surviving

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: 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 You Can’t Say Anything Nice

Tragic stories and new data on the prevalence and harmfulness of bullying have made us all more sensitive to the ways our words can hurt others – merciless criticism, nasty sarcasm, hurtful nicknames, malicious rumors, and careless gossip. In Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, Joseph Telushkin writes about the moral implications of what we say. He points out that …

COMMENTARY: The Make-Up Test

Chad and his three friends were college seniors and doing well in their classes. Even though the final physics exam was on Monday, Chad persuaded his buddies to take a weekend trip several hundred miles away. He told his worried friends they could study in the car, during the trip, and when they got back Sunday night. Instead, the boys …

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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 …

outrun

COMMENTARY: I Just Have to Outrun You

During a camping trip, Sam and Tom saw a bear coming their way. Sam started to take off his backpack and told Tom he was going to run for it. When his surprised friend said, “You can’t outrun a bear,” Sam replied, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.” Sadly, this look-out-for-number-one mentality is …

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COMMENTARY: Don’t Brag, But Be Proud

Today, after winning a big game it’s common for athletes and fans to chant, “We’re number one,” in a classless display of self-praise that comes off as conceit and disrespectful taunting. I sometimes feel that way about materials praising America. Still, national pride is important. Reminders about the high principles on which this nation was based are essential to keep …

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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 …

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COMMENTARY: Rules About Trust

I’ve talked about it lots of times before: The high cost of lying and deception — by politicians and police, corporate executives and clergy, even journalists, accountants and educators — has been to weaken every major social institution. As each of these institutions wages its separate battle to remove the cloud of suspicion and cynicism that hovers over it, there …

listen

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 …

uncle-sam-wwy

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 …

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OBSERVATIONS: 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

To Americans, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month has special meaning as a time to acknowledge and honor the men and women who have served their country in the military. Government employees and many others benefit from a special holiday – Veteran’s Day – a formal recognition of the sacrifices and service of their fellow …

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: 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: Rules About Trust

I’ve talked about it lots of times before: The high cost of lying and deception — by politicians and police, corporate executives and clergy, even journalists, accountants and educators — has been to weaken every major social institution. As each of these institutions wages its separate battle to remove the cloud of suspicion and cynicism that hovers over it, there …

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: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: An Uncomfortable Moment of Truth

When my daughters were younger and wanted to spend time with me, I used to take each one on an out-of-town trip for alone time. An especially memorable one was with my youngest daughter Mataya when she was seven. We went to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and had a wonderful time touring and talking about American history, the Liberty Bell, …

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 …

COMMENTARY: Suitability Versus Capability

A critical maxim of management is: “Suitability is as important as capability.” Capability asks, “Can they do the job?” Suitability asks, “Are they right for the job?” If the job isn’t a good fit, it’s not a good job. Yes, an employee has to have (or be able to readily acquire) the skills and knowledge required for excellent job performance, …

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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 …