No Expiration Date

Tomorrow marks another anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies to be experienced by the American people. On 9/11 lives were lost. terror gripped the nation. A promise was made to never forget and yet it seems too many are willing to do just that.

The responsibility of leadership is just that to take the responsibility to lead. To do so with integrity and character.

I am reminded of another conversation urging us to never forget. One voiced nearly 80-years ago. Then also there  was a call to step up and take responsibility by not remaining silent. I’ll share those thoughts in a moment, plus we’ll delve into my call for us to make better decisions when selecting leaders to represent us, our beliefs and values.

What character traits are necessary for an individual to serve as an effective and just leader? That’s our focus on this edition of “Becoming Today”. 

Earlier this Year I posed what appeared to be a hypothetical question. The disturbing thing was, it wasn’t.

You can read all the details of “What If…? It Has!” by clicking here, but in short summary here’s what connects to today’s topic: 

“So what if I told you government officials have been ordered by an elected chief executive to go  into people’s homes and demand medical records? 

It’s not a what if. It has happened.

Not in a small remote village. Not in a country ruled by a tyrannical despot. “It has” right here in America, where the United States is supposed to stand as a symbol of enduring freedom for all the world to see, and possibly aspire for.

I’m not talking about a township commissioner three-weeks on the job in a remote rural community of less than 150-people. I’m talking about the highest ranking leader of the second largest state in the nation issuing “Executive Orders” allowing for directives to target children and their families.” 

It sounds outlandish, but lawsuits have been filed and the issue is far from over.

Attacks like the ones I shared an be overcome. It all begins with us. Each one of us.

We must decide to take action . Stand up for what is right. Shine light onto the darkness that is attempting to restrict us. Then we must take that action. Do it. Publicly.

We all share in the responsibility of being the change we want to see. Of co-creating our world for the better.  It’s at the very heart and soul of our shared path. It’s also something that Martin Niemöller, a German theologian and Evangelical Lutheran Pastor, sounded the rally cry for during World War II. 

His famous words still echo true:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The responsibility to have your voice heard and hold those we elect to have a leadership role in our lives, lies solely with us. 

I’m not just talking about voting either. There are others we select to lead us. Whether this is a pastor, a mentor, teacher or someone we choose to do business with, by selecting to follow those individuals we are electing them, giving them authority to represent us, remaining hopeful they will serve by reflecting the shared values they claim to stand for. 

So what does it mean to be a strong leader? For that definition I’ll share one from John C. Maxwell, long recognized for both his knowledge of the character required and perhaps even more importantly his stewardship of his own leadership roles: 

“Being a great leader is all about having a genuine willingness and a true commitment to lead others to achieve a common vision and goals through positive influence. No leader can ever achieve anything great or long-lasting all alone. Teamwork goes hand in hand with leadership. Leadership is about people-and for people.”

Maxwell who truly “walks the talk”, also notes:

“Leadership is taking responsibility while others are making excuses.”

Plus: “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”

Taking responsibility for our actions and choices is certainly very much aligned with “The Essence of Becoming”. Which since the onset of this project I have denied as,  “the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state”. Coming to be always, “Becoming”. Growing, developing and shifting into an attitude and daily practice of always, “Becoming”.”

How do I, as an individual and we as a society, focus on “Becoming” what we are truly destined to be? 

How do we become all we can be? 

How do we further enrich our lives and those of our families, friends, communities and society as a whole? 

So how do we begin? IOt includes taking on the duty to select and elect better leaders to ensure our future, to guarantee that we are again are living within our rights, which include but are not limited to our holding, “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

Responsibility is something required of all who are capable of it on this planet. We have no rights without taking the responsibility for our roles in ensuring them. 

So what is the difference between rights and responsibilities?

A right is a privilege granted by an authority. Be it elected or appointed bodies of governance or by supernatural means, of an inherent nature bestowed upon us by the Grace of God.

A responsibility is a duty or obligation that is accepted, and put into action.

In order to fully accept your reality, you must take ownership of any role you may have played, good or bad, in leading you to where you are. Only when you choose to accept personal responsibility then can you work on decisions for the next steps.

In order to develop a deep sense of personal responsibility, whether we are seeking to lead or choosing to be led,  we need to practice acceptance.

Accept Yourself. 

Embrace the ability to unconditionally love all aspects of who you are. Both the positive and negative.Do not become overly critical.  It all starts with the proper attitude. 

Accept that Accepting Reality is not the easiest thing to do.

However acceptance of your current scenario will ultimately make you happier in the present , which then leads  to a better future. Accepting your reality will help you choose your steps properly and keep the momentum moving forward and upward.

Accept Truthful and Complete Honesty.

When you get past your ego, then you can allow for the creation of a beautiful new you. Denial will not make the negative go away. 

Accept Your Mistakes.

You can’t fix anything until you acknowledge you have a problem. Look at your mistakes not as failures but as learning opportunities. Rely on the power within for the strength to co-create your reality. Also accept we all make mistakes and always will.

Accept  Ownership.

Own all of it. Not just the challenges but also your strengths and success. Taking ownership of all your outcomes can teach you to do better, and that overcoming leads to a learning moment.

Accept Power Over Your Fears.

Do not let fear rule. Fears of what others think of you, fear of making a decision, fear of not being popular, is all demoralizing. It adds nothing to your experience. Realize that “they” will criticize, judge you, or ridicule you no matter what, so who cares?

Accepting responsibility empowers your rights ensuring your continued growth and development along our shared path of Becoming.

So once you commit yourself to being responsible, what then is the most basic principle that needs to be embraced? What should be at the very foundation of our beliefs and values?

That Integrity Is Integral

Integrity. 

What is it?

Why is it so important? 

How do we ensure we are living with it? 

Where to begin?

Let’s start with a common understanding and craft our definition of integrity.

Opening the dictionary as  a good starting point, we read,  “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”, amplified with, “ the state of being whole”. 

Plus the Merriam-Webster explanation can add:”firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY”.  

So let’s add another plus sign (+) followed by ‘incapable of being (bribed or) morally corrupted’.

Then we can do as my teachers always said draw a line, though today it’s probably more like placing a row of underscores, and complete this equation to arrive at the sum of :

Integrity is a foundational aspect of our personalities. It is a deeply held belief that we should be and are adhering to a strict moral code. This oath we voluntarily undertake includes being honest with both ourselves and others; living consistent with values that are above reproach and that we must choose to be incapable of being corrupted accepting that living by these  standards in an uncommon manner increases not only our lives to new levels, but also the quality of life for all we encounter.

Without freely embracing integrity we are limiting our lives. 

It’s why far too many people experience simply existing rather than being rewarded with a fulfilling life. 

Quoting Wikipedia, “the word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.

For further study I’ll suggest these links for your consideration:

In order to be living with integrity each of us needs to be living by aligning your conduct with excellence. Displaying a firm dedication to our values and beliefs. Never wavering in adhering to higher standards and pledging to always attempt to do the right thing regardless of circumstances.

Being authentic is also very important. To ensure we are living with integrity our internal character must be consistent and well developed.It means walking our talk.

Making integrity an integral part of our essence we can not claim to be perfect. Honesty involves being quick to acknowledge and own our mistakes and faults. Our integrated sense of sincerity should come from a pure motivation to do what is right, always. 

Then what is the opposite of integrity?

Hypocrisy.

Someone not living a life filled with integrity is the definition of being a hypocrite. Those are the “smiling faces sometimes, show no traces of the evil that lurks within”. Those who pretend to be something they are not, or claim to believe something they do not . Their walk doesn’t jive with their talk, their words and actions do not align with their stated values and beliefs. Their substance may originate from a lie. 

No one wants to be lied to.

Period.

 It’s true.

Just as there are three things that all people want and desire.

It doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from or who they may be “Becoming”, all want to be treated with “C D R”.

That’s my acronym for three simple words that you should immediately recognize, because after all I know you want them all. And you want them all the time. 

So in terms of our focus today, we should also be demanding them from those who lead.

C.D.R. stands for:

Compassion

Dignity

Respect

All are elements of common need and desire. Plus beyond yearning for, we should feel inherently deserving  of them. 

The trouble for some is that in order to receive these basic harmonious elements of life, we must also be giving of them freely not only to others but also be treating ourselves with each.

Let’s begin with Compassion. Take a moment and think about what it means for you. 

Our shared definition of becoming compassionate involves developing of skills, levels and achievement. It also makes compassion an active action. Something we must not only understand and accept, but must also decide to give and receive freely.

I ask you to choose to accept this understanding that I have developed:

“Becoming compassionate is accepting the conscious process of showing kindness and sharing empathy with others, so that we may then decide to assist all those we can.”

In sharing compassion we do show kindness and empathy towards others (and hopefully ourselves) though empathy is used to describe a whole range of emotions. The primary difference is empathy is when you can accept the emotions of another in a given situation, while compassion also includes the desire to take action to aid the individual. 

A widely stated adage expresses, 

“A single act of compassion can change a person’s life forever.”

Making it a very Becoming quality. Sharing compassion allows us to feel and assist. It motivates us to transform suffering, pain or injustice into healing, growth and change

Transitioning now to the next dignified concept of our conversation, let’s define and share…. Dignity.

Briefly it is loving and appreciating yourself just as much as you are willing to love others. The truth is that it looks different in each of us. True dignity is a solid foundation you can rely upon everyday. It also cannot be taken away from you no matter the circumstances, challenges or obstacles you may encounter. 

I can hear some of you saying that having dignity is a lot like self respect. It is in part though there are some differences. As Respect is the third element, the “R” in our C.D.R., we can agree to accept that Dignity and Respect are two words that often go together. 

The notable distinction is when we refer to them as being given to or shared with others. Dignity refers to the state of being worthy and honorable. Respect in part is defined as having an admiration for someone because of their qualities or achievements.

Therefore let’s choose to agree that R-E-S-P-E-C-T means accepting somebody for who they are, even though they are different from you or you may not agree with them. Respect builds trust, safety, and fosters healthy attitudes, though these emotions don’t come naturally; they are something you must learn and then share. 

Respect also involves treating others the way you want to be treated. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Traditionally recalled as “The Golden Rule”, simply put it is always being considerate of others as well as honoring their feelings, opinions, and property.

Likewise actively and deliberately practicing respect towards ourselves or embracing self-respect is being good to ourselves, holding ourselves in strong esteem, with dignity and compassion. Plus committing to  the ideas of self-discipline by making responsible choices in what we say and then taking action to achieve our personal goals, in alignment with our individual beliefs and values. For me that also means working to ensure that My thoughts, attitudes, words and actions are in accord with the Lord.

All of our lives have an intrinsic, inalienable God-given value. We are designed to live a life of service. To use our talents, gifts and abilities to make life better for others.Doing so freely and with kindness, shows that maybe we have something someone desperately needs.

In order to lead one should live a life that is their sermon. Their actions, not just words, define that they embrace the qualities of a true servant and leader.

Their lives should reflect openly that integrity is at their core, that they embrace the serving of others with compassion, dignity and respect and that they are truthful. Not just reciting a prescribed, rehearsed and highly edited mantra, but living the values and beliefs they espouse as having affirmed, adopted and accepted.

Are the leaders in your life, living up to their obligations?

Are they fulfilling their obligations?

Are they performing the duties they swore to? 

Are they true to their words, which you found to be aligned with your values and standards?

If not, it’s time for a change.

If so, then celebrate it. Not just sitting on your sofa saying, “yeah team”. Tell them. Thank them. Share the victories with others. 

The “Responsibility of Leadership” is shared.

Both the leader and you  combined equal “we the people”. 

One should not be less accountable than the other.

Do your part. 

If you’ve been elected to lead, or are considering seeking such a position, do so above approach.

If you’re selecting someone to be an authority, do you research and make sure you’re making right and informed choices.

For each will have to bear his own load,” remembering though, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”, and ultimately “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

I hope you will join me in never forgetting. Pray about it. Share it and keep the conversation alive.

Then come Monday, decide to join us on our next edition of “Becoming Today”. 

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