Are You Struggling at Work?

Emotional Distress in the Workplace

Have you ever found yourself stuck in your job feeling like you have come to the end of a dead-end street, or stuck on a long winding road? Have you wondered if there really is something greater around the bend that is worth striving for?  One of the most common reasons that we find ourselves feeling this way is due to emotional distress.

On an upcoming Wise Work Radio program Tom Noteboom and I will be exploring the question What Keeps People from Advancing in the Workplace?

Can you relate to any of the following symptoms of emotional distress?  If so, there is hope for you.

Symptoms of Emotional Distress

  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Depression, feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Anger, bitterness, irritability or frustration
  • Guilt, or feelings of worthlessness or failure
  • Feeling overwhelmed or lost
  • Loss of interest or energy
  • Loneliness and isolation.

When we experience physical pain in the body we naturally tend to think that something is happening to us that is un-necessary and wrong.  We don’t always see value in the experience or see what may be coming next. It is easy to become distressed about our pain, but not so easy to learn from it or appreciate its value.

Guardrails

Emotional pain is much like physical pain. It points out that something is not as it should be.  Emotional pain is like a guardrail that says, if you keep going this direction you are going to experience even greater pain.

Andy Stanley says “Guardrails protect us from what lurks on the other side. The danger zone… Personal guardrails are boundaries you establish on the safe side of damaging decisions that protect you from the danger ahead. They’re meant to set off warning bells over seemingly little things…little things that can lead to big, messy consequences.”

Bumping up against a guardrail is painful, but not as destructive as pushing beyond them.  It should be a sign that your current path needs to change to avoid greater harm. We need to establish emotional guardrails to keep our distress from leading us into more difficult situations down the road.

Distress Affects Others

If you are struggling with emotional distress in your place of work, others around you likely notice your struggles.  It can be very difficult to meet the challenges required to grow and advance in your career when you have internal obstacles that are working against you, and sometimes unknowingly against others.  It’s even harder if you don’t want to believe your struggles are indeed internal (your own doing) and not due to your circumstances, or other people holding you back.

Emotional distress increases when responsibility is avoided.   It’s your responsibility to find the solution to your distress, not your right to embrace it, or for others to be responsible for it.  Face it, Embrace it, Replace it!

So, Where is the Hope?

Mat 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Come To Me…

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, anger or guilt you know what it means to be weary and burdened.  You may feel like there is no rest for your soul, like something is missing, buy you cannot quite put your finger on it.

Jesus challenges us to a call to action by telling us to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…”.  He is not as interested in removing all your discomfort, as he is addressing the heart issue.  He wants to give you what is missing so you can find a lighter burden in your work.

Take My Yoke

The second challenge that Jesus calls us to in to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”.  Jesus isn’t saying that if you acknowledge him he will simply take away all your burdens.  He is saying if you join him on his journey, you will take on a different burden with him that will lead to restfulness.

Everyone Loves a Three-step Process…

So, what does it look like to come to Jesus and take his yoke?

Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Jesus address’s the solution to our emotional distress.

  1. Deny yourself – Let go of any unrealistic, self-focused plans you have for yourself.
  2. Take up your cross daily – Stop fighting the wrong battle, and join Him in the good fight.
  3. Follow Jesus – Learn from the greatest person who ever walked this earth. The one who died for you!

Emotional distress is the natural consequence when someone walks through life with intention to “save their life”.  What are you willing to lose to find it?

Principles vs. Values

111 Three PigsThe 3 Little Pigs

Remember the story of the Three Little Pigs? One built his house out of straw, one with sticks and the last with bricks.  They all three had good intentions for the most part, although to varying degrees.  The difference was not necessarily in their intentions, but in the foundational quality of the material.  This is true not only in the material world, but also in the cognitive world.  Our thoughts and what we believe to be true, will determine if our house will fall or remain standing in the face of the Big Bad Wolf.  Ideas have consequences.

Principles vs. Values

  • What are Principles? Principles are guiding truths that apply to all people in all places over all of time. It doesn’t matter if you believe in them or not, you will trip over them if you don’t realize their existence. Principles are often very inconvenient to those who want to live life on our own terms and very convenient for those who wish to navigate per reality.
  • What are Values? Values are preferred beliefs that support principles.  Values are subjective and do not apply to all people in all places over all time and vary from person to person or amongst cultures. Values are the methods that help you achieve a higher cause.

Example:  The Principle of Generosity is true and plays out consistently over time (see list below); however different people value different methods in expressing their generosity.  Some give of their money, some give of their time and effort, others encourage and support and yet others defend or protect.  These are all Values that people hold that are important to them and are for supporting the Principle of Generosity.

When principles are absent, values can operate on their own (not necessarily well) without the foundational support of principles. In the absence of principles, we value whatever meets our own needs.  Discovering these important principles is important to developing a foundation for future strength and significance for everyone who wishes to lead a fruitful life.

Why We Tell the Truth?

Integrity and honesty are both principles that are generally the foundation to why most honest people tell the truth.  People who value integrity and honesty tend to tell the truth not only when it is convenient to them, but even when it is not convenient to them.  The Principle is more important than their individual needs.  They realize the long-term benefit of integrity and honesty for the benefit to others, also for their own best interests.

Telling the truth is not actually a principle, rather a value.  Telling a lie, embellishing and other forms of deception are also values. If they help your cause (right or wrong) they have value (to you). They both support what is most important to you, so if you are NOT a person of Integrity and are more interested in your own wellbeing, telling the truth sometimes suits your self-interest. If this is the case, telling a carefully crafted lie may seem to suit your self-interest as well. If you do not hold the principle of respecting other people’s boundaries (property) you may hold theft as a value that you use from time to time to get what you need.  Noble principles are the anchor for all noble values. Self-centerness is also the anchor for all self-serving values.

The House on the Rock

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”   Mat 7:24-27 ESV

Stand For Something!:

Many people in our country fail to stand for anything significant. As generations pass fewer Americans engage in principle based thinking.  We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, or project our standard onto others in fear that we will appear intolerant or politically incorrect. Tolerance and acceptance are very noble qualities, but when taken to extremes they can cloud our perspective leading us to compromise what we all know to be true.  We need to be strong and stand for proven principles even when it means causing others to stumble or discomfort for ourselves.

Many managers, leaders and parents fail to stand their ground and promote proven reality based principles. We often struggle with the confidence to stand up and express our allegiance to any higher principles, because we view principles and value the same. We see them as personal (subjective) rather than foundational (objective).  In other words, we give our personal values the prestigeous title of a principle, when it is no such thing.  It is just a supporting cast member at best, useful only to a bigger purpose.  And without purpose, your values are useless.

The result is a culture of floating standards (values) and a crop of managers, potential leaders and parents with little feeling of authority. We often feel powerless because we have not taken ownership of foundational truths or a commitment to defend them. Even when given full authority, we fail to feel empowered due to our self-imposed limitations and fears.

Application:

  • Most Americans believe in principles to some degree, but too often fail to take ownership and stand up for them because they don’t believe in a true Creator.
  • If you have an opinion (Value) ask yourself what universal principle it is attached to.  If you cannot come up with one, you may need to do some self-discovery.
  • When finding, ourselves fighting against life principles, we end up shipwrecked, running against the wind or trying to paddle upstream.
  • When we stand upon these very principles and hold onto them and live in harmony with them, we find footing and begin to stand firm on a solid foundation.

Build your house out of BRICKS!

Get Out From Under That Bowl!

We have a problem in our country, in our world.  People don’t seem to value themselves much.  Suicide rates are up, people aren’t taking care of themselves physically, intellectually or emotionally. More and more people lack confidence and motivation to work towards significance.  So many in our culture seem to be defeated, they don’t seem to see any light or reason to even try to move forward.  They are stuck and feel helpless and hopeless with nothing real to believe in.

Is it any wonder people feel this way when they look around and see the philosophy of this world?  We live primarily in a country that the majority of people believe that there is no real lasting purpose in life.  Even people who claim to follow a belief system that includes a purpose tend to live as if there isn’t.  I meet so many people who don’t have anyone telling them otherwise. There doesn’t seem to be any light coming in the window to shine on them.

Jesus has an entirely different perspective on our value.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Mat 5:14-16

If you are in a position of influence but failing to influence, I challenge you to Get Out From Under That Bowl!

John Maxwell says that we cannot add value to others until we add value to ourselves.  The way we treat and value others is less of how we view them and more about how we view ourselves.  If we don’t believe we have significant value, we won’t think others have significant value.  This is the Mirror Principle.

  • Honest people give others the benifit of the doubt,
  • Thieves believe everyone steals,
  • Trusting people see others as trustworthy,
  • Selfish people are always assuming the worst in others, 
  • Caring people see others as compassionate,
  • People with little confidence don’t have much confidence in others,

Cultural Influence

The truth is that our culture is lying to you.  You do have value, your potential is unlimited and open and available for you to discover.  You do have a purpose and it’s your responsibility to find out what it is.  No one can hold you back without your permission. Choice of thought is the most powerful tool you have.

If you are one who believes you hold little value… Get over yourself and do something about it!  Break your chains of bondage. People are counting on you even if you don’t realize it.  Imagine a line of people waiting to receive something of value from you that they desperately need… and you don’t show up.  From the looks of our world, it appears most are not showing up.

“A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.”

You were created in the image of God for a specific purpose.  When you find your purpose it will bring meaning and value to your heart.  When you discover your gift to the world, you will begin to love yourself and value yourself as God values you, not the way the world values you. 

“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Mat 7:8

Contact me, lets chat.

So What Makes YOU so Valuable?

dollarAre you valuable to your employer?  When I ask this question, most people  would say “Yes, I am valuable to my employer”, and many would be right. Some may tend to believe they are more valuable to others than they really are, while others may not realize their true value. We all want to think we add value. But what is value?  What does that mean? All employees’ matter of course, but the question I am asking is about value, and not importance.

Over the past few decades I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of people.  I have worked with some amazing people.  They bring a great deal of value to the workplace and are major contributors to the success of the business. I am grateful for the staff and owe a debt of gratitude for all their hard work and commitment to helping us succeed.  Every business relies on these champions, and my company is no different.

Reflecting back, I have also worked with many that brought little or no value to the success of the business.  Unfortunately in today they seem to outnumber the champions.  And then there are those who take from the business … they would have a negative value. Grrrrr, don’t get me started.

There is a difference between “quality of a person” and “value of an employee”.  I have met many terrific people who contribute to the world and are wonderful people. But they brought little value to our workplace.  Some were good people just in the wrong industry. Some were trying to take on responsibilities they were not qualified to do, and others just simply were not willing to put forth the effort to add value.

Entitlement

Unfortunately there is another group of people in the world that are a bit more challenging than the groups listed above.  There are those who are emotionally broken and find it very difficult to see the world through any other lens but their own distorted pair.

When a person becomes desperate or stressed sometimes something gets triggered that can send them into a state of self-preservation.  They begin to go into survival mode and become blind to others needs and how others see them in this state.  A sense of entitlement takes over as they focus on how much they have done for others and how little they have received in return.. They may believe they are much more valuable to their employer than what the employer or teammates know to be true.  They may express their feelings of being under appreciated or take a more passive agressive approach. They tend to justify doing less or helping themselves to “added benefits” because they feel underpaid anyway so they are just “evening the score”.  Sometimes even when their work is suffering thay can have a puffed up distorted perspective of their value to the company. Usually by this time the writing is on the wall.  You have likely worked with a person like this.

I am defining “value” in this article as the level a person contributes toward the success of a company, relative to their cost to the company.

People find reward by what we do in many different ways. Satisfaction of adding value to others is one of the most valuable rewards you can experience.  It can go a long way toward feeling fulfilled, but it doesn’t tend to replace the need for meaningful financial gain.  We all have responsibilities and needs that require making the most of our efforts.

Let’s Make a Deal

Most of us have had an experience with some kind of negotiation.  In some cultures people haggle over the value of a peach or banana.  We haggle over the value of a car or a house. We comparison shop all the time. The value message is everywhere.  It’s the backbone of capitalism. We do this because the whole idea is to get as much value as you can for the lowest possible cost to you. It would be poor stewardship to pay more than we need for an item.  Indeed, that is true.

In the job market, more experience, talent, education and a polished curb appeal leads to higher compensation. You are trying to make what you have already accomplished count for as much as possible. You want to get as much compensation for your future efforts as you can as long as you can deliver the goods. This is how it is, and should be.

The Change of Allegiance

Once you have chosen your position in the workplace and begun working, your allegiance changes. Or at least it should.  If it doesn’t you are certain to remain at odds.

If you continue to put your needs above the company making sure you are paid more than what you are worth, there is a simple way to cut to the chase.  Just do less.  Unless you work on commission, your rewards are sure to outweigh your efforts if you just do less.  As shortsighted as this seems, it really is the domanat approach in our country, unfortunately.

Bad work ethic

Do as little as you have to instead of as much as you can.  This is the simplest way to make sure you are compensated more than what you are worth. If you really want to get creative, do less, threaten to leave, and ask for more money.  The bottom of the workforce lives by the mantra “Do just enough, make what you can and take what you need.”   Unfortunately our government has created an environment where sometimes people are incentivized to work less to receive more.

That sounds crazy but I’ll bet it struck a chord with you.  Either you have been there and done that or have been affected by people like that.  There are people that make deposits in this world and there are people who make withdrawals. You can figure out who adds more value to their own lives, career and their community.

In our company we call this the 60/90 effect.  If you allow someone to work at 60%, they most likely will.  They’ll do “as little as they have to”.  If you expect them to work at 90% they may.  Only if inspired, will people do “as much as they can”.  I have yet to find an exception to this including myself.

Value Defined

costIf we define employee value as “the level a person contributes toward the success of a company, relative to their cost to the company.” then we also need to flush that out and address a major misconception.

If you wish to experience success you need to be worth more to your employer than what you are paid.  What? That doesn’t sound right!  You want me to make less than I am worth?  Hang with me here pilgrim.

Someone who outperforms their compensation will raise their leverage and keep their services in high demand.  When your compensation catches up to your value through competitive demand, it’s vital that you continue to strive to increase your worth to show that you are a worthy investment to your employer. If your employer believes their return on investment with you has become too costly, you may be asked to renegotiate your current agreement, or worse, you may become expendable.

“You need to be worth more to your employer than what you are paid”

The Golden Rule of Adding Value

If you wish to expect someone to contribute to the value of your company, you first need to contribute to the value of their life. People who feel more valued have more value.  It’s funny how we as humans will run through walls for someone who runs through a wall for us.  To the degree that a person adds value to you is the degree that you will go above and beyond your compensation and enjoy doing so.

The flipside to this is also true.  If you are an employee and you wish for your employer to recognize you and increase your compensation.  There is really only one way to do so.  Raise your value in the eyes of everyone around you.  Become more valuable to your employer. Don’t try to appear more valuable, be more valuable.  Contribute more to the bottom line and make his/her job easier.  Be exactly what they need for you to be in order for them to reach their goals and levels of success that is expected of them.  Sometimes that means doing more, sometimes it means doing less of the meaningless things, and more of the important things. Sometimes it’s adjusting your values or learning a new skill or perfecting an existing skill.  It always requires effort; it always comes at a price.

“If you are an employee and you wish for your employer to recognize you and increase your compensation.  There is really only one way to do so.  Raise your value… “

As an employer, I can say without a doubt that the people who embrace this perspective create their own opportunities.  They flourished in their development and value to the company and in their value in the job market. If they increase their value and become a greater influence, compensation and opportunity will naturally increase. This is true.  It’s the law of supply and demand.   If it doesn’t happen, you have not really added value as you believe you have, or you are working for the wrong company and need to explore your options.

What are you worth?

Your market value is not what you believe you are worth. If I could determine what my efforts are worth, I would set it at a thousand dollars per hour, or $500 per pizza.  Unfortunately for me it doesn’t work like that.  It’s the people that are paying for what you bring to the table that need to decide what they are willing to pay you. The more you actually bring to the table the more valuable you are to others. It’s not how much time you put in or how well you know your job or how good you can convince others you are, it’s how much value you actually bring to the organization above and beyond your potential replacement in light of your current compensation. That’s your market value, nothing more, nothing less.

Good News!

You may not realize this, but employers are willing to pay more money than you currently make, to people with more value than you currently have.  That is great news!  That means all you have to do is increase your value to make more money.

You are completely in control of your income potential.  You can choose to stay the same and continue with a similar wage, if that is what you value.  Or if you desire a higher standard of living you can choose to invest in personal growth, adjust your allegiance to excellence, raise your value and be compensated for your efforts.  You are the captain of your ship, not your environment, not the person signing your check.  No one is holding you back, but you.

“…employers are willing to pay more money than you currently make, to people with more value than you currently have…That means all you have to do is increase your value to make more money.”

Your potential for raising your income is 100% up to you and not limited to external factors.  It’s not up to your boss, it’s not up to the government, and it’s not due to bad luck, the economy or your upbringing.  It’s up to YOU to change you.

The Pareto Principle (80/20) says that the top 20% of the people share 80% of the rewards.  This means that the bottom 80% is left dividing up the remaining 20% of the rewards.  You can guess which group is committed to raising their value by doing “as much as they can”, and which group is okay with doing “as little as they have to”.

So how do you raise your value in the workplace?

The five steps to raising your value in the workplace.

  1. Know what is expected of you – Find out what is required to be great at what you do, know what your benchmark of excellence is according to your employer or clients, then study it and adopt it as your own. Own it!
    • Have an uncompromising target – Don’t redefine excellence according to you or others if it gets too hard. Don’t compare yourself with others. Keep your eye on the target.
    • Have an accurate target – If you don’t know exactly what is expected of you, find out.
    • Have a worthy target – Find out what the best in the industry do, and then do what they do. Be the best at what you do.
  1. Personal Growth – Grow yourself daily. People are willing to pay you more now, if they know you will be worth more down the road.
    • Be teachable and ask lots of questions. Learn from the experts and allow others to add value to you.
    • Accept and ask for constructive criticism. Don’t be easily offended and proud. Pride subtracts from your value.
    • Make yourself great, don’t just reach the goal. Become a person who naturally does the goal.
    • Learn how things work – Seek first to understand then to be understood. Listen more and speak less.
    • Take responsibility – Make no excuses and blame no one else for your difficulties.
    • Fail often – Own your failure, learn from them, and grow faster.
  1. Alignment – If you wish to be more valuable, make sure that your values line up with the values of the organization. If they don’t, find somewhere that does.
    • Represent the organization with integrity and class at all times.
    • Protect the brand and reputation of the organization.
    • Take pride in your organization and be part of something bigger than you.
    • Work toward interdependance and synergy. Not independance and individualism.
    • Don’t out think your superiors, trust the system and commit to the them. If it’s a bad system, you are in the wrong place.
  1. Results – Finish the job, reach the finish line and excel past expectations.
    • If you proclaim what you are capable of, then do it. Show that you are what you say.
    • Commit yourself to the desired outcomes. No one completes a task without a commitment.
    • Don’t try harder – Reject the “Try Harder” approach. It implies that effort is more important than outcomes.
    • Less is not more – Don’t show you can do what you are getting paid to do. Show you can do more than what you are getting paid to do. By doing so you may get even more to do and paid even more to do it.
  1. Leadership – Leading your self is most important. But if you have the ability to influence others, you will multiply your value by infusing your abilities into others.
    • Leadership raises the value of everyone around them, thus raising your value.
    • Leadership is influence and has exponential growth. It multiplies your efforts rather than just adding to them.
    • Leadership is much harder to find, thus putting you in higher demand to others.
    • Leadership brings solutions to world of problems, and order to a world of chaos.
    • Leadership raises the lid of your potential, and gives you financial leverage.

A Few Questions About Tolerance.

toleranceThe Tolerance Myth?

  • What is it that we should tolerate?
  • Should we tolerate someone else’s version of Good?
  • Should we tolerate someone else’s version of Good, even when we believe it to be Evil?
  • Who should we tolerate?  Everyone?
  • Should we tolerate those who don’t tolerate Evil?
  • Should we tolerate those who DO tolerate Evil?
  • Should we tolerate those who don’t tolerate others?
  • If indeed I don’t tolerate those who don’t tolerate others, does that make me intolerant?  Have I become what I despise?
  • If I DO tolerate those who don’t tolerate others, am I just reinforcing their intolerance by tolerating it?
  • If it does make me intolerant, should I expect others to tolerate me in my intolerance?
  • Should I even tolerate myself?

Do you see the insanity in this?  Just admit it, everyone is intolerant, EVERYONE!  Some just don’t like it pointed at them.

Grace trumps tolerance every time. Show grace and respect others but don’t value their opinion over truth. 

Be strong and stand up for truth, don’t hide behind tolerance to avoid offending someone, or being offended. 

Truth is offensive to those who don’t believe it, and loved by those who do.

Tolerance is good when it’s used as a lubricant to get along in spite of different beliefs, but it’s not to be used to make any or all beliefs equally valid. They are not, otherwise no one would ever be wrong, misunderstood, mistaken about anything.

Refuse to tolerate anything but truth, no matter what it costs you. Then have the wisdom to know when to speak and when not to.

Be patient with those with differing opinions and give grace to those who are offensive to you. If you don’t believe there is a source of universal truth, you just haven’t found it yet, or don’t want to.

Intelligent feedback only, I won’t tolerate stupidity. JK…no really, put your big boy pants on. Don’t come to this table if you can’t tolerate this message.

Appreciation for Suffering

Brown and White Bear Plush ToyLately I have been studying the topic of “suffering”. It sure has become more clear to me that we as Americans spend quite a bit of time and effort trying to shield ourselves from difficulty. We go to great lengths sometimes to keep ourselves and our loved ones from hardship.

Unfortunately there are so many people suffering in the world. Some suffer for reasons brought on by their own decisions, some by evil and others simply because we are born into imperfect parishable flesh or at the hands of evil. This makes it challenging to see any redeeming value in our suffering, especially unnecessary suffering. This article is not meant to make light of those people out there going through truly difficult trials. I suspect many of those would appreciate this message.

But what about necessary suffering? Is there such a thing?

I believe that through our lifetime there are different stages of development that suffering is not only beneficial, but necessary for growth that gets you to the next stage.  Anyone bent on avoiding suffering will undoubtedly avoid growth and will cease to move through the stages of development.  The two go together and are unseparable.

A few benefits to suffering.

  • Suffering makes us tougher. Professional athletes didn’t get tough from childhood pillow fights. They beat their bodys and make them stronger and more resiliant. They make suffering part of their daily regimin.
  • Suffering helps us appreciate those who suffered before us.  It is easy to take for granted that which has been handed to us by previous generations.  We owe it to the next generation to leave this place as well as we received it.
  • Suffering points out that something is not right and needs to change. When we feel physical pain, anxiety or guilt we experience a certain level of suffering. If we didn’t have this we would continue pushing on toward the source of whatever is causing the problem.
  • Suffering produces perserverance and developes a sense of commitment and a vision for victory. When we fail to fully commit to something we will always fall short. If we give ourselves a way out to avoid difficulty we end up paying the full price with a penalty.
  • Suffering makes us smarter and wiser. The most successful leaders in history learned from their painful experiences. They got back up, tweeked a couple things and tried again. Each time they learn something not to do.
  • Suffering purges the lazy out of you. Sometimes we need a jumpstart to realize how our avoidance of suffering keeps us from getting things done. I don’t like to shovel snow, but when I get out there and start working, it feels pretty good, then I am inspired to something else constructive.
  • Suffering is necessary to overcome sin. At least the sin associated with a particular growth stage. Sin often comes from avoiding personal suffering, sometimes at the expense of others. We are more okay with others suffering.
  • Suffering helps us relate to the suffering that Christ experienced. We can relate to our savior and know Him in his suffering. We take for granted the price that was paid on our behalf. When we suffer we gain understanding of how necessary it is for a price to be paid in full.

Everything that makes us stronger, smarter, wiser, more powerful and more commited will never happen without a measure of suffering. Suffering needs to be something to seek daily and not to avoid.

A little bit of suffering now prevents a whole lotta suffering later!

Any thoughts?

How Rock Music Shaped my Mind

“…If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”  Jimi Hendrix

I remember back in 1977, I was nine years old swimming at the YMCA with my friend Brad. The lifeguard had a radio in the pool area and the song “Come Sail Away” by Styx came on the radio.  It soon became my favorite song that year.  I gathered up $10, got my Mom to take me to Musicland at the Muscatine Mall and bought my first album of my life. That day set the course for the next 15 years. Musicland went out of business years later, but I assure you it wasn’t my fault.

By the time I was in my late teens I had 300 albums or tapes of so many Rock bands.  I spent most of my money on Rock music.  I was  young, impressionable, and adventurous. Music made the perfect conduit for learning about the world. Somehow, in my mind the Rock stars were the real leaders of the free world.  They had it all figured out.

Back in the 80’s there was a radio program on Monday nights at 10:30 called Rock Line with a guy named Bob Coburn.  Bob would have rock bands live in the studio for interviews, album previews, and live acoustic performances. I never missed it. Their lives seemed so interesting to me.  They were so free and uninhibited.  They appeared to have life by the tail.

I began learning so many great lessons from these guys and gals. Sammy Hagar taught me the importance of responsible driving. David Lee Roth showed me how to treat women and Pat Benatar taught me what she will do if anyone treats her like that. It was enlightening (sarcasm implied).

“Music is the universal language of mankind.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Over the years I listened to so much rock music that I began absorbing the values and worldview of that culture.  I soon became a follower of this worldview.  The lyrics on the inside of all the collective albums became my scripture. My Sony Walkman became my sanctuary and the concert stage became my place of worship.

I used to spend many hours listening to my tunes with my headphones.  Every individual note from each instrument came alive. When I was in High School I bought a kickin’ car stereo with quadrophonics (early surround sound).  I would listen to the beat and patterns and notice how they all worked together to create one unified vibe. Live albums were especially mesmerizing because the sound was so rich and full.  It makes you feel like you were there sitting in the middle of the stage with musicians all around you. There is a reason vinyl is making a come back.

When we zone into a source of influence like music, we can get engulfed in our own imagination.  Music taps into a universal emotional need.  You  begin to feel what they feel and relate to their story.  You can get lost in an alternate reality sometimes if you let your mind go. It became my drug.

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”
― Alphonse de Lamartine

In a time I was looking for answers, Rock music gave me guidance and direction.  Here are a few of the life principles I came to foolishly embrace when I was a teenager.

• Life is short so make sure you have fun while you can.

• Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life.  Live life on your terms.

• When you are feeling down and depressed, sex can make it all better.

• If you let me down, I am outa here. Commitments aren’t necessary.

• If it feels right, it can’t be wrong. Live for the moment.

• Beauty and wealth determine your social value.

• Freedom is more important than responsibility.

• Love stinks, life sucks!

• It’s all about the thrill of the chase.

• I am invincible. Live free or die trying.

• When life gets hard, you can always take off and start over somewhere else.

• If we have love, that’s all we need.

Ideas have consequenses. Of course there is something fundamentally wrong with each of these ideas.

When you are young and impressionable this worldview can be quite intoxicating. I believed these ideas because I wanted to.  I could have blamed my parents, or the culture, or the lack of a moral foundation in my life.  The truth is I embraced it because it met an immediate need. It gave me permission to think and behave how I want. It’s easy to buy into a Rock worldview. It lines up with most of the things you want to believe in anyway.

Music was my hiding place, but no matter how much music I would buy it was never enough to calm my restless soul.  There was definitely something missing. The more I looked to the culture for answers the more missing pieces within I became aware of.

Everyone has a longing to make deep connections. I connected through music, or at least listening to it.  I never learned an instrument and lack talent for singing. I was a bit  reserved when I was young. It was easier to connect with famous musicians who could not see me, judge me, or needed to know anything about me.

In 1991, after years of making a mess of my life, I realized that there was something flawed with the way I saw the world. My music mentors led me down the wrong path time and time again and I had come to the end of myself.  My heart ached from disappointment and from the weight of my own foolishness. I had to finally face the truth about myself, and somehow, let go of my flawed worldview.  I surrendered my life to Christ and traded lyrics with real scripture from the Bible. I took nearly all my albums and tossed them in a dumpster. My entire worldview changed. I begun to see the world through a completely different set of lenses. I was born-again.

I got rid of my music. I wasn’t because this music was bad (some, actually much of it was).  It was because it held a place in my heart that meant to be occupied by my Creator.  Music was an idol.  I needed a new start with a renewed focus. I needed a much better worldview that didn’t leave me empty and confused without answers.

Music doesn’t shape my worldview anymore.  I find inspirational music (secular or Christian) encourages me. I helps to reinforce my new worldview, but it is no longer an idol. Any kind of music even worship or praise music can be an idol if you value it higher than your Creator.

You may still catch me singing to a classic hit from time to time, but there is something different now.  I feel like I am on the outside looking in. Like I am visiting an old friend that I still admire but whom no longer has any control over me. I am much more discerning now about what I listen to.  The void I used to have is no longer.

Has your culture shaped your worldview?  I would love to hear your story.