Pentecost 146-147

Pentecost 146-147
My Psalms 146, My Psalm 147

Loyal to…Me!

Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself; everyone is already taken.” In this third part of our discussion on loyalty, I think it important to define why we need to be loyal. Whether you view loyalty as a virtue or as a sentiment, a practice or a need, the truth is that we end up defining ourselves and being defined by those very things to which we pledge our loyalty. Whenever we select an object of our faithfulness, our fealty, we need to be sure that we are being true to ourselves.

Knowing who we are is no easy task. In part the difficulty lies in the essence of our living – change. Growth is an important component to the human experience and yet, growth means change. What we valued yesterday may not jive with what we like today or need tomorrow. We are not plastic figures, complete once we fall off the assembly line. Man/Woman is a complex creation that is ever evolving, ever learning. We are not created to have dormant periods of inactive growth. In fact, our muscles atrophy after only ten days of inactivity. Movement is necessary for proper circulation. The body’s liquids will pool and drown a person unless they are constantly moving throughout the body. Change is essential to our being alive and yet, it can offer a great hurdle in knowing who we are.

Recently I heard a young adult describe her upbringing. “We were encouraged to try,” she explained. “My mother calls it a ‘can do’ attitude but I disagree. I call it a ‘can try’ attitude. We did not have to be successful; we did not have to ‘do’. We were allowed to try, evaluate, and then try again, gaining knowledge from each attempt.” A young child does not refuse to learn to skip simply because he/she once fell while trying to learn to walk. We all fell; it is an inevitable part of the process of learning to walk. Yet, we forget that when we start to learn other things. Thousands of people once took piano lessons but many quit because at some point, they made one too many mistakes and felt that they had no musical talent. Most likely that simply had a teacher who was not supportive. Perfectionists exact a price that no human can pay because no human is perfect. We all stumble as we live but that is part of learning.

A recent trip found me encountering a group of people that seemed to be part of the same club, a club that required everyone to shop at the same stores, adopt the same fashion style, lose any sense of individuality in an effort to “fit in” and be considered socially acceptable. It was as if I had walked into a real life science fiction film about cloning. While school uniforms have been found to serve useful purposes in public, private, and parochial schools, one seldom hears about the benefits of grown men and women wearing a socially acceptable uniform for professional and recreational attire. My very conservative attire was out of place and thus appeared somewhat antisocial simply because I had not gotten the “This is what we find acceptable attire” memo! These people did not seem happy in their cloned outfits, I should add.

Being perfect is all things is not possible. Accepting that fact and being honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses does not make you less loyal to yourself or less of a person. In fact, it does quite the opposite. By knowing one’s self and being honest, you are being extremely loyal to who and what you are. It is the first step to growing stronger and becoming a better person, a more faithful person to life, living, and one’s belief system.

One of the greatest detriments to self loyalty is the art of comparison. It is a game that you will never win. There will always be someone you perceive to be smarter, taller, brighter, more attractive, more talented, better dressing, etc. Comparisons are interesting but they are not a yardstick for measuring self-worth. Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with having said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She was the victim of many negative comments, even after her husband became one of the longest serving presidents of the United States of America. Value yourself for what you are and be loyal to yourself.

In 1955 poet E. E. Cummings offered the following advice: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” All we can do is try to be better today than we were yesterday. That requires knowing what to be loyal to and what allegiances might not be a positive thing. Misplaced loyalty can be a hurdle but every hurdle is simple a path that takes an extra gulp of air to cross. Hurdles are not roadblocks and even roadblocks have detours. With a little loyalty to one’s self and a positive attitude, a great deal can be accomplished and attained.

Michelangelo once said: “The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.” Know that to which you are loyal and know that it is helping you be the best you can be. Commonly miss-credited to Emerson and Thoreau, it was actually Henry S. Haskins who said: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

As Theodore S. Geisel, better known by his literary moniker Dr Seuss penned: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Be loyal to yourself and your beliefs. And then let the rest of the world march behind you!

My Psalm 146

Thank you, Great One!
You are loyal and steadfast in your love to us.
You are loyal and ever-present in your guidance to us.
You are loyal and merciful in your leadership of us.
You heal our wounds; comfort our fears;
You soothe our anxieties and dry our tears.
We pledge our hearts to you and our hands to your service.
Thank you, Most Merciful and Loving One!

My Psalm 147

I am but a babe, dear Father/Mother.
You care for me always.
Your compassion is ever present.
Your graciousness bestowed upon all.
We are not worthy and yet you still love.
We are a tempest in your creation and yet you seek to help us find peace.
Praise to you, Most Gracious Spirit.

Pentecost 145

Pentecost 145
My Psalms 145

Problematic Faithfulness

Yesterday loyalty was discussed; actually, it was introduced. Today’s post continues on the theme of loyalty, in part two of what will most likely be a three-post discussion. It is a fitting topic and one that resounds through most spiritual and religious writings. Loyalty is not a one-way street. It is a relationship, a give-and take action. At a time when murders are being committed both by those who have been bullied and those who would bully, the key component in all is loyalty.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has discussed this subject in articles published in 2007 and updated in 2013. Loyalty is described as a problematic virtue. “It is constituted centrally by perseverance in an association to which a person has become intrinsically committed as a matter of his or her identity. Its paradigmatic expression is found in friendship, to which loyalty is integral, but many other relationships and associations seek to encourage it as an aspect of affiliation or membership: families expect it, organizations often demand it, and countries do what they can to foster it.”

While there is much panic and hysteria concerning the recent Ebola virus outbreak which has spread from Africa to countries that sent doctors to assist medically, the numbers of those outside the African continent who have died from the disease is small. Certainly even one death is one too many. One life lost diminishes all mankind. However, while one person in the United States has died from the Ebola virus in the past year, almost three thousand percent more have died from gun violence. That number includes those in the process of committing a criminal act, those who have committed suicide, and those who were victims of another. It also includes school shootings. This is not, for this discussion, a matter of gun ownership. It is a matter of the heart of the problem. People feel a loyalty to friends and do not speak up when another is being bullied. People want to “fit in” and so participate in senseless acts of violence to earn “street cred” or gang affiliation. Still others have become addicted and lose all rational thought except for one – obtain the object of their addiction.

The student who has seen another bullied, who knows another’s claims of retaliation but does not speak up is putting their loyalty with their peers and not with their future. The kid whose only family is the gang on the corner has misplaced loyalty in thinking the group actually cares about him or her when, in reality, they only see him or her as a means to an end, a commodity and not a person. The addict knows only one loyalty and that is to his or her drug of choice. The criminal who cheats, lies, or steals and ends up using a gun to defend himself has put loyalty in either material things or an over-inflated ego.

The fickle nature of man is what the entire Torah or Old Testament is based upon and very little has changed as man has evolved through time. Called fealty in the Middle Ages, where one put one’s loyalty often determined one’s status, one’s very future – if there was one or not. Align with the wrong clan leader or tribe, later king or dictator, and death was a certainty.

Quoting again from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “As a working definition, loyalty can be characterized as a practical disposition to persist in an intrinsically valued (though not necessarily valuable) associational attachment, where that involves a potentially costly commitment to secure or at least not to jeopardize the interests or well-being of the object of loyalty. For the most part, an association that we come to value for its own sake is also one with which we come to identify (as ours).”

The argument regarding loyalty and whether it is a value or a sentiment is also longstanding. Are we loyal because of the ethics and morals behind our decision? Are we loyal because we believe in that to which we have pledged our loyalties? Does one become loyal based upon the benefits of such a decision? Does loyalty become displayed in preferential treatment and behavior?

Stop ten people on the street and ask for an example of loyalty and you will get answers ranging from religion to sports. Ask those same ten people about the most loyal animal and you will probably get ten similar answers – a dog. Is a dog loyal because of its nature or affection with its owner or does the dog realize that loyalty will provide it with a better and safer life? If a dog is swayed by a burglar and a thick t-bone stone, is the dog being disloyal to its owner or has the training been lax? Perhaps the dog is swayed because of his/her nature in being a carnivorous animal that likes to eat steak?

To what do you pledge your loyalty? Is it you faith, a sports team, or a brand of six-inch fashionable heels? Where do we draw the line at how loyal we are? What about our misplaced loyalties? Can being loyal mean giving up good judgment? When we do exercise our good judgment, is there a price to pay and will we be seen as disloyal? When is it okay to be a “snitch” or a “whistle blower”? Again, from Stanford: “…The case of whistle blowing illustrates not only the importance of loyalty to many organizations but also the care that needs to be exercised when it is claimed that obligations of loyalty are justifiably overridden or forfeited.”

As a humanitarian, loyalty can be a tricky thing. Those who gave up vacation time and traveled to Africa to assist medically with the Ebola epidemic have returned home to a less than hero’s welcome. The have followed their Hippocratic oath, thought of their [global] fellow man, and shared their wisdom and loyalty to mankind only to return home and be labeled thoughtless, stupid, putting others in harm’s way. Their loyalty to living and refusal to panic has not given them the country’s support. Have we been disloyal to them?

Those who are loyal to a religion or spirituality, expect that loyalty to garner them something in return. The whole concept of prayer is a loyal relationship between one’s Great Spirit or God and the individual. Is that an equal relationship? Are we as loyal to that Creator as we expect Him/Her to be to us? Do we then share that loyalty with our fellow man? Where does responsibility enter into our loyalty?

My Psalm 145

You are greatness, Lord.
You are goodness, O God.
You are worthy of my loyalty.
And yet …..
There are those who mock my beliefs.
There are those who ridicule my behavior or lack of certain ones.
I cannot touch you.
I cannot see you.
Is believing enough?
The faithful know the truth of who and what you are.
The wind blows your mercy to all.
The sun reflects your goodness.
The world blossoms as your love and forgiveness do for those who know you.
You believe in me, Great Spirit.
I believe in you.
Help me to live a life responsible to such beliefs.
Let me not follow the world but your teachings.
Let my every breath whisper your name
And my every action be a reflection of your love for all.
Help me to be loyal to what I believe and responsible in my living.

Pentecost 144

Pentecost 144
My Psalms 144

To Be or To Deny

The world has undergone many transformations throughout its history. Some things, however, have remained constant. Loyalty is one of them. A popular American writer, Laura Ingles Wilder once said of her writing: “As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that the things that are truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then. Courage and kindness, loyalty, truth, and helpfulness are always the same and always needed.”

It has been reported that loyalty among the citizens of the twenty-first century is a rare community seldom found. Economists claim that most businesses lose one-third of their customers within the first seven years, half of their employees within the first five, and over half of their investors within the first three. Fifty to sixty years ago people bought their cars from the same automobile company, favored the same products their parents had, stayed at the same job until they retired, and seldom traded their stock once purchased.

Some place the shift in consumer loyalty on simple economics. People today are more interested in the cost of an item than in the reputation of the manufacturer of the item. Some detergents companies can count on their stock rising and more purchases following a natural disaster or environmental disaster as they contribute and have emergency response teams that are present, washing the clothes of hurricane and tornado victims and helping wash oil off of waterfowl. Still, these human compassion stories do not build a productive consumer base consistently.

Others feel that as the security of living as become threatened by homegrown and international terrorism, people are not living for the future but rather “in the moment”. Loyalty is more a long-term goal that such people have no interest in and so they go for the quick return rather than the long-term investment. Still others claim the rise in poor parenting leads to a recognition and misguided loyalty to abusive parents and that results in a mistrust and lack of loyalty to anything.

The problem with these theories is that they discount the basic human condition of life and the desire to indeed live. Children often defend the abusive parent more strongly than not for a number of reasons. A subconscious sense of co-dependency is also seen by those joining cults or seeking to travel overseas to join radical groups that falsely portray themselves as religious when in fact they are simply power mongers. People are also discouraged from creating a scene or rocking the boat and so loyalty is used incorrectly and again by those more interested in boosting their own personal egotistical stock than in the company stock.

How we define spirituality and religion becomes an important factor in how we view loyalty. Defining loyalty is not an easy thing to do. Depending on your dictionary, it is either faithfulness to an idea, person, institution, or nation or simply being true to an ideal. Even the etymology of the word is argued. Some feel it dates back to the Latin “fidelis”, pertaining to something always strong, while others believe it originated from the Latin “lex”, meaning law. Some feel it is linked to the French “loialte” which denoted someone who had pledged allegiance and was therefore entitled to all legal rights so afforded.

In the book “The Philosophy of Loyalty”, written by Josiah Royce”, loyalty is described as a virtue or a moral principle. In fact, Royce felt loyalty to be the first virtue from which all others derived. He further described it as “the willing and [practical and thoroughgoing devotion of a person to a cause”. Certainly the early Christians believed this. In fact, most religions advocate such devotion and loyalty. Many cults not only require it but they go a step further in keeping all practices secret, known only to those who are deemed loyal.

Loyalty becomes misguided when it is not returned. The “quid pro quo” principle should certainly be in use for those companies, groups, and organizations asking for loyalty. Goethe explained it this way: “You can easily just the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Loyalty given should be loyalty returned and not based upon gifts given or status promised.

Loyalties can change, however, as time evolves, lessons are learned, and people grow. Jarod Kintz wrote: “Just because I liked something at one point in time doesn’t mean I’ll always like it, or that I have to go on liking it at all points in time as an unthinking act of loyalty to who I am as a person, based solely on who I was as a person. To be loyal to myself is to allow myself to grow and change, and challenge who I am and what I think. The only thing I am for sure is unsure, and this means I’m growing, and not stagnant or shrinking.”

Loyalty which is destructive is manipulation and not loyalty deserved. Stephen covey advocates “Be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, you build the trust of those who are present.” As the saying goes, respect is earned, honesty appreciated, love is gained and loyalty returned.

My Psalm 144

Dear Maker of all, Creator of my being:
Help my faith be true.
Show me the goodness I should trust;
Guide my steps toward the Light of Love.
As I try to live my life, O God, please be my guide.
I want my faith to be a fortress against the trials and tears.
Let my beliefs to be true and worthy.
In you is my trust, my faith, my loyalty.

Pentecose 12

Pentecost 12
My Psalm 12

June 19, 2014

The Science of Trust

Williams Shakespeare is perhaps the most well-known playwright in all the world. He took every day events and historical happenings and turned them into literary works of art. He relied on the shared common experiences of all men to achieve success. One of those shared experiences is love. Another is loyalty.

Critics and English teachers alike disagree on the theme of Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet”. Some consider the theme of the play to be betrayal while others say it is loyalty. Are betrayal and loyalty opposite sides of the same coin? “Hamlet” is not the only play in which Shakespeare used a theme of betrayal to show the consequences of such. “King Lear”, “Othello”, Antony and Cleopatra”, and even the historical “Julius Caesar” all relate what happens when those you trust are not loyal.

Betrayal occurs when one is perceived to have broken established violation of relationship rules. When a soldier helps the enemy, he/she is said to have betrayed his/her country. When a partner is disloyal, that partner is considered to have betrayed the group, partnership, or community. Others would say that said person involved might be guilty of nothing except a sense of loyalty to their own beliefs. The modern attitude of living for ones’ self, forgetting about the pain caused yesterday and moving on for the here and now has radically altered perceptions of expected loyalty and its possibilities.

In his book “The Science of Trust”, Dr John Gottman differs with Shakespeare in the act of betrayal and broken trust. Gottman feels that “the relationship process that dissolves trust has nothing to do with the process that finally ends in betrayal—they are two separate processes.” He encourages something he calls “emotional attunement”.

Zun Xi, a Chinese philosopher, stated “A person is born with feelings of envy and hate. If he gives way to them, they will lead him to violence and crime, and any sense of loyalty and good faith will be abandoned.” That seems at odds with the religious belief that man was created in the image of a loving and caring God. It might, however, explain a great deal of the Old Testament and the actions of supposedly very devout believers.

In the very late 1990’s, the Academy of Management Review published an article by Denise M. Rousseau, Sim B. Sitkin, Ronald S. Burt, and Colin Camerer entitled “Not So Different After All: A Cross-Discipline View of Trust.” Bearing shades of the commonality of man that Shakespeare relied on, the article discussed trust theory, multidisciplinary research, and trust between organizations. Ion their opinion, the analysis of trust is based on four questions: whether scholars can agree on the meaning of trust; if researchers are viewing trust statistically; if the status of trust–cause, effect, or interaction–changes across disciplines; and whether the levels of analysis also change. The “bandwidth” of trust–where trust and distrust are differentiated–can vary over time in the same relationship or coexist at the same time. Bandwidth types are deterrence-based trust, calculus-based trust, relational trust, and institution-based trust. Two conditions of trust are risk and interdependence. Three phases are building, stability, and dissolution.

This month, June 2014, the same journal published an article discussing trust and distrust and posed a very interesting question: Are they polar opposites or independent but co-existing emotions? We might ask the same about faith and its loyalty/betrayal. Does what we do on our day of worship jive with what we do the rest of the week? Do we spend time being devout and then “kiss today goodbye” as we go about the rest of our week, living our lives to suit ourselves?

My Psalm 12

I hate them.
I hate their lies.
I hate their posturing.
I hate their making a mockery of faith.
Lord, I hope you bind their hypocritical tongues
To the nearest asteroid.

You are here for us, O lord.
You will provide for us in our time of despair.
They may seem to have it all
But you will give to your believers the real wealth of life.
We may wallow in their wickedness
But you will deliver us into eternity.

Easter Thirty-Six

Easter Thirty-Six
May 25, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend – Sun

A dream

Why do they do it, these people who go off to die? Do they have a death wish? Why bother to go to a strange land and risk everything for strangers? Are they busybodies? Is it all about politics or is it a mission for them? Why did they do it?

It began with a dream, the thought that man and woman had purpose, had value. It began a war, that dream did. A simple thought that gave birth to a nation. It became a fever, contagious and spreading to people in other lands. They needed help to make it happen just as the first had and so they went. They gave help because someone had helped them. Because, in spite of the passage of time and the advancements of medicine, science, and technology, aptly recorded in the arts, man still needed help in proving he had value. (Women are still not quite there yet in having their value recognized universally.)

Why did they die? Because others still want to stomp on the dream. And yet they go and they know they may never return. They believe in the dream, the thought of freedom for all. The believe that all people have value, regardless of color, race, creed, religion, beliefs, social or economic status.
They believe in a declaration of independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

They are Americans and it is what we do – fight and die for freedom. May the souls of these heroes rest in peace.