What the Hell are We Doing?

This week I learned a friend of mine, my age, had a tumor removed along with part of his larger intestine, because it is likely cancer. Last week, I discovered that a gentleman who worked for me 20 years ago, died in August at the age of 56. Last month my brother did the eulogy for a 46-year-old woman that worked for him, she died in a freak hiking accident leaving behind a young family.

Yet, while all these reminders of our mortality descend on me, I tread water in a society that is a constant barrage of anger, pettiness, and confrontation. We are investing our precious time, which may be just days, weeks, or months (we never know) demeaning each other. At what return on that investment? I want to scream out, “What the hell are we doing?”


How do we leave the world a better place, if we are hell bent on tearing it down with little regard for others?

Causes and passions need to call us to action. Seeking to correct injustices that occur, must be in our DNA. However, we need to accomplish these outcomes by working together. “Get on board, get out of the way, or get run over” is not the way for all-inclusive growth, that moves us all forward. We have become a Win-Lose society with scarcity mentality, where one needs to lose for the other to win. We can’t move ahead by destroying the current foundation, any more than we can believe that oppressing a segment (or segments) of society is progress, let alone right and just.

For those willing to destroy in order to rebuild, consider that sustaining the earth, feeding the poor, raising the standard of life of those marginalized all demand a sound economy and an infrastructure to execute. For those longing to return to the “glory days”, consider that this prosperity was not shared by all and had serious flaws that cannot be revisited; not if we are one nation, under God, with justice and liberty for all.

My company is undertaking at a major transition in our approach to the marketplace. Although we could remain profitable for years, what we were doing and how we were doing it are broken, and we would comfortably manage our way out of business. Our ‘project pivot’ is all about change and transformation to what will be a better approach to our customers and create a more profitable future. Yet during this transformation we can’t afford to lose our current customers and revenues. We need to fund the transition. Moving forward is near impossible when you start off going backwards.

When Gandhi led India’s succession from Great Britain’s rule, he understood that the British industrial and educational developments were still required to alleviate many of India’s problems. Destroying everything “British,” would be detrimental. Striking down and repealing the existing political and social state of affairs, creates a vacuum, which in turn creates an environment where an Adolf Hitler type can rise to power.

For decades now we have managed to move forward with every Presidential election. For some there was the fear that Obama, Clinton, and Carter would create disasters that couldn’t be managed, yet we grew as a nation. For others, the world would end because Trump, Bush, Reagan led our country; yet it did not. Again, this year’s Presidential election should not be the cause of our destruction. Unless of course, we choose for it to be platform that allows it to happen.

The pandemic is certainly making things worse. If the primary means of engaging with others is through social media, then we are doomed. Discussions with strangers on airplanes, friendly discourse between rival fans in bars, conversations with co-workers beyond the job, are not happening face to face. Context gets lost in tweets or posts. What is the context of who is sending the tweet and what is the context of who is reading the post? That matters, tremendously. Context is remembering that everyone is biased due to their personal history. Some of my blog posts have been challenged by people close to me. In most cases the context I wrote the blog from was not the context in which it was read. When this occurs, a discussion on those points is incredibly useful and widens my perspective.

Covey’s Fifth Habit of Highly Effective People is to “Seek First to Understand then to be Understood.” How is that done on a social media platform that limits one to 140 characters? Seeking to understand creates context. It frames the exchange of ideas and discussions. Seeking to understand cannot happen without devoting time to listen. More time than what is required to post or tweet, or even more so shoot off a spiteful comment.

Debates, as opposed to arguments, can be a marketplace of ideas. This marketplace operates on the premise that given access to a full range of ideas, not limited by the government or some other authority, rational citizens will accept ideas that are true and reject those that are false. Healthy debates are calm, with the tolerance of other’s views and insights, and where we don’t always have to be right nor always win.

But we rarely have healthy debates, instead we turn to partisan cable TV news, Twitter feeds, Facebook accounts, and YouTube subscriptions; all echo chambers that only reinforce our pre-existing beliefs. Instead of researching and seeking divergent views, we now rely on algorithms to determine what shows up in online searches and social media feeds, ultimately influencing the ideas we do and do not encounter. In 2 Timothy Chapter 3, we are warned that moral depravity and false teaching are always at work, in the times of Moses and Jesus, as well as today.

I heard a discussion on moving from the more toxic ‘cancel culture’ to a less critical ‘call-out’ culture. How about we become a ‘coaching culture’ or a similar phrase I heard a ‘call-in’ culture? To cancel means “to stop giving support or withdrawing support.” How does that move things forward? “Cancel culture” does not lead to changes in opinion, only divides us farther and more frequently. We don’t have to publicly call out every mistake made. Former US President Barack Obama warned against social media call-out culture saying “People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and, you know, share certain things with you.”

The expression of ‘no pain-no gain’ centers on the principle that pain we feel today will be the strength we have tomorrow. I trust the unrest has been about creating pain to gain attention and focus that things must change. This pain should not destroy, it should not debilitate – it should challenge us and create new, additional muscle fibers. We should all feel the pain of change as we are far from perfect. To those ignoring this call to change, they will not grow, and there is pain with staying the same.

To form a more perfect union, we need to establish and promote the justice and welfare for all, preserve the rights and freedom for all, and in a peaceful manner for ourselves and future generations (sound familiar). In Romans, Chapter 12 the apostle Paul explains how Christians can function in their relation to one another and the state. We are set free to exercise good judgment as we are confronted with the many and varied decisions required during daily life. Those who offer encouragement to the community by exercising their faith, please God.

We are mortal and here for a limited period of time, possibly with fewer days than we think. Let’s be here to live and grow, building strengths, creating positive outcomes; to love all; to learn from others and trusted sources while seeking the whole truth; and to leave this place better than we found it. Jesus left every person, every place, every situation better than He found it. So can we!

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