guts, humility & admitting mistakes

We’ve spoken often here of the perceived societal digression — an increase in crime, an erosion of values, and even the encouragement of division.

Somewhere embedded amidst that decline is this confounded notion that the admission of error equates to weakness. Let me state my opinion strongly: this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In one of my current roles, I have the sweet responsibility to oversee leadership development for a very talented group of young professionals, many in the early stages of careers in ministry. We are creative, intentional and consistent in investing in these current and no doubt future leaders. They are exceptional and have much to give, with great futures in front of them.

Last week we had an in depth, extensive conversation on the need to actually work on our leadership, as being a leader isn’t something you just are; it’s something you root, plant, water and grow; you prune it. You work on it. You never just arrive, so-to-speak.

We encourage and model the principles of integrity, kindness, faithfulness, and more. Honesty is part of the more.

Wise people are honest people. And honest people aren’t just honest about our successes; we’re honest about our failures, too. In fact, in last week’s conversation we actually spoke about the need to fail.

Let us be clear: failure is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for all that rooting and planting and watering and growing. It builds resilience in self and makes us relatable to others. Hence, admission of our mistakes is necessary.

But somehow we as a society have missed this idea. We have equated any admission of failure with weakness, thereby missing out on the available resilience and relatability. This is especially true in our politics, as for some reason, all sides of the proverbial aisle have been somehow seduced into adopting governing, legislating, and public relations strategies which don’t allow for any admission of error. Democrats and Republicans are each cringe-worthy guilty.

Continuing with the cringe-worthy, note one of last week’s more notable gaffes (and let’s face it; the two most recent presidents have given us a lot of material)…

Pres. Biden was speaking at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, and was acknowledging the bipartisan group of lawmakers who came together to make a difference in this area. He then attempted to acknowledge Indiana’s Rep. Jackie Walorski. 

“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? I think she wasn’t going to be here — to help make this a reality,” said the President.

The only problem is that Rep. Walorski died in a car accident at the beginning of August.

Let’s be grace givers, friends; we all make mistakes. But it wasn’t the gaffe that was the problem; it was the response.

When asked about the President’s obvious mistake that morning, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre actually defended the gaffe, suggesting that Biden “was naming the congressional champions on this issue and was acknowledging her incredible work” and that the deceased congresswoman “was of top of mind for the President,” which is not “unusual to have someone top of mind.”

Stunned by Jean-Pierre’s defense, multiple, varied politically-leaning media members tried to help her make it make at least a little more sense, asking if it was a teleprompter error. Jean-Pierre didn’t budge…

She refused to give any ammunition to any admission of error by the President, even though it was obvious Pres. Biden had forgotten that Rep. Walorski passed away. It no doubt would have been a far wiser, more tactful approach to simply say, “The President made a mistake. He apologizes to the family.” The conversation would then be done.

But let us not justify any lack of extension of grace to the White House Office of the Press Secretary. The reality is that politics are downstream from society, and society no longer sees an admission of failure or fault for the opportunity that it actually is. 

As author Roy T. Bennett penned, “It takes guts and humility to admit mistakes. Admitting we’re wrong is courage, not weakness.”

Not weakness.

That goes for us all.

Respectfully…

AR

today in Florida

The cars are sheltered, fridge is full, and all outdoor furniture has been moved inside. All known, necessary preparations have been made.

As I write this, Hurricane Ian is slowly but steadily creeping our way. It’s a very fluid situation with much embedded uncertainty, but the current projections have the Category 3 — soon to be 4 — storm making landfall in Florida on Wednesday. We are inland somewhat — which minimizes the storm surge. Massive winds, rain and flooding are still expected. Allow me to rephrase; consequential damage is expected.

Gov. DeSantis has declared a state of emergency. Schools are closed. Disney is closing… Publix soon, as well. The water has been depleted from the stores’ typically plentiful shelves. I’m assuming the toilet paper is gone, too.

Let me first share prayers of safety for all in harm’s way. God be with you. Near or far. These storms are nothing to mess around with. They are significant and dangerous.

But let me second share briefly what I appreciate today…

Today was different. I mean, I’ll be honest; most days in Florida are pretty good. There’s just something about sunshine and warmth that seems to positively impact the mood of those around you.

But today was different.

Sure, there were plans made and closures announced and lots of last minute store runs and scavenger hunts for the water and toilet paper.

But there was more.

People were out. 

They were talking.

They were walking.

There were more out getting their last typically daily walks in, knowing such will be hard to make happen in the next 72 hours. 

There were more out on the streets and sidewalks, just breathing in a bit before the rain begins to fall.

And amidst those walks and talks and impromptu gatherings on the sidewalks and streets, there were well wishes…

“Be safe… take care… Need anything? Let me know… You have my cell, right?… Text, call if something goes wrong…”

In other words today was a manifestation of authentic community that we sometimes take for granted… that we don’t always see.

It doesn’t matter that to each we encountered this day there are different perspectives on the economy, on abortion, on crime and immigration. Let me repeat: it doesn’t matter.

Today was a day where community mattered most. And we knew it and saw it and it was beautiful.

As I pen and soon post, I just glanced outside once more. The rain has begun. Just a sprinkle for the moment, friends.

But we will weather the storm, knowing there is something that always means more…

Blessings… and a special shout out to those impacted by Ian… yes, blessings, indeed…

AR

could we focus on solving the problem, please?

It is no secret that one of the things that concerns me most in our country is our inability to talk to one another about tough topics. The encouraged mentality is clearly “if you disagree with me, then let’s face it; there’s something very wrong with you.” And not only that, but “You are not worthy of my time, attention nor respect until you change.” 

Great. And just like that, we’ve thrown all Judeo-Christian values out the window. These are grown adults, friends. Grown adults don’t always behave very grown up.

We discredit, demean and cast all blame elsewhere. Know what that also prompts us to do?

Never solve the problem.

I look at America’s current struggle with migration and immigration. The number of persons apprehended for illegally crossing the southern border have reached record numbers this year. Over 2 million migrants have been arrested for entering the country illegally, with current estimates that at the fiscal year’s end, that number will equate to more than 35% than just one year ago. Obviously, something is not working well along the Rio Grande and more. Something is not only not working well in Arizona, Texas and other border states; something is not working well in our approach.

Before, no less, chiming in with a one-sided stance that focuses on the political stunts of solely one person or party, allow me to provide a brief caution first. No federal nor state official is immune to political stunts. None seems also immune to hollow rhetoric or the memorization of find-sounding talking points. The issue is complicated in that only the federal government has the legal power to enforce U.S. immigration law; however, the manifestation of the problem clearly puts an onus on state resources, and the states can only assist in regulation and enforcement.

Hence, this is an issue that needs to be solved by the federal executive and legislative branches; it also isn’t the fault of a singular administration — neither the current nor the previous. But the complicating factor no doubt in play here — and no doubt one we oft fall prey to — is that when we focus the majority of our efforts on the discrediting, demeaning and casting all blame on others, we are again not solving the problem. I often scratch my head, confusingly wondering where our leaders actually direct the most energy.

So what is the problem? It’s not an easy issue. And it’s been tricky especially in recent decades. There are extensive, excellent debates on the totality of impact from an economic, social, and safety perspective — especially in how the influx affects the job market, education, crime, drug trafficking, social services, tax contributions, terrorism, etc. Again, it’s a nuanced issue.

Generally speaking, Democrats and Republicans alike agree it’s a problem. Granted, they prioritize varying angles.

Democrats prioritize finding paths to legal status for those who illegally entered. Republicans prioritize border security.

What’s actually encouraging is that there is some significant overlap in the radical middle. I say “encouraging” because the polar opposite political ends, remember, are not known for their efficiency nor problem solving; sadly, they seem more marked by the anger in their heart or the loudness of their words. Let’s respect their passion; however, few are moved to the viewpoint of another via anger or volume.

According to a Pew Research Center report this month, below is the overwhelming overlap that the angriest, loudest voices seem perhaps not wanting us to hear. There is clear majority, cross-party support for the following: 

  • 73% of us wish to increase security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • 73% of us wish to take in civilian refugees trying to escape violence and war.
  • 72% of us wish to allow those who came to the U.S. illegally as children to remain here.

And… majorities in both parties say that solving this problem should be at least a somewhat important goal.

So let’s start there. 

Let’s start with problem-solving.

Let’s admit the overlap. And let’s stop with the discrediting, demeaning and casting all blame elsewhere. It only keeps leaders from doing what they were actually elected to do.

Respectfully…

AR

really? why this much attention to the Queen?

So why would we pay so much attention to royalty? I mean, she really had no political power; her family’s distinction is more symbolic than one denoting a ruling authority.

So what is it about Queen Elizabeth II that prompts the unprecedented pomp and circumstance of the week?

Why did they broadcast live?

And better yet, why did we watch?

It was expected to be the most-watched moment in TV history. Estimates are that more than half of the world’s population watched it. I wonder why…

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because Queen Elizabeth stood for something more.

Maybe, just maybe, she stood for something different.

Even though a celebrity, she seemed to never divorce herself from the call to service.

Even though so obviously privileged, she seemed to never equate privilege with entitlement.

And even though she lived a life where the eyes of the masses were always upon her, she seemed to never think of herself as one who had so much to give to them; she instead possessed the keen awareness of wondering what others could instead teach her.

As the Intramuralist joined the enormous viewing crowds, there was one description of her repeated by many that magnifies all of the above — all of what’s most responsible for our collective attraction to and deep respect for this Queen who’s tenure spanned more than seven decades…

It was said of her that it was more important to her to be seen and not heard.

Allow us to say that again: seen and not heard.

With all due respect, how many of our leaders walk into a room with the goal of listening both first and most?

How many could care less about their Instagram status?

How many never posture themselves in anything other than a humble position?

I’ll be honest… when penning this post, I again found myself wrestling with the idea of assuming a humble posture. With all the ills and ails in the world, it just may be that our individual unwillingness to consistently frequent and encourage a humble posture may be our most significant sin, weakness, glaring blind spot, you-name-it. 

A humble posture is the opposite of a proud posture. Let us be clear; we speak not of being proud of what we do, proud of who we are, or proud of the gazillions of ways we’ve each been gifted or blessed, even when we can’t see it. That pride is more of an embedded gratefulness.

The pride that opposes humility is one marked by arrogance — better yet, marked by judgment.

Proud people judge people in comparison to themselves…

If I wouldn’t do it, why would they? … If I wouldn’t think it, why should they? … Obviously, something must be wrong with them.

The proud’s extension of compassion and grace, therefore, is based on — and thus limited by— self. 

Back to the Queen of the United Kingdom… if her behavior towards others was based on self — knowing the massive extent of her celebrity, wealth, privilege and power — who could stand? Who would not be judged?

Hence, allow us a final, respectful shout out/curtsy/bow to Elizabeth II… how inspiring to have such a capable, contemporary, humble leader and example.

Respectfully…

AR 

creating an enemy

One of the more fascinating phenomenas we’ve witnessed as of late — and remember, “fascinating” doesn’t necessarily equate to good — is this quiet recognition of the benefits of having an enemy. Having an enemy gives us something to fight against. It inflames our passions… makes us rise up… calls us to action!

Or as Jakub Grygiel wrote in The American Interest in 2018,“The enemy provides an organizing principle for our strategy.” We “compete with them and defeat them — yes, of course.” But no doubt before that, “we can benefit from them.” And alas, we can benefit even if the enemy doesn’t really exist.

Look at how we justify talking about politics. It’s almost as if the tribes — I mean parties — encourage viewing the other as the enemy. That goes for the parties, Presidents, pundits, you-name-it. It oft seems they spend more time creating and condemning enemies than actually finding solution to the underlying problems.

The challenge then is that when our leaders resort to such dishonorable behavior, it begins to play out in other circles. Note, for example, what began to unfold last month on the college campus…

Duke’s volleyball team was playing against Brigham Young in Provo, Utah. Rachel Richardson, the only black starter on the team, said after the match that she was “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.”

She shared this with her godmother, a criminal defense attorney, currently running for office in Texas, who then tweeted: “My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes [sic] volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a [n-word] every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.”

Over the next two weeks, an enemy was created. The story went viral.

Richardson’s father spoke with multiple media outlets. In his interview with the New York Times, he described an alarming scene. Even though the racial slurs continued, his daughter just tried “to keep her head down and continue playing.” He added, “As the crowd got more hyped and the epithets kept coming, she wanted to respond back but she told me she was afraid that, if she did, the raucous crowd could very well turn into a mob mentality.”

In her own interviews, Rachel herself said that as the match progressed, the “atmosphere of the student section had changed,” growing “more extreme, more intense.” Increasingly more, then, we went after the enemy… 

LeBron James tweeted his emphatic support. The Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, released a statement of disgust. The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team cancelled their upcoming game in November. The Washington Post, CNN, Sports Illustrated, NPR, etc. each published pieces decrying the incident. Note MSNBC’s headline: “The racism on display at Brigham Young Friday fits a historical pattern.”

To their credit, BYU also quickly issued an apology, starting with “All of God’s children deserve love and respect.” Indeed they do. There is no place for racism and bigotry in a wise, thriving society. And not only did BYU apologize, they also swiftly banned the fan deemed primarily responsible from all university athletic venues.

There’s only one rather significant problem. As the weeks and investigation continued, zero evidence has been found of any of the above happening to Richardson or her teammates. There is no evidence of even a single slur. More than 5,000 people were in the arena that day. None of the big cameras covering the court or all the smaller cameras in people’s hands offer evidence supporting Richardson’s account. No one has acknowledged hearing any such utterance.

Let it be said that evidence could still be forthcoming, and again, in no situation should we be supportive of such disparaging behavior. Perhaps, too, Richardson genuinely felt unsafe, but didn’t have an accurate grasp of why.

But let it also be said: what does it say about our journalism when the sources rush to judgment with zero evidence or corroboration? And what does it say about what happens when we create an enemy? There are some reports that the young man banned is mentally disabled.

Fascinating, as well, no doubt, is that the journalistic source that broke the story that there exists no corroborating evidence was none of the media outlets mentioned above. It also wasn’t ABC, CBS, or NBC — none of the national outlets. No. It was the Cougar Chronicle, the BYU student paper.

Remember: fascinating doesn’t necessarily equate to good.

Respectfully…

AR

a coming unity ticket?

Many have increasingly serious concerns about the future of this country, especially with leadership continually prompting questions of competency, compassion, morality or radical ideology. In my search to find an effort that is more good and right and true, I have landed in “No Labels,” a respectful, bipartisan, problem-solving group. We have monthly calls, discussing aims and plans in order to make our country better. This past year, in fact, I’ve met with Sen. Joe Lieberman, Gov. Pat McCrory and Gov. Larry Hogan. Two weeks ago it was with popular New York Times columnist, David Brooks. Today’s post is reprint of Brooks’ public response to that call. Take a look. What No Labels is planning is downright fascinating…

“What happens if the 2024 election is between Donald Trump and somebody like Bernie Sanders? What happens if the Republicans nominate someone who is morally unacceptable to millions of Americans while the Democrats nominate someone who is ideologically unacceptable? Where do the millions of voters in the middle go? Does Trump end up winning as voters refuse to go that far left?

The group No Labels has been working quietly over the past 10 months to give Americans a third viable option. The group calls its work an insurance policy. If one of the parties nominates a candidate acceptable to the center of the electorate, then the presidential operation will shut down. But if both parties go to the extremes, then there will be a unity ticket appealing to both Democrats and Republicans to combat this period of polarized dysfunction.

The No Labels operation is a $70 million effort, of which $46 million has already been raised or pledged. It has four main prongs. The first is to gain ballot access for a prospective third candidate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The organization is working with lawyers, political strategists and petition firms to amass signatures and establish a No Labels slot on the 2024 ballots. The group already has over 100,000 signatures in Ohio, for example, and 47,000 signatures in Arizona.

The second effort is to create a database on those Americans who would support a unity ticket. The group’s research suggests there are 64.5 million voters who would support such an effort, including roughly a third of the people who supported Donald Trump in 2020 and 20 percent of the Democrats who supported Joe Biden in that year, as well as a slew of independents.

The group has identified 23 states where it believes a unity ticket could win a plurality of the vote, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Minnesota and Colorado. If the ticket gained a plurality in those 23 states, that would give its standard-bearer 279 electoral votes and the presidency.

The third effort is to find a policy agenda that appeals to unity voters. The group has come up with a series of both/and positions on major issues: comprehensive immigration reform with stronger borders and a path to citizenship for DACA immigrants, American energy self-sufficiency while transitioning to cleaner sources, no guns for anyone under 21 and universal background checks, moderate abortion policies with abortion legal until about 15 weeks.

The fourth effort is to create an infrastructure to nominate and support a potential candidate. There’s already a network of state co-chairs and local volunteers. Many of them are regular Americans, while others are notables like Mike Rawlings, a Democrat and a former mayor of Dallas; the civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis; and Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence.

The group has not figured out how the nominating process would work, though it wants to use technology to create a transparent process that would generate public interest. There would be a nominating convention in Texas, shortly after it becomes clear who will be the Democratic and Republican nominees.

The people who are volunteering for this emphasize that they are not leaving their parties. This is not an effort to create a third party, like Andrew Yang’s effort. This is a one-off move to create a third option if the two major parties abandon the middle in 2024.

The big question is: Is this a good idea? To think this through, I’ve imagined a 2024 campaign in which the Republicans nominate Trump, Biden retires and the Democrats nominate some progressive and the No Labels group nominates retired Adm. William McRaven. (I’m just grabbing his name off the top of my head as the sort of person who might be ideal for the No Labels ticket.)

The first danger is that the No Labels candidate would draw more support away from the Democrats and end up re-electing Trump. This strikes me as a real possibility, though Jenny Hopkins, a No Labels activist from Colorado, tells me, “I find it easier to find Republicans who want to pull away from Trump than it is to find Democrats who want to pull away from Biden.”

The second danger is that the No Labels candidate fails to generate any excitement at all. Millions of Americans claim to dislike the two major parties, but come election time, they hold their noses and support one in order to defeat the party they hate more.

The last competitive third presidential option was Ross Perot in 1992. He ran as a clear populist outsider, not on the moderate “unity” theme that is at the heart of the No Labels effort. On the other hand, the gap between the two parties is much vaster today than when Perot ran against Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. There is much more running room up the middle. Plus, the country is much hungrier for change. Only 13 percent of American voters say the country is on the right track.

This is one of those efforts that everybody looks at with skepticism at first. But if ever the country was ripe for something completely different, it’s now.”

Respectfully…

AR (& David Brooks)

watching from afar… a little bit jealous, too…

I’ll admit. I’m a little bit jealous. In a good way, if that makes sense.

Just watching from afar. 

And as hard as it no doubt is for many, something embedded within is so good and right and true. 

Maybe it’s because of how respected author and encourager Jennie Allen framed it…

“Reasons we respected the Queen:

  1. She submitted to something bigger than herself for the good of others. 
  2. She was not controlled by her emotions.
  3. She lived a quiet life, and could have but didn’t draw extra attention to herself. 
  4. Her identity seemed secure despite a constant global spotlight and criticism.
  5. She was slow to speak and thoughtful with every word.
  6. She was wholeheartedly committed to her marriage and family.
  7. She regularly displayed wisdom and courage in unthinkable circumstances.
  8. She saw her life as service.”

Elizabeth II — Elizabeth Alexandra Mary — unexpectedly led the British monarchy for near 71 years. While monarchies may seem somewhat archaic and ineffective, something about the Queen of the United Kingdom was not.

Her wise words were many…

“It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult.”

“We may hold different points of view but it is in times of stress and difficulty that we most need to remember that we have much more in common than there is dividing us.”

“Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.”

And so are the wise words about her…

From Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, who’s known the Queen since childhood: “Her Majesty’s reign spanned so many decades – a period when we came into our own as a confident, diverse, and forward-looking country. It is her wisdom, compassion, and warmth that we will always remember and cherish.”

From Elton John — or Sir Elton, as he is more formally known in the UK:  “She led the country through some of our greatest and darkest moments with grace and decency and a genuine caring warmth.”

And from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “Here is a woman who gave her life, utterly, to the service of others. And regardless of what anyone thinks of the role of monarchies around the world, there is undeniably, I think here, a display of someone who gave everything on behalf of her people, and her people included the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

The extent of the heartfelt, admiring tributes is unprecedented. And what do they overwhelmingly speak of? … her decency… compassion… servant-heartedness… commitment to her family and faith… her thoughtfulness… not seeking of the limelight… and her enduring consistency in all of the above.

So why jealous?

And why in a good way?

Because even in grief it feels good to pay tribute to a leader, imperfect as they are, that the majority of us don’t question if they are actually worthy and good.

May you rest In peace, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. God be with your family as they mourn now and continue to work out what family looks like. Thanks most, no less, for your humble, absolutely beautiful example to the world.

Respectfully…

AR

did someone mention student loans?

So many events unfolded while this semi-humble blogger was on respite… so many currents events that attracted a little more of my attention… from various legislative priorities, to the death of those such as the iconic Olivia Newton John (“Grease” is still the word), to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s significant trip to Taiwan. Please, no disdain nor hurrah for the Speaker’s travels. As one who has actively studied State Dept. and academic analyses in the past year regarding Taiwan independence and its history with China, this is a most nuanced issue. It’s a hollow argument to suggest said act was all good or all bad; it’s complicated. But alas, that seems what 21st Century political activity has oft succumbed to — this notion that an act or stance is all good or all bad. We are thus oft hollow. Oft unknowingly so.

One of issues, no less, that arose while away is Pres. Joe Biden’s decision for the government to repay a nominal portion of outstanding student loans. Thanks to the many who have already, preemptively dialogued with me… some in celebration… some in disgust… and some still a little more balanced — thankful for the aid in their personal predicament but aware of the greater economic effect.

It’s been fascinating to watch play out…

Via Executive Order (meaning no congressional involvement), Pres. Biden announced a plan where individuals making less than $125,000 annually — or households under $250,000 — are eligible for $10,000 in federal loan forgiveness. (Those with outstanding Pell Grants would qualify for more.)

Biden authorized such based on the 2003 Heroes Act, a law which gives the Secretary of the Dept. of Education the authority to waive debt obligations amid a war or national emergency. That law was crafted to care for veterans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11.

Regardless then of legal precedent in addition to individual choice, responsibility and current ability to repay — and also infusing more money into an already inflated economy — this was a unilateral decision. Just last year, Speaker Pelosi, who shares the President’s party, said that Biden lacked the power to make such a decision unilaterally. “It would take an act of Congress, not an executive order, to cancel student loan debt,” said the Speaker.

Hearing the reaction of many, most in support base their advocacy on either (a) their trust of Pres. Biden and his party or (b) how it affects them individually. Most base their disapproval based on (a) their distrust of Pres. Biden and his party or (b) their greater understanding of economics. It is the most expensive Executive Order ever, with estimates from the mid-hundred billions to $1 trillion, according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, a nonpartisan, widely regarded analysis. To be clear, debt cancellation is not free; the federal government has to pay that money. Taxpayers fund the federal government, and those taxpayers include the millions of men and women who made the decision to attend a trade school, no school or less expensive school, knowing the potential cost to be incurred.

The other reality is that the bottom line issue, in my opinion, is the exponentially increasing cost of a college education; it’s an unsustainable financial burden for future generations. However, this Executive Order, as multiple prominent Democrats and Republicans concede, does not address that issue. The bottom line problem will remain the bottom line problem.

So why? Why do it? Why craft this Executive Action now?

I’ve heard all sorts of reasons. And let me be bluntly honest with you. I don’t know…

A promise? A bribe? Win more to a side?

Midterms? More?

With multiple holes in the reasoning, let us again respectfully ask: why do it now? Some warn it will continue to increase inflation, as the plan equates to even more money chasing still too few goods. Let me suggest, however, that such an impact is difficult to precisely predict; inflation depends more on how consumers change their spending habits as a result, and student loan repayment has been suspended for some time.

So again, let me claim not to know the convincing rationale. I’m grateful several of my friends will find some relief. I’m also sarcastically snickering that several other of my friends making $100K plus will now have their leftover loans paid off by you and me. The bottom line seems the decision makes ambiguous, inconsistent sense.

I will thus add that one of my benchmark standards of living is to act in a way above or beyond reproach. In other words, prudent behavior means acting in a way that criticism isn’t so obviously called for. One might disagree with our decision-making — they may, in fact, do so adamantly — which party loyalists do with regularity — but they understand the decision-making; there is no inconsistency in the logic. This Executive Order — like it or not, benefitting from it or not — doesn’t stand up to said benchmark.

It makes me think of the incredibly brave Rosa Parks — brave in so many contagious, historical ways. Said Parks, “If you want to be respected for your actions, then your behavior must be above reproach. If our lives demonstrate that we are peaceful, humble, and trusted, this is recognized by others.” And we wonder why our government, on all sides of the aisle, struggles with being respected and trusted. Maybe we should learn anew what it means to be above or beyond reproach.

Respectfully…

AR

I’m back!!

Once again, we have concluded our annual, superb Guest Writer Series. Thank you first to our articulate writers for sharing their experience and expertise. Thank you, also, to each of you, for reading and pondering their perspective. Remember that we never suggest here that we must all agree. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. We believe we are sharpened by the words and wisdom of other people. And most definitely, by the un-likemindedness — or at least by those who run in different circles than self.

I’ve witnessed some troubling things during my time away. Don’t get me wrong — it’s no doubt been a refreshing, life-giving necessary respite. Intentional rest is a prudent practice, friends, one I’m afraid our culture doesn’t encourage or celebrate nearly enough.

But one of the more solidifying observations in my time away as we watched multiple current events unfold, was the growing number of people who no longer recognize that they can gain wisdom from the person who believes differently than they. In fact, sadly, with some of the more contentious decisions as of late, I’ve heard some really loud voices ostentatiously declare that, “If they think that way, then they are @^%#$!#&*^#!!” (insert derogatory character judgment of choice there).

That’s it, isn’t it?

If someone thinks opposite of us, their character is off… as if only one of us ever has the ability to err in our reason.

We allow ourselves to conclude that because another person believes as they do, that they are either (a) inhumane, (b) stupid, or (c) something worse. And once we can conclude they are “worse” — meaning really, “worse than me” — we can justify not only not listening to them but also demonstrably squelching their voice…

“They don’t deserve to have a voice!”

And just like that we’ve become arrogant…

Judgmental…

And maybe also worse…

Friends, we can’t encourage enough how important it is to listen to other people. Sit with them. Be fully present. Hear their story.

In recent years I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to sit down with various ends of various perceived spectrums — from the most Covid protectionists to the anti-vaxxers… those who support Roe/those who don’t… those who love Trump/those who hate him… those who support Biden/those who are convinced he has definite dementia… etc. etc. etc.

When I walk into those conversations, my desire is to seek to understand. “Tell me your story,” we say… ”Sincerely share the unfolding of your perspective.”

We each have a story. There’s a reason we think like we do.

When we are present long enough to listen to the story of another, it’s not that the goal is to change one of the respective opinions we each already possess; that’s not it. Listening to another doesn’t need to change our opinion.

But sitting down and showing respect to another by sincerely listening gives us opportunity to grow in our compassion. Compassion for the heart of someone other than self is a beautiful, moral, and ethical response. It is clearly wiser than any arrogance, judgment or something worse.

Hence, as the Intramuralist graciously surges forward this fall in our continued respectful dialogue, let us each be known to be a person marked by their compassion, especially for the un-likeminded. Remember: we don’t have to all agree; such would be a ludicrous expectation. But there is no wisdom in treating any select one poorly.

So grateful to be back. We’ve got things to talk about.

Respectfully… 

AR

sitting down with Josh

Meet my son, Josh. Josh, tell our readers a little bit about yourself…

“Well, for one thing, I boss up every day and all day.”

Help us a little. What does “boss up” mean?

“It means stand up for yourself and own it.”

Is that a good thing? And if so, why?

“Yes. It is a good thing. It’s all about being who you are and who you were created to be.”

I like it. Now before I ask you some deeper questions, give us a few fun facts about yourself — things you like, dislike, habits, etc.

“I like to play video games. I’m a gamer. I love to stay up. I’m almost 21 — this year, actually. I have some talented homies — in both Florida and Ohio. I’m famous on TikTok. Follow me. I love the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If I had to pick a dog or cat, I’d pick both. I love guacamole — a shout out to my queso buddies. Mexican restaurants are my go-to. I like parties. Ice cream cakes are the bomb. My Birthday Buddy has a piece of my heart. So do Steve and Barbara. Craig and Sally, too. My favorite candy is Reese’s. Chocolate is my friend. NonaStudents rocks. I work at Bark Nona. I love hip-hop. If you notice the words in my stories on social media, you’ll learn and see what I got my hip-hop from. I’m also growing in my faith.”

Tell me about that. I mean, faith is something we’ve each had to figure out on our own. What’s that journey been like for you?

“Well, it’s hard to find faith.”

What makes you say that? Why is it hard?

“Because it’s something that we sometimes think we’re too good to believe. Or we don’t like it or need it.”

Why do you think people don’t think they need it?

“Because we think we know what we’re doing, but we don’t.”

I don’t totally understand what you mean by that. Can you help? What are we missing?

“We like to think we’re in control — especially with all our emotions — and then that causes us problems, leaving God out of it.”

So if I hear you correctly, you have no doubt that God is real, true?

“True.”

Is that a change in you? Did you used to doubt?

“I used to doubt. And I used to have questions. I still have questions about some life lessons, but I don’t have any questions about God being real or about how He feels about me.”

How do you believe God feels about you?

“He tells me I’m here for a reason. Here to stay. And He loves me big.”

What does it feel like for you, then, to know you are loved “big”?

“It’s amazing. Peaceful. And calm.”

Is that a change in you?

“It’s a different heart. A new start. A new day. I just want to love God and love people.”

No judgment — you know we don’t accept that in our household — but do you think current culture understands what it really means to love other people?

“To me, no. Sometimes they think violence or bullying or being mean is ok. God’s not ok with that.”

Do you think that’s just kids? Or are us adults guilty of it, too?

“Both. Adults sometimes think they’re nice or smart, but they’re not very wise. Wise people love people.”

Excellent. Thanks for your encouragement and insight. Anything else you wish to say?

“This blog is about love and respect. All of us need to improve our love and respect.”

Thanks, Josh. I think you rock.

“Boss up, Mom.”

Respectfully…

AR & Josh