all good & all bad

One of the classic conundrums that has seemingly long tripped adults up is actually a rather simple question…

How much grace should we give?

Better yet: how much grace should we give in contrast to truth?

It’s as if grace and truth are opposites and can each only be imparted pending how much of the other is in play. Consider the image of the scales of justice, with grace on one plate — truth on the other. If 100% grace has been extended, any ounce of truth is impossible to display. In other words, it’s an “either-or” world.

Yes, we are living in an “either-or” world.

But what if that’s not an accurate application?

What if we’re doing not only a disservice to ourselves but also to one another?

What if, therefore, we are wrong — and both could be applied? What if we could be generous with both grace and truth?

Consider the insight of Dr. Henry Cloud, the leadership expert, clinical psychologist and New York Times bestselling author, whose books have sold more than 20 million copies.

Writes Cloud:

“… It is the tendency for a person to experience themselves, others or the world as either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad.’ It is the hallmark of immature formation. I say immature, as it is a normal developmental stage of thinking and perceiving in which everyone starts out life. If you think about it, you don’t meet a lot of infants or small children who are mature. They’re either happy and smiling, or it’s rage city.

Mature character, however, does not do that. She sees the world in what psychologists refer to as whole representations. In other words, when she looks at a person, even one who has frustrated her, she sees that person as the ‘whole’ of who they are and not just that mistake. She sees someone’s strengths as well.

For mature functioning, we cannot operate well in seeing the world in either-or terms. It is like trying to play tennis with only a forehand and not a backhand. There are a lot of shots you just cannot get to. It is frustrating to work with or be in a relationship with someone who cannot tolerate ‘gray’ or any degree of complexity that challenges their rigid thinking. Resolving conflict is more than difficult, as resolution usually requires an ability to see and work with the truth from the other side and integrate it into yours, finding a solution that transcends either polarity.”

No doubt, my friends, this time is tough. It would be so easy to conclude that whoever the other is in my life — the other person, party or perspective holder — is 100%, totally, completely, wholeheartedly, blindly, idiotically wrong, ignorant, incompetent, etc.

I get it. That would be easier. That is also a byproduct of the either-or world.

My strong sense is we are doing a massive disservice to self when we succumb to a culture which encourages us to decide who we are for and who we are against — as if all who think like us are “good” and all who don’t are “bad.” We have taken the bait of a culture actually encouraging the immature.

So what is it? 

Grace or truth? One or the other?

Allow me to suggest both…

Give grace to the different, even and especially when we don’t understand — recognizing mature processing doesn’t allow one to be all good and one to be all bad. And then, never omit the truth. Know that neither grace nor truth need be sacrificed.

But allow me to also suggest that the order matters in regard to how each is extended, as one sequence is clearly more effective. Let us lead with grace. Never omit the truth, but yes, lead with grace.

It’s both attractive and mature.



you can’t be…

We’ve heard the binary juxtapositions. For example:

  • You can’t be pro-life and vote for Biden.
  • You can’t really be black and vote for Trump.
  • You can’t be Catholic and vote for Biden.
  • You can’t love someone who’s gay and vote for Trump.

Let’s add a few more…

  • You can’t vote for Biden and believe competency is important.
  • You can’t vote for Trump and believe compassion is important.

Or better yet…

  • You can’t vote for Biden and not support socialism.
  • You can’t vote for Trump and not support racism.

And maybe still most fascinating…

  • You can’t not be a hypocrite and vote for _____ (feel free to pick a name).

Friends, I get it. We are a principled and passionate people. We believe what we believe for a reason. 

But we cannot reason for another. To be respectfully but truthfully bolder, we are not capable of reasoning for another, as each of us experience the world differently, and those individualized experiences shape our view of the world. Our view of the world shapes our vote.

So while it makes total sense we’d have difficulty comprehending many of the above combinations, it makes far lesser sense to craft such simplified, binary conclusions. 

Simplified binary conclusions are the result of seeing another person’s life through our own lens. 

Knowing then how tempted each of us is to view another through “my” lens, so-to-speak, I’m left wrestling with three aspects in regard to voting, reason, and what I can’t comprehend.

First, as we acknowledge the significance of suffrage in a nation that embraces freedom, I’m struck by the wise words of Chief Justice Earl Warren in Reynolds v. Sims (1964): “The right to vote freely for the candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.” I think of the right to vote freely; who am I, therefore, to judge how another should vote?

Second, there is much in this world I don’t understand. There are indeed many ways people behave that make absolutely zero sense to me. But when that happens — especially when it’s a person I know, love, or simply one God’s allowed in my path — I prioritize the following: (1) ask sincere, respectful questions, (2) recognize individual life experience is different, and (3) resist making conclusions that are clearly based more on my way of thinking than on theirs. Most often, when I feel capable of constructing simplified conclusions, it’s more because I don’t want to take the time and do the hard work to understand someone who thinks differently than me. 

And lastly, when I take that time and do the hard work and still don’t understand, I walk away with a singular wonder — about self, not another…

There are some things I am incapable of understanding. 

And that’s ok.



do your job…

No doubt one of my all time favorite nuggets of enduring encouragement was uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his address at the Institute of Non-violence and Social Change in December of 1956…

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lives a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

What I like about this is two-fold. It’s also incredibly, currently counter-cultural…

First, note that the subject of King’s citing is not some other person. It’s about “a man” or by inference, a singular individual — “me”… what I’m called to do… how I’m called to behave… my work ethic… my performance… what drives and motivates “me.”

So much of current culture invites us to actively compare ourselves to others. Comparison in and of itself is not negative, of course… when I think of my friend, Marjie, I’m encouraged to be healthier… when I think of Andrew, I’m moved to read more… and when I consider Roni, I’m inspired to be more adventurous and accepting of all. Our differences serve not as rationale to feel better or worse about self.

Hence, when that comparison becomes a behavioral barometer to the wisdom and success within me — and therefore, by juxtaposition, the foolishness and failure within another — then that comparison is negative, divisive, and likely judgmental.

Only in a non-God-honoring, non-humankind-honoring society would a fraction attempt to build itself up by tearing another down. 

Whoever another is.

Such also serves, I believe, in why there’s ample distaste in the mouths of many surrounding the entire 2020 campaign season. All sides have spent arguably more time focused on the faults of another than on the feats of their own. That feels fairly impolitic to me. We crave — and dare-I-say, deserve — better.

The second aspect I love about King’s quote, no less, is the inherent worth of each individual calling. There is no variance in importance…

If you’re a street sweeper, sweep those streets well! …if you’re a painter, paint away with lavishness, excellence, and joy!

And so today…

If you’re an athlete… if you’re a teacher… if you’re a preacher, politician, influencer, or single mom…

Do your job well. Do your job with excellence. Enjoy and appreciate what you’ve been gifted to do in this season and time.

Allow me, no less, as a final word, a bit of an empathetic side note here — a sincere reflection regarding one of the three zillion and some ways the pandemic is affecting us…

With activity on hold and much of our rhythms and routines completely disrupted, no doubt many have been discouraged by their current callings and what’s actually on our plate — either that it’s not what we want or it seems so little; we can’t do what we want to do. That’s understandably, really hard. It’s in those moments where I remember my longtime, sagacious friend, Martha, who celebrated awesome birthday #96 last week! Years ago, as her mobility lessened, I will never forget her sweetly sharing with me when I asked if she was discouraged about a lack of physical involvement, “Dear, I can always pray.” Martha doesn’t focus on what she can’t do; she focuses on what she can. She then does so with fervor, devotion, and excellence.

So sweep. Paint. Compose or write that poetry. 

Teach. Preach. Even play basketball.

Run for office. Serve in the ER. Be on the front lines with those tireless healthcare workers. Maybe even stay home and pray, praying for the hope, livelihood, and great blessing of others.

But remember to resist comparison as a behavioral barometer; focus on “my” calling, “my” effort, and “my” behavior. And thus may we be so bold but unpretentiously petition that one day, “all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lives a great street sweeper who did his job well.”



last week, the news & what’s lesser

No doubt multiple current challenges exist in this crazy cultural moment. There is a level of uncertainty that has crept into all sorts of societal nooks and crannies. And it’s rattling us. 

How do we know?

We are missing the big picture. We are justifying what is not good and true and right. And we are being lured into what’s lesser.

Allow me a few, brief examples…

We are being lured into what’s lesser if in conversation we lead with “I’m just going to say” and tolerate no response nor dialogue after that. That says more about “me” and my inability to consider thoughtful dissent than it says about anyone else’s ignorance or obstinacy. Our need to state our stance coupled by an unwillingness to earnestly examine another is evident of a lack of wisdom.

We are being lured into what’s lesser if we can no longer affirm an act of kindness or compassion. Like many, I tuned into the Senate Judicial Committee hearings this past week (as I do with each Supreme Court nominee — also grateful for C-SPAN). When progressive Sen. Diane Feinstein and conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham hugged at the hearings’ conclusion, I admit: I loved it. I love that the two seemed to recognize our shared humanity means more than political entrenchment. Hence, when the calls quickly came for Feinstein to resign because of her “betrayal” in expressing affirmation to the committee chairman, it was a sobering moment. I understand our passions; I also have long been an advocate for congressional term limits, seeing no need for the Grassley’s and Leahy’s to be in office so long. But when we are irked by an empathetic embrace, my sense is the problem isn’t with the people we are watching.

We are being lured into what’s lesser when we think only one side is hypocritical. One of the aspects that appeared clear to even casual observers last week is that these partisan sides are actively engaged in pointing fingers at other people only, acting as if the shoe was on the other foot, they would respond differently… they wouldn’t alter the rules… they wouldn’t ram things through… they would reach across the aisle and answer all the questions. That’s a little too much focus on “they” for this semi-humble current events observer. It also seems to be an incomplete read of our nation’s recent history.

My sense is being lured into the lesser rattles us.

And so two weeks before the national election (and more concerned about what happens after it — how people will treat each other, no matter the result), allow me to make my continued plea for an objective intake of news. The biased media is part of the lesser lure.

Let me encourage we consider what we wholly tune into — recognizing that there is a difference between news, analysis and opinion. is an insightful resource, as their stated goal is to “expose people to information and ideas from all sides of the political spectrum so they can better understand the world — and each other.” Here is their latest, updated media chart, which the Intramuralist believes to be especially vital now:

What we tune into matters, friends. It matters in how much we’re rattled.

As a person of faith, one of my goals is not to be rattled. It’s instead to stay grounded, hold onto the big picture, and to never be lured by what’s lesser.



limiting honor

I believe in promoting what is good and true and right. I believe most of us wish to promote what is good and true and right. I also believe all of us at some time fail in that promotion.

In this contentious culture, it seems we are falling a little more prey. It’s a culture that’s quick to write people off, encouraging to dehumanize one who has hurt you, and a society which justifies putting limits on honor and grace.

To be humbly but boldly clear, that is not how the Intramuralist thinks. I do not believe any of the above is good nor true nor right.

I’m reminded of a profound, fantastic story Steven Covey shares in his enduring classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”… 

“I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly — some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. 

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt like was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, ‘Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?’”

Allow me to briefly interrupt. Covey was bothered. He was irritated. No doubt he was not alone in that irritation. He actually firmly believed he was being incredibly patient and virtuous by not lashing out, by not asking the man to do something sooner. Covey also believed — and this is key — that his perspective — because he witnessed it with his own eyes — was absolutely, wholeheartedly enough to determine exactly what should be done in the situation. After all, Covey was there.

Listen then to the rest of Covey’s interaction…

“The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.’

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. ‘Your wife just died? Oh I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?’ Everything changed in an instant.” 

Highly effective people honor others. Wise people honor others. They are generous with their grace. They are intentional in learning the stories of another in order to freely offer that honor and grace.

They also respect the backstory and perspective that is different than their own. They take time to esteem another by being intentional in their effort to understand those stories and perspectives — and… to restrain themselves. But as Covey profoundly unveils, the restraint is not in regard to withholding a declaration of judgment. The restraint is recognizing that the offering of judgment and vengeance was never their role to begin with.

So as we wish to promote what is good and true and right, I am left wondering… 

Is it ever wise to put limits on honor and grace?

And if I believe it is, is that more about what’s proper to do? Or about justifying my own irritation?



what’s God got to do with it?

Fair warning: if you tuned in to today’s post with hopes of finding the answer to why COVID-19 exists or who’s received a divine endorsement in the upcoming presidential election, many thanks, but you’d best find another resource. The Intramuralist has no idea, and we will not begin to exert any opinion veiled as truth.

I’m more taking a pulse of how we navigate through truculent times. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (nor even a college graduate) to discern that 2020 has been a tough year. It’s been full of challenge, friction, and uncertainty.

So what’s God got to do with it?

Allow me to immediately assert that I’m a pretty imperfect follower. So I will humbly rephrase… what’s God got to do with me? … or how we each individually handle it.

In these crazy, contentious times, in America’s melting pot, what’s God got to do with me right here and now?

The vast majority of Americans believe in God or in some higher power, accepting such faith makes far more sense than to believe we somehow accidentally, unintentionally came into human existence. 

According, therefore, to Judeo-Christian ethics, God sets the standard for justice, righteousness, love, law and order. He sets the standard for kindness, goodness, gentleness and truth.

That then should affect how we treat each other.

When we demonize or denigrate the different — when we mock or marginalize the one who experiences life differently — who looks, loves, or votes in a way unlike us — we are implementing some other standard. When we suggest that there is only one right way to look, love, or vote, we are implementing some other standard. Even when it’s hard.

Let’s, though, make it a little harder…

Maybe we don’t demonize or denigrate. Maybe we’d never mock or marginalize, especially on social media. But inside, we just think they’re stupid. 

Ok… maybe not stupid… let’s go with totally misguided. 

… erroneous, ignorant, confused…

If I believe that only Democrats or Republicans are full of integrity…

If I believe that only black people or white people have something to learn or do…

If I believe only Trump-lovers or Trump-haters are imperious…

If I believe only someone else… 

It’s always easier to enact “the only’s,”especially when it applies to someone other than me. That’s where as an imperfect person of faith, I must honestly ask how I’m treating another.

And the simplest, most convicting answer is a basic, universal teaching…

“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?”

So what’s God got to do with me now?

It means I focus more on me than you. It means I wrestle with the logs in my own eyes rather than on the specks in another. It means I deal with the ways I am not loving, I am not extending kindness, and how I justify withholding justice, honor and respect from some people.

In other words, it means I don’t denounce the inconsistencies in anyone other than me.

Because if I’m honest, I recognize inconsistencies in me exist.



… in a decent, civilized country?

I used to think that the opposite of “love” was “hate,” and maybe it still is. You’ll remember that two weeks ago amid these posts, we contemplated the concept of contempt, which seems close to the opposite of love, although more contrasting with honor; contempt is a form of anger directed toward a perceived lower-status individual.

This weekend I had a conversation with my well-respected friend, Collin, who inspired me to wonder about how to love my neighbor a little more. How do I better love the people put in my path? … and not just those who think like me?

In this thing we keep calling “the year 2020,” is the opposite of love, therefore, something else? Has the opposite of love and respect digressed into something long perceived as a little more casual? …something maybe a little more socially acceptable? If we can be lured, no less, into believing a response is socially acceptable, we never have to wrestle with any potential foolishness we may instead be unintentionally fostering.

What if the opposite of “love,” then, was actually to “label”?

Hear me here…

There are two parts to the definition. Part one:

label | ˈlābəl | v.  — to assign to a category…

And two: to assign to a category, especially inaccurately or restrictively.

In other words, we are designating false divisions for entire people groups. For example…

Police aren’t “pigs.”

Black men aren’t “thugs.”

Democrats aren’t “Marxists.”

Republicans aren’t “racists.”

Millennials aren’t “narcissists.”

The only label accurately applied to all of the above is ”human.”

But let’s go one step further — because if we’re really transparent, we’ve each been guilty of saying something inaccurate. Why does it matter? Why does it really matter if we assign such colossal, indivisible categories?

We get entrenched in our opinion; we can easily, earnestly conclude at times that another makes no sense… So why does it really matter if I partake in assigning these mass labels that Twitter, social media rants, and opinion pieces vaguely veiled as “news” routinely project? After all, most of it’s in jest, so-to-speak. I know not every single police officer, black man, Democrat, Republican, and Millennial is that way. Just well, most of them…

Hear me once more… allow me a startling question…

How does a genocide begin?

… The Holocaust… Rwanda… Cambodia…

Approximately 67% of the Jewish population in Europe… 70% of the Tutsis (a Bantu speaking social class) in Rwanda … 99% of the Vietnamese Cambodians… 

Notice the entire people groups.

Friends, years after the Holocaust, scholars continue to ask how in the world such could actually happen. How could the intentional annihilation of an entire people group occur in a decent, civilized country? How could we kill classes, ethnicities, or people simply because of what they looked like or believed? How, too, could millions more stand by and watch?

Allow me to soberly suggest it begins with labels.

Labels make another lesser. Labels dehumanize.

And there’s one more sobering question… if we’re transparent enough to ask it…

How do we guard against a genocide happening here — a current, decent, civilized country?

We start by stopping with the labels… recognizing to label is not only not to love; it’s also to be wholly inaccurate.



I can’t take you seriously…

Popular author, researcher, encourager (and more) Brené Brown prays this daily:

“At the end of this day and at the end of my life, I hope I have contributed more than I have criticized.”

To make sure we’re all starting today’s conversation on the same page, let’s distinguish, as Brown does, between criticism and dissent.

Criticism equates to “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.” Note the emphasis on someone else’s faults or mistakes — in other words, error that’s not mine.

Dissent, on the other hand, reflects “the expression or holding of opinions at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially held.”

Dissent is still disagreement, but it’s thoughtful critique.

Therefore, allow me the not so difficult conclusion that if in our heads we’re thinking, “You’re wrong!” well then, we’re not dissenting; we’re simply being critical.

Unfortunately, as emotion has ramped up in this odd season we refer to as “the year 2020,” we’ve seemed a little quicker with some of our declarations of wrongness on the part of another.

For example, we’ve witnessed many recently who have openly shared…

“You’re not really a patriot if you…”

“You’re not really black if you…”

“You’re not really Christian if you…”

“You’re not really Jewish if you…”

And perhaps the retort that has caused me most recent pause is the individual assertion that “I can’t take you seriously if you…”

I get it. Emotion ramps up. We get rattled.

What I don’t get is the entire focus on someone else. There’s a lack of awareness it seems that the declaration of “I can’t take you seriously” says more about my unwillingness to do the hard work of understanding another than it does about my own level of discernment.

I thus go back to the wise words of my buddy, Brené…

Let me contribute more than I criticize…

Let me be a positive influence on this planet…

How can we possibly do that in these crazy, friction-filled times?

I’ll take a short stab….

Start with a deep breath. Invite conversation. Be respectful. Sit with the dissimilar. Listen more than speak. Refrain from insult. Listen more. Be willing to change your opinion. Stop pointing fingers. Quit demonizing the different. If you’re pretty sure what you’re about to say/post/write will only poke the bear, so-to-speak, don’t poke; it only makes you look lesser and changes no one’s mind. Ask yourself instead: is what I want to say kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? If it’s necessary, ask why; what’s my motive? Am I again focusing on someone other than me? Grow you. Not someone else. Recognize it’s not your job. Be nicer. Love your enemy. Recognize that the wisest people in the world have somehow learned to love their enemy. Rid yourself of your own arrogance and judgment. Know that you can’t see your own perceived faults and mistakes when you’re more focused on someone other than self. We’ve each got faults and mistakes. No better nor worse than our neighbor.

And like Brené Brown, say your prayers. Pray for the different.

It’s hard to criticize those you’re praying for.