Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Benjamin Franklin's Virtues Week 11: Justice

This is the eleventh in a series of articles about Benjamin Franklin's virtues:

"Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."

The concept of justice has been argued by philosophers for centuries, but it basically boils down to making sure everyone gets what they have coming to them.  If you do a day's work, you should receive a day's wages in a just world.  If you wrong somebody, you should be punished in a just world.  It means paying people fairly.  It's about not expecting people to do extra work without proper compensation.  It's about making sure that justice is blind, and the same punishments are distributed fairly for the same crimes.

We too often see justice as something our legal system or our government is responsible for ensuring, but we're all responsible to ensure that justice is served.  We see a co-worker treated badly and say nothing.  We hire somebody to do a job for us at far below what we know the job's worth.  We see somebody discriminated against and do nothing to rectify the situation.  We know somebody is guilty of a crime and say nothing because we don't want to get involved.

We can't depend on the police, the courts, and the government to provide justice.  If we want to live in a just society, we, as individuals have to take an active role.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

This is one of a series of Wednesday postings that examine the 13 Virtues Benjamin Franklin believed necessary to achieve moral perfection.  You can find all the related articles by searching the blog under the “Franklin’s Virtues” label.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Finding Peace Within

"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strives to do what is good for each other and for everyone else."

1 Thessalonians 5:15 
We are all going to encounter people in our life that aren’t going to like us. They aren’t going to appreciate us for who we are, and they aren’t going to see the good things about us. We’re going to encounter people that think differently than we do. We are going to meet people in our life that don’t have our best intentions at heart. You’re going to have people that are critical of you because you haven’t lived up to what their expectation is. You’ll even have people come to dislike you because they’ve asked your opinion about something, and you told them what you thought rather than what they wanted to hear. God made no two of us the same, and none of us perfect.  So you’re going to find that everywhere—at work, at the grocery store, on social media, in church, and possibly even in your own family.

Most of the time we can live peacefully with one another even when we don’t see completely eye to eye with each other. And more often than not, we’re able to overlook what we perceive to be a character flaw in another person because we can see the good in them as well. But sometimes in the course of life, we find ourselves in the midst of a difference of opinion, a conflict, or even a long drawn out battle with somebody. We’ve all experienced that at one time or another. That person that is constantly picking at you. That person that never has a nice thing to say about you. That person that twists everything you say or do into another reason not to like you. That person that is constantly trying to bait you into fighting with them on their level. They’re trying to ruin your peace. They’re trying to steal your joy. What their motive is may never be known, but how you react to it is completely within your power to control.

When I was younger, I often fell right into the trap. You want to fight, I’m only too happy to accommodate you. I’m not going to stand by and let somebody pick at me, or demean me in public—I’m going to say something about it. And all too often, I’d fall right into their trap. That’s exactly what they wanted all along. They’d pick at me until I got mad—and when I do finally get mad it’s something to see, let me tell you. And just as soon as I popped my top finally, they’d stand back and point, “look at what a bad person he is for losing his temper and saying what he was thinking. Haven’t I been telling you about him all along? Just look at the way he acted.”

Some of you are smiling I’m sure, because you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been there, done that, seen that, fallen into that old ploy more often than you’d like to admit. Then you're mad at two people--the person that baited you into a fight, and yourself for being so stupid and letting them.  But what I’ve learned as I’ve grown older is something my younger self just couldn’t understand. It is better to stay in peace.

Now I’m not saying we should go through life never ruffling any feathers. Sometimes you have to. When we see somebody’s actions hurting another person, we should absolutely step up. When we see somebody hurting themselves, we should step up. When somebody asks an honest opinion, you should give it whether it's the popular opinion or not. We should always defend someone in their hour of need, and help those in distress. We should always stand up and do the right thing when we see the wrong thing is being done. And often when we do find it necessary to stand up and do the right thing, we’ll find ourselves the most hated man in the room—as the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.  Sometimes you have to wade into a conflict because there is no other way around it, but for most of us, we wind up in way more conflicts than is necessary.  That's because we're all human and we're all fallible.

"Every candle eventually snuffs itself out when it runs out of fuel, and anger works that same way."
We will find ourselves in some very difficult situations at times, but if we can maintain our peace, it is much easier for us to be able to determine when we should step up and act, and when we should just simply let something go. When you lose your peace, you lose your judgement. When we go through life in a perpetual state of upset we will find ourselves also in a perpetual state of war, drifting from one battle to the next without end. I always know I'm heading down the wrong path when I hear myself say or think, "I have every right to be angry!"  Sometimes we get so used to fighting every single day it becomes a habit we never escape—it becomes second nature to react in anger rather than love. 

And sometimes acting out of love means we just let somebody stay angry with us.  A wise man once reminded me that every candle eventually snuffs itself out when it runs out of fuel, and anger works the same way.  We're not helping that person by adding fuel to their fire.  We help them by leaving them alone, and allowing their anger to abate and their judgement to return.  Forgive them.  Forget the things they've done and the things they've said.  Pray for them.  It's not at all easy, but that's how you turn things around.

When we stay in peace, God goes to work. I’ve seen it happen over and over again in my own life. That irreconcilable difference I had with a cousin sudden vanishes overnight when I stop fighting him back. That ongoing disagreement that has lasted for months with a coworker suddenly ends with a late night phone call and an apology for no apparent reason other than I decided I was done arguing with her. Just a couple weeks ago, an old friend that I didn’t think would ever speak to me again greeted me when he saw me and shook my hand as if nothing had ever come between us--that one even surprised me!  That's God going to work on your behalf.

You should always remember that the way people treat you says more about them than it does about you. People that know you, know what you’re about. No matter how much of a smoke screen somebody throws up trying to diminish you, authentic people are going to be able to see right through it.  I've had people say some ugly things about me over the years, but not one single person has ever diminished my reputation.  I have, however, diminished my own reputation a time or two fighting with people over the things they've said and done--that's a very difficult truth to see when you're angry. 

More often than not, if you stay in peace and act out of love, those issues will sort themselves out. An atheist will tell you that’s just people finally seeing the error in their ways. However, when I see a dramatic change in somebody’s heart, I know God has been working on them.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Benjamin Franklin's Virtues Week 10: Cleanliness

This is the tenth in a series of articles about Benjamin Franklin's virtues:

"Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation."

I'm often a little surprised by how people show up for work these days.  Wearing a shirt that looks like it's been slept in, flip-flops, and three days growth on their face.  Then they complain about their job.

We may live in a more relaxed society than we once were, but don't fool yourselves that appearance is no longer important.  How we present ourselves is just as important as ever, and first impressions are still hard to overcome. If you present yourself as a disheveled disaster, that's the idea people are going to get about you.  And as relaxed as our society is, I still don't see a time when a big cobra tattoo on your neck isn't going to hold you back in the business world.

Having a good appearance not only helps to make a first impression, but it makes us feel good about ourselves.  It makes us feel more confident.  It tells our co-workers and our employers that we take our work seriously.  As a wise manager once told me, "you don't dress for the job you have, you dress for the job you want."
Think about that tomorrow morning as you're getting ready for work.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°
This is one of a series of Wednesday postings that examine the 13 Virtues Benjamin Franklin believed necessary to achieve moral perfection.  You can find all the related articles by searching the blog under the “Franklin’s Virtues” label.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Revisiting the Bullet Journal: Lessons Learned

I wrote some time back about beginning to use a bullet journal--you'll find that article here.  I know I've heard from a few people who have begun using a bullet journal to organize their own lives, too--that includes one of the Midnight Freemasons, Greg Knott.  I've been asked if I'm still using that bullet journal, and how I was doing with it.  The answer is yes, and it has worked very well for me.  I thought I'd touch on that subject again two months down the road-- I've learned a few things I thought I'd share.

I've continued to use the bullet journal every day as I described in the first post on the subject.  I keep a monthly, a weekly, and a daily log.  My monthly log is basically appointments and events in the current month.  The weekly log is an overview of the current week that begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday.  I move things over from the monthly to the weekly log, and then flesh the week out by adding a "to do" list for the events for that week.   My daily log breaks down basically into a daily "to do" list, and as I go along throughout the day, I add notes, observations, an idea here and there, etc.  In the evening when I'm planning my next day's tasked, I'll move some of my notes for the day over to other lists I maintain in the bullet journal, like "writing ideas" or "books to read."  It sounds complicated, but it's actually very simple.  And as you do it, you'll find a process that works best for you.  All of this has evolved for me over the last two months--it's much leaner than it was when I began.  I've been more organized and more productive in the last two months than I have been in a long time. 

But I've certainly learned a few things about my own productivity.  Like the amount of time I waste with distractions.  I'll start with three things to get done in a day, and at the end of the day, I'll find I've only finished one--the reason I didn't get done with the other two?  Distractions.  Almost without fail, I get distracted.  I'll start another project at work without finishing the one I began and was supposed to be finishing--for no apparent reason other than boredom with that unfinished project perhaps.  Or I spend unnecessary time on a single task that isn't really that pressing.  I've also discovered how unproductive my evenings can be even when I spend a good deal of time in my study. 

The one thing the bullet journal has done for me, is it has shown me what's working and what's not working.  When I'm most productive, and when I'm least productive.  I've also learned a great deal about my habits by the number of tasks I've written down over and over again--carried forward from day to day or week to week--and never finished.  It's made me look at that task and wonder why I keep writing it down when I obviously have no intention of doing it.  I've got an article I've been working on for months--I keep bringing forward that task to finish it.  I finally took it off my list when I realized I had lost interest in the topic and really had no intention of finishing it even though I've spent a considerable amount of time writing and researching it.  Instead I replaced it with a piece I was interested in--I finished it in two nights and it ran on the Midnight Freemasons last week. 

I've also learned that productivity isn't just about tasks--it's about setting time aside for recreation as well.  Attending events.  Reading.  Recreational writing.  Research.  While these items are recreational, most of my writing ideas come from participating in these activities. 

As my bullet journal process has evolved, what I've found is that I'm "working" fewer hours because I'm working smarter, and I have more time for recreational pursuits which in turn inspire my creative projects.  It's helped me tremendously in striking a much better balance between the work and play.

I still highly recommend giving it a try.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°
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