#140: Is character formed in the crucible of failure?

Is character formed in the crucible of failure? Can we develop our ability to lead by considering how we fail?

Crucible Character

These are two very important yet related questions executives need to answer if they expect to build strong leaders over the long-haul.

The answer to the first question, is character formed in the crucible of failure, is a resounding yes!

Let’s look at two Biblical examples, Judas and Simon-Peter.

Judas

We don’t know a whole lot about Judas from the scripture except that he was one of Jesus’ disciples, he seemed to be pretty concerned with the way their finances were handled, and of course he betrayed Jesus into the hands of the chief priests and elders for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26).

After Jesus was condemned to death Judas had second thoughts about betraying Jesus and attempted to return the money to the chief priests and elders. They refused. Judas realized he had sinned in betraying Jesus, and went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27).

Simon-Peter

After their Passover supper Jesus and the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus told them they would deny him that very night and would be scattered. Peter quickly said even if all the rest of these weak-kneed disciples fall away, I will not deny you! Peter went on to declare even if he had to die with Jesus he would never deny him. But Jesus said this very night Peter would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows (Matthew 26).

The temple guards arrested Jesus and brought him at night to the religious leaders who conducted a mock trial and convicted Jesus of blasphemy (saying He was the Son of God) and sentenced him to death. While this was going on Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest and a girl asked him if he was with Jesus and he said he was not. Another servant girl asked him again if he was with Jesus and Peter took an oath saying he was not with Jesus. Finally bystanders accused him of being with Jesus and Jesus swore a curse upon himself saying he was not. Three denials of Jesus, and then the rooster crowed. Peter realized what he had done and wept bitterly.

Judas vs. Simon-Peter

Judas and Simon Peter both failed Jesus miserably. In fact their failures were pretty similar. Judas betrayed Jesus for money. Peter betrayed Jesus to save himself. But it’s their response to their failures that tells us about their character.

Judas was remorseful, but committed suicide rather than face Jesus and the disciples again.

Simon-Peter wept bitterly, repented of his failure, and was eventually restored to Jesus. He learned from his mistake and took responsibility for it. Peter went on to be a great leader in the Church.

Application for Us

I make mistakes. You make mistakes.

Some of my mistakes are little things, others rise to the level of failure. The key in developing as leaders is in how we respond when we fail. Do we quit, or do we take responsibility for our failure, learn from it, and become an even better leader than we were before?

Back to my second question, can we develop our ability to lead by considering how we fail? Again, I think the answer is, if we respond like Peter we certainly can!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What do you think? Can you measure the character of a leader by how they respond to failure?

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Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#139: What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive

Here is the United States we are in the midst of the political campaigns to elect our next president in November of 2016. As far as I am concerned it cannot happen fast enough.

Deceive

It seems politician’s default communication is deception, if not outright lies.

But business people, don’t be smug. Just Google “Volkswagen scandal.” Then read about how Volkswagen executives knowing developed and installed software in the engines of their diesel cars to fool the US Environmental Protection Agency into thinking their emission met US standards. In fact, their emissions were 40 times higher than US standards allow!

It seems whatever sphere of life you consider there are those who weave tangled webs as they practice to deceive.

Unfortunately mankind has a propensity to deceive and to lie. The first example came in Genesis 3 when the serpent deceived Eve. A lie that caused the fall of mankind.

All through the scripture are warnings against being taken in by deceivers. King David felt so surrounded by liars he wrote:

“Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception” Psalm 12:2.

How can we tell truth amidst those who deceive?

1) Does what they are saying align with God’s Word? Both Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) and John (1 John 4:1) warn Christians to test what they hear against the Word of God. Anything that is in opposition to God’s Word is a lie.

2) Pray for discernment. James writes that God will give us wisdom if we ask in faith.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” James 1:5.

3) Verify. Get the facts. Research what people say to verify the truth. Luke, writing in Acts commended the Bereans because they searched the Scripture to see if what they heard was true.

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” Acts 17:11.

4) Ask yes or no questions. If you are lucky enough to be with the person rather than reading a news report or listen to a reporter ask questions. If someone is unwilling to answer yes or no questions directly they are likely attempting to deceive or lie outright. Jesus said,

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” Matthew 5:37.

The sad truth is mankind has suffered from deceivers and liars since Satan deceived Eve. To this day we are, as David said, surrounded by them. The best way to protect ourselves is check with Scripture, pray for discernment, and do some of our own research to verify facts.

Join the Conversation

Have you been deceived by someone you trusted? If so, what happened? What do you do to protect yourself from being deceived?

 

Aside for the writers and history buffs….Often attributed to Shakespeare the line, “What a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive” was actually written by Walter Scott and published in 1808.

 

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Category: Personal Development | Discernment

 

#138: Should We Stand Against Authority?

Are there times when we, as Christians, should stand against authority?  Let’s consider a few examples.

Supreme Court Building

Should a Christian stand up for the life of the unborn against abortion? Most Christians believe that life begins at conception, that God created each of us unique with a special purpose in life.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Proverbs 139:13

Should a Christian stand up for racial equality and against discrimination? Most Christians believe that racial discrimination is inherently wrong.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Should Christians stand up for Biblical truth against the World’s truth? Most Christians believe that what God gives us in His Word, the Bible, is truth because He is truth.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Now it is this last one that causes heartburn for the majority of Christians. What does it mean to stand up for Biblical truth against the truth of the World?

Daniel and the Veggies

Let’s look at two examples from one of my favorite Old Testament Bible characters. Daniel. Daniel was a teenager, perhaps about 15 years old, when he was exiled to Babylon along with some other young men. They were to enter a three-year training program and then be placed into the service of King Nebuchadnezzar.

The king provided rich foods and wine for all the trainees, but Daniel and his three friends did not want to defile themselves by eating the king’s rich food. They wanted to obey the Law that God had given them regarding their diet.

So Daniel explained the situation to the chief steward and asked if he could be allowed to eat vegetables and drink water instead of wine. The chief steward was rightfully concerned that if Daniel didn’t look healthy the king would have his head. So Daniel proposed a 10-day test and at the end of 10-days the chief steward could judge if he looked healthy. God blessed Daniel and his decision. At the end of 10 days he looked healthier than those who ate the king’s food, so he and his friends were allowed to continue eating vegetables.

Daniel stood against authority when it would have been far easier and safer to just go along with the king’s program.

Daniel and the Lion’s Den

Most of us know the story of Daniel and the lion’s den. Daniel, now an old man, was still in captivity in Babylon, which was under the rule of King Darius the Mede.

Daniel had risen in the ranks of government service. He was one of three provincial presidents over the kingdom. He reported directly to the king.

Jealous men conspired to discredit Daniel, but they could find nothing to discredit him because he was always honest. So they tricked the king into signing an edict forbidding prayer to any god or man other than king. The punishment for violating this edict was to be cast into the lion’s den. The king signed the order making it a law for thirty days.

Daniel, knowing the edict had been signed, continued to pray to God by his open window facing the temple in Jerusalem three times a day. When the king was confronted with Daniel’s actions he was beside himself realizing how he had been manipulated.

He carried out the demanded punishment and had Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. The Lord sent an angel to protect Daniel that night. The following morning the king ran to the lion’s den and was relieved to find Daniel still alive. He promoted Daniel and issued another law that no one was to speak against the Most High God whom Daniel served.

Daniel’s Lessons in Standing against Authority

Here are four lessons we can take away from Daniel’s stand against authority.

  • Daniel’s heart was devoted to God. Even though he was young Daniel knew God’s law and was fully devoted to God. Daniel 1:8 says Daniel resolved in his mind not to defile himself, because he did not want to violate God’s law. Jesus said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” Mark 12:30
  • Daniel was gracious to the authorities. Daniel was not argumentative or mean spirited when stating his position. The Bible says, When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” Proverbs 16:7.
  • Daniel was prepared for the consequences. Daniel knew the king’s edict prohibiting prayer had been signed, yet he kept his habit of praying to God, knowing what would happen. Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6.
  • Daniel trusted in God. Daniel fully trusted in God even at the moment of being lowered into the lion’s den. Solomon wrote, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5.

If there is a situation in which you feel led to stand against an authority in order to remain true to God remember Daniel’s example: be sure the motivation is a heart fully devoted to God, remain gracious to those in authority, be prepared for the consequences, and trust God that He will never abandon you.

Join the Conversation

What do you think? Are there situations occurring today where we, like Daniel, should stand against authority that conflicts with God’s Law?

 

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Category: Personal Development | Obedience to God

 

#137: 10 of the Worst Mistakes Bosses Make With Employees

Plus Bonus Whitepaper

Most companies are full of employees with boundless enthusiasm, energy, understanding, tolerance, flexibility, and top-notch job skills. What? Not so at your company?

Mistakes Discipline Employee

If your company is not perfect or if some of your employees occasionally miss the mark, then discipline is a practical skill you need as a manager. The trouble is most of us do not think about disciplining employees as being a skill. Discipline usually falls into the “immediate reaction to disaster” category. As managers, we go to classes to learn how to use our computers, attend leadership seminars, etc., but rarely–if ever–do we devote time to learning about or refining our skills as disciplinarians.

Discipline is hardly a new concept. The first occurrence of Biblical discipline occurs in Genesis when God gives Adam instructions about not eating fruit from the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2:16-17). The last example of Biblical discipline occurs in Revelation when God warns not to add or take away anything from the Bible (Rev. 22:18-19).

There are several words in the Old Testament that translate to discipline and they occur over 100 times. One word means verbal discipline, another means either verbal or physical discipline. The definitions of these words focus on the purpose of discipline being to instruct, or correction that leads to education.

For all the time we take learning to be better leaders and managers, we spend precious little time considering how to provide good discipline in the form of training that instructs or leads to education. Here are a few of the most obvious discipline errors:

1. YELLING

Yelling is a great way to vent frustration, but it is seldom an effective tool in a manager’s tool bag. Employees of bosses who yell all the time soon learn to tune them out.

Proverbs tells us, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man” (Prov. 22:24). Why not? The answer comes in Proverbs 29:22: “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.”

2. DEMANDING IMMEDIATE COMPLIANCE

When was the last time someone told you, “Do it now, I don’t care what you think?” Do you recall feeling inspired? Were you in awe of being in the presence of a remarkable leader, or did you feel unappreciated, lower than pond scum?

3. NAGGING

Don’t think for a minute that nagging is the prerequisite of in-laws. An amazing number of bosses exhibit this irritating behavior as well.  A boss who nags about little things all the time is wearisome indeed.

If you want happy, enthusiastic employees, avoid being a crabby, nagging boss.

4. LECTURING

Ahh, the joys of a good lecture! Remember when you were a teenager? About two minutes into your parent’s monolog you knew where the conversation was going, and you tuned out. Your parents knew you tuned out because they would yell (see #1), “Are you listening to me?” The problem with lectures is that they are one-sided, boring, and often do not address the real problem.

5. TAKING ANGER OUT ON EMPLOYEES

Been under a little stress lately? Who hasn’t in today’s business environment? You’ve heard the saying “the calm before the storm.” In today’s business, there’s little hope for anything other than fleeting moments of calm.

6. SHAMING AND BELITTLING

Another favorite of some of the less sensitive bosses out there is shaming people into submission. Comments like “How could you be so stupid?” or “That’s the dumbest idea I ever heard!” are typical. To be really effective, these comments are often offered in front of the employee’s peers.

7. SETTING TRAPS

Bosses who set traps to catch employees making mistakes, lying, etc., are among the employees’ “favorites.” What self-respecting, enthusiastic employee wouldn’t want a boss who made work like walking through a live mine field?

8. IMPOSING GUILT

Some bosses have the unique ability to make employees feel guilty for their failures. When the boss misses a deadline and loses a customer, it becomes someone else’s fault for not reminding him to get the bid in on time.

9. PHYSICAL ABUSE

Physical abuse may be as simple as getting nose-to-nose with someone, or more obvious when tempers get out of control and someone gets pushed or shoved. Physical abuse also includes bosses who try to discipline employees by forcing them to do dangerous work they are not prepared or trained to do.

10. COERCION

Coercion leaves an employee feeling completely powerless. This is not the feeling you want if you are trying to develop an “empowered organization.” Avoid coercion by leading your employees, not by dragging or punishing them.

One Final Thought

Some bosses handle disciplinary sessions as though they were putting on armor and going to battle. When you are faced with your next disciplinary problem, remember that your objective is to provide instruction that leads to education. Only this will lead to the long-term productivity gains that you want.

Remember also that Jesus forgave sinners, and we are commanded to be like Jesus. As your next disciplinary session is about to begin, the only “armor” you should be putting on is the armor of God; particularly the breastplate of righteousness (Isa. 59:17).

Bonus Whitepaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, download the free whitepaper, 10 of the Worst Mistakes Bosses Make With Employees.” It includes:

  1. a broader discussion of the ten mistakes bosses make disciplining their employees and
  2. ten things you can do as a leader to provide Biblically sound discipline.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for a boss that used one or more of the ten-discipline mistakes listed above? What was the impact on you? On the organization?

 

Category: Skills | Discipline