Do you know when to back off?

-There are two sides to the respect coin. One is to pay attention to people, to hear them out. Another is to back off rather than browbeat someone who doesn’t agree with you. – I’ve talked before about the ethical obligation

Shopping carts and character

– There are two kind of people: those who return their shopping carts and those who don’t. – When we think about character, we tend to envision really big things, like taking heavy risks, committing bold acts of integrity, being grandly generous, or making tough sacrifices. Such noble choices indicate character,

We Shape Our Own Character

Character may determine our fate, but character is not determined by fate. There’s no doubt that our character has a profound effect on our future. What we must remember, however, is

Just Keep on Knocking

-What to do when no one is answering their door. – In the summer of my junior year in college I took a job as a door-to-door salesman for the Fuller Brush Company. I sold household supplies, razor blades and, of course brushes. In those days, well before the internet, this kind of selling was common and there was a …

COMMENTARY: Will This Be a Good Christmas?

Will this be a good Christmas? To lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question: “Whaddja get?” On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits. What a pity that the spiritual and social potential of this holiday can be so easily lost. Of course, Christmas is a …

COMMENTARY: Surviving Critical Relatives at Family Gatherings

I realize that not everyone lives in a Norman Rockwell world where family gatherings are sources of warmth and good memories. For some, the prospect of holiday get-togethers generates dread and anxiety; they are something to endure, not enjoy. One reason is that family members can be tactless and downright cruel when expressing their opinions about perceived foibles, flaws and …

COMMENTARY: What is a Good Christmas?

Will this be a good Christmas? How will you measure it? For lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question, “Whadja get?” On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits. What a pity that the spiritual and social potential of this a holiday can be so easily …

COMMENTARY: The Missing Baby Jesus

In a lovely essay*, Jean Gietzen wrote about a family experience in 1943. It was just before Christmas in North Dakota and her family had just bought a nativity set with small figurines. But Jean’s mother was deeply disturbed to discover the set included an extra Baby Jesus. “Go back to the store,” she instructed, “and tell the manager to put …

COMMENTARY: Deal or No Deal?

Sarah’s mom agreed to let her 16-year-old go to a party if she promised to be home by midnight. But as the Cinderella hour approached, Sarah did a quick risk/reward calculation. She knew her mom would be angry and probably ground her, but she was having so much fun she decided it was worth it. Sure enough, when she got …

COMMENTARY: What Makes Us Happy?

There is an ever-growing body of knowledge about the nature and causes of happiness. For one thing, it’s clear that happiness is a feeling, not a circumstance. Happiness is more than just fun or pleasure. It’s a more durable sense of well being. Our happiness depends not on what happens to us, but what happens in us. In other words, …

COMMENTARY: Getting Through to Kids

A listener wrote to say she was selecting some of her favorite commentaries to put into a notebook for her 12-year-old son. She said she was going to underline portions she thought were particularly pertinent. I love it whenever someone wants to share my thoughts, especially with children, but I’ve come to realize how difficult it can be to successfully …

COMMENTARY: The Cowboy Code

I grew up in much simpler times. Television was in its infancy, and the idea of a hero was exemplified by a white-hatted cowboy. There was a clarity and simplicity to this hero’s moral code that left no doubt there is a right and wrong. As I became more sophisticated, it was easy to ridicule these simplistic approaches to ethics …

COMMENTARY: Thanking Your Parents on Thanksgiving

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I hope you will think about your parents with your most gentle and generous thoughts and be thankful. Even if you didn’t have ideal parents or a perfect home life, if either or both of your parents are still with you, make an effort to experience and express genuine gratitude. It’s natural to take for granted what …

COMMENTARY: Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude

For some, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday season filled with joy and happiness at the prospect of spending time with family. For others, it’s a sadder time blemished by bad memories or dread. Some people see their lives filled with abundant blessings and find thankfulness easy and natural; others are so pre-occupied with tending to past wounds or …

COMMENTARY: If I Could Give You Anything

It’s a tradition during a bat or bar mitzvah ceremony for parents to deliver specific blessings to their child. I wrote a poem for my daughter Abrielle a few years ago. I want to share it with you as I think it captures the sort of thing most parents wish they could give their children. If I Could Give You …

COMMENTARY: Listening – A Vital Dimension of Respect

We demonstrate the virtue of respect for others by being courteous and civil and treating everyone in a manner that acknowledges and honors basic human dignity. An important but often neglected aspect of respect is listening to what others say. Respectful listening is more than hearing. It requires us to consider what’s being said. That’s hard when we’ve heard it …

COMMENTARY: Ask What Can You Do for Your Country

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy, invoked my generation to “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” We are fortunate to live in a free and democratic society where millions of civilians and soldiers serve their fellow citizens.Today is Veteran’s Day and the weekend provided the nation a special …

COMMENTARY: The Trust of Our Children

There’s no doubt about it: Trust is an asset to any relationship and distrust an enormous liability. But thinking of trust in terms of its practical value can demean and distort its true significance as an endorsement of our character and as a sign of our worthiness. I get my clearest vote of trust when I stop to appreciate the …

COMMENTARY: The Value of Trust

A teenager wants to go to a party, but she’s sure her mom won’t let her. So she and her friend concoct a false cover story. What’s the big deal? Most kids lie to their parents from time to time,

COMMENTARY: Don’t Miss the Chance

A listener got me thinking about the challenge of dealing with aging parents who become more and more needy and the conflicts one is bound to feel. It motivated me to write this poem: Don’t Miss the Chance They said I was lucky my mom lived near, But she was pretty old and it wasn’t so clear. Sure, I was …

COMMENTARY: Listening: A Vital Dimension of Respect

We demonstrate the virtue of respect for others by being courteous and civil and treating everyone in a manner that acknowledges and honors basic human dignity. An important but often neglected aspect of respect is listening to what others say. Respectful listening is more than hearing. It requires us to consider what’s being said. That’s hard when we’ve heard it …