Saturday, June 13, 2015

Resolving Conflict vs. Solving Problems

I’m often asked about how leaders resolve difficult issues.   One of the things that leaders are required to do, if they lead well, is to be able to handle the more difficult issues in a way that brings reconciliation and resolution.

When I was in industry, one of the common responses I heard too often from many of the managers is that a particular difficult decision was, “above their pay-grade.”

Resolving conflict is an issue that Jesus addressed as well.   Jesus recommended that a person giving a gift at the altar go quickly and resolve a conflict (Matthew 5:23).  In Matthew 18 the instructions that Jesus gave to the church included 1) going directly to the individual, 2) bringing others into the issues when necessary, and 3) finally, telling it to the church.

We all need to follow the Biblical instruction on resolving conflict.   One of the additional comments that I offer in these circumstances is that there is a difference between resolving an issue and solving a problem.

Leaders would benefit in understanding that not every problem can be solved, however, leaders have the opportunity as well as the responsibility of resolving conflict and making the difficult decisions.

Resolution doesn’t mean the issue has been solved; it means that leadership has made a decision.   They have dealt with the issue conclusively.  As it has been resolved, it is finished or done.  The resolution can then be communicated where necessary, and it is no longer an issue that needs to be addressed.

Often, the resolution may not be ideal but may be necessary based on the present understanding, resources and needs of the organization.    Leaders can and must make the tough decisions.   Leaders are unfortunately often the last to know when and others are looking to them to act and act decisively when conflict is becoming destructive or even distracting.

Monday, June 01, 2015

When Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things

When you think about it, the old idiom “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is just dumb. Today we understand how harmful words can be. Recently CBS did a special called “Bullying: Words Can Kill.”[i] Even as a child, I knew that words can and do hurt. Children find this out very quickly when they experience and often join in on name calling. Simple and complete nonsense words such as Dumbo, Dopey, and brainiac can cause embarrassment and a feeling of being an outcast. Children learn the stylistic and memorable quality of consonance early, and I’ve noticed with my children and now my grandchildren that names such as Fat Freddy, Smelly Sally, and Nerdy Nelly never seem to go out of style.
        I was in third or fourth grade at St. Joseph’s Catholic School when a small group of us decided to form our own informal club. Some of the older boys in some of the upper grades had started a Secret Agent Club. Sean Connery starred as James Bond in the 1965 theatrical release of Goldfinger. Our mothers wouldn’t allow us to see it. The Catholic Church had a posted list of movies that were OK and those we were to avoid. Their ratings, from A to L and O (for offensive), preceded by decades today’s ratings of G, PG, PG-13, and R and carried a lot of weight with Hollywood in general and my mom in particular. Since we couldn’t see the movie and the older boys didn’t want us in their club, we decided to start our own.

            My friends and I all enjoyed comic books, so we started a club that was all about them. We would buy DC and Marvel comics for only twelve cents. However, the price soon changed to fifteen cents, and a double issue was easily a quarter. My friend Mike Baron came up with the idea, and about half of the boys in Sister Annunciata’s class were part of our club, which we ended up calling the Legion, short for the Legion of Super Heroes. Each of us had our favorite hero or villain. In reality it was a comic book exchange club, but to us it felt like something heroic.

My favorite was always Superman, and I wasn’t that particular about whether he was the younger Superboy or Superman, or whether he was the Clark Kent of Smallville or Metropolis. He could fly and bend steel with his bare hands; bullets bounced off of him, and he was my hero.

            I think all of us love heroes, as they have a way of encouraging us to do things we normally wouldn’t do. When it comes to real-life heroes, someone very wise once said, “Heroes are not extraordinary people but ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

            In the early church, God called a group of ordinary people to do extraordinary things; we call them martyrs. The word martyr comes from the Greek word mártys and originally just meant “witness.” However, when these early converts to Christianity found themselves with the choice between recanting their faith and denying Jesus Christ or remaining faithful, they remained faithful. This was a life-and-death decision. Even the historical accounts are hard to read, as the martyrs often faced death in the Roman Colosseum as morbid entertainment for the masses. The more fortunate were killed by ax or sword, but many, perhaps thousands, were lit on fire as human torches by Emperor Nero, whose use of many Christians in this manner to give light in the evenings in Rome is very well documented.

            The Bible records that the believers were first called Christians in Antioch, in modern-day Turkey (Acts 11:26). One of the first bishops and early fathers of the church was St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was a disciple of John the apostle, and the emperor Trajan martyred him in Rome.

The persecution of the early church and the resulting martyrdoms of hundreds of thousands of Christian witnesses started under Roman Emperor Nero (AD 64–68) and, according to tradition, included both the apostles Peter and Paul during Nero’s reign. Initially Rome considered Christianity a sect of Judaism and for years had given the Jews a special exemption to believe and worship as they pleased. This Jewish exemption was not unique, as the Roman Empire actually had been fairly tolerant of various religions as Rome spread its rule across Europe, into Asia and Northern Africa.

These Christian witnesses of the first and second centuries, however, were different. They seemed deliberately hostile toward the gods of the Roman Empire and the sacrifices that were the obligation of all Roman citizens. Ultimately they refused to participate in the offerings to the Roman gods. As a result Romans accused Christians of being atheists. These early Christians called their weekly gatherings “pure sacrifices” as opposed to “offerings to demons,” as they characterized the religion of the pagans. Persecution broke out for a number of reasons against the Christians and lasted for three hundred years, until Emperor Constantine claimed Christianity as his religion, which ended Christian persecution.

It’s important to note that these early witnesses, these martyrs or early Christian saints, were members of the Body of Christ but were likely unfamiliar with the terms we use today to describe the church. Along with the word, Christian, which was first used of the believers in Antioch,[ii] some of the other and more common words to describe early believers in Jesus included the Way and the Nazarenes.

This early group of believers was a mixed group. History tells us many were Jews and Jewish converts who embraced Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Their theology was still developing. Often it included a combination of Jewish traditions and rabbinical teachings combined with early Christian letters. These were the words of Jesus and the writings of the apostles Peter, James, John, and Matthew, as well as the other collections that would become the New Testament. Their gatherings and worship services were varied and diverse, without a formal liturgy or established leadership structure. They believed they would see the return of Jesus Christ in their lifetime. They were willing to make extreme sacrifices for their faith, believing that Jesus would soon be coming.

From an excerpt from the book, "Roaming Catholics: ending the wandering to embrace the wonder" available on Amazon and your local Christian Bookstore 

[i]. CBS News, “Bullying: Words Can Kill,” September 23, 2013,
[ii]. Acts 11:26.

The Real Virus Is Fear

There is a virus that is attacking and ravaging this country but it is not Covid-19.   It is fear.  This fear is being spread by people ...