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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Blessing to Others of Our Self-Awareness

I’ve learned to be suspicious of people who never seem to be wrong, who always have an opinion, and who insist on talking much more than they listen. There is something within me that feels wronged by people who covertly or overtly insist on having the upper hand; people who would feel more hurt at the insinuation that they have room for improvement.
I’ve also learned that those who are humble enough to know they’ll always be learning, who accept they’ll get things wrong occasionally—who apologise, and who may be wrong by logic even if they’re logical people, don’t consider themselves humble.
But some of the proudest people—who have a ‘knowledgeable’ self-perception—think they’re incredibly humble. They are not; they are proud—the antithesis of humility.
The Bible tells us the humble will be exalted and the exalted, humbled.
God’s Word speaks in so many ironies—it speaks to the broad scope of enigmatic truths, many of which are invisible to the undiscerning.
The humble person—that one who frequently checks themselves for fault more so than they check others for fault—has a phenomenon about them. They’re self-aware. They’re emotionally intelligent. As such, they’re a blessing to others, because they genuinely and routinely put others first. It’s their pleasure to do this.
The humble protect others at the cost of themselves. They love because they can.
Whereas the proud person feels not only entitled to their opinion—whether they’re qualified to comment or not—they insist that others hear them, and, when they’re particularly narcissistic, they get angry when other people differ against their views—most especially when other people act as proud as they are.
Becoming/Being Self-Aware
The motivation for being self-aware regarding fairness and justice in social situations is love. It has to be love. We must desire better for the other person.
But so often there are cases where people push and shove their way in and around our lives, disrespecting our personal space and our dignity. Of course, this cannot be explained as love, especially when there’s always a justification in the transgression and any resistance from us is seen as us transgressing them, not just maintaining good boundaries.
Becoming self-aware is not only about emotional intelligence—noting how interactions are going, not just for us, but for them too—it’s centrally about love.
When we’re inherently loving we are naturally self-aware. The irony is then we stand to be open for less self-aware people to traipse all over our rightful dominion—our personal space (not the physical space, but the psychological and relational space).
The cost of being lovingly self-aware is we’ll notice all the more when others aren’t.
People never forget how we made them feel. When we listen with pleasure, consider them the same as ourselves, button our lips when tempted to venture opinions, and admit we’re wrong when we are, we’re a blessing to others and we please God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Going Beyond Hurt So As Not To Hurt

“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.”
Garrison Keillor
We are useless in people’s lives, in a positive and proactive way, if we remain hurt. We cannot be a positive impact if what resides within us is caustic and corrosive. These facts are important in any event, but so much more so when we are parents.
Parents have a crucial role in the emotional development of their children—that seems almost needless to say. Yet, so many parents recoil from within their hurt and they spew vitriol over their children, only to later regret it (though some never do). Perhaps all parents do this from time to time.
But overall, we must go beyond our hurt and resolve it or we will inevitably hurt others.
God honours us when we do our deeper work, being honest about how we have been hurt, so as to understand and empathise with ourselves. But God cannot honour us if we don’t put in the work.
If we expect that our efforts will make the difference we will be sadly mistaken, for our hurts will bubble up ultimately in an angry outburst or in a passive aggressive response.
We have to be honest with ourselves regarding our hurt, or we will hurt others.
When we have dealt with our hurt, and we continue to rally within our honesty regarding the impact of our hurts, we become more impervious to the damage that hurts generally cause. We become less vulnerable to being hurt.
Our children really do need us as safe and secure land masses of rest. Imagine the blessing implicit of the parent who provides safe home base—which is not just a physical place. It is just as much emotional.
Going beyond hurt, by digging deeply into it and wrestling with the results of it, is the greatest investment we can make for our children.
Our children don’t need to be spoiled rotten materially, but they do need the riches of our spiritual input.
They need to know that we are there to them, but we can’t be if we are hurt. The golden clue of being hurt is maladaptive emotional responses—anger, impatience, agitation, partiality.
We have to be honest with ourselves regarding our hurt, or we will hurt others. There is nothing surer. The greatest gift our children can have is us, their parents, as we provide reliable safe haven.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When Love is Pushed to Truth

“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depths until the hour of separation.”
Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931)
Any man, or woman for that matter, who has endured the castigating nemesis of separation beyond their will must certainly identify with the abovementioned quote. I do. I do indeed recall a time when, for all the love I took for granted, love suddenly became more paramount than anything else in the entire world. But, alas, for me it was too late. The marriage I had neglected was under the curse of a death knell. She had done her grieving and mine was just starting.
A harrowing truth beckoned over me, back then, as God communicated through my then-wife what I didn’t understand about love—that she needed all of me and not just the convenient parts. Still, it was a blessing—though a harsh one—to know then what I should have always known.
When we take love for granted, love eventually gives up, saying, “Okay, you have it your way.”
Love deserves better. It deserves reciprocation. It deserves justice.
When Push Comes to Shove
Endurance is the masterpiece of the human soul that has hope for change, but that very endurance—when it is pushed to bounds of injustice—has its own ordained use-by date.
When push comes to shove unrequited love seeks its retribution. It knows what it deserves and goes after it. I know what I desire for my daughters, and they deserve to be loved, at least as much as they will love the men they finally choose. For what we are willing to put into love we should, ideally, receive back in kind.
When love is pushed to truth—and it must face the inevitability that things won’t change—love takes a stand as it takes courage and implements a drastic and sweeping change. It takes its destiny into its own hands. It hammers a stake into the ground. It decides enough is enough and commits to a plan of action. Then there is peace.
Sometimes we don’t know how much things mean to us until they are gone. Love can transform something we took for granted and make it never more prized. This, indeed, is a lesson of God, to prize love above all things. Relationships are the pinnacle; the marriage relationship uppermost.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

When Troubled, Go Deeper

There are very many times when being in a position of trust or authority is a trap, especially as the vulnerable within the church set-up seek psychological recompense.
People present with all manner of issue. Some of these issues have nothing to do with the real issue. The real issue can be something we need to delve deeper into to attract knowledge of its source.
When people present as troubled, it is advisable to just dig a bit deeper rather than work on the visible issue itself.
When someone presents us with a question that they may have no clear answer to, and especially if they present as perplexed, it could be our duty to acknowledge our concern and enquire of them at a deeper level.
We could ask a question or two: “How are you going? You appear upset? I’m wondering what caused you to ask this. If I give you an answer you don’t like, will it help you? I want to check on you before we continue.”
What Lies Deeper May Surprise You (and Them)
So often we have no idea what sparks the upsets and frustrations within people, or even ourselves. They, or we, may not be able to put our finger on what it is that proves troubling.
Many times we react against things that have nothing to do with our core fears.
When we get in touch with their true fear, by asking some simple questions about how they are feeling, and by slowing down the emotional gait, we offer them the opportunity to consider and decide for perspective.
When people are fearful, panicked, overwhelmed, or angry they usually respond best when we are concerned enough to want to understand them. We can help them, but first we need to define what the actual issue is, even though they often think they know.
By slowing things down, and by asking questions as to their state, within the preparedness to be with them and journey with them, there is the opportunity to divert to the deeper issue.
Beyond anger and frustration is typically an unreconciled sadness. This begs to be explored, but exploration will be resented unless we are genuinely invited in.
To be invited in we must demonstrate authentic concern and only enter upon invitation.
When people are troubled they tend to have deeper concerns than what angers, frustrates, or saddens them. When we are concerned enough for them to explore what the real issue is they may ultimately determine a better course of action. Not everything is as it initially seems.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Memories, the Future, and Eternity

Memories are more important the more we age,
We can suppose it’s an indicator of the stage,
Where nostalgia merits in putting to hand,
What we attest to God—our life’s stand.
The longer we live, the more we suppose,
The higher the gift, anticipating a close,
Life is limited more than it seemed,
Much more than we ever dared or dreamed.
Memories call us to regard our time,
In capsules and fissures that don’t quite rhyme,
Troubled but driven, resolute we strive,
This riddle of our time cannot be denied.
Significance of the moment, our existence laid bare,
When we think on it we’re caused to solemnly stare,
Finiteness to us may seem awkwardly true,
A fact we feel certain with which shortly to rue.
Finally our end beckons and we sense our chance,
Upon heaven’s glow we’re compelled to dance,
Our lives do not end here collapsed in our sins,
There’s life over yonder—it’s where it begins.
What Do We Think of Our Lives?
Nostalgia has a way of compelling us to think about our past that’s relevant to both our present and future. It strengthens our existence.
Memories call us to recount our being. The further back our memories stretch, the harder it is to remember the detail, and the more mysterious our lives seem. Did we really experience what we experienced? We lament such relative amnesia. We would richly prefer to have instant recall of those memories we’ve come to long since cherish. And even if we didn’t cherish them, we still want access so we can learn, and therefore reconnect with our essential selves and touch important persons. We yearn for inner connection.
And memories speak powerfully into our perceptions of what our lives have been, what they are, and what they’re becoming.
This Life Is Limited – Eternity Is Limitless
The older we get the more we realise how relatively short life is. And in all of this reflection what’s reinforced over and again is how imperfect life is. But this life isn’t all there is.
Our limited lives, and the limitations within life, should simply remind us there is something more, and eternally perfect, waiting for us.
What is awkward and mysterious about life here, with all its anxieties and fumbling and occasioned misery, is being brought back under God in the eternal realm. There is peace. Totally unlike this world; there is peace.
Memories give us a sense of our lives, and they grow more significant the older we get. Memories are a gift, a down payment, for the wonder to behold in eternity.
Death is a touchstone giving meaning to life. It’s the gateway into eternity.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Emotional Intelligence Helps

“Ask yourself, ‘Why am I so angry?’ Just ask the question.”
Rob Furlong
Emotional intelligence has nothing to do with being ‘intelligent’. But it has everything to do with wisdom in the context of our relationships. It is simply down to this: where we have awareness we have the power, through the courage of action, to change. And in the context of anger, simply becoming aware in the moment and asking the simple question can provoke a different response, just in time.
The use of emotional intelligence—to become aware and to change in the moment—can literally be a lifesaver. It’s certainly a relationship saver.
Awareness and Action
In its most basic form emotional intelligence is awareness and action—two discrete steps.
First we begin to train our minds to become more aware of what we are thinking and how we are responding to different life circumstances. We want God to awaken us emotionally and, therefore, spiritually.
When we are open to God’s healing Presence in our lives, in allowing the Spirit to heal us emotionally, especially by wrangling with our pasts, we are bound to grow spiritually. Our emotional lives are deeply connected with our spiritual lives. If we want spiritual growth we ought to go for emotional growth—that is the way. And there is no better place to start than with our past hurts—to seek God’s miraculous healing. We ought to believe God can do anything so far as healing is concerned.
What we could not do, God can do.
Awareness is a thing that has to be grown. We become more and more aware with time and practice.
The second step, of course, is action. We would be fools if we were aware of something, yet didn’t act. Action has the boldness of genius about it, as Goethe would say.
Action requires courage, but it’s helped because our awareness has helped us make the decision. Courage, in this way, is made easier. It doesn’t need to haggle over what to do; it simply needs to do it. Our awareness has already convicted us. To act should be simple. To act is to do the thing that is, or will be, blessed.
There is much wisdom in simply asking ourselves the question, “Why am I angry?” Becoming aware through such a question is just the distraction we need to move from anger into the curiosity that protects others who would be otherwise hurt by our anger.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When Love Conquers the World

There is a time when we no longer need to fight; God fights for us as we serenely consider Jesus. His love had full abandon, in that it was taken to the cross; a consummate sacrifice for his Father.
That day God conquered the world in the name of Love.
It is our opportunity, within the scope of our relationships, to exemplify and attest to this love, replicating its holy advance in ways that completely disarms people in the safest of ways. What love initiates, love completes. Love seals the deal.
When love conquers the world everyone’s a winner. Love cannot be suppressed. Love is both enigmatic and charismatic, having the power of God to speak truth into people’s lives in the most caring and trustworthy of ways.
When love conquers the world it has shown itself as love. It has become a paragon of fitness for life, because when we are fit to partake in the activity of life we take on the attributes of love.
When love conquers the world it proves consistent with its entire past and future, for it, in the character of God, is unique in its unchangeable nature.
When love conquers the world it convinces the world of its veracity; its power to bring anything to life that aligns with love in truth.
We know when we know it, because life begins to make sense without so much as a thought.
The Invisible and Unknown Power of Love
Many people who should know don’t truly know this power that has been vested in them. I lived like that for 13 years. But when the Lord truly won my heart—truly, truly—I was a changed man to love. None of this is our doing. All of it is of God. This is why love is invisible and unknown—until it becomes visible and known.
The character of such love is surrender and sacrifice and serenity.
It is surrender because nothing is ‘personal’ any more. We may detect being hurt but it doesn’t feel like we are hurt. It is sacrifice because we take the action to give ourselves over to God and to the other person’s stead—without second thought. And it is serenity because we know, that, being in the lap of God’s will, we are pleasing to God and there is nothing better.
All of this, it has to be said, is conditional on a thriving relationship with God. We may backslide at any time.
We are won to love or we are not. Surrender, sacrifice, and serenity are the key indicators. It cannot be love without these three.
Love conquers the world when surrender, sacrifice, and serenity characterise a person. Nothing can stand before love and not be either transformed or defeated. Love is both enigmatic and charismatic in the best of ways. Love is the power of God known to life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Brokenness, Empathy, Connection

If we were to partake in an activity of group therapy, sharing with one another our thoughts, impressions and experiences, we’d see and learn how broken we are. Indeed, many may already assume this having previously become aware. Brokenness, of this sense, is about coming face-to-face with our experienced ineptitude, acknowledging that in most situations of life we’ve come up short; not because we didn’t care, it was because we were incapable of an adequate response.
Life is a thing that undoes us, and so regularly we probably scarcely give it a thought.
Having Empathy With Ourselves
There are many people who don’t feel comfortable connecting with their brokenness, for the things such a state will reveal about them that would be better left. The rationale might be, ‘What I don’t know about can’t hurt me’. But being disconnected from their brokenness will require them to be perennial escape artists—having to live with themselves, but apart from their core selves, never truly home to themselves.
It may take some initial courage to be open to our brokenness within—a thing, again, no matter how well-adjusted our families-of-origin were, that exists within everyone, though maybe a little more or less in some than others. But the fact is we can balance the need for courage by being empathetic with ourselves. We do this by understanding that none of our caused brokenness is our fault and none of it, as far as we were concerned, happened because we wanted it or allowed it to happen.
Empathy is easy when our perceptions come home to the fact that brokenness is a human universal. Indeed, such a thing merely accentuates the need every human being has for a Saviour. Everybody needs God.
From Empathy To Connectedness
The essence of the process taking us from the denial of our brokenness to our unconditional acceptance of it is an ability to see things as they really are, more and more.
Travelling on this journey is a wonderfully freeing experience; the more we sojourn the more we realise the polar complexities of life and our miniscule control over them. Along with that revelation comes the revelation, also, that our parents and other authority figures in our lives were just as much victims of these polar complexities as we have been. Our empathy with ourselves morphs, hopefully, into a more universal feeling of compassion for all the actors in life.
About this point, as we begin touching our compassionate selves, having a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, and our individual and collective brokenness, we begin to see more truly as God sees.
Connecting with our brokenness is a journey to freedom. It takes us to a better understanding of ourselves, others in our pasts, and God. When we can touch our brokenness and not flee in fear we become connected with compassion and all of life blooms.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Battling the Covert Bully

Chances are we have all unconsciously faced off against a covert bully. Many have taken the role. But the latter is unlikely to be reading this. A really skilled workplace bully is likely to be the covert bully.
Perhaps a key indicator is that, even in the presence of being manipulated, we are given cause to doubt ourselves—to think they are not so bad after all. Their covert and destructive actions are hidden by selective intuitions of charisma and psychodrama they deploy to throw key influencers off their scent. They can appear very noble people.
How Does This Bully Work?
The bully distorts human relationships, making them unrelational. It’s the only way he can get away with the things he does conscience-free.
By keeping things unrelational, by not seeing people as people, he is able to treat them with scant regard. “It’s all business,” is their compelling inner mantra. Then he picks on negative personality traits—which are easy targets for the bully. Negative personality traits we all have. They are easy to pick and pick on.
How Does This Bully Think?
Focusing on his image alone, to the selective disregard of reality, he is the centre of his universe—which is his total social environment. “Social” is an interesting word—it’s always a game. Manipulation is the tactical spread they use. Classic narcissism is their underlying persona.
If we do anything to harm the image the bully has of themselves the battle intensity increases a notch or two. The covert bully is very protective of their image.
This person only cares about other people to the extent that they may assist in the achievement of their goals. Respect is therefore highly conditional. And trust, if it exists, is primitive and shaky at best.
The bully is centred on control. His world is not about relationship; it’s all about ownership.
Battleground Modus Operandi
How do we fight, then? Mentally, we stay aware as we ready ourselves for possibilities of confrontation. We are not fearful, just ready, expecting the tough unrelenting battle if it comes. We become battle-ready—in our minds and hearts—not to win, but to quietly assert ourselves, by not getting wrapped up in their webs of power mongering. This approach overestimates the potential. Ironically, we feel safer. This is because, expecting the worst, we are pleasantly surprised that things tend not to work out that way.
It is a wise to be forearmed in praying, “For the tests and temptations and persecutions already coming, make me ready, Lord, that I would have as positive an attitude as possible, and to know you are with me, everywhere and always, Amen.”
We try to remain in check of our emotions, being reminded that the business of life is just that; a business, plain and simple, without much need for losing control. The unemotional approach to life is its own blessing. We get to experience peace for free.
When we are pushed by people we try not to react. “Push me to speed up and I maintain my speed.”
We can also learn to laugh within ourselves; to not take life so seriously. Why do we lose so much sleep, and get anxious, over the relatively little issues of life?
Most of all we believe in ourselves—that we are every bit as worthy in God’s eyes as they are. We deserve respect as they do. Assertiveness is borne in equity.
Covert bullies only thrive when we feed their insatiable needs for power by proving weak in their sight. Being prepared and unemotional and retaining our humour are vital. Their power is actually quite brittle and we might even pity them a little if we see them as they truly are.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Relational Life’s Beauty and Power

If you could picture yourself...
In a garden, as a gardener, in the grand landscape of life, to be the cultivator of souls—a friend to all. To tend the soil and prepare the seed, and to plant and water and guard this garden; that will be the objective. And quiet moments will come, where a cool beverage is enjoyed; when, to sit and observe the garden is bliss. We reflect on our love.
As a miner, fossicking for rare deposits, collecting the ore and refining it, and selling it for a fair price on an open market. Processing the precious ore is the downstream objective, but it is always the exploration that guarantees the sustainability of the mining venture. Just the same, the cultivator of souls, a friend to all, the miner maintains their relationships, but they are always seeking new ones. They meet the eyes of strangers with the friendliness unknown to fear.
As a sailor sails the seven seas, with nothing to see but sea on the horizon, with hardly any vision for land, the sailor trusts. The sailor trusts the winds, and they sail with purpose, taking sure bearing as they plunge through the waves on a hope for their destination. Just the same, the cultivator of souls, a friend to all, the sailor meets people as he or she meets the seas—with open and trusting expectation.
Visions of Transcending Fear In Our Relationships
Whether we consider ourselves gardeners, miners, or sailors is probably perfectly irrelevant. Each of these roles seeks to meet the people they greet with the allure of love—they have won over their relational fear which could otherwise block relational intimacy.
They have learned the beauty of looking someone in the eye and being real. They have learned that to judge another really is to judge the self. They don’t go there.
They consider it an honour to know another person—to really know them. Indeed, they see it as the pinnacle of life; the greatest of God’s gifts—being devoid of fear.
The landscape of the transcendent life is a marvellous one. It takes us well past the fears that constrain us. It takes God at his Word—an almighty and trustworthy Word.
When we determine that life is all about relationships—and hardly anything else—we know the purpose of our tasks. The tasks are not more important. The tasks serve the relationship, not the other way around. The tasks are a means to an end. The tasks merely support the relationship.
When we consider that life is all about relationships, then we know God’s mandate for our lives. We begin to focus on becoming cultivators of souls—a friend to all who would have us.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Marrying ‘Up’ In the World

“As with most men I meet I am lucky enough to have married up in the world.”
— Gary Smith
When I read this quote, and the succeeding sentence, where this ‘lucky’ husband also praised God for being blessed in having four wonderful children—that “one cannot complain”—I had this strange sense that this may be one of the keys to a life where marriage is literally made in heaven.
It is rare to see such humility in husbands, or in wives for that matter; to bestow glory on the other.
Such humility is borne on the wings of vision for the other people around, not simply ourselves. I imagined this particular husband being a quiet and calming leadership presence around the home. I imagined that if he had this attitude of sincere praise to God for his wife and children that they would most certainly respond in kind.
There is a lesson, here, for all husbands; and particularly for Christian husbands, whom have their goal on Christ, and on serving their families, and by leading that way.
The Husband As Servant Leader
I feel convicted when I say that I know it is God’s vision for me in my marriage to serve my wife, and my children, willingly, enthusiastically, without complaint, praising God all the way.
I have not always succeeded. Indeed, thousands of times I have succumbed to pride, my own greed, and laziness, etc. But something quite mysteriously ‘magical’ happens when I serve my wife (and, also, by the way, by serving my children I serve my wife) because God works three ways.
When I serve without complaint, with a quiet enthusiasm, seeking to foresee her needs even before they arise, it obviously blesses her, it increases intimacy between us, and God blesses me from within to know I am doing his will.
But the beautiful thing about the husband leading by serving is he models that way to his wife and children, encouraging them to adopt the same life approach. Wives love husbands who lead by serving, because they can smell a leader from a mile off. Women have an innate sense for detecting virtue in a man; in a potential husband; and in their husbands.
Women are attracted to men who lead virtuously with a servant heart.
When men feel privileged to have married the women they have married—that they feel they have ‘married up in the world’—there is a willingness within them to serve their wives. Such a model of servant leadership in marriage is the Biblical model.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.