Saturday, October 24, 2015

Work as Stewardship, not Self-Actualization

Work/career/vocation has long been promoted and scrutinized in the context of personal self-actualization: will this job make me look good, gain me affirmation and pay me money to live a socially idealized and adored lifestyle? 

Many folks hate their jobs (even though they secretly wish to love their jobs) because their vocation does not fit into the worldly definition of success. 

College is a big part of the misunderstanding. People who do not have college degrees and jobs that result from those degrees have come to be thought less of. They have, in the eyes of society and maybe even family and friends, failed. They are said to have not risen to the level they are capable of. In short, they have not self-actualized to a worldly standard.

All of that is beginning to change. 

Parents are no longer automatically accepting the "guaranteed benefit" of paying oodles of dollars for their sons and daugters to attend college. 

Apprenticeships are popping up all over, affording students the opportunity to go after a different kind of vocation, but certainly not lesser. 

Tech schools and community colleges, which often forego the study of interesting but not always necessary topics such as gemology and meteorology, are making sense to students who want to learn a specific trade from the get-go (and can read about the weather in their free time).

And some young entrepreneurs are going straight to the drawing board of crafting a business right out of high school, with money that would have gone to supporting a four-year degree. 

I love that college is beginning to be understood as one choice out of many (and certainly not always the best choice). The truth is, college is increasingly found to be lacking as costs continue to rise without measurable benefits to the students and families who support them.

Whether we call it work, vocation or career, how we earn our keep (and our training behind it) can become what God intended when we remove the purpose of self-actualization from it. When work is no longer about self-ambition and attaining to a social standard, it can then become a fulfilling endeavor that, while not always perfect, can be personally rewarding, a benefit to the community and glorifying to God.

copyright Barb Harwood

Read on to get a refreshing and much needed perspective on work as stewardship:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Free Speech on Campus

Here is a wonderful op ed from the Sunday, October 18, 2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which points out how colleges have strayed from their purpose of teaching, and have instead adopted the promotion of narrow-mindedness. 

If a college community is threatened by opposing viewpoints, I question whether the people in that community know what they believe and whether they can even logically defend it. 

Liberal indoctrination has replaced critical thinking on many, if not most, college campuses. It is good to see some voices beginning to speak out. We are, after all, a nation of free speech, whether college campuses want to honor it or not. 

Here is the op ed, written by Zach Messitte, president of Ripon College

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Think You're Not a Binge Drinker? Think Again

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define binge drinking as excessive—and problematic—drinking. Stop here and test yourself: how do you define binge drinking?

Just to reiterate: The CDC states that binge drinking is excessive drinking, and people who imbibe this way are problem drinkers.

The answer to what constitutes binge drinking? According to the CDC, binge drinking is when a male drinks “five or more drinks on one occasion” and a woman drinks “four or more drinks on one occasion.” 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism gives clarification on exactly what constitutes "a drink" :

"In the United States, one "standard" drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in: 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol. 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol. 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol."

Many wine glasses can hold three servings of alcohol. The new craft beers can have as high as 10% alcohol. 

Binge drinkers account for 77% of the national dysfunctional cost of drinking in the U.S., and binge drinking results in “88,000 deaths each year” in the U.S. 

In addition, according to the CDC, two of every five dollars of the cost of paying for binge alcohol related problems—over 100 billion dollars—were paid by the government.

So I ask: what were your presuppositions about your own drinking before you read this? That you don’t binge? That binging means 10 or more drinks?

I love this study because it is true. I would tend to lower the binge drinking level to even fewer drinks, due to the fact that I’ve personally witnessed an even lower number of drinks in one setting as having an effect on the personalities and temperaments of people, including myself when I used to drink.

Most of the drinkers that I know are binge drinkers yet would never define themselves as such.

Perhaps you are a binge drinker and never even knew it. Now is the time to face into the reality that you are among a majority in this nation that is helping this country go down the tubes by sucking up valuable tax dollars that could be used elsewhere, and setting a despicable precedent for those younger than you in your circle of influence.

It’s time to stop being in denial about the dysfunctional drinking culture. We could be so much better than this. Nobody wants to admit the hold alcohol has on them. It takes courage and integrity to begin to live life without it. But oh what a reward in leaving alcohol behind; personally and for the world at large.

copyright Barb Harwood

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Make Way for Disagreement

If I could have learned one thing while growing up regarding getting along with others, it would have been to learn how to disagree.

I wasn’t taught it. We don’t teach it to our children today, in school or in the home. Instead, we force compliance to the notion that all ideas are good, all people are good and if we just accept one another and one another’s ideologies, world peace will flower on this planet and never wilt.

The only drawback to this soft focus dreamscape is that, in reality, not all ideas are good, nor people, and we do disagree.

When we never learn how to gracefully disagree—with tact—that is where war begins. (And if you’ve ever been a member of a family, church, business or social club, you know how local the battle can go).

We are brainwashed at an early age not to make waves. My idea/belief system/strategy/solution is good, but equally so is Bobby’s and Jane’s (or so we teach our kids). But wait, how can my idea/belief system/strategy/solution be equally good with Bobby’s and Jane’s if it is totally the opposite of Bobby’s and Jane’s (whose idea/belief system/strategy/solution I am internally opposed to, perhaps because I have already tried their way and found it lacking)?

The logic of kumbaya isn’t logical because it assumes we will—that we have the ability—to never disagree. It presupposes itself on the misguided notion that, like osmosis, we can simply vouchsafe amenability and acquiescence with our “No-Worries” wand and voila! No disagreement. Ever! It’s all “Skip to My Lou My Darling.”

We are ramrodded into group think that superficially thinks it is leveling the playing field via amiability, when in reality the “be nice” motif is building bombs of resentment in people’s hearts. Forcing people to agree ensures that we never will.

So what I wish I had learned to do is first to listen to the other person. I wish listening in an other-focused manner had been modeled to me. And then, to have learned how to apply considerate discernment to what others were saying. And to have done this from a foundation of sound morals and faith, learned from parents who learned it from God. In this way I would have learned to listen free of the fear that what the other person is saying is sure to derail me, resulting in a crisis of identity, faith or purpose.

Then, when the other person is done speaking, to have learned how to play back to them what they just said, so as to make sure I understood correctly. Then to ask any further questions that may have occurred to me as I sincerely and acutely listened. Then to graciously ask the final question: “Would you like to hear my thoughts on that?” Because really, many people, quite frankly, don’t give a hoot for what we think or would like to say. It’s best to clear the air on that one right up front, and have the confidence to accept their rejection, so be it.

However, if they surprisingly do want to hear our thoughts, then we may proceed in a calm tone of voice, gently using our hands to articulate our cogent point of view, raise concerns with theirs, and, with aplomb, express our most humble opinions.

All the while this interlocution is taking place, we interject niceties such as “Now, I know this may perhaps conflict with your thoughts on this” (scratch chin for effect), or “Please do forgive me if I have got it wrong, but I’ve thought it out and am sure I do not,” or “Bear with me while I proceed to describe to you the perspective I’ve reached on the matter in my years of reading up on this.” One might want to pause mid-sentence and offer a cherry Lifesaver.

We do a disservice to those entrusted to us if we ignore the teaching of disagreement in the vain and rather jejune hope that “all will be well.” Because in the end, in real time, getting along is only genuine when we are cordial and unthreateningly free to state our case. That is what builds respect and trust among people. Not a yellow smiley face pin or co-exist bumper sticker. What builds for a strong family, neighborhood, school, church, town, city, state, country and world is the acknowledgement that getting along oftentimes means we don’t. Better to learn the stand-up way to disagree than not at all.

copyright Barb Harwood

“Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.” Acts 15:1-2

“The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them...” Acts 15:6-7a.

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’ –because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.’ (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new).  
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;’” Acts 17:16-25

“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’” Acts 17:32