error in the court

I love the below early judicial system. I love it because it makes sense. (Note: it’s typically good when life makes sense.)

Moses was struggling with all that was on his plate. He had boldly stood up to rulers of the day, sharing their awaited fate should they refuse to release those in captivity. Moses saw swarms of locusts and frogs and flies from afar, and he even witnessed the total separation of the Red Sea, a miracle so massive we sometimes forget it was real.

Moses was then involved when his community totally changed up their nutritional needs. He followed the clouds, so-to-speak. He also led his soldiers into battle when he seemed at the very least physically drained and exhausted, with his brother and friend actually having to hold up his arms. Moses was indeed a busy man.

And so knowing his plate was full and he thus had great potential for distraction, Moses’s father-in-law came to see him and gently speak truth. When we are so busy — so filled up with either emotion or task — sometimes it’s hard for us to see what’s true.

Moses bowed and welcomed his father-in-law; each asked the other how things had been with him. Jethro was delighted in all the good that God had done in the community. He first paused intentionally, just to thank God — noting that we often get so busy, we forget to thank he who makes the world go round. Sometimes we think we deserve the credit for all we do.

So the next day Moses took his place to judge the people — to execute the legal system — as was his practice and responsibility at the time, as the people knew they needed something organized, compassionate, and fair put in place.. Yet the people would stand before Moses all day long. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?”

Moses told his father-in-law this was his job. “The people come to me,” so he answered their questions about what was good and who is God, and he also settled all of their judicial disputes.

Quickly, his wise father-in-law said, “That is not good.” It was too much, and one person can’t do this alone. “You need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men — men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible — and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”

I love a couple of things here. First, I love how Moses listened to the counsel of his father-in-law and did what he said.

I then love how Moses picked competent people — people with unquestionable integrity. Integrity is so important. There is some correlation between integrity and flourishing.

It reminds me what a fair judicial system is…

… and is not.

A fair judicial system is governed by one or some who listen to all relevant accounts…

It is one which has the goal of justice for all… not only for some… and allows for appropriate consequence, absent revenge.

The reason Moses could not do it all on his own is because he was stretched too far; he couldn’t listen to all relevant accounts. And thus his potential for error would have been higher.

Sometimes I see current culture also making errors in what counts as our courts…

We sometimes don’t listen to all relevant accounts. We sometimes are biased to particular bents, because of how we feel about a person or based on our own experience, which we can’t seem to separate.

Sadly, sometimes our judicial system plays on a different court.

We have allowed social media to often decide innocence or guilt, forgetting that social media is not exclusive to competent persons — persons who respect God, are of solid integrity, and who are incorruptible. We listen to what we want, discounting perspective that could be deemed as far more than inconvenient truth.

When we allow social media then to be the decider of justice, we should be the ones to say, “this is not good.”


maximizing the meaning

This Christmas season, let us slow down somewhat. Let us pause long enough to reflect, grasp the meaning, and ask even the tough questions.

But let’s not wait until the 24th or 25th or even for any annual new year resolve. Let’s pause now. Let’s ask the questions now. Let’s maximize the meaning of the season….

Proclamations resound, calling for peace on Earth, goodwill to men…

What does peace on Earth take?
What does it look like?
Do I have a role in this?
What gets in the way?
And how am I contributing to it?

What about goodwill?
Do I really believe in it?
Do I believe instead in goodwill only toward some?
And is that dependent on if another has wronged me?
If they think like me?
Have I limited who I am and who God is by withholding goodwill?

They say the season is miraculous…

Do I believe in miracles?
Do I think they only happened long ago?
Do they happen only in the big stuff or in the practical, too?
What would it change in me if I saw miracles daily? … in my routine?
What keeps me from seeing miracles?

It’s a season of faith, hope, and joy…

Is there an area of my faith in which I know I need to grow?
If I’m refusing to look at that, why?
Where have I assumed I have all the answers?
And hope — pausing this moment to acknowledge what grieves me — am I recognizing the great hope shared this season?
Is it enough for me?

It also is a season of giving — although I don’t think it’s so much about stuff…

Am I focusing more on presents or presence?
Am I spending too much?
Am I focused on stuff?
What about consumerism?
Have I bought into the lie that more is better?
Am I worshipping the so-called god of more?

This season, friends, let’s pause before the actual holidays. Let’s pause long enough to ask the tough questions, maybe refocus a bit, and maximize the meaning of the season.

Respectfully… with a few added Ho-Ho-Ho’s…

harassment & the current moral panic

I’ve struggled with how to write this. In fact, the writer quoted below said she’s been “more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin.” Respectful advocates and conversationalists desire to provoke no one. Our desire is to correctly handle the word of truth.

It is hard, however, in the current court of public opinion and in a judicial system that has seemingly now absorbed an additional social media branch. Angles and perspective may be omitted. Some emotion may feel only callously addressed. And sometimes we each also project individual experience onto everyone else — forgetting that varied, valid perspectives exist.

We affirm the brave and the boldly articulate. We care deeply for the still silent, who are working through the hard stuff. We also affirm the advocates who’ve worked tirelessly to root out the misogynistic aspects of current culture that exist. No one should be despised nor harassed because of their gender. That truth should be handled well.

The unsettled question this day rests with how we discern what’s true. The concern that accompanies the question is if public opinion and social media — which at this point seem exponentially quicker in determining both verdict and consequence — is what are the ramifications of the current way we are discerning sexual misconduct?

Is an allegation enough? Does it matter if one person remembers an incident differently? What makes a perspective true? And what should the consequence then be?

I’m struck by the response of both Al Franken and Dustin Hoffman this week. Both have been accused of misconduct, yet both also were very clear that they don’t share the perspective of each of their accusers. Are the men automatically wrong? Does it matter?

The sincere, tough, awkward, elephant-in-the-room question is if a woman is uncomfortable — or uncomfortable now — is the man automatically wrong?

Claire Berlinski wrote a bold piece in “The American Interest” last week; it’s tough to read. Note that she’s a seemingly fair-minded person who believes former president Bill Clinton and current Senate candidate Roy Moore are both sexual predators; she also is quick to acknowledge that even though she is personally convinced, she may also be mistaken. Correctly discerning the truth means we acknowledge we might be mistaken.

More excerpts from Berlinski: “#Metoo, of course. Women are not going nuts for no reason…

… Yet something is troubling me. Recently I saw a friend—a man—pilloried on Facebook for asking if #metoo is going too far. ‘No,’ said his female interlocutors. ‘Women have endured far too many years of harassment, humiliation, and injustice. We’ll tell you when it’s gone too far.’ But I’m part of that ‘we,’ and I say it is going too far. Mass hysteria has set in. It has become a classic moral panic, one that is ultimately as dangerous to women as to men.

… It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

In recent weeks, one after another prominent voice, many of them political voices, have been silenced by sexual harassment charges. Not one of these cases has yet been adjudicated in a court of law. Leon Wiesenthal, David Corn, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, Al Franken, Ken Baker, Rick Najera, Andy Signore, Jeff Hoover, Matt Lauer, even Garrison Keillor—all have received the professional death sentence. Some of the charges sound deadly serious. But others—as reported anyway—make no sense. I can’t say whether the charges against these men are true; I wasn’t under the bed. But even if true, some have been accused of offenses that aren’t offensive, or offenses that are only mildly so—and do not warrant total professional and personal destruction.

The things men and women naturally do—flirt, play, lewdly joke, desire, seduce, tease—now become harassment only by virtue of the words that follow the description of the act, one of the generic form: ‘I froze. I was terrified.’ It doesn’t matter how the man felt about it. The onus to understand the interaction and its emotional subtleties falls entirely on him… Do not mistake me for a rape apologist… No civilized society tolerates rape…”

In Berlinski’s search for a wise way to discern what’s true, she goes on to discuss how our culture has historically been disposed to moral panics and sexual hysterias… how we’ve become prone to replacing complex thought with shallow slogans… how prominent and damaging our increasing extremism and black-and-white thinking has become… and the likelihood of men no longer enjoying the company of women in the workplace if unproven allegations are equated with truth.

We have to find a wise way to discern what is true, friends… a way through that is honoring of both women and men — of women and men whose integrity has not been compromised… a way, admittedly, thanks to public opinion and social media, that is currently hard.


Gronk, JuJu, etc.

Three professionals viciously hit others in their weekend work. Were they intentional? At least some were. Each initially suspended NFL player heard from NFL VP of Football Operations Jon Runyan…

To New England’s Rob Gronkowski, who launched his body on top of a down man, forcibly hitting him in the back of the head when the play was already over:

“Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game.’ Those hits include the play you were involved in yesterday.”

To Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, who blindsided a linebacker, put him on the ground, and then stood on top of the defender he personally put into concussion protocol, gloating about his self-perceived accomplishment:

“You are suspended for the dangerous and unsportsmanlike acts you committed during the fourth quarter of last night’s game. Specifically, with 7:10 remaining, on a passing play to a running back, you lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area. You then ‘celebrated’ the play by standing over him and taunting him. The contact you made with your opponent placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury and could have been avoided. Your conduct following the hit fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player.”

And to Cincinnati’s George Iloka, who speared a still-in-the-air, opposing receiver dangerously in the head, potentially taking revenge for Smith-Schuster…

“On a play which began with 3:55 left in the game, you violently struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game’ and has encouraged the league office to suspend offenders for egregious violations such as the one you committed last night.”

[Note: all three appealed their suspensions; only Iloka’s was reversed.]

Here’s the thing…

What each of the above did was wrong. It was bad behavior, poor judgment, awful, sinful, vicious, you-name-it. As one of my brothers said simply but profoundly, “If that happens on the street rather than the football field, it would be a crime.” That’s how violent each hit was.

So hence, the question…

Does being a Patriots fan keep us from seeing Gronkowski’s viciousness?
Does being a Steelers fan blind us from wrestling with the sad haughtiness of JuJu’s gloating after the hit?
And does being a Bengals fan make us think what Iloka did was not really all that bad?

In other words, does our loyalty impede our objectivity?

What about in areas more sobering and serious than football?

What about regarding the current focus on harassment, abuse, and sexual misconduct?

Does being loyal to a person or party keep us from seeing the viciousness?

Can we still wrestle with reality?

Or do we become a little more lenient, depending who the allegations are against, thinking it couldn’t have been quite so bad?

For the record, I root for the Bengals; Gronkowski is a key player on my playoff-bound fantasy team; and one of my besties is a diehard Steeler fan. Hence, I am significantly challenged here.

Our challenge, no less, should never diminish our objectivity.


gratitude… it’s good for our health

So this week I was challenged in the area of gratitude. I was challenged to be intentional in practicing it. Let’s face it. Grateful people are not grumpy people. And it’s no fun being grumpy.

Take not my word for it. Take Harvard’s…

Twelve years ago, three postdoctoral fellows who were concerned about the anxiety and depression that heart disease can set off designed the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Harvard Medical School.

As reported earlier this year in the Harvard Gazette:

“Patients set for discharge attend an in-person training session and receive a manual with eight to 16 weeks of daily exercises. These exercises include writing letters of gratitude, performing acts of kindness, and reflecting on past successes. Participants also receive a weekly phone call from one of the program’s five trainers, who reviews the previous week, reinforces the positive message, and encourages exercise and other goals.

‘I try to emphasize gratitude: Think of three positive events during the week, small or large,’ said Carol Mastromauro, a social worker and trainer who has been with the program from the start. ‘I ask people to practice that if they’re sitting in a traffic jam. In a way, it’s kind of homework. Give yourself a breather, take a mini-vacation.’

The three studies conducted by the program so far have highlighted its ability to improve patient outlooks, Huffman said. Three more now underway are testing the link between a positive mental attitude and health.

‘What we’ve learned so far — small but important steps — is that if we ask patients to learn how to identify the good things in their life — write a letter of gratitude, imagine a better future, do acts of kindness — people with heart disease and other chronic illnesses are willing to sign up for the studies, willing to do the interventions and feel better when they do, with increased happiness, decreased anxiety, decreased depression,’ Huffman said. ‘We feel pretty confident about that.’”

Note the effects of a grateful life… identifying the good things… intentionally thanking and focusing on others… A grateful life may even actually help us live longer.

And yet, expressing gratitude for what we already have seems so countercultural to a society that is always pushing us for something “more”…

… more money…
… more success…
… more power…
… more offense…
… more influence…

But what would it change if we looked at what we had as enough?

What would it change — not that we need to stop striving, seeking, and finding — but what would it change if our focus was less on our stuff and less on our self but more thankful for what’s in our life and for others?

Isn’t that the reality?

Grumpiness is often self-focused.

I mean no disrespect, friends. I mean, I can be grumpy with the best of them.

But more often than not, when I am grumpy, it’s usually because of something I don’t like or I’m frustrated with or I’m mad about or choose to show no grace or patience or empathy for. Grumpy is thus often based on “me.” When I’m grumpy, I’m not generous with my gratitude… my grace either.

Today — aware of the holiday season ahead of us — why don’t we intentionally choose gratitude?

Sounds like it’d be good for our health.


what happens when we know the harasser?

On Wednesday many watched NBC’s “Today Show” anchor, Savannah Guthrie, struggle to maintain her poise as she announced the firing of Matt Lauer due to alleged sexual misconduct. Shortly after 7 a.m., Guthrie announced the termination of her professional peer and personal friend.

“… As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this…

… We are heartbroken.

I’m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is beloved by many, many people here.

And I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”

Guthrie was visibly, emotionally shaken.

In recent weeks accusations have been made toward many. Primarily toward men at this point, the alleged bad behavior knows no bounds, as its been accused in men of all ages, races, parties, etc. — even in men who have long claimed to be advocates for women.

One respected friend of mine, who has long professionally advocated for women and victims of abuse and domestic violence, was asked this week if she was surprised. “No, not at all.” For years she’s heard stories; for years she’s worked with victims. For years she’s been aware of the probability of kept secrets by our favorite anchors, actors, teachers, business owners, etc. Even by our friends.

That’s the challenge; is it not?

There is no defense for the man who harasses a woman. (True, there is no defense for the woman who harasses a man, but such is not part of the current cultural conversation.) But what happens, when the person who behaves badly — like Lauer and Guthrie — is known and loved by us?

What happens when we know them?

As Guthrie stated at the end of her announcement, “We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don’t know the answer to that.”

Does knowing the person — and knowing them well — change anything?

It certainly does not change the lack of defense (… and on a total tangent, I’d really like to see our defense of the person not alter or be more or less grace-giving pending party affiliation or fear of losing that person’s potential vote… wrong is wrong is wrong…).

But here’s the challenge… There will be a “next.” There will be a “next” for Matt Lauer, a “next” for Kevin Spacey, a “next” for Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, and all those accused. There’s a whole list of accusations; granted, we don’t know at this point if they are all true. But if to the extent that the allegations are true and the abuser is repentant and remorseful — if they humble themselves and change from their wicked ways — do we allow them to have a “what’s next”?

Do we allow them to serve their time, so-to-speak, and then positively contribute to society once again?

Or are they now deemed incapable? … we’re simply done with them, and they just need to be quiet and fade into the backdrop of life so we never hear from them any more?

Or… (and this is a big “or”) does it depend on if we know and love them?

In other words, assuming individual repentance, do we only forgive those we know? Or do we forgive none of them?

This is today’s zillion dollar question, friends. And it’s a tough one. Please know, too, that forgiveness never equates to an absence of wise boundaries, an ignorance of consequence, nor pretending that the offense never happened. Forgiveness instead means we release our anger and resentment toward a person, recognizing how the fiercely holding on primarily only hurts us.

Are we selective in our offering and withholding of forgiveness and acceptance?

Or again, as Guthrie states, “… How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?”