the debt ceiling can-can

For those who may have tuned out the politicians once more in this (nice) non-election season, one of the looming situations is another debt ceiling fight. Allow me to say it in the words of Declan Garvey, editor of The Morning Dispatch:

“Welcome, esteemed guests, to this year’s performance of the debt limit dance—a cherished congressional tradition wherein lawmakers wrangle over whether to allow the Treasury to take on enough debt to cover the spending Congress has already approved.”

Exactly. 

The debt ceiling is the maximum amount the U.S. government can borrow to meet its financial obligations. It doesn’t authorize new spending; rather it’s what the government needs to borrow in order to cover their existing expenses. 

The current national debt is approximately $31.46 trillion dollars.

(For emphasis sakes, that would be $31,460,000,000,000.)

To raise or not to raise the borrowing limit is the core question of the current/ongoing debate. Remember: the act of raising the debt ceiling doesn’t cost taxpayers more in the moment. It simply allows the government to borrow more money.

So the problem from indeed, very much a layman’s perspective, is that it’s a larger mess that no one has yet had the moxie to actually solve. 

This is arguably, therefore, a glaring manifestation of what it means to “kick the can down the road.” We have lots of leaders who are quite comfortable with the kicking dance.

Pending where one sits — and whether one’s desire is to raise or deny the limit — dictates where one stands. Politicians camp in partisan corners, proclaim their unquestionable correctness, simultaneously sharing how they are so selflessly looking out for the good of the country.

As said, where one sits, dictates where one stands. Whether one wishes to raise or deny, depends on power possessed. For example, as Garvey notes:

“Established by Congress in 1917 to help the federal government borrow money more easily, the debt ceiling has long proved a convenient political soapbox whenever the time comes to raise it—for both sides of the aisle. In 2006, for example, then-Sen. Barack Obama voted against lifting the debt limit to protest President George W. Bush’s ‘reckless fiscal policies’—a stance he regretted dearly when faced with his own debt ceiling battle as president a few years later. But in the past, lawmakers tended to resolve these squabbles relatively amicably. The fights were ‘partisan, but not perilous,’ said Laura Blessing, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.”

But sadly, our leaders seem to collectively no longer be able to resolve these squabbles amicably. 

That, my friends, is not stewarding one’s leadership well. Regardless of the consonant after their name.

So my desire this day is less about any current can-can dance and more about a long term solution. This pattern of massive spending (and massive spending and more massive spending) is unsustainable. It cannot last.

Which thus brings me to two more deeper desires…

… for our leaders to solve the bigger problem.

… and for each to act a little bigger in the way they treat one another.

I don’t believe either is too much to ask.

Respectfully…

AR

walking in Memphis

Sometimes I don’t know what to say. And I think that’s OK. I think there are seasons for everything… days for everything… moments, no doubt, also for everything. 

If I’m honest, sometimes I don’t know what to say, but I still say things. And it’s usually then that I say or do things that may not be my wisest. Understandable, almost always. But still, not my wisest.

Like many, I found myself this weekend, watching the video footage that showed the beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. If you haven’t watched it already, be careful when you do.

If you have watched some of it, you know perhaps the heart from where my words this day come from. Sobering, to say the least.

It’s awful.

I know I wasn’t there. I know my perspective is limited. It’s still awful.

Nichols, a 29 year old black man, was stopped for reported reckless driving. After initial interaction with police, he attempted to flee on foot. He was then quickly apprehended. And then treated horrendously. Five black, male officers were directly involved. As I heard one law professor say to the BBC, “It was incomprehensible — from beginning to end”… “Inhumanity,” it was labeled by a writer for The Atlantic.

Let me by no means suggest a divine nature, but the thought of how Jesus was treated, is the only thing that came close to me… A grown man. Cursed at. Mocked. Beaten mercilessly. Nichols would die 3 days later.

So I find myself sitting here as a blogger today, trying to put words to something that I cannot.

I think that’s why we sometimes see the destructive protests in response. I speak of the violent ones — not the peaceful ones that Dr. King so consistently and eloquently encouraged. This idea that it’s ok to lash out, be violent in response, is injudicious; it gets in the way, providing the fodder of more people to look down upon.

But my strong sense is that many of those people don’t know what to say either.

So I scratched my original plans for our blog post today. It was a rather clever attempt to observe the leadership we see in the four quarterbacks still taking the field today in the remaining NFL games.

But I recognize, as much as it’s difficult for many to see, football is just a game. As much money as we like to throw at it, it’s still a game.

What happened in Memphis matters more. That’s been evident in all the athletes who’ve paused in our national heartache. Said Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins Friday night, “The senseless loss of life for Tyre Nichols has really hit us hard. It’s been tough being on the road, not being home. I wish I could extend my arms through this camera right now to the family. They’re going through a lot.”

As for what’s next, there will be investigation, recommended improvement, and justice to hopefully, quickly come. In the meantime, with all that we feel, may we recognize that our emotions still do not enable us to discern with certainty all that’s wrong with systems, states and society. We can’t. And that’s hard.

God be with Tyre’s family. Along with so very many in this country, I am deeply sorry. 

I pray for you.

I pray for your grieving heart today.

I pray for justice one day soon.

I have no other words.

Soberly…

AR

a ‘united’ state?

I think most all would agree that unity is a good thing. I think it’s more that we disagree on how to get there.

Perhaps we could get there faster if we understood what unity is not.

Hear me, friends. It’s easy to fall prey to some other especially luring fallacy. But note…

Unity is not uniformity.

Allow me to say that once more… for emphasis sakes, of course.

Unity is not uniformity.

Unity is the state of being one — all our parts combined as one, making up the whole. 

Uniformity is the state of being the same — there are no different parts.

I’ll thus say it time number three: unity is not uniformity.

So if we’re honest enough to acknowledge such — knowing we undoubtedly have some significant differences that affect our culture and community and all that goes into that — how do we move forward in a healthy way? How do we do life together? I mean, it’s no secret that “united” is the sole adjective describing the “States” we live in.

Perhaps the best question I heard recently was posed by a sage, professional and personal mentor, acknowledging the differences we each bring to the table.

Noting our differences — especially those that come from our families of origin, ethnic backgrounds, and previous experiences, for example — what happens when we disagree? If there are different parts that comprise the whole, there will indeed be disagreement; we witness such daily on the national stage. And sometimes, dare I submit, it’s a fairly ugly, oft juvenile display.

I suppose we could choose to respond to disagreement in an unhealthy way. We could unhealthily respond by storing up resentment. Maybe even quietly. Just holding it all in, keeping a distinct, internal record, and then one day exploding — maybe one of those not-so-attractive verbal vomits — finding all fault and blame in the other.

Or… we could choose to respond in a healthy way.

I return to the words of my wise mentor…

Knowing unity is not uniformity, knowing differences thus exist, how is wise to respond when we don’t agree with what’s unfolding?

3 steps…

First, ask questions instead of assume intentions.

(Isn’t that the truth? We’re so good at thinking we know why someone else did what they did; we assume we’ve got it all figured out. It makes it easy to find fault with them that way.)

Second, own your transference.

(Oh, I like this one. Transference is the tendency to interpret our current experience by our last one. That is so true… and so prominent! And yet… it is typically inaccurate and unfair. Transference causes us to craft untrue narratives in our own mind.)

And thirdly, acknowledge your role in the community. 

(Recognize your role. Feel the freedom in it! But don’t assume you are what you are not. The kid doesn’t get to be the parent; he’s not capable of it. Therefore, he doesn’t decide what’s for dinner every night. Acknowledge your role; know what decisions are yours to make. Know where you have a view — the ability to see what’s happening — a voice — a contribution to what’s happening — and a vote — a say in what’s happening.)

Step one, though, is understanding that unity is not uniformity.

Ok, that’s time number four.

But some things are clearly a little more challenging for us to comprehend.

Respectfully…

AR

why do we kneel?

It happened again. 

The crowd was silenced. The players sobered. In inaudible unison, the masses knelt. Not only did they kneel, they instinctively knew it was a wise thing to do.

Our country hasn’t quite figured out the kneeling thing, friends.

On January 2nd, during Monday Night Football, when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field, players knew to kneel.

During the height of the tendentious Black Lives Matter protests, multiple professional athletes repeatedly took a knee during the playing of our National Anthem.

And an otherwise unknown high school football coach from Washington state became significantly more well known in recent years, as he knelt at the conclusion of every gridiron contest. 

I think it’s interesting when we’re ok with kneeling. And when we’re not.

When we know to do it. And when we do not.

First and foremost, in our country we are guaranteed the right to free expression and association; it’s covered via the First Amendment. It’s why the government cannot forbid us from saying and writing what we like. It’s why individual offense is not a sustainable argument. Regardless of those who attempt to silence dissent, we each have the right to hold our own opinions and express them freely without government interference, assuming in our expression, we behave responsibly and respect the same rights of others.

So let us ask the key, relevant question: what does it mean to kneel?

Kneeling has historically been a sign of reverence, deference, submission, humility and vulnerability. We kneel to propose. We kneel to pray. We kneel to express the depth of our gratitude.

The question, therefore, when we kneel, is who are we revering? Who are we deferring to? To whom are we submitting? And what levels of humility and vulnerability are an authentic part of our public display?

The high school coach mentioned above is a man named Joseph Kennedy. He knelt at midfield at the conclusion of games to offer quiet personal prayer. He initially prayed alone. Students voluntarily started joining him. The school district asked him to stop. To be clear, they did not ask him to stop leading prayers with the team; they demanded he stop kneeling and praying quietly. The district forbid his prayer, and when Kennedy did not comply, he was fired.

The district’s sole reason for termination was found to be their perceived “risk of constitutional liability.” They were concerned about being sued by other students. The Supreme Court would decidedly rule last year that Kennedy had a right to publicly kneel and pray. As written in the majority opinion, “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

So for those who prayed for Damar Hamlin… those who protested during the National Anthem… and for the coach from Washington state… each has a right to do what they do. But the way in which a watching world responds will depend upon the reverence, deference, submission, humility and vulnerability evident in their act. That goes for religious and nonreligious acts alike.

Last weekend the NFL playoffs began. Near the end of the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bucs wideout Russell Gage attempted to make a sliding catch at the Cowboys 7-yard line. He was hit, fell, and tried to stand up. But he couldn’t. He appeared to attempt to lift his neck and head multiple times. But again, he couldn’t.

With fresh in their minds what happened to Hamlin, medical staff rushed onto the field and multiple players from both teams stayed put nearby on the field. Others walked on, encircling the once more sobering scene. And together, they chose to kneel.

The reverence, deference, submission, humility and vulnerability — all of the above, so-to-speak — were immediately obvious. Gage needed help. From someone other than they.

No doubt there are crucial reasons why we kneel.

Respectfully…

AR

“degender” our words?

Perhaps you’ve noticed. Perhaps you have not. There have been many recent passionate pursuits to degender various customs and facets of current culture. To “degender” — which by the way, is not universally recognized as a word yet, as my auto-correct continually rewrites it as “defender,” which would seem to foreshadow a related meaning — but the idea is to eliminate any association or reference to a gender or sex. In current culture, “sex” refers to one’s biological attributes. “Gender” refers to socially-constructed attributes. Sex is assigned at birth; gender is identified by the individual.

Let us also insert prior to today’s discussion, knowing this is an ardent issue to many, I want to ensure we especially adhere to our commitment to respectful dialogue. The Intramuralist, imperfect as we are, will always strive for honor of all. Even and especially within disagreement or difference of opinion.

During the last days of 2022 (and I’m always intrigued by the timing of releases), the IT community at Stanford University released their professional advice regarding word choice in Stanford websites, code, and culture. The organized effort is called “The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative” (EHLI). While the the advice is not a mandate nor does it represent university policy, it was crafted by the “senior-most technical leaders from major Stanford units.” Their influence is sought-after, strategic and strong.

Their EHLI list was long. It had 10 categories which included hundreds of words. Noting that their list included omitting perceived harmful words such as “American” (because it is commonly used to refer to “people for the United States only, thereby insinuating that the U.S. is the most important country in the Americas”), “blind study” (because that “unintentionally perpetuates that disability is somehow abnormal or negative, furthering an ableist culture”), or “beating a dead horse” (because it “normalizes violence against animals”), there was significant, brutal backlash to the initiative. As included in a succeeding Wall Street Journal editorial, “Parodists have it rough these days since so much of modern life and culture resembles the [satirist publication] Babylon Bee.”

In response to the backlash, Stanford quickly acknowledged some error in judgment; as conceded by Chief Information Officer Steve Gallagher, “We clearly missed the mark in this presentation.” While Stanford admitted some of their error, they are not alone in their degendering efforts. So let’s respectfully examine the idea of eliminating socially-acceptable words solely because of their association with gender or sex. Stanford’s advice includes the following:

  • Changing “freshman” to “frosh, first-year student” because the word “lumps a group of students using masculine language and/or into gender binary groups that don’t include everyone.”
  • Changing “gentlemen” to “everyone” because the word “lumps a group of people using masculine language and/or into gender binary groups, which don’t include everyone.”
  • Changing “ladies” to “everyone” because the word “lumps a group of people using gender binary language that doesn’t include everyone.”
  • Changing “landlord/landlady” to “property owner” because the word “lumps a group of people using gender binary language, which doesn’t include everyone.”
  • Changing “manpower” to “workforce, staffing, staff resources, personnel resources” because “this term reinforces male-dominated language.”
  • Changing “preferred pronouns” to “pronouns” because “the word ‘preferred’ suggests that non-binary gender identity is a choice and a preference.”
  • Changing “transgendered” to “transgender” because this “term avoids connections that being transgender is something that is done to a person and/or that some kind of transition is required.”
  • And eliminating any reference to “he,” “she,” or a profession that includes “man”/“woman” in the title (think chair, congress, fire, mail, police).

As said, the list of perceived “harmful” words is extensive, primarily because the words refer to a gender or sex and not everyone is perceived to then be included in the definition.

Let me be clear; no one in our culture should be shamed for who they are. Let me also say, no adult, outside of one engaged in blatant criminal activity, should be attempted to be controlled. Sometimes I think we work way too hard to control others than grow ourselves. It makes me question who we’re really most focused on and how humility does (or doesn’t) enter in.

Hence, in a world then where “you get to be you” and “me be me,” so-to-speak, my sense is a wiser, more effective approach in truly honoring all is not to insist on the elimination of language. We instead honor all by humbling self, which then leads to being skilled in active listening, sensitive to perceived offense, and focused on resilience rather than control.

Respectfully…

AR

classified, classified: wherefore art thou classified?

So what is it with all this classified material?

Why do our leaders keep not knowing how to handle it or what to do with it?

(And could someone please tell Prince Harry to keep things a little more classified?)

Allow us not to wade too fully into what we do not know. Allow us also not to be dissuaded from all discussion because there is so much we do not know.

The Presidential Records Act, passed in 1978, changed the legal status of Presidential and Vice Presidential materials so that the official records of the President and his staff are owned by the United States. This legislation took effect with the onset of the Reagan administration in 1981.

Still, many have been accused of mishandling what is property of the United States. Said list includes — first, prior to passage — Pres. Nixon (who served in part the motivation for said created act) — and since, public officials such as Hillary Clinton, Sandy Berger, and now most notably, both Presidents Trump and Biden. Trump had his ostentatiously confiscated in Mar-a-Lago last fall. Biden had his discreetly discovered a week before our last election; we found out this past week.

(Let us pause for a moment, as the attempt by Berger, Pres. Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor deserves a little more of a distinct shout out. Berger pleaded guilty to removing highly classified documents from the National Archives in 2004; the inspector general of the National Archives said a staff member had witnessed Berger wrapping the documents around his socks and under his pants. Such would be comical if not so sad.)

Why is it so hard for those who lead us to lead with consistent competency?

I don’t believe competency — or compassion — should have to be sacrificed with any of our elect. I don’t believe transparency or honesty should be forfeited either.

But such isn’t quite the angle I wish to pursue this day. I’m more looking at wise ways to respond to the obvious lack of competency. 

Let me first simply say…

I’m disappointed in Trump’s mishandling of classified materials. I’m disappointed in Biden’s mishandling of classified materials. And I’m disappointed how Biden’s mishandling of classified materials potentially impacts Trump’s mishandling. 

We’ve heard many who, when comparing the two Presidents’ recent mishandling, quickly aver that the situations are not the same. With the minimal we know at this point, such assessment appears to be spot on; the situations are not the same.

My sense, though, is that we are oft lured too far by our bias and bent in assessing issues of questionable leadership competency — in this case, for example, asserting that we are comparing apples to oranges. Let me respectfully submit that such is an inaccurate depiction. While the situations are clearly not the same, we’re really simply comparing two different kinds of apples.

To perhaps better explain via a related paradigm that many of the rest of us encounter — especially our very respected healthcare professional friends — HIPAA laws are still HIPAA laws regardless of content and cooperation. There are rules for a reason which set national standards to protect potentially sensitive health information. It doesn’t matter what the info is, who the person is, how much info it contains, nor how seemingly harmoniously the guilty party’s error is admitted. Hence, this isn’t apples to oranges; this is Fuji vs. Golden Delicious.

So let us not rush to defend or attack. As stated, just as I’ve already heard from many on all sides of the proverbial partisan aisle, there is ample reason to be deeply disappointed in both the current and most recent President’s behavior. I, for one, find it especially cringeworthy when I see one (or both) of them boast of what they will never ever do… and then turn around and do it.

We shouldn’t have to sacrifice competency in our leaders. Competency is more important than any consonant after their name. 

Let’s keep that bar of integrity high. 

Respectfully…

AR

Avatar, worship, and me

Joining the throngs of others, my family made our way to see “Avatar: The Way of Water” over the recent holiday break. In just two weeks time, the movie grossed over $1 billion in global ticket sales, an apparent, coveted, box office milestone. 

With Hollywood taking a hit in recent years, reportedly losing more than $500 billion in market value in 2022 for no doubt a myriad of reasons (i.e. inflation, consumers cutting down on non-essentials, the post-pandemic era, politicization, too much perceived celebrity sanctimony, etc.), only two other films matched the billion-dollar mark: “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World Dominion.” Granted, Tom Cruise’s sequel took 31 days to do so; the dinosaur feature took more than four months. Suffice it to say that “Avatar” stands out in an otherwise rough year for the movie industry.

Trust me: this post is not a review nor are any spoilers included; it more has me thinking on a bigger point. Allow us to first establish some context.

“Avatar” is a fascinating film. It’s storyline is creatively familiar, with director/screenplay co-writer James Cameron posing the same underlying question as he did in his “Terminator” cinematic series. As posed by RogerEbert.com’s reviewers, “Fight or flight for family? Do you run and hide from the powerful enemy to try and stay safe or turn and fight the oppressive evil?” That is the zillion dollar (or at least billion in this case) question.

What’s most fascinating about this movie, however, is the filmmaking. The visual effects technology is captivating. With much of this movie taking place on and in the water, the mixing of live-action and computer generated imagery (CGI) — actually utilizing 60% CGI — is truly something to see. But alas, this is not a review. The movie made me think of something more.

On the film’s fictional planet of Pandora, there is a deep spiritual acknowledgement. The planet’s inhabitants worship Eywa, described by Avatar Wiki as: “the All-Mother or Great Mother… the biological sentient guiding force of life and deity of Pandora and the Na’vi” (Na’vi equates to the indigenous inhabitants). More concisely put, Eywa is a sort of environmental goddess. She is said to reside in certain plants and trees, which are thus sacred, and the Na’vi return to her upon their death.

As said, I enjoyed the movie. As also noted, it’s fiction. While we can learn much from fiction, by definition, it’s also invented and untrue.

But it prompted me to ask a deeper question: Where are those pockets and places in life, that because we enjoy and revere something so much, that we begin to idolize it? … that maybe, just maybe, we being to almost worship?

Let’s make the point a little more poignant. Where is it that we begin to worship what was created as opposed to who actually created it? .. that maybe, just maybe, what is so beautiful and artistic gets in the way of being in awe of the ultimate artist?

The environment is an excellent example of such — and maybe why it’s an easy inclusion in “Avatar.” The environment has places of simply stunning beauty… those spacious skies, waves of grain and sweet, purple mountain majesties and that’s just in this country. I thus asked my long-time, sagacious, photographer friend, Mark, how he has wrestled with such. Insightfully, Mark shares the following:

“As a landscape photographer, I am constantly searching for and finding extraordinary beauty in nature. I find it in mountains, rivers, waterfalls, coastlines, flowers, trees — seemingly wherever I look. It exists in large scale and in the smallest delicate form. As a Christian, I see the beauty as created by the hand of a masterful artist, a benevolent Creator. Thus, it is the subject of my appreciation, not the object. It frequently fills me with a sense of grandeur, awe and humility in knowing regardless of how well I may capture a portion of what I see through the lens, it will never match the raw beauty and power of what I see before me.”

So good. So true.

Creation is no doubt awe-inspiring and beautiful. But as Mark reminds us, “to worship the created, the finite, binds and minimizes the infinite power of the Creator.”

That has me thinking even more.

Respectfully…

AR

a bit about blogging & other people’s resolutions

Here at the Intramuralist, we are very intentional about our topics. Some stories are worked on weeks in advance, noting the extent of research required. Others are crafted in the immediate hours prior to posting, noting the urgency in the country’s collective conversation. When the heart of the country somberly and prayerfully responded to the heart of Buffalo’s Damar Hamlin last week, for example, that prompted our immediate attention.

Some blogs are whimsical. Some are historical. Some tell personal stories, but all wrestle with various insights and angles of various issues. There is no topic we won’t touch, albeit always respectfully so. 

Some blogs, perhaps, really aren’t fair. Take the following, for example… 

Because we possess the power of the pen (or at least the keyboard on my iMac), today I’d like to utilize a little more of our creative license than usual. While admittedly, none of us are qualified to fully discern the changes another should or needs to make — or as I like to say, “play the Holy Spirit in another” — here are our Top Ten Resolutions for 2023…

… for other people. 🙂

In 2023, we wish… 

10. For Prince Harry to learn what it means to work on family dysfunction in a healthy, private manner.

9. For Congress to address and improve their obvious dysfunction (… and yes, that is both parties who take masquerading turns acting as if solely they put country before party).

8. For government to spend significantly less. For government, too, like all other responsible entities, to pay back what we owe (… our current U.S. national debt is $31,473,035,697,684… wait… that’s wrong; the debt grows at a rate of $45,486 per second).

7. For Pres. Joe Biden and former Pres. Donald Trump to realize the majority of the country doesn’t wish for either one of them to run again (… thanks for your service, but unfortunately, too much division has been the result of each of your tenures; sometimes — admittedly in different ways — you have each encouraged it).

6. For sports legends Tom Brady, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Aaron Rodgers, Diana Taurasi, Venus Williams and Tiger Woods to know when to retire (… and how to do so gracefully).

5. For CNN, FOX, MSNBC and more to openly admit their bias and thus often, lack of objectivity (… bias exists everywhere; let’s simply acknowledge its ability to skew a story).

4. For the economy to stabilize, inflation to subside, and for all politicians to recognize their role in it and responsibility for it — as opposed to blaming all negative impact on the policies of another pending the consonant after their name (… as if only they are the economic genius).

3. For Damar Hamlin to fully recover and realize how he unintentionally, but beautifully spurred on an entire country to consider what is most important in life (… noting it has nothing to do with sports).

2. For the country to realize prayers and action are not mutually exclusive (… and to realize Who we’re actually praying to).

And #1. For all of us to learn to be more respectful and honoring of all others. There isn’t a single one of us not in need of growing in this too oft sacrificed virtue. 

So let me ask a final question today, friends: who is it that you have trouble respecting and honoring?

Just a resolution… trying to decide for whom…

Respectfully…

AR

what happened Monday night in Cincinnati

Everything matters. Until it doesn’t.

And until we realize it doesn’t.

In the sports moment that stunned the country Monday night, there was an embedded, sobering hope. 

Here was a 24 year old young man, doing what he loves to do, with all the lights and cameras and jeers and cheers that accompany NFL prime time, cushioning the context of what we thought would simply be another, highly competitive, standings-significant game.

Except it wasn’t.

In the middle of Ohio’s Queen City gridiron, a young man lie motionless, experiencing cardiac arrest on the field. This was no longer a game.

Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin was fighting for his life. At time of this posting, he remains in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital, still fighting.

But something happened to us the moment Hamlin fell. It’s as if we realized we needed to make the most important, the most important.

The players realized that. The coaches realized it. At some point the NFL realized it. They stopped the game. They knew — however shocked into knowing it happened — that playing this game, one that has major playoff implications with only a week in the regular season left, was far, far secondary to what was happening to the heart of Damar Hamlin… and to all those that surrounded him… his Buffalo teammates… his Cincinnati opponents… the fans in the stands… and all of us watching on TV.

There were no opponents this night, friends. And we were shocked into realizing it.

And so soberly sitting at my keyboard, I can’t help but ask the bigger question: what’s it going to take to shock us?

What’s going to have to happen for us to realize what’s most important? … that we don’t have all these opponents? … these people we have decided are our enemies? … that we have to fight — maybe even hate, but definitely look down upon?

Pick your passion. Pick your issue. Make it a hard one. Make it really emotionally burdensome, taxing… Make it about abortion, immigration, econ, LGBTQ rights, Democrats, Republicans, the dwindling fan clubs of Joe Biden or Donald Trump… do we realize the person who thinks differently than us is actually not our opponent? Do we realize that each of us has come to the place where we believe what we believe, prefer what we prefer, and are convicted about what we’re convicted about because of the unique experiences we each have had? … and those experiences are not the same? Do we realize that any of us who claim to be on the so-called “right side of history” are simply using that to elevate our beliefs, preferences and convictions over another so that we can actually delegitimize their experience and treat them as an opponent?

What’s it going to take to shock us into realizing what’s most important?

Monday night, the scene, reaction and social media were somberly hopeful. We collectively knew what was most important; we realized this opponent mindset is a humanly crafted ideology designed to elevate self and delegitimize others. We needed help and we knew were to get it from. There were countless calls for thoughts and prayers. There were no questions about the need for them. What was most evident were the masses who imagined what the prayers of a whole nation could do.

Prayers are not mindless nor absent of direction. They have a direct object — one worthy of praise, who listens and responds, who hears the chorus that arises from far more than any stadium. We may not always see God or sense His presence, but it doesn’t change His existence nor our need for Him. On Monday night, in an instant elimination of the opponent mindset, we knew that. He created us. In His image. And is here to help us now. That’s whether we see Him or sense Him or know Him or not. For all people. All beliefs, preferences, and convictions, too.

If we realized that foundational reality, maybe it would remove the venom from our debates. Maybe it would turn the debates into solution-oriented discussion, passionate as they still may be. But most of all, maybe it would make us realize that the person on the other side of the “field” has never been our opponent. There is something bigger, deeper, that will always mean incredibly much more.

That’s the somber yet hopeful realization that happened on the football field Monday night in Cincinnati. May it happen within each of us, too. 

Soberly,

AR

New Year’s intentions

Happy New Year, friends! Allow me to introduce you to a brief, yet quite potentially potent reframe. First, some numbers…

According to DiscoverHappyHabits.com (and yes, that name does make me chuckle):

  • Their 2022 survey revealed only 23% planned on making New Year’s resolutions.
  • The most popular resolutions for 2022 were living healthier (23%), personal improvement and happiness (21%), and losing weight (20%).
  • Being healthier is consistently the most popular New Year’s resolution. Saving money is the next most consistently popular resolution.
  • On average, only 9-12% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions.
  • In comparison, of those people who have similar goals but do not set a resolution, only 4% are still successful after 6 months.

Hence, the reframe…

Obviously, if we set a resolution, there’s something we want to do; we wouldn’t be setting it if we didn’t look favorably upon the perceived end result. The hard part, therefore, isn’t the setting; it’s the actual doing. To reframe then means to pose something differently, to look at things a different way. So let’s start with the word embedded in all of the above, “resolution.” It means:

res·o·lu·tion  | ˌrezəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n |   noun

     — a firm decision to do or not to do something 

     — the quality of being determined or resolute

A New Year’s resolution is something we’ve articulated that we are determined to do — no matter how “SMART” — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely — the ambition may be.

But what if we could take the pressure off a bit? … making the goal a little more potentially achievable? … less shameful or stressful, so-to-speak?

What if we reframed the resolution as an intention? Meaning:

in·ten·tion  | inˈten(t)SH(ə)n |   noun 

     — a thing intended; an aim or plan

Friends, I’m not attempting to lessen the ambition of any. I am also a big believer in SMART goals in the professional world. But for the personal, noting the data, my desire is simply to encourage increased success. There’s a reason so many of us quit so soon into what may originally be the most valiant attempt.

Note the insight of Robin Lanehurst, M.Ed. in an op-ed for Psychology Today, discussing intentions vs. resolutions:

“The main difference between intentions and resolutions is in their breadth and specificity. While resolutions tend to be singular things you can check off on your to-do list or track — ‘I’m going to drink more water’ or ‘I’m going to spend more quality time with my kids on the weekends’ — intentions are more broad — ‘I’m focusing on my health’; ‘I’m prioritizing my family’; or even ‘health’ and ‘family.’ Intentions can encompass multiple areas of your life, rather than zoom in on one piece, like resolutions. For example, you may set the intention to be more creative, which can apply to your work, your spirituality, your family, and your relationships, but a resolution to take on a new creative project at work only applies to one setting.”

In other words, as Lanehurst insightfully continues: 

  • Intentions, unlike resolutions, are more broad and encompass multiple areas of life.
  • Intentions give us the room to discover what really works for us, discovering habits we really enjoy. 
  • Intentions help us prioritize our time in ways that better reflect our values.
  • Intentions help to guide actions from a gentle, compassionate place — as opposed to a more rigid place of enforcement.
  • And, when we reflect on our intentions and share them with others, it helps us to ground ourselves and stick with it.

Sticking with it… that’s the goal. And as we stick with it, we grow.

Time to be intentional, friends. A blessed new year to you and yours…

Respectfully…

AR