Communication – Peace Begins With You

In his book on Anger, Thich Nhat Hanh is teaching me to overcome hurt and disappointment with compassion and forgiveness. In the Gospels, Jesus is moved with compassion and forgiveness. As a chaplain and consultant, I believe these teachings have a place in the workplace. These virtues are sometimes most needed in your area of work.


“Everything is possible when the door of communication is open. So we must invest ourselves in the practice of opening up and restoring communication. You have to express your willingness, your desire to make peace with the other person. Ask him to support you. Tell him, “Communication between us is the most important thing to me. Our relationship is the most precious thing, nothing is more important.” Make it clear and ask for support.

You have to start negotiating a strategy. No matter how much the other person can do, you have to do all that you are capable of doing yourself. You must give one hundred percent of yourself. Whatever you can do for yourself, you do for him, or for her. Don’t wait. Don’t put forth conditions, saying, “If you don’t make an effort to reconcile, then I won’t either.” This will not work. Peace, reconciliation, and happiness begin with you. It is wrong to think that if the other person does not change or improve, then nothing can be improved. There are always ways to create more joy, peace, and harmony, and you have access to them. The way you walk, the way you breathe, the way you smile, the way you react, all of this is very important. You must begin with this.”

Except from Anger, by Thich Nhat Hanh

The moment we blame or shame another person is the moment we have lost our peace and ability to communicate with the other. “But what about my anger, the fire burning in my belly?!” You must nurture it with empathy because if you don’t, it will spoil your insides. It will rob you of the person you truly long to be.

I don’t ever want to dehumanize the workplace. It is filled with humans who have hearts and souls, who are working for a greater purpose than simply a paycheck. We are working towards relational awareness as well, becoming humans who love and serve our neighbors.

The Lord’s Prayer: OUR and US

 A friend of mine reminded me the other day how communal the Lords prayer is. It is filled with the words “Our” and “Us”.

We know that the Spirit of God is at work when there are more signs of community, mutual understanding, and a turning towards God and one another in peace. 

This echoes of the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that “we might be one”. 

One doesn’t mean uniformity. 

One doesn’t mean we agree. 

To live out the Lord’s Prayer is about attending to our spiritual lives and worldly, embodied realities.  It means that we seek to become people who follow Christ with our words, actions, and attitudes. 

Sadly, we are so polarized in our country and filled with a sense of contempt for the “other side”.  

But since we are children of the Light, we keep seeking a deep and abiding intimacy with Jesus.

In the small town of Guadalupe, California, photographer, Lindsey Ross, took photos of women from the area and installed this mural on the side of a historic building. For more information, see: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/article179168756.html

This might look something like this:

  1. Lamenting. This is about sharing our grief, losses, and brokenness. Think Psalm 51 and moments of the prophets crying out for justice and God’s redemption. Crying out over our sins and blindness.
  2. Seeking justice for those who are marginalized and oppressed. Let’s be honest. When we look at one another, we DO see color. This might conjure up certain prejudicial narratives about one another.
  3. Repenting of our prejudicial narratives.
  4. Going local and small. This one is something I keep inching towards. Focus on building relationships in the neighborhood and city you reside in will have longer lasting impact.
  5. Spiritual formation and self-awareness. This one to me is a LONG TERM project. Learning to name our emotions, needs, judgments, thoughts, motives! This one is probably the toughest of all. But this helps us learn to be with others and truly “sense” their needs, even when their rhetoric is hostile and judgmental.
  6. Committing to daily spiritual disciplines and worship that brings us near the heart of Jesus (intimacy with the One true King and Lord), keeps us honest, and keeps us connected to others (who are different than us).

Someone like me who supports people with a wide range of beliefs can say #blacklivesmatter as part of my spirituality and still stay connected to those who would rebut this statement. If they choose not to connect, my heart and prayer is still John 17 and the Lord’s Prayer because, ultimately, the work of the Spirit is for the person and I to be one and in community. That’s the work of Christ that I’m submitting to.

Lord, make us one by the power of your Holy Spirit. We cry out and grieve the hostility and polarization our country is experiencing. We ask for your mercy upon us. We ask it for our children!! Be merciful and come to our assurance.

With great love, tenderness, and compassion…

Leadership and Civility

In Scott Peck’s book, “A World Waiting to be Born:  Civility Rediscovered”, we learn that in order to become healthy organizations, we need to discover the art of civility.  Every organization will inevitably have conflict.  He goes on to say that, “As consciously motivated organizational behavior, civility (like healthy civics) requires consciousness of one’s self, consciousness of the other person, and consciousness of the organization, or larger system, relating the self and other.” 

The work of becoming observant, self-aware people is the cornerstone for engaging civility in our organizations.  We cannot expect someone else to do that work for us.  An organization can address its conflicts when the leaders (especially) can become conscious of their thoughts and emotions in deepening ways.  

(Review of Deep Work) Rule 1 Work Deeply

Deep Work by Cal Newport is a book that has been circulating in my network for the last two years. The book is about creating rituals and rhythms to have focused time on working and focusing deeply on things that matter, while removing distractions. Reducing shallow thinking times, disconnecting from social media and online surfing for long periods of time during the day are just some examples of reducing distractions.

In part 2 of his book, he starts with Rule #1: Work Deeply. Newport addresses the need to build habits and rituals because we get so easily distracted by the superficial. Newport says,

Unfortunately, when it comes to replacing distraction with focus, matters are not so simple. To understand why this is true let’s take a closer look at one of the main obstacles to going deep: the urge to turn your attention toward something more superficial. Most people recognize that this urge can complicate efforts to concentrate on hard things, but most underestimate its regularity and strength.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 98). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

CONFESSION: I know that when I begin to read a book or start a project, the moment I hit a tough problem, I go online or check social media sites. I go superficial real quick.

To say that we can just will ourselves past these temptations to be distracted is futile. Willpower is more like a muscle than an inherited trait. As Newport says,

“You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. Your will, in other words, is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limit; it’s instead like a muscle that tires.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is good news for me. I no longer shame myself for not having the “will” to muscle through deep thinking work. I need a different way to approach deep work.

This is where Newport offers the key motivating strategy and idea for engaging in deep work:

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration...if you deployed smart routines and rituals—perhaps a set time and quiet location used for your deep tasks each afternoon—you’d require much less willpower to start and keep going. In the long run, you’d therefore succeed with these deep efforts far more often.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The first strategy to develop healthy habits and rituals is to have a philosophy to integrate deep work into our working lives. There are a few different depth philosophies to integrate deep thinking and focused time. For the sake of encouraging people to buy the book, I’m offering a very quick one summary of each:

  1. The Monastic Philosophy: create deep efforts by eliminating or reducing shallow obligations. Works well for people who have singular goals in mind and have the kinds of jobs that allow for this type of schedule.
  2. The Bimodal Philosophy: dedicate stretches of time without interruptions and distractions (this would ideally be a dedicated whole day of deep work).
  3. The Rhythmic Philosophy: establish a simple routine/ritual schedule that removes the need to decide IF you should do deep work. This could be a set block of start and end time (i.e. waking up at 530 am and doing deep work for 2 hours).
  4. The Journalistic Philosophy: fitting deep work into your schedule whenever you can (this presupposes an ability to switch modes and go into deep work rather quickly…it’s not for a deep work novice).

We can develop our own philosophy so long as we follow some of the general guidelines from these. In all of these frameworks, the importance is that intentionality and active engagement are implemented (do it!). This can be an experimental time at first to see what works.

For example, I like to get up at 5am and meditate. This sets the tone for the rest of the day. It’s followed up by 1.5 hours of focused deep work time. Since I have a full time job, I need the deep work time in the mornings (when I seem to be most fresh). I try not to go online when I’m getting bored or hit something hard in my deep work. That’s when I tend to get frustrated and want to be distracted.