COMMENTARY: What I Believe

Here’s a portion of my personal list of beliefs that you may want to pass on: I believe I’m a work-in-progress, and there will always be a gap between who I am and who I want to be. I believe every day brings opportunities to learn and do something meaningful. I believe the true test of my character is whether …

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“The first duty of LOVE is to LISTEN.” -Paul Tillich

“The first duty of LOVE is to LISTEN.” -Paul Tillich. Listening doesn’t mean obeying, it means making a true effort to hear and understand what the other person is saying and feeling. Think how much better relationships would be if parents really listened to their children; if children – minors and adults – really listened to their parents and if …

COMMENTARY: Making Resolutions of Principle

The tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions reflects one the very best qualities of human nature – the ability to reflect on and assess our lives in terms of the goals we set for ourselves and the principles we believe in. It’s still not too late to formulate a self-improvement plan to make our outer lives and inner selves better …

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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 …

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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 …

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COMMENTARY: Forgiving Without Condoning or Forgetting

I suspect all of us have been hurt in deep and lasting ways by the words or acts of another. It’s normal in such situations to feel hostility toward the person who hurt us. If we allow the offense to linger, we may carry the hurt and resentment in the form of a grudge. Usually this causes more unhappiness for …

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, and their parents probably lied to their parents. Despite rhetoric about virtue being its own reward, a great many adults …

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: There Are Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who think those who think there are two kinds of people in the world are self-righteous jerks. A listener called me to task concerning a story about a man who told his son there are two kinds …

COMMENTARY: Lessons From a Carrot, Egg, and Coffee Bean

Let’s face it. Painful personal trauma and tragedy – like illness or injury, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or an unexpected breakup of a relationship – are unavoidable. The question is: Will these private calamities erode our capacity to be happy or cause us to become stronger and better able to live a meaningful and fulfilling …

COMMENTARY: What I Know About Life

The older I get, the less I know — but I know some things: I know that I’m a work in process and that there will always be a gap between who I am and who I want to be. I know that I don’t have to be sick to get better and that every day brings opportunities to improve …

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COMMENTARY: Converting Pessimists Into Optimists

Every full life has its bright days and its dark days, its triumphs and defeats, its calm and stormy seas. All these high and low experiences could justify viewing the past through the lens of gratitude or disappointment. And the way we characterize our history will determine whether we look toward our future with hopeful expectations or anxious trepidation. Scientists …

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COMMENTARY: Trust Involves Character and Competence

Today, I want to talk about the qualities that generate trust. I’m talking about being trustworthy, not trusting others. There’s a relationship between the two concepts, but a decision to trust another is a choice, not a moral obligation. Being trustworthy, however, is an indispensable aspect of good character. Thus, we should always act so as to be worthy of …

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COMMENTARY: Live Backwards

Ben just came to town as a new rabbi. Unfortunately, his first official duty was to conduct a funeral service for Albert, a man who died in his eighties with no relatives. Since Ben didn’t know the deceased personally, he paused from his sermon to ask if anyone in the congregation would say something good about Albert. There was no …

COMMENTARY: Character Is an Essential Part of Competence

If you were hiring a new CEO, what are the most important qualities you’d look for? Surely you’d want a high level of demonstrated competence – knowledge, experience, intelligence, vision, communication, and relationship skills and the ability to motivate, manage, and solve problems. But what about qualities such as honesty, moral courage, accountability, and fairness? Despite bold rhetoric about the …

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COMMENTARY: Reflection, Repentance, and Atonement

Yom Kippur is the highest of the High Holy Days in the Jewish religion. The essence of this sacred day – the true root of the holiday – includes but goes well beyond fasting and praying. It requires believers to make a personal, unflinching assessment of their character and conduct, not as an end in itself, but as part of …

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COMMENTARY: Yom Kippur and Human Nature

Yom Kippur, the highest of high holy days in the Jewish religion, is a day of fasting, reflection and atonement, all intended to help believers better understand and live up to the moral expectations of God. It’s a day to take an unflinching look at past conduct and to hold oneself accountable. And in order to clean the slate for …

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COMMENTARY: On the Passing of a Loved One

Just a few hours ago, I received a note from one of my oldest and dearest friends that his mom passed away. I was moved by the gracious way he gave the news and described her life and while all the feelings evoked by the news and the way he conveyed it are still enveloping me I want to share …

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COMMENTARY: Bologne Sandwiches

When Jason, a construction worker, took a sandwich out of his lunch bag, he looked at it and threw it on the ground yelling, “Bologne again! I hate bologne.” A co-worker said, “If you hate baloney so much, just ask your wife to make you something else.” Jason replied, “That’s the problem. My wife didn’t make the sandwich. I did.”

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COMMENTARY: Needing Approval More Than Advice

No matter what Gary did, it was never enough to please his father. When he got seven A’s and three B’s, his dad asked about the B’s. When he described the wonderful girl he’d fallen in love with, he got a lecture cautioning that she may be different than he thought. He thought he had a great relationship with his …

COMMENTARY: We Are What We Think

In the early 1900’s, a little-known philosopher named James Allen wrote a powerful essay called “As a Man Thinketh” in which he argued that we are what we think, that a person’s character is the sum of his thoughts. He declared that the power to control our thoughts (whether we use that power or not) is the ability to mold …

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, and their parents probably lied to their parents. Despite rhetoric about virtue being its own reward, a great many adults …

COMMENTARY: The Values Our Kids Learn From Others

Blessed with the opportunities and obligations of raising four young daughters, my wife Anne and I are profoundly aware of the importance of instilling good values that will help them become capable, honorable and happy adults. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, but we know that isn’t enough. Frankly, we’re worried about the values and character of your …

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COMMENTARY: The Truth About Trust and Lies

Honesty may not always pay, but lying always costs. Reputation, trust and credibility are assets no organization can afford to lose and the surest way to lose them is to lie. Building trust is like building a tower, stone by stone. But no matter how high or strong the tower seems, if you remove a stone from the bottom the …

COMMENTARY: A Dad Sending His Daughter Off to College

I want to share a slightly edited portion of a letter my friend Scott Raecker wrote to his daughter Emily on sending her off to college: My Dear Emily, My life changed the day we found out that you were on your way. From that moment forward, you have been on my mind and heart – every day. I vividly …

COMMENTARY: Give and Receive as if It’s the Thought That Counts

According to legend, a desert wanderer discovered a spring of cool, crystal-clear water. It tasted so good, he filled a leather container with the precious liquid so he could bring it to the king. After a long journey, he presented his gift to the king, who drank it with great pleasure and lavishly thanked the wanderer, who went away with …

COMMENTARY: Parenting Modern Kids in a Modern World

A hit number in the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie was a classic parent’s lament starting with, “I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today! Why can’t they be like we were?” The answer, of course, is they’re just like we were, but many of us aren’t like our parents were. Sometimes that’s good, often it’s not. Every generation of kids coping …

COMMENTARY: A Lifetime of Setting and Changing Goals

I believe in setting goals. I also believe in changing goals. As a fourth grader, I was a guest on the TV show Kids Say the Darndest Things and I said, “I want to be a lawyer because my mother says I talk so much I might as well get paid for it.” I entered law school in the idealistic 1960s, …