The Horse’s Mouth (Go to the Source)

The SourceI had an interesting discussion with a friend some time ago.  He is trained and makes his living in the biological sciences.  We discussed a variety of topics related to his discipline—Charles Darwin, natural selection, evolution, Intelligent Design and the book of Genesis.

I told him that one of the things that bothers me—a pet peeve, to be honest—is the way in which people comment upon and dismiss out of hand concepts about which they know little or nothing.  Most of the people I know who eschew anything remotely connected to Charles Darwin and evolution have probably never read On The Origin of Species.  If you mentioned the word “beagle” to them in context of a discussion about Darwin, they’d think you were talking about a dog rather than a ship.

Disclaimer: I’ve never read On the Origin of Species, though I’d like to in order to hear Darwin on his own merits.  And for my purposes here, I’m not even discussing my own personal beliefs about how the universe came to be.

What I’m after is giving people a fair hearing on every matter rather than going on hearsay.  This leads to libel, slander and all sorts of misunderstanding.   And it gives ignorance a platform it doesn’t deserve.

When I attended seminary years ago, one of the strengths of the program in which I was enrolled was its insistence on reading primary sources.  In other words, we got our information from the horse’s mouth, rather than from those who kept—or thought they kept—the horses.  For example, we didn’t read an analysis about Thomas Aquinas; we read Aquinas.  You encounter trouble rapidly when you get your information second-, third-, or fourth-hand.

So……..

  • How much do you know about Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Richard Nixon from a) their own writings, b) their public lives and service, c) their respective voting and executive records, and d) their tax returns? You get this from going to the source.  And that source is their own lives, their tax returns, public records and writings, not necessarily mainstream media.
  • Where, in the Scriptures, is the verse “God helps those who help themselves?”
  • Was the Peter, Paul & Mary song “Puff the Magic Dragon,” written by Peter Yarrow, about drugs? (You will be surprised!)

These are some teasers.  You can find your own.  You must do your homework–you can’t outsmart the work.  But whatever you do, have the integrity to get your information first-hand.  From the principals themselves, not their defenders or critics.

That is, from the horse’s mouth.

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Pause…Then Speak

ThinkIf I were given the chance to relive my high school years, I would do things differently.  Most of us would.  I’d have taken college prep courses in the early years.  I’d have played baseball—something I’ve always loved and possessed a measure of talent for.  I would have taken up a band instrument or choir, in addition to guitar.

And I’d have joined the debate club.

A friend of mine who was involved in high school debate once told me of a technique he’d learned in debate, one that has helped him throughout his adult life.  It is the practice of taking ten, twenty, perhaps thirty seconds or more to respond to a question or a challenge.  He’d preface his pause by saying, “Give me a second to collect my thoughts.”

In other words, think before you speak.

This is a profoundly wise behavior, not just for debate society but for conversation, especially when there is conflict involved.

We’ve discussed the dangers of simplistic thinking on this blog previously.  A lot of simplistic thinking discloses itself when people answer a challenge too quickly.  We saw a good example of this last year during the 2012 Presidential campaign when Democrat pundit Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney—wife of Republican candidate Gov. Mitt Romney and mother of five—had never worked a day in her life.

This was an unfortunate utterance, disrespectful of mothers all over the country, if not the world.  Within a day, Rosen apologized.  The Obama White House distanced itself from her comments.

In fairness to Ms. Rosen, I’m sure she meant to say that Ann Romney had not been a part of the female workforce outside the home.  I doubt very much she wished to insult moms.  Hilary Rosen is Jewish.  If you know Jewish mothers, you know that they enjoy a long history as diligent homemakers, some of the finest in the world.  I bet her own mother was hard-working.

I suspect her point was that the fate of female workers outside the home has become increasingly distressed under the present sagging economy and that Mrs. Romney didn’t have the field experience to opine with authority the way another lady, who’d made her living in the workforce, could.  Indeed, 92% of jobs lost under President Obama’s watch were filled by women.  And that is a problem.

The point here is that a lot of unnecessary drama ensued that needn’t have if things were articulated more carefully, more precisely, with less haste—sound-byte exigencies notwithstanding.  And which of us has not made the same mistake?  One of the things my college rhetoric professor cautioned us against were “gleaming generalities.”  You’re almost certainly headed for deep water if you’re in the habit of using sweeping statements like “never,” and “always.”

It is wiser to understate your case.  “It seems that….”  “It appears to be the case that….”  “The evidence suggests….”  You get the idea.  Hyperbole ought to be used sparingly.

But even better is to stop….think…let people squirm if they must, while you frame your statement.  Then answer.

Life will be a whole lot less hectic and dramatic.

And that is something all of us would like.

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From The Horse’s Mouth

I had an interesting discussion with a friend this afternoon.  He is trained and makes his living in the biological sciences.  We discussed a variety of topics related to his discipline—Charles Darwin, natural selection, evolution, Intelligent Design and the book of Genesis.

I told him that one of the things that bothers me—a pet peeve, to be honest—is the way in which people comment upon and dismiss out of hand concepts about which they know little or nothing.  Most of the people I know who eschew anything remotely connected to Charles Darwin and evolution have probably never read On The Origin of Species.  If you mentioned the word “beagle” to them in context of a discussion about Darwin, they’d think you were talking about a dog rather than a ship.

Disclaimer: I’ve never read On The Origin of Species, though I’d like to in order to hear Darwin on his own merits.  And for my purposes here, I’m not even discussing my own personal beliefs about how the universe came to be.

What I’m after is giving people a fair hearing on every matter rather than going on hearsay.  This leads to libel, slander and all sorts of misunderstanding.   And it gives ignorance a platform it doesn’t deserve.

When I attended seminary years ago, one of the strengths of the program in which I was enrolled was its insistence on reading primary sources.  In other words, we got our information from the horse’s mouth, rather than from those who kept—or thought they kept—the horses.  For example, we didn’t read an analysis about Clement of Alexandria; we read Clement of Alexandria.  You encounter trouble rapidly when you get your information second-, third-, or fourth-hand.

So……..

  • How much do you know about President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney from a) their own writings, b) their public lives and service, c) their respective voting and executive records, and d) their tax returns? You get this from going to the source.  And that source is their own lives, their tax returns, public records and writings, not necessarily mainstream media.
  • Where, in the Scriptures, is the verse “God helps those who help themselves?”
  • What did C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther believe about the Virgin Mary, the Lord’s Supper and the communion of the saints? (You will be surprised!)

These are some teasers.  You can find your own.  You must do your homework–you can’t outsmart the work.  But whatever you do, have the integrity to get your information first-hand.  From the principals themselves, not their defenders or critics.

That is, from the horse’s mouth.

Image Credit

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

We had a thought-provoking discussion in our weekly leadership/mentoring time today.  A good deal of our interaction concerned the concept of respect.  Respect is something that is often misunderstood, confused with deference.  Let me explain.

Deference is the perfunctory and appropriate behavior we manifest towards position, authority and station in life.  We may not, for example, agree with Attorney General Eric Holder’s behavior this past week as he was called to Congressional account over what he and the Department of Justice knew regarding the Fast and Furious debacle.  But we address him as “Mr. Attorney General” or simply “General.”  That is deference.  It is inappropriate to use a Congressional hearing to grandstand and needlessly demean the AG.  Same goes for White House press conferences.  You may not like President Obama—or any of his predecessors—but heckling him in public is inappropriate and unprofessional.  So is flipping off the portrait of the late President Ronald Reagan.  You defer to the office he occupies and give it due weight.  That is deference.

Respect, on the other hand, is rather an instinctual behavior, like sweating in hot, humid weather.  The gain or loss of respect is predicated on the presence or absence of integrity.  Put another way, deference is given; respect is earned.   It is an automatic response to the practice of integrity.

This is the way of life.  I’ve watched men in high office—political, corporate and ecclesiastical—demand respect without manifesting the kind of behavior that entitles them to respect.  It is unedifying to say the least and breeds cynicism in their constituents.  If you want respect, you’ve got to pay your dues.  They are substantial.  Respect is always earned.

I’ve both gained and lost the respect of people, especially those closest to me, over forty-eight years of life.  This has always been in just proportion to my integrity or lack of it.  It’s no use for me to whine about “not getting respect” if I’ve not dug deep and won it.  There are no shortcuts.

How then does one win this prize, something essential to all human beings and particularly important to males?

  • Walk in integrity.  If you profess a creed, certain values and expectations, you must back these up with the currency of consistency.  You cannot keep two sets of books.  Be one person.  Not two or four or a dozen.  What you are in public must equate what you are when you are outside of public view, in the crucible of the secret place.
  • When you blow it, admit it. No equivocation.  No excuses.  No blame-shifting.  If you screw up, own it.  All of it.  And say you’re sorry and rebuild.  Apologizing and amending one’s ways with earnestness begins building respect immediately.
  • Realize that you cannot mandate an instinctive behavior.  You can say, “I am your father and you will not speak to me that way” to a mouthy child.  That is fair and right.  But when someone calls you out for your failures, you are not authorized to pull rank to avoid dealing with your transgressions.  If you do, you are a fool.  A fool cubed.

This prize is worth fighting for.  Be true, humble, and serve.  You’ll earn more respect than you know what to do with.

Image Credit

Pause…Then Speak

If I were given the chance to relive my high school years, I would do things differently.  Most of us would.  I’d have taken college prep courses in the early years.  I’d have played baseball—something I’ve always loved and possessed a measure of talent for.  I would have taken up a band instrument or choir, in addition to guitar.

And I’d have joined the debate club.

A friend of mine who was involved in high school debate once told me of a technique he’d learned in debate, one that has helped him throughout his adult life.  It is the practice of taking ten, twenty, perhaps thirty seconds or more to respond to a question or a challenge.  He’d preface his pause by saying, “Give me a second to collect my thoughts.”

This is a profoundly wise behavior, not just for debate society but for conversation, especially when there is conflict involved.

We’ve discussed the dangers of simplistic thinking on this blog previously.  A lot of simplistic thinking discloses itself when people answer a challenge too quickly.  We saw a good example of this over the past few days when Democrat pundit Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney—wife of Republican Presidential hopeful Gov. Mitt Romney and mother of five—has never worked a day in her life.

This was an unfortunate utterance, disrespectful of mothers all over the country, if not the world.  Within a day, Rosen apologized.  The White House distanced itself from her comments.

In fairness to Ms. Rosen, I’m sure she meant to say that Ann Romney had not been a part of the female workforce outside the home.  I doubt very much she wished to insult moms.  Hilary Rosen is Jewish.  If you know Jewish mothers, you know that they enjoy a long history as diligent homemakers, some of the finest in the world.  I bet her own mother was hard-working.

I suspect her point was that the fate of female workers outside the home has become increasingly distressed under the present sagging economy and that Mrs. Romney didn’t have the field experience to opine with authority the way another lady, who’d made her living in the workforce, could.  Indeed, 92% of jobs lost under President Obama’s watch were filled by women.  And that is a problem.

The point here is that a lot of unnecessary drama ensued that needn’t have if things were articulated more carefully, more precisely, with less haste—soundbyte exigencies notwithstanding.  And which of us has not made the same mistake?  One of the things my college rhetoric prof cautioned us against were “gleaming generalities.”  You’re almost certainly headed for deep water if you’re in the habit of using sweeping statements like “never,” and “always.”

It is wiser to understate your case.  “It seems that….”  “It appears to be the case that….”  “The evidence suggests….”  You get the idea.  Hyperbole ought to be used sparingly.

But even better is to stop….think…let people squirm if they must, while you frame your statement.  Then answer.

Life will be a whole lot less hectic and dramatic.

And that is something all of us would like.

Image Credit