Posts Tagged ‘Behavior’

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We’ve seen this past week the impact of what happens when expectations are not met for something to happen quickly. In the rush of last-minute buying and shipping of Christmas presents, untold numbers of packages went undelivered by the “guaranteed” delivery dates. As a result, people either had to do without presents on the intended day, or they had to rush out and buy something else. I saw on the news one lady who was upset that her shipment of live lobsters didn’t arrive in time for the family get-together and meal (definitely a first-world problem – poor, poor lady). I’m sure starving children around the world will weep for her inconvenience.

Fingers are pointing everywhere in the aftermath. Retailers are blaming shippers. Shippers are blaming last-minute shoppers, fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and capacity that was simply overwhelmed. Consumers are blaming retailers and shippers. I don’t think I’ve seen people or organizations yet raise their own hands and take responsibility.

In the case of Christmas shopping, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for last-minute shoppers, although a guarantee is a guarantee and the buyer should be able to trust those guarantees to be honored. Hopefully there is a lesson learned: shop earlier next year. It’s not like December 25 is going to pop up out of nowhere on you regardless of when Thanksgiving comes. Get it done earlier and quit your whining.

But the expectation of immediacy isn’t limited, of course, to shipping presents (in spite of the interest in Amazon immediately shipping things by drone beginning in a couple of years). We expect pretty much everything when we want it.

  • We expect news and immediate details of unfolding events, and news organizations feel obligated to be the first to report, even when they don’t know the facts, making their so-called news mere speculation.
  • We expect to get in touch with whomever we want whenever and wherever we please regardless of the intrusion that causes for the receiver or rudeness displayed by the receiver in taking such messages in other settings.
  • If we have a customer service issue, we expect a call, tweet, or other social media post to yield immediate resolutions as if we are the only customer for that Fortune 100 company that actually has millions of other customers.
  • If we see an ad for something we like, we expect to go online on our portable device and get it right now.
  • We want fast food, fast transportation, fast profits, fast credit, fast weight loss, fast beauty, fast ownership, fast training, fast relief, fast satisfaction, and relationships that are perfect quickly – none of this waiting or working for decades like our parents had to do for the same results.

I certainly have nothing against some things happening quickly. It’s convenient. It meets a need and then we move on to whatever is next. But something is amiss when the big story of the week is a package ordered on Monday not being delivered by Tuesday to a home on the other side of the country. Something is out of whack when the social media channels of businesses are clogged with complaints from people who tried to do something at the last minute and then expect the staff levels and processes of established businesses to wildly fluctuate to accommodate their tardiness.

Is our culture of immediacy a symptom of a growing self-centeredness in society? Is it a consequence of enabling technology that has slowly morphed our expectations? Is it both? Is it something else? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it isn’t always healthy or reasonable to expect whatever we want now.

There is value in learning patience. There is value in contentedness. There is value in planning ahead to avoid the need for so much to happen at the last minute. There is value in leaving room in our schedules for the unexpected. There is value is wanting less.

We are blessed as a society with many advantages, conveniences and opportunities, but I think we have a lot of room for personal growth and maturity. Less dependence on immediacy will be one indicator of that maturity.

Memory Bank

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Behavior
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MyOldBankWhile visiting my parents for Christmas last weekend, my mom told me that she had found an old bank I used as a child and teenager. She said that she tried opening it, but couldn’t get past the combination lock. I immediately told her what the combination was, even though I haven’t seen or used that bank in perhaps 35 years.

It really is fascinating what the mind remembers! I may well forget to pick up something at the store my wife told me to get only minutes before, yet I’ll pull out of the memory bank a lock combination I haven’t needed since the 1970s.

By the way, we opened the bank and found some bills and coins that have been tucked safely away all that time – nothing terribly valuable, but a fun find this many years removed. I brought the bank back to Louisville with me and it will be a treasured reminder of the many years it sat on a bookshelf in my bedroom at the farm.

Like seeing this old bank, holidays bring back lots of memories – for me, mostly sweet memories of times gone by, experiences with family and friends – recollections that bring a smile to my face and sometimes a touch of sadness. More memories came rushing back today when I looked up online the home that used to belong to one set of my grandparents just down the street from where we lived before my parents bought their farm. I noticed yesterday that the house was for sale, and the 20+ photos online in the listing brought a flood of memories back of good, good times in that place.

Of course, there are many for whom holidays bring more difficult memories, especially for those experiencing the first major holidays without a loved one who has recently passed away. My heart goes out to all for whom this is a difficult or bittersweet time.

Perhaps it’s dependent on one’s general outlook on life, or maybe it’s what happens to most people over time, but it sure seems that as time passes, more good memories surface to crowd out the sad ones. I won’t try to psychoanalyze that fact; I’ll just be grateful for it.

I can’t begin to understand how the brain works, but every now and then it fascinates me. In the past 24 hours, it has blessed me with many reminders of wonderful days and people and experiences. It even spat out a lock combination from deep recesses not visited for decades.

The human mind is amazing. How much more so must its Creator be?

HomelessIt is the most natural thing in the world to be self-centered – from the time we enter the world completely dependent on others (yet focused only on our needs), to the time we draw our final breath (most likely still clinging to what we want). It’s natural. But not everything natural is good.

As I observe the world around me this Christmas season, I see the usual uptick in charitable activity – bells ringing beside buckets of coins at store entrances, more volunteers than any of the other 11 months of the year at homeless shelters and elsewhere, Christmas baskets given for the needy, and angel trees with names of those who can use a little boost from other generous, kind souls. That is all good, and I am grateful for giving hearts that make a positive difference in the lives of others at any time of the year, but especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

You and I both probably know some remarkable people who live their lives as models of generosity – not just during December, but year-round. It’s just the kind of people they are. Some that come to my mind are my parents and grandparents and some dear souls I’ve known from churches I’ve been a part of through the years. I like to think I’m the giving type, but compared to some others I’ve seen in my life, I know I have a long way to go.

It’s no easy transition to make from that perfectly natural self-centeredness to one that takes more pleasure in focusing on others. Consider just a few scenarios that illustrate what I mean…

  • Someone is talking to you with the expectation that you are listening, but your mind is wandering about other things, perhaps about what you’re about to say, but maybe about things far removed from the conversation. How do you shift your attention back to the one talking?
  • You’re approached on the street by someone asking for spare change, but you’re in a hurry, you don’t want to get involved, you don’t have any change or small bills, and you don’t want to part with the larger bills you just got from the ATM. Do you get involved or just shake your head “no” and walk away?
  • Your child or grandchild approaches you with something he/she wants to do for a few minutes, but you have a long list of things you were hoping to get done before bed. What do you do?
  • A coworker asks for help with a project and your own to-do list is just as long for work as it is for home, but you’re the best person to help. Will you put in those overtime hours to help others succeed and not just get your own work done?
  • Your spouse has had a hard day or week and could use some tender loving care. Do you come through or do you just carry on as usual?

Being other-centered isn’t natural. In fact, it’s hard. Very hard. It takes time. It’s inconvenient. It costs you something – effort, time, money, emotions. But it’s worth the price. It makes us more of who we were put on this earth to be. It makes a real difference in the lives of others, leaving our world a little better than we found it.

Moving toward other-centeredness is a continuous effort. We won’t arrive at the final destination this side of heaven, but it behooves us to keep working at it.

How other-centered are you? What can you do today to move one small step in that direction?

earthWhat is your worldview? Can you articulate it? Do you understand what the term means?

Here’s one definition: “The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world” ( That perspective may center around a philosophy, religious faith, self-constructed set of ethics or other criteria an individual deems most right and valuable in understanding and living life.

As I sit back and observe the differences between people, the frequent and openly hostile conflicts in the realms of politics and social issues, it comes down as I see it to a matter of conflicting worldviews and the resulting differences in values and actions consistent with those worldviews. How we see things around us and how we interpret what is happening in the world depends on our worldview. We then act (usually) in sync with our own worldview.

Naturally, worldviews can collide just as easily as some can live in relative harmony with others. I agree with the following from Michael Lind:

“A worldview is a more or less coherent understanding of the nature of reality, which permits its holders to interpret new information in light of their preconceptions. Clashes among worldviews cannot be ended by a simple appeal to facts. Even if rival sides agree on the facts, people may disagree on conclusions because of their different premises.”

As a Christian, I try to have a biblical worldview. Like anyone else, I’m sure I stray from my ideal at times. I don’t claim to have and know the biblical worldview. Mine is informed by my understanding of what the Scriptures teach and the firm belief in the absolute authority of those Scriptures as truth for all people for all time. The values that guide my life therefore are drawn from that worldview and the actions that result day in and day out should be consistent with that way of seeing and interpreting the world around me. (If you’re curious about whether you have a biblical worldview or not, you might be interested in this quiz on the topic.)

It is important for me to remember daily that it is unreasonable for me to expect others who do not share my worldview to believe or act in accordance with my worldview. They are living lives consistent with their worldview – not mine. Likewise, those with worldviews conflicting with mine do not have the right to expect me to adjust my beliefs and actions to accommodate their worldview. That is not to say that all worldviews are equally worthy of adoption. It is just an acknowledgement that we don’t all share the same one.

So rather than shout past one another in the midst of differences, rather than beat up others verbally, emotionally or in other ways to advance our own cause, perhaps we would do well to spend more time trying to understand one another’s worldviews that are at the core of why we believe and act as we do. That doesn’t mean we have to like or agree with anyone else’s beliefs or actions, but I think our world could benefit from more civil discourse that gets at understanding one another – maybe even learning to like or love one another in spite of differences – than continuing toxic exchanges that neither side hears nor understands because their worldviews just don’t filter life in the same way.

social-networksLike many of you, I spend a lot of time on social networks – both work related and personal. Their existence has transformed how countless numbers of people communicate daily around the world. They will only continue to grow in use and significance. But all is not well on social networks, probably because they’re made up of messed-up folks like you and me.

There are some regular frustrations that I would prefer Santa do something about this Christmas, if only for a day. So here is my Christmas wish list for social networks:

  • People will use the networks to connect with friends, colleagues, family and total strangers in positive ways.
  • People will keep their politics to themselves.
  • People will use their two ears and one mouth in that proportion, listening more than they speak.
  • People will seek out opportunities to encourage others who may be experiencing tough times.
  • People will not send me any invitations to play games.
  • People will not post any Bitstrips cartoons.
  • People won’t try to get others to believe as they do on social matters.
  • Facebook will not surprise us with any security or feature changes.
  • No one will send spam messages or deceptive links.
  • People will step away from the online networks long enough to interact face to face with real, live people in the same room.

Online time on social networks is important and much good comes from it, but it can be better than it is. If Santa doesn’t make it happen, then it’s up to us.