When someone refers to another as “unpretentious” it is often quite a compliment. Such a statement is not typically made with cool detachment but with great pleasure. After all, unpretentious people are not only people we like but are often people who cause us to feel good when we are with them.
Meanwhile, we may know also know some people who we might describe as “pretentious.” These people perceive themselves to be important and have a way of being with others that may cause them to feel critiqued and evaluated.
I recall a conversation with a woman who had walked into a social setting where she was to meet a new friend. She sensed the eyes of others staring at her. She felt as if others were thinking, “Who is she and who invited her here?”
Meanwhile, her new friend came into the room and warmly greeted her guest. In spite of the rather cool beginning, she actually enjoyed the evening. The nice evening was attributed to her friend whom she describes as being completely unpretentious.
Have you been in situations like this where you were put at ease by another’s lack of self-importance?
The other day I was on the telephone with one of my daughters. We talked for a few minutes when suddenly she said, “Well Dad, I guess I had better go.”
I responded by saying, “Already? What is your hurry?”
She then said, “Dad-I can tell you are distracted.”
I could not argue. I was distracted. Charlotte and I had just arrived home after a trip to Arkansas. I was distracted the moment we walked into the house. I apologized and said that I would love to talk with her. She said, “Let’s talk some other time.”
I suspect many of us have experienced such conversations. However, sometimes the failure to be fully present with others is more than a momentary occurrence. Some people are just not emotionally present regardless of the circumstances. This is just the way they function. In other words, they live each day not really present in the moment they have right now.
What do we lose when we are not fully present?
I suppose it may not a word that immediately gets your attention. Perhaps it doesn’t have much buzz or flair.
Yet the importance of showing another respect is huge.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
- A young husband is condescending to his wife, making her feel as if she is less intelligent than he is.
- A teenager has a confrontation with his dad. He tells his dad to “shut up” and walks away. Thirty minutes earlier the boy was in a Wednesday evening Bible class.
- A young woman is disrespectful to her mother-in-law, speaking to her in way that is demeaning and hurtful.
- A man disrespects his wife, flirting with women at the office. One woman at the office remarks, “You mean he’s married?”
- A minister degrades the elders to others in the congregation and then kisses up to them in an elders meeting. Disrespect.
- An older man in the church abruptly approaches a young minister and says something insulting and crude in front of a visitor.
I am not suggesting that people needed to be “nicer.”
In your backpack
Pete Scazzero writes thoughtful posts regarding the interior life. See his post “Removing the Clutter.” Scazzero asks this important question, “What are you carrying in your “leadership backpack” that needs to be removed so you can listen for God in your interior world?”
Also, don’t miss this post by Scazzero “Am I Becoming a More Mature, Differentiated Leader?” This is such an important concept for any leader to grasp. I am thankful for Ed Friedman whose books, papers, and speaking introduced me to this concept many years ago.
See Ann Voskamp’s post “Why Your Soul Needs You to Make Time to be Creative: 7 Keys to Being More Creative.” This is a good post! Like so many of Ann’s posts, it has numerous pictures and a fresh way of expressing the ordinary. Be sure to finish the post since the seven keys are actually listed at the end.
Lifehacker recently had a post entitled “The Best Time of Day to Do Anything.” Agree or disagree, these posts typically make me think. For example, skim through this post “The Best Sounds for Getting Work Done.”
See Thom Rainer’s post “Sex, Millennials, and the Church: Five Implications.” I appreciate Rainer’s tone as well as his research.
For years, I waited.
My perception of my life was all about circumstances. I saw myself as not being in the ideal circumstances but assured myself that one day things would be different. As I saw it, the present was always lacking in some way. However, things would really be good when, one day, life would be what I wanted it to be.
When I was single, I thought life would really begin when I got married.
When I was in college, I thought life would really begin when I graduated.
When I was in graduate school, I thought life would really begin when I finished the program.
When I was married, I thought life would really begin when we could settle down somewhere.
When we were renting a house, I thought life would really begin when we could own a home.
Good question! This is a question that many of us ask regularly.
Not long ago, a friend expressed his appreciation for our relationship. He spoke of how often he had confided in me through the years. I came away from that conversation not only appreciating our friendship more but with greater resolve to always be a trustworthy friend to him.
Far too often we learn that some people are just not trustworthy.
- A person sabotages an initiative of a co-worker behind her back while being nice to when she is present.
- You learn that a man in your community apparently has been living a double life that totally violates the convictions he claims to hold.
- A student plagiarizes material that she used for a research paper.
- A friend tells someone else some information that you shared with him in confidence.
In friendships, in a church, or in a working relationship, it is especially important to know that you can trust another with what you say and what is said to you.
There is absolutely no substitute for being trustworthy.
1. Consider a person’s manner. If he regularly gossips, breaks the confidence of others, and bad-mouths people, do not expect him to speak differently regarding you in your absence.
2. At the very least, consider the reputation of another. A person once said to me regarding a mutual acquaintance, “Do not tell him anything that you do not want repeated to others.” That turned out to be very wise counsel. On the other hand, I was recently advised regarding a mutual friend, “You know that you can confide in him. So many of us do.” He had earned a very good reputation.
3. Express appreciation to those you have found to be trustworthy. Such relationships are not to be taken for granted. In a culture where trust is often broken, others might be encouraged to occasionally hear you express your appreciation for their trustworthiness.
One night I was driving home from my job at UPS. It was about midnight and was raining. I was in college and was driving my father’s car, which I rarely drove. As I recall, my car was in the shop being repaired. I was on Stemmons Expressway (I-35) and going much too fast considering the rain. At one point, the car began to hydroplane on the water surface. I remember wondering how I would stop. The car began to do a 360 on the expressway. I wondered if I was going to get hit from behind. Finally after turning around completely, the car came to a stop. I then slowly began to drive ahead again.
I had been totally out of control.
Reynolds Price, novelist and longtime English professor at Duke, spoke at the 1992 Founder’s Day at Duke and challenged his audience with some observations regarding many students.
But you’ll find other sights that breed concern. . . . walk your attentive self through the quads. Stand at a bus stop at noon rush-hour; roam the reading rooms of the libraries in the midst of term and the panic of exams. Lastly, eat lunch in a dining hall and note the subjects of conversation and the words employed in student discussion. (I’m speaking mostly of undergraduates, but not exclusively.)
Try to conceal your consternation at what is often the main theme of discourse — something less interesting than sex and God, the topics of my time. If for instance you can eat a whole meal in a moderately occupied Duke dining hall without transcribing a certain sentence at least once, I’ll treat you to the legal pain reliever of your choice. The sentence runs more or less like this, in male or female voice – – “I can’t believe how drunk I was last night.”
Considering that the social weekends of many students now begin – – indeed are licensed by us to begin – – at midday on Thursday and continue through the morning hours of Monday (as they never did in the old days of “country club” Duke), maybe the sentence is inevitable – – at least in the bankrupt America we’re conspiring to nurture so lovingly and toward which we blindly, or passively anyhow, wave our students.
“I can’t believe how drunk I was last night.”
Totally out of control.
One mark of a dysfunctional marriage, family, or church is that others within the system are not supposed reveal the secret.
What is the secret?
You are not to tell anyone about the way things really are in this marriage, this family, or this church. After all, what would people think?
Of course, I do appreciate husbands and wives who obviously love one another. It is really nice to see husbands and wives who still have much affection for one another after many years.
I do remember seeing an interesting Facebook status one day. It said something like this:
Twenty-five years ago I met the man of my dreams. We have loved together, laughed together, and dreamed together. I am so fortunate to be this man’s wife. Looking forward to the next 25 years.
Now many people enter a status like this one on their anniversary or spouse’s birthday. What struck me as odd about this particular post is that it never occurred to me (and I suspect many of their other friends) that she in any way adored or treasured this man. In fact, it really didn’t appear that they valued each other very much at all. The way they treated one another each day made such a post on their anniversary seem odd.
It was almost like she was trying to sell something to the rest of us.
Have you noticed?
Some people are very, very angry.
- The angry driver who is furious because another driver dared to pass him on the Interstate.
- The grandfather in his 60s who pounds the check-in desk with his hand, demanding that the clerk yield to his demands.
- The young man and woman who stand beside their car in the afternoon screaming at one another.
James Houston, in a presentation called “Living the Mentored Life,” suggests that three kinds of anger are often seen in people.
1. People who are angry with a controllable anger. This anger can be like a spewing volcano. These people are visibly angry.
2. Pleasers who are angry. These people suppress their own identity in order to placate others.
3. Givers who are angry. These people give to others but are often very angry as well. Often these people are perfectionists as they relate to other people.
Houston says that these are actually faulty substitutes for emotions found in healthy relationships.
I’ve rarely, if ever, heard anyone refer to himself as an angry person. However, I have heard numerous spouses speak of the angry people they married. I have a good friend who speaks of the long legacy of angry people in his family. In fact, his father/grandfather were both known for their rage.
What has been helpful to you in dealing with your own anger? What has been helpful in dealing with the anger of others?
They may be pleasant and intelligent people. Very often, they are Christian people. There are some people who have developed their thinking processes quite well. There are some who have the capacity to grasp intellectual complexities and make sense of them.
Yet, some of these same people never seem to grow up emotionally.
Yet, there are people whohave just never been able to progress or move ahead in terms of allowing the Gospel to make a difference in the way they handle their emotions.
Lifelong learners are willing to learn and grow. Learning, however, is not limited to mental, cognitive growth. A commitment to be a lifelong learner is not just a commitment to read more books.
No, we make the commitment to grow relationally and emotionally.
A few years ago, I read Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Church. A good book. This particular paragraph in the Introduction (p. 17) caught my attention:
The sad truth is that too little difference exists, in terms of emotional and relational maturity, between God’s people inside the church and those outside who claim no relationship to Jesus Christ. Even more alarming, when you go beyond the praise and worship of our large meetings and conventions and into the homes and small-group meetings of God’s people, you often find a valley littered by broken and failed relationships.