The Institute For Living

Relationships

Integrity at the Core

by on Feb.11, 2012, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

Once I had a conversation with a lady who had come to talk about a potential home improvement product. Our conversation spontaneously began with talk about the state of affairs in the country and the world. We seemed to have automatically been in synch with each other — understanding, agreeing with and applauding our mutual desire for a better dialogue than that which we were hearing day to day.

After this warm, heart-to-heart dialogue, though, it was time to “get down to business.” I was struck by how dramatically her mood shifted from one of seeming to care about the plight of people to one of wanting to make money.

This is not an indictment against her. Rather, it is an observation of the bigger system in which she and countless other people live, in which their lives are compartmentalized. In Box A is their genuine concern about the soul level issues of people and their well being — evidenced by the outpouring of good deeds when natural disasters strike. In Box B, though, is a totally contrary behavior that silently speaks, “I’ve got to do my part to make a profit — whatever it takes.”

I suppose most people are not even aware of the conflicting dialogues taking place by their two internal boxes. They literally, ‘just go along to get along.’  I have read stories of some people who, when they became aware of the conflict, lost their jobs by trying to quietly bring justice within the system that was designed to bring profits.  Make no mistake: resolving the conflict is no simple task or it would already be the predominant paradigm.

Ultimately, the mega systems must resonate with the ultimate system. When there is lack of integrity disturbances occur.

One person said that “passion” was the basis for his career, while “purpose” was the basis for his life. It takes a lot of courage to bring those two disconnected circles into synchronization with each other. And everyone may not be able to achieve 100% synchronization. It is a journey. Leaving them totally separate, though, may be like the married man who says, “Passion is my mistress, while purpose is my wife and family.”

Being “on purpose” is what integrity is all about. It may not be easy, because there are surrounding systems where the water is dirty. But integrity is about “wholeness.” It is not about legalism or moralism, or someone’s list of standards.  Integrity is about clarity of purpose.  Scripture says, “Be perfect.” That doesn’t mean living up to someone’s standard of righteousness, because other scriptures teach us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  There are numerous other scriptures that negate a notion of righteousness based on one’s ability to measure up to some arbitrary standard of living –established by some fallible group of people (who are not perfect).

What perfection, or integrity, does mean is the completeness illustrated by a circle: it is whole and cannot be broken. At core level, when we strive for integrity we will always exhibit love, because it is perfect.

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Room for Compromise?

by on Jul.26, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

I saw two rooms: one sat vacant, the other was overflowing with two groups of people — one unlike the other.

I questioned why one room sat vacant while the other room had plenty of space for discussion.

My answer came: “We are waiting for discussion between the two groups.”

But no discussion happened.

So one room sat vacant, while the other room was overflowing with two groups of people.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

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I’m Just a Flute

by on Apr.22, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

A flute is one of the smallest instruments in the orchestra, and yet its sounds are among the most pleasing to the ear. Sometimes the sound of a flute is like that of a bird dancing about the orchestral score. It adds life and brilliance to the fullness of the music that surrounds us.

When I think of my life purpose, I can use the metaphor of a flute to capture my role. I am dumb like a flute. The finest flute in the world is just a dumb instrument. Often we flatter ourselves based on our education, our financial stature or other worth-giving attributes; but I am dumb like a flute.

A flute can be kicked around, scratched, bruised, and thrown in the corner. But in the hands of a Master it makes the finest music. The Master creates the music; not the flute.

When I recognize my role as an instrument, I (1) preserve my integrity and sacredness, but (2) keep my ego in check. The Master will create the Universal Symphony if I will just do my part.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace” is a commonly used mantra. A totally different metaphor is “instruments of war.” These two stand in stark contrast to each other.

If I try to create music independent from the Master, I create chaos. It is the breath of the Master that gives life to the flute. Enharmonic overtones occur when the breath of Master and the structure of the flute are not in sync.

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Now is the Moment

by on Mar.04, 2011, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

When we’re experiencing trials and tribulations we always pray that the suffering will end and “that moment” will come when God will show us favor.

Walking in victory requires that we redefine our perspective. We must learn to value the affliction as much as we would value what we would perceive as the deliverance. Circumstances really are “value neutral.”

For instance, rain is neither bad nor good. The city dweller may call it bad, while the farmer calls it good. In fact, it just “is.” Furthermore, the city dweller will suffer if the farmer does not get rain for his crops.

Learning to embrace suffering as joy is not easy, but it is essential for the victorious life. The faith walk is based upon the knowing that stepping off into the unknown leads to new knowledge — preparing for more robust living (or abundant living).

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From Corruption to Clarity

by on Feb.23, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

It is interesting that the dynamics of human interactions are the same whether they are observed at the individual, group or societal levels. Obviously, as more individuals are involved, the collection of individual energies determine the outcome, but the system dynamics remain the same. The system ultimately demands clarity.

Initially, corruption (or confusion) can be — and will be — hidden. Sometimes sophisticated schemes may be used to make it appear that everything is successful for a while. Eventually, though, chaos begins to pierce the veil of serenity.

As chaos emerges, truths are uncovered on both sides. As painful as they may be, they can actually be tremendous assets in the healing process. What best determines the outcome is how well both sides deal with the chaos.

There are both assets and liabilities embedded in the experience. Neither side can fully determine the outcome, because the true character of each side is revealed during the period of chaos.

And the period of chaos has no time boundaries: sometimes it is brief; other times it is prolonged. There is no inherent value in either case. The value lies in the final outcome.

There are a myriad of possible outcomes; including a possible transfer of power. Generally, though, the parties will either divorce or rebuild. The amount of destruction that has and will occur must be considered as a systems cost.

The target outcome is clarity. The revelations from the stage of chaos serve as teachers for the future. Either one learns or repeats the course.

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Living on the Other Side of Fear

by on Feb.09, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

Wouldn’t it be nice to live without fear in our lives? Most of us live with fear from our personal lives to our cultural and global experiences.

At the personal level, we have the threats of sickness, financial hardship, interpersonal conflict and outside disruption — just to name a few. As we move to the larger group levels, political, economic, ethnic and other factors set the basis for our fears.

In all these cases, the core energy of fear is juxtaposed against the energy of love. Although the genesis of our lives is love, we lose our way and give power to fear so early in our journeys. Why is that? Why do we so readily abandon the power of love for the seduction of fear? It must be compelling in its alluring promises, or we wouldn’t be captivated by its charm.

People are drawn into abusive relationships because at some point there are charming qualities that promise to satisfy. And so it is with all the wares of fear.

But there is hope!

Psalm 111:10 and Job 28:28 teach us that the only appropriate fear is for the ultimate source of all sources. Connection to source is resource.

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Love Says No

by on Feb.06, 2011, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

One of the most compelling energy forces in our lives is love. We want to give it and receive it more than anything else. For most of us this is true at the most personal level and at group levels. All of our religious or spiritual traditions have some basis in love. “God is love” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself ” are cornerstones in the Christian faith. Certainly, no church or spiritual group would expect to build a following by proclaiming that their central energy provided no validation or support for them in their deepest places of being.

The sense that when we are at our most vulnerable state, we are enraptured by an energy called love is what gives us ultimate hope. It defines the bookends between despair and assurance. This warm blanket with which we can wrap ourselves even in our darkest nights is vital for our survival. But is that the only quality of love?

I shall never forget the night when one of my sons sat on the bedside and asked if he could wander off into the hillside the next day alone. I knew that he was a good child who had nothing but the best of intentions. (I had taken him with me to a job-related conference at a state resort center.) The day before I had told him to go with a companion so that if any accident occurred one of them could come back and alert us. He wanted to go alone because he and the other fellow had divergent agendas.

I had to say no.

As much as I knew he would be angry, I had to say no. I had to say no, because I knew things he didn’t know. I had to say no, because I loved him too much to allow bad things to happen to him. I had to say no because if some tragedy were to happen to him, I would be absolutely heartbroken, because I love him.

So often, children do not see the big picture. They only want what they want; went they want it; and they want it now! Sometimes they will get angry when love says no. They may even run away in disgust.

When children are little babies we show our love with milk and diapers, but as they grow older, those symbols give way to curfews and learners permits. Our love is constant, but as the child matures — and begins to realize his/her dreams — along come new opportunities with boundaries and discipline.

And so it is with all of us. Revelation 3:19 says those who I love I rebuke and chasten. The great invisible hand of the universe must steer the interactions of billions of people all over the world. Imagine what it would be like without some loving intervention to bring order to the chaos of our myopic selfishness. It was once said, “Your freedom to swing your hand stops at the tip of my nose.”

We live in limited time and space. It is inevitable that in pursuit of my selfish goals I will infringe upon the freedom of someone else. Sometimes I will do it intentionally, other times I will do it unintentionally. In either case, the damage remains. I have often said, “a girl is just as dead whether I intended to run over her or not.” We are so limited by the breadth, depth, and other dimensions of knowledge — beyond our imagination — that we must rely on a source outside ourselves for love’s guidance.

So often, in seeking guidance, we pray. Our prayer, though, is guided by our own desires. Matthew 6:10 says, “Thy will be done…”, but rather than coming into conformity with the sovereignty of the creator, we attempt to make him conform. How arrogant: to try to make the creator of all that is, a prop in our off-Broadway reality play — and call it prayer.

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Limited by Knowledge

by on Jan.29, 2011, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

PhD graduates realize that they have only developed the tools to begin exploration of knowledge in whatever is their field of study.

The paradox of learning is that to the outside world they have reached the top in their field, and yet they have “only just begun.”

Ephesians 3:20 says he will “do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.” When we realize that the opening of our minds to the universal spirit brings us limitless opportunities, then we take off the boundaries.

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When Love Walks In

by on Oct.29, 2010, under Core Values, General Updates, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

I’ll never forget the time when my oldest son was about 15 years old and he had done something that made me so angry I was seeing fire (I cannot remember his crime, because forgiveness has washed it away). I had determined that when I went to pick him up I would give him the tongue lashing of his life. Something strange happened, though: the moment he came walking toward my car, feelings of love washed over me. All I could say to myself was, “Yeah, that’s my son!”

At that moment, whatever he had done didn’t really seem to matter when measured against the lifetime love that I have for him. Events will pass; love stays.

We all know that among our families and friends we have numerous experiences where friction occurs. The true measure of our love — of various kinds and dimensions — is our ability to deal with those tests and trials constructively or destructively.

Often relationships are based on rules. A rigidity around those rules is the cause of the end of many relationships. However, when love walks end, patience, kindness, understanding, and other qualities help us enlarge our tent to embrace each other in our humanity.

Many people feel that rules are necessary to have order in and  among a group of people. And they are right. If we stop there, however, it becomes somewhat like a bed frame without a mattress. And certainly we are left without a warm quilt for long winter nights. When love walks in, our humanity is recognized, and we feel protected –not just supported.

People in the Christian faith often use the Ten Commandments as the basis of their living. The paradox, though, is that the very churchmen who were the arbiters of that code of law killed its heir — thus rendering the law null and void.

Before this heinous crime was committed, though, that master teacher said, “I’ll trade you ten commandments for two: just love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we begin to understand that all of the chaos and abuse we are experiencing from the personal to the group to the national and international levels is coming from this one stem, then we will be on our way.

Fear and Love sit at opposites: one destroying the other.

Our economic policies, our culture wars, and our political struggles all reflect our inability to let love walk in.

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Endless Potential

by on Mar.02, 2010, under Politics/Economics, Relationships

The other day, some friends introduced me to their newborn baby. The experience opened my eyes anew to the wonder of human growth and potential. Our futures are not set in stone.

A newborn baby certainly has encoded characteristics such as the physical aspects of race. The child’s genetics and prenatal experiences will influence personality and health. Nationality, family and birth order are already determined.

To a newborn baby, however, none of these characteristics has any meaning. Physical characteristics such as gender and eye color have no context in which to operate. Social connections and position do not yet exist to someone who cannot yet recognize a face. There is no wealth, no power and only the barest, early traces of personality in a newborn. Everything else is still raw, unshaped potential.

As we grow from infancy to adult, it is the interaction of genetics and circumstances that determines how our human potential develops. These interactions are all shaped and governed by people. At first, our families are the ones who influence and provide meaning to our lives. They provide for or fail to provide for our needs. They teach us what it means to be human, they distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and they provide us with a foundation on how to interact with other people. Over time, the family’s role in shaping us fades more into the background as the rest of society takes an increasing role. Teachers, religious institutions, the media and peers all contend with parents for influence in shaping our lives, until we ourselves as adolescents emerge as individuals and begin truly to make decisions for ourselves. It is this capacity to make one’s own decisions on values and behavior that separates adults from children, and it is how we make those decisions that reveals our character.

What we tend to forget, however, is that we are always still that newborn baby, consisting of nothing but potential. Yes, we have characteristics because of our pasts and our DNA, but those only have meaning if we give it to them. We always have the option to be reborn – to set aside the teachings and determinations provided by parents and culture, and to find new ways to interpret the circumstances of our lives. We do not have to be who others say we are; as adults, we have the power to make our own decisions. We do not have to follow the paths provided to us; we can go in new directions and can establish new paths for others to follow.

In more pragmatic terms, as adults, we have the power to look at the institutions and attitudes in our lives, and to either accept them, reject them, change them or replace them. In fact, if we live in a free and open society, we have the responsibility to examine these systems and to adjust them as necessary. As adults, we decide the values we hold, and we choose how to express those values in our businesses, our government, our religious practices and our arts. We do not have to mimic what we have inherited from our parents; we have the ability and power to build new ways of living that are more true to our chosen values. We are adults. We make our own decisions. We are born with endless potential, and that potential is still here. We can become whomever we want to be.

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