogant. Dislike them if you must. But the advice is universally applicable for the reasons I’ll share.

Oh . . . the three words?


When you reach that impasse, that obstacle, that seemingly unanswerable question, act as if. When you have no idea what you should do next, act as if. When others look to you for leadership and you are searching for the end of the line, act as if. When you realize that there are no easy options, act as if. When someone you love betrays you, act as if.

But why would you do that? Why should you do that? Is “acting as if” anything more than self-indulged ego?

You should do it because it works. And here’s why:

  1. “Acting as if” offers a ledge to stand on, even if it’s for the briefest of moments.Turmoil comes when individuals lose their bearings. With a bit of firm ground below, most of us can pause and look around for more stable territory. “Acting as if” injects confidence into almost any situation — particularly if it’s done with humility and sincerity.
  2. “Acting as if” is not a shot in the dark. You have life experience. You have trained for moments like this. You have benefited from the experience and knowledge of mentors, friends, and wise sages who have prepared you. Listen for their voices.
  3. “Acting as if” is not blindness. Always look for a place in the process. Not every situation can be handled in cookie-cutter fashion. But processes are there as your framework. Build on them, redirect them, let them serve you. FInd a familiar point and grab hold of it. Most conflict stems from a loss of process.
  4. “Acting as if” buys time. Difficult situations only become worse when the momentum of conflict reigns. I’ve often said that one of the greatest gifts a mediator brings to her or his peace table is the gift of space. With a little space, even the most ardent opponents have the opportunity to reassess and make peaceful adjustments.
  5. “Acting as if” can trigger decisions and movement in a conflict. The real essence of conflict is its inherent ability to bog down life. The principle of inertia is not just a principle of physics. Getting people to move is the first step toward reconciliation — even if the initial step seems to be in the opposite direction.
  6. “Acting as if” is born out of your desire to help others. Good things happen when people put others first.
  7. “Acting as if” prevents you from thinking and accepting defeat.

So, no matter what you face today . . . ACT AS IF!

And, even if you giggle a bit at first or have some doubts or even accept the proposition, don’t just sit there . . . ACT AS IF!

Do you have some ACT AS IF stories? I’d love to hear them.