Pride and Humility

As I mentioned before, I text quotes to my boys and wife each day.  Here are the quotes of the day from the last two days.  Today’s quotes were about pride and yesterday’s were about humility.

“There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad.  Good pride represents our dignity and self respect.  Bad pride is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.”           by John C. Maxwell

“Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride and inspiration.  Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person.”     by Naveem Jain

Yesterday’s quotes:

“Humility is the foundation of all the virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”   by Saint Augustine

“Humility is the gateway into the grace and favor of God.”   by Harold Warner

Snobbery

Snobbery

As I mentioned in my blog post from yesterday, my favorite Joseph Epstein book is Snobbery: The American Version.

Just for fun, here is a sampling of some of my favorite quotes from that book:

“But snobbery, like bacteria, is found everywhere.” (Preface)

“Behind all acts of snobbery is, somehow or other, a false or irrelevant valuation.” (p.10)

“In the United States, contempt for social inferiors more than anything else marked the snob.” (p.14)

“By way of preliminary definition: a snob is someone who practices, lives by, exults in the system of distinctions, discriminations, and social distractions that make up the field play for snobbery.”  (p.15)

“The essence of snobbery, I should say, is arranging to make yourself feel superior at the expense of other people.” (p. 15)

“Snobbery often entails taking a petty, superficial, or irrelevant distinction and, so to say, running with it.” (p. 15)

“There is something deeply antisocial about the snob.  He is, in a profound sense, in business for himself.” (p. 17)

“I take the snob as someone out to impress his betters or out to depress those he takes to be his inferiors, and sometimes both; someone with an exaggerated respect for social position, wealth, and all the accouterments of status; someone who accepts what he reckons to be the world’s valuation on people and things, and acts – sometimes cruelly, sometimes ridiculously – on that reckoning; someone, finally, whose pride and accomplishment never come from within but always await the approving judgment of others.  People not content with their place in the world, not reconciled with themselves, are especially susceptible to snobbery.” (pp. 18-19)

“Snobbery, like religion, works through hope and fear.  The snob hopes to position himself securely among those whom he takes to be the best, most elegant, virtuous, fashionable, or exciting people.  He also fears contamination from those he deems beneath him.” (p. 20)

“To be one up, someone else must be pushed one down, and so there has always been the element of one-upmanship about snobbery.” (p. 24)

“Yet the real snobbery question is whether one is taking pleasure in a thing or activity for itself or because the pleasure is that other people – most people, in fact – are for one reason or another excluded from it.” (p. 24)

“Delight in excellence is easily confused with snobbery by the ignorant.” (p. 27)

“The pressing question for the snob, as for the snobographer, is to find out who just now is on top and how social gradations are worked out from there down.  Inquiring snobs want – make that need – to know.” (p. 62)

“…dispute can be endless about what constitutes correct taste, and in the hands of a snob taste can be wielded as a cruelly effective weapon, used to keep all sorts of people outside the gates.” (p.76)

“The snob’s error is to put good taste before a good heart – to put good taste before almost everything else.” (p.81)

‘A snob, in one common definition, is anyone who thinks himself superior in a way that demands recognition.” (p. 91)

“The snob requires prestige, cannot get along without it, thinks possession of it will eliminate his greatest of all fears – that of being nobody.” (p.95)

“What he (the snob) fails to comprehend is that neither can be obtained, at least not successfully, as an end in itself.  Prestige accompanies high achievement, is an accouterment of solid accomplishment.  At the banquet of life, status is a side dish, never a main course.  Prestige and status come by the way; they are not, in themselves, the way.” (p.99)

“Clubs are as much about keeping people out as joining them together, which is why they have always had a central place in the history of snobbery.” (p. 133)

“Even with the best intentions and histories of good works behind them, clubs are snobbery organized.” (p.134)

“…to present oneself as a victim allows one to cut the ground out from others who make an appeal on the basis of their own victimhood.”  “…if one carefully sets oneself up as a victim, one is in a position of moral superiority to anyone who cannot make the same claim.” (p. 155)

“But politics nowadays tends to be less about reason than ever; it is much more about making us feel good at the expense of those who aren’t as kind, generous and sensitive as we.” (p.161)

“The snob’s problem is that he allows himself to make judgments based on fashion, to let the competitive edge that lurks about fashion gain sway, to find being out of fashion veritable hell.  For the snob, fashion becomes a standard of judgment, a means of gratification, a method of acquiring self-esteem, an ethics, something akin to a religion, and of course a stick with which to beat on those who fall behind or get it wrong.” (pp. 176-177)

“Name-dropping is also a form of social climbing – social climbing on the cheap.  It’s social climbing because it suggests to people on whom one uses it that you are in a higher, more exciting world than you probably really are.” (p. 192)

“It is one thing to be distinguished from the ordinary.  But people who worry a good deal about celebrity – about not having it, or about not having enough of it, or about losing it – are contending with essentially snobbish emotions.” (p.198)

“Every act of snobbery is at bottom an act of weakness.  Often it is weakness striking out, showing its cruel side.  Sometimes it shows this by condescension, sometimes by pretension, sometimes by unconscious vulgarity.” (p. 247)

And finally the conclusion,

“Snobbery will die on the day when none of us needs reassurance of his or her worth, when society is so well balanced as to eliminate every variety of injustice, when fairness rules, and kindness and generosity, courage and honor are all rightly revered.  But until that precise day arrives – please, don’t mark your calendars yet – snobbery appears here to stay.” (p.251)

 

Aleksandr and Joe

I just finished my fourth book by Jospeh Epstein, Essays in Biography.  For some strange reason, I like reading long books (this one was 564 pages).  The other books by Joe which I have read are: Snobbery: The American Version, Friendship: An Expose and Narcissus Leaves the Pool: Familiar Essays.  I love Joseph Epstein’s writing.  The first of the books above that I read by him was the one on snobbery.  It is one of my favorite books, and I recommend it to people all the time.  I have enjoyed these other books by him, but I have not found any of them to be as profound and funny as my favorite.  I currently have one more of Epstein’s books in my bookshelf: Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature.

I like reading biographies about inspirational people, but many of the mini biographies in this book were not about admirable characters so they were not as fun for me to read.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is an exception – he is an admirable character, and I enjoyed reading about his life.  When I was traveling on a semester in Europe program in college, I read his book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Aleksandr was an underground writer in the Soviet Union for more than twenty years.  He was a novelist, historian and short story writer.  He was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and communism.  He helped to raise global awareness of the Soviet Gulag forced labor camp system.  As such, much of his reading is sad and difficult to read.  His works helped to debunk what remained of Western illusions about the great Communist experiment.  He was a prophet, a man on a mission who told people what he thought.  It would not be too much to say of him that he helped to destroy communism.  He was not blind, however, to the spiritual emptiness of the West and he said, “Excessive ease and prosperity have weakened their will and their reason.”

Epstein did not discuss Aleksandr’s faith much, but I am very interested in that and the role his faith played in his life.  If you would like to learn more about his faith, here is a link to a good article about that:  http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/558.

 

By the way, the quote of the day which I sent out to my family today is from Bob Cousy (point guard for the Boston Celtics from 1950 – 1963):

“Do your best when no one is looking.  If you can do that, then you can be successful in anything that you put your mind to.”

Victor

My oldest son is reading a Victor Frankl book for one of his college courses.  In honor of him, the two quotes of the day which I sent out to my family today were from Victor:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

AND

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

 

In order to meet my goal of reading 40 books this year, I am going to need to step up my reading (I just finished #25 tonight).  One of my challenges is that I cannot stop myself from choose long non-fiction books!

Insurgence

I have been reading Frank Viola’s book, Insurgence, with two of my friends.  We’ve been discussing the book for a few weeks now.

Insurgence

Here are some quotes which represent some of the ideas discussed in the book:

“Properly conceived, the Christian life is one of beholding, enjoying, and reflecting the beauty of Christ.  It is essential that we become fascinated, gripped, and captivated by the Lord.  If not, we will struggle with boredom, and our hearts will be vulnerable to pursue other things.” (p.53)

“Put another way, the early Christians were seen as insurgents.  They switched all their allegiances to Jesus Christ.” (p.85)

“The messages of John (the Baptist), and later Jesus and Paul, was a call to join the insurgence.  One that contained no violence, no armed conflict, and no rebellious overthrow.  Rather, the insurgence that John announced was built on a subversive message that people believed, lived out, and heralded to others.  It constituted a nonviolent revolution, a quiet revolt against the present order.” (p.97)

“In sum, the kingdom of God includes the King (the ruler), God’s reign (rulership), and the people ruled (realm).  Again, the kingdom is the manifestation of God’s ruling presence.  And His ruling presence is manifested in and through Jesus and in and through God’s people.” (p.106)

“Whenever Jesus is enthroned by a group of people today, that’s where the kingdom of God is.  Wherever a group of people submit to the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God is in their midst and they experience righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (p.120)

“The kingdom of God is already but not yet.  In other words, the kingdom is here (already), but it hasn’t arrived in its fullness (yet).  The kingdom is present, yet it’s future.” (p.121)

“The gospel of the kingdom is scandalous.  And so it brings great opposition.” (p.137)

“…countless Christians embrace an ambition to do something great for God.  But if you peel back the layers of that onion, self is lurking behind it all.  Indeed, the pleasure of being used, recognized, and seen as valuable to God must be laid upon the altar and burnt to ashes.  The altar means the willingness to lose our reputations.” (p.188)

“Desperation is the currency of God’s kingdom.  The more desperate you are, the more ground you taken in the kingdom.” (p.194)

“In short, the best way to renew your love for Christ is to review His love for you.” (p.197)

“Therefore, we are deluded whenever we lessen the sins we’ve committed and magnify the sins of others…whatever they might be.  Let us, therefore, be harsh with ourselves in the matter of sin and compassionate to everyone else.” (p.225)

“…the clock is ticking on the world system.  One day it will pass away.  And that’s one of the greatest revelations you and I can have in terms of breaking loose from any attachment we have to it.  The world system is doomed.” (p.254)

“How we spend our time and money reveals where we stand with the kingdom of God more than anything else.  Those two things reveal whether or not we are part of heaven’s culture or the world’s.” (p.275)

“Whenever kingdom-minded people own a possession, they don’t view it as their own property.  Instead, they are keenly aware that everything they own belongs to the Lord as well as to their fellow sisters and brothers in Christ.” (p.281)

 

Finally, I have had fun continuing to send out a quote of the day to my family via text.  Here’s the quote from last Thursday by M. Scott Peck, “Problems do not go away.  They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.”

I just started a subscription to two magazines which I would recommend, Christian History and Modern Reformation.

Quote of the Day

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been trying to text a quote each day to my wife and 3 boys.  I was consistent for a couple months at the beginning of the year, but then I wasn’t.  This last week, I re-committed to be faithful with this because I like doing it and it is fun for me.  It also sometimes leads to good family conversations.

Today’s quote was from Ruben Mark, past Chairman and CEO of Colgate-Palmolive,

“Stand up for what’s right, in small matters and large ones, and always do what you promise.”

13063145-Casual-man-standing-Stock-Photo-full

Screwtape

Devil

I’m really enjoying reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis to my 15 year old son.  Last night we read something I want to share.  In this satirical book, Screwtape is a senior demon giving advice to his nephew, Wormwood, about how to best tempt, distract and destroy the life of his human “patient” who has recently become a Christian.

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.  I know we have won many a soul through pleasure.  All the same, it is His invention, not ours.  He made the pleasures:  all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.  All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy (God) has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.  Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.”

It was great to talk with my son about this truth that God made all the pleasures!

Trust

Trust

In Stephen Covey’s book, The Speed of Trusthe emphasizes that what you do is much more important than what you say.  He then elaborates 13 behaviors of high trust leaders.  Here they are:

  1. Talk Straight – Be honest. Tell the truth.  Let people know where you stand.  Use simple language.  Call things what they are.  Demonstrate integrity.  Don’t manipulate people or distort facts.  Don’t spin the truth.  Don’t leave false impressions.
  2. Demonstrate Respect – Genuinely care for others. Show you care.  Respect the dignity of every person and every role.  Treat everyone with respect, especially those who cannot do anything for you.  Show kindness in the little things.  Don’t fake caring.  Don’t attempt to be “efficient” with people.
  3. Create Transparency – Tell the truth in a way that people can verify. Get real and genuine.  Be open and authentic.  Err on the side of disclosure.  Operate on the premise of “What you see is what you get.” Don’t have hidden agendas.  Don’t hide information.
  4. Right Wrongs – Make things right when you are wrong. Apologize quickly.  Make restitution where possible.  Practice “service recoveries.”  Demonstrate personal humility.  Don’t cover things up.  Don’t let pride get in the way of doing the right thing.
  5. Show Loyalty – Give credit freely. Acknowledge the contributions of others.  Speak about people as if they were present.  Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves.  Don’t bad-mouth others behind their backs.  Don’t disclose others’ private information.
  6. Deliver Results – Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done.  Make things happen.  Accomplish what you’re hired to do.  Be on time and within budget.  Don’t overpromise and under deliver.  Don’t make excuses for not delivering.
  7. Get Better – Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities.  Be a constant learner.  Develop feedback systems – both formal and informal.  Act on the feedback you receive.  Thank people for feedback.  Don’t consider yourself above feedback.  Don’t assume today’s knowledge and skills will be sufficient for tomorrow’s challenges.
  8. Confront Reality – Take issues head on, even the “undiscussables.” Address the tough stuff directly.  Acknowledge the unsaid.  Lead out courageously in conversation.  Remove the “sword from their hands.” Don’t skirt the real issues.  Don’t bury your head in the sand.
  9. Clarify Expectations – Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them.  Validate them.  Renegotiate them if needed and possible.  Don’t violate expectations.  Don’t assume that expectations are clear or shared.
  10. Practice Accountability – Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable.  Take responsibility for results.  Be clear on how you’ll communicate how you’re doing – and how others are doing.  Don’t avoid or shirk responsibility.  Don’t blame others or point fingers when things go wrong.
  11. Listen First – Listen before you speak.   Diagnose.  Listen with your ears – and your eyes and heart.  Find out what the most important behaviors are to the people you’re working with.  Don’t assume you know what matters most to others.  Don’t presume you have all the answers – or all the questions.
  12. Keep Commitments – Say what you’re going to do, then do what you say you’re going to do. Make commitments and keep them.  Make keeping commitments the symbol of your honor.  Don’t break confidences.  Don’t attempt to “PR” your way out of a commitment you’ve broken.
  13. Extend Trust – Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who are earning your trust.  Learn how to appropriately extend trust to others based on the situation, risk, credibility (character and competence) of the people involved.  But have a propensity to trust.  Don’t withhold trust because there is risk involved.

 

Strong and Weak

A couple of my friends recently recommended Andy Crouch’s book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & Flourishing.  So far, I’m enjoying it.

Strong and Weak Cover

God wants us to be flourishing, as evidenced in Jesus’statement of his life’s purpose, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Obviously, the Biblical view of flourishing differs from what the worldly view of flourishing would be.  Real flourishing is not dependent on wealth or even our physical health.  It involves a high degree of authority (defined as the capacity for meaningful action) and also vulnerability.  Vulnerability can be defined as exposure to meaningful risk.

The author uses the simple 2 x 2 grid below to explore flourishing and the other alternatives of exploiting, withdrawing and suffering as well.

Strong and Weak 2 X 2 Diagram

Many of us find ourselves withdrawing in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.  As I have been reading this book, I thought about something that I wrote before we left for two years of missionary work in Argentina called, “Safe or Brave”.  We felt like God was inviting us to follow Him in a new level of sacrifice and risk to do what we could to be a blessing to the materially poor in Latin America.  It was a long process and it was a very strange thing to leave my secure job, sell our cars and half our stuff and move to Argentina with our three young boys (that was eight years ago).  Here is what I wrote to myself (from the perspective of God) as I thought about staying safe or being brave:

 

Safe or Brave?

What’s it going to be, Chris?  You have had moments of risk and bravery in your Christian journey, but you generally kept relatively safe.  You have a conservative nature.  But, I am calling you to take a huge risk with your life because I want to use you and your family in new and exciting ways.  I will not force you to step out.  I only knock on the door and invite you to join Me.  You can stay safe and live out a good life that honors me.  But, I have more for you.  But you must take a big step, which feels like a leap to you.  But that leap is, ironically, the safest thing to do.

The deep hunger in your soul to help others, to represent me to the needy grows.  I have put that in your heart.  How can you sit at your desk trying to figure out the latest Cobra regulation, do a financial analysis or add up the checks?  Don’t you want more for your life?  Don’t you yearn for more?  Come, an adventure awaits you.  But, you will only be given enough to get through each day. 

Stop worrying about your kids, about a fallback plan, about your retirement savings, about security.  I will take care of you, and being used by me for my glory is fulfilling what I made you for.  Forget about all of the practical concerns and anxieties for now.  Each day has its own trouble, and you do not need to worry about the future. 

So, how about it?  Will you follow me to the ends of the earth if I ask you to go?  Are you willing to let me be in charge?  Will you trust the One who made you to take care of you and your family?  Come, adventure awaits.  I await.  Come with me and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.  It’s okay for you to count the cost.  But, once you have then come.  You have no idea what I would like to do with your life.  I want to use you in ways you never imagined.  I know you.  I watch you.  I’m with you there in your office.  Your “true self” that I created you to be is in hibernation.  But, I’m here to wake you up so you can be alive.  I mean really alive! 

I love you and I want the best for you not just what’s good or okay.  And, I have prepared you and grown you for such a time as this.  It’s time to step out, to respond to my invitation.  I will not force you.  I will only invite you.  You must come on your own free will.

Be brave.  Be strong and courageous.  I know that you have a brave heart.  Come and live a brave life.  Put your big brave heart into action. 

I’ve only given you one chance to live out your life on earth.  Make it count.  Don’t waste your life dealing with pettiness.  I have great things to show you.

If you close your ears and your heart to my invitation, it might be harder to hear me when I speak to you, when I call you next time.  Let’s go.  It’s time.  I’m on the move and I want you with me.

Trust me…

I’m enjoying Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust.  His thesis is that trust is the factor that changes everything in a business, non-profit organization/church, team or family.  In a business, a high degree of trust saves time and money.

Yuriy Seleznev_Trust_Shutterstock

Trust is not only a matter of character, but also of competence.  By working from “the inside out” you can actually change the level of trust in any relationship.  The first step, however, is to build self trust.  What does that even mean?  It is the confidence we have in ourselves – ability to achieve goals and to keep commitments.  We need to first become a person who is worthy of trust – key principle is credibility.

Covey discusses four “cores” of credibility.  The first one is integrity.  This is integratedness, walking your talk, being congruent inside and out.  Someone with integrity acts in accordance with his or her values and beliefs.  Some of the biggest violations of trust are violations of integrity.

the speed of trust book

In order to increase your integrity, you can:

  • Make and keep commitments to yourself
  • Stand for something
  • Be open

In the area of making and keeping commitments to yourself, we increase our self-confidence every time we make a large or small commitment to ourselves.  In order to do this, we should not make too many commitments (don’t over-commit!).  We should treat the commitments we make to ourselves with as much respect as you do with your commitments to others.  Avoid impulsive commitments.  Lastly, if keeping a commitment becomes hard change your behavior to match your commitment.

A few of the personal areas that I think of related to making and keeping commitments to myself are:

  • Regular exercise
  • Depend on God and keep asking Him to help me see people how He sees them (and then treat them accordingly)
  • Lots of reading and discuss my reading with others
  • Do not become self-focused or act in my own self interest, but in the interest of others (starting with my wife and sons)
  • If I ever have a chance to spend good time with my sons (especially reading to them), do that and put other tasks aside to be done later
  • Follow through on what I say I will do
  • Stay organized

But, I know there are a lot more.  And, I want to keep thinking about this.  I’m curious what other people think of in terms of their commitments to themselves.