“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

– Colossians 4:6

 

THE POWER OF WORDS

At an introductory meeting with a potential business contact to exchange ideas, I was confronted with a request that revealed the true intent of the meeting. After the normal exchange of introductions and pleasantries, I was asked by the other person if he could be my mentor for a fee of two hundred dollars an hour. I recoiled in my mind and wondered why someone would go into sell mode in the first five minutes. It revealed to me the man’s true purpose: not to exchange ideas as he had originally stated, but to harvest money. Because of that one question, I checked out of the meeting, having pleasantly continued just long enough to not offend him.

“When we talk long enough, our words reveal who we are.”

Over time, we learn to discover who is sincere and who isn’t. By listening carefully, we get the clues. It’s in what people ask and their level of interest in us. If it is sincere, the words will be in the form of questions to get to know us. We will know people’s level of interest in us by their use of the word “I” or “me.” Used too often these words indicate self-focus. Do the other person’s words suggest partnership? Is the language appropriate for the meeting? Is the context of his or her comments designed to explore or tell? Are the words gracious or are they demeaning? These are the clues we can derive from the words people use. When we talk long enough, our words reveal who we are.

“The Bible tells us the power words have and calls us to be cautious in what we say and how we say it.”

I was always amazed by Peter Brown, the treasurer of Foot Locker. He would come out of a meeting and tell me exactly what actually just got said. He deciphered this not only by the words that were used, but also by their timing and context. Peter himself was always interested in others. His words were almost always gracious, and people liked and trusted him. He was unfailingly polite and courteous. His words revealed a genuine interest in the other person. Words mattered to Peter, both in what he said and what he heard.

The Bible talks about the power of words and calls us to be cautious in what we say and how we say it. It asks us to be gracious and seasoned with salt. Salt symbolizing integrity and wisdom. People will hear this in our words. Not just in the words we say, but in when we use them. When our hearts are oriented toward being gracious and mutual, our words will flow in the same vein.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How do we prepare for an important meeting?

Do we think of the other person when we ask questions?

Do we seek our agenda or a mutual agenda?

 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Luke [12:34]

 

WHERE IS OUR TREASURE

Roger is a very successful dentist. Over a thirty-year period, his practice grew to be one of the largest and most respected in his local market, and he has sat on the state board of dentistry. He is a wonderfully protective father and a model husband. Roger’s practice didn’t grow because it was his goal to grow it. It grew because he strived to be the best dentist he was capable of being. As with all things in his life, his focus was on being the best at whatever he was involved in. His intention is always what is right.

“Jesus says that our heart follows our treasure.”

Many times in Roger’s practice he had to take financial losses to advance his professional ability to care for his patients. Each year he went to conferences to learn how to be a better dentist. Each time I went to his office, a new technique or machine was there to better serve my needs. Questions I would raise were always thoughtfully answered in an unhurried manner. I got to witness the professional development of his business over two decades. Many of the other dentists in the area started out strong, but only some, like Roger, grew. Many stayed in place. The trade-off of taking a larger paycheck instead of adding new technology constrained their practice. Over time it diminished their business.

Jesus says that our heart follows our treasure. For a successful business this gets to the root of why they are in business. The simple truth is that a choice must sometimes be made between making more money and being the best at what you do. Many companies, like Yankee Candle, focus on being the best. Yankee Candle has the highest customer likeability of all products sold in America. Like Roger, their focus is on providing the best product. The irony is that being the best costs money at first, but overtime provides long-term financial gains, while the pursuit of money produces a larger amount of money in the short term, a diminished revenue stream over the long term.

“When our treasure is to provide quality service, be responsive and a good follower of Christ, our customers see this in our business.”

Our customers see who we are and where our hearts are, when they are in our businesses. They silently approve or disapprove. When our treasure is to provide quality service, be responsive and a good follower of Christ, our customers see this in our business. When our focus is on money, we distort ourselves. In the short term it may pay off, but our customers see and our community sees. We know when we are following the right treasure, because we are excited about the morning. We enjoy our customers. we want to complete our tasks to the best of our ability. We feel secure.

Eventually, we all have to make this choice of where our real treasure lies.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What are examples of good customer service?

Why do we work?

Do we wake up every morning excited to go to work?

 

 

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

– Matthew [4:23]

 

A LIFE-AFFIRMING ELIXIR

We sometimes spend too much time in our inner castles. Many times in my counseling work, I will confront despair. A client will say, “Why don’t they want me?” or “I had a bad week.” When I probe why people feel this way, I often detect that they have spent most of the week by themselves, reflecting or doing self-analysis. It is hard to be alone, and sometimes we are alone even when we are with people. My clients will confess that they didn’t get much done on their “to do” list, which drove them further into themselves, over analyzing and being overly self-critical.

Jesus would sometimes go off to silent places to pray and meditate. Away from everyone. However, he preferred to be among the people. His ministry was dining with other people, walking to distant towns, curing the sick, or helping an individual with insight. It is moments like these moments that remind us most of Jesus. His ministry was an outward expression to others.

“When we walk among people, we receive an elixir.”

When we walk among people, we receive an elixir. An affirmation of ourselves. When we look someone in the eye and ask “How is your day?” we are affirming that person. An inner moment of joy occurs that tells the person he or she is good and worthy. When we ask and then listen, we hear stories about life. We get to know other people. They can share their dreams and worries with us. They are affirmed because we listened. For a moment they have a voice. We gave them a voice. And the sense of our own joy increases also. Our outward interest in other people provides us energy for our own tasks. When we are with others and listen, we receive.

“God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another.”

People like people who like people. I often say this in my sessions. At first it may appear to be self-serving. But if we are sincere about it, we can create a mutual bond. When Jesus walked among humankind, he knew his mission. To heal, and proclaim the good news, but also simply to be with humankind. Our inner castles are good places to rest and pray, but we can only stay for a while. God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another. Through outward expressions we find healing.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Are we sincere when we say good morning?

Do we ask or do we state?

What is the value of questions?

 

 

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seeds fell on the ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

– Mark 4:3-8

 

WHICH SEEDS ARE WE

Those of us who work in the marketplace often have annual performance reviews, during which our superiors tell us how we did. Some years we do very well, and others, not so well. Some review recommendations we listen to; others we don’t. In the parable of the sower, Jesus gives us a performance review template to help us assess where we are with our faith. The seed that fell on the path is one that never really gave faith a chance. The seed on the rock is one that wants faith, but does little to nurture its faith. The one in the thorns, while faithful, allows the worries of the day to strangle its faith. The seed in the good soil nurtures and is patient with its faith, and allows worries to disappear.

“Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.”

But are we just one of these seeds, or a mixture of all of these types of seeds? We are all affected by our circumstances and by situations we encounter. Our reactions to these circumstances affect our faith. Bad financial situations may cause us to worry. Our experiences with difficult people may cause us to give up our Christian values. When we reach a mental state where we feel we are in the good soil, situations inevitably arise that test our faith.

We all want to be the seed in the good soil, but in tough times we worry, become angered, or otherwise lose our composure. In doing so, we end up on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns. Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.

Donna, a successful business owner I know, told me once that she was prone to anger when confronted with a difficult person or situation. Over time, she learned to identify the triggers that affected her mood and her spirit. When this happened, she would mentally distance herself from the situation and tell herself to simply observe her surroundings, to take in information passively, while letting time and distance quiet her impulsive reactivity.

Peter, a former colleague, would pull me aside during difficult, high-stress situations and suggest the two of us go for a walk. We would head out to grab a snack while we talked about football. This was our way of creating space to prevent us from becoming reactive, which would ultimately move us farther from our goals.

We all want to be in the good soil, and we become frustrated that we aren’t there all the time. Learning to identify and deal with our triggers helps us stay on course. None of us is just one “seed” all the time, and when we find ourselves on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns, Jesus can help us find our way back to the good soil.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What situations move us from good soil?

How do we react to life’s difficult circumstances?

 

“The works of hands are faithful and just; his precepts are trustworthy”

– Psalms 111:7

 

HONEST ABE

Abraham Lincoln left his family at the age of twenty-one and became a store clerk in Salem, Illinois. He earned a reputation as being honest and sociable. To help defend this frontier outpost, he joined the local militia. To his surprise, after one year he was elected by the other members of the militia as their captain. A remarkable achievement for a twenty-three-year-old who was new to town. In a very short time he gained a reputation as a man of integrity, and his famous nickname, “Honest Abe,” was given to him during this period of his life.

Many of us from the marketplace are faced with the question of integrity on a daily basis. How do we handle a client’s money? Do we reveal everything or hold back important information? Do we consider ourselves justified because everyone else does it? We ponder and debate. We look for answers from within our hearts. We’re under pressure to complete a deal, to give our boss the right answer. We are constantly besieged with these crossroad decisions.

I was recently confronted by a supplier to pay for more work than had actually been completed. I knew he was wrong, but I paid him anyway. His attitude was that of entitlement. I had noticed that over time he had become more difficult in his billing practices and a little more forward in his requests. After I handed him the check, I decided to end our relationship and began to use other suppliers. After a while the man complained that I wasn’t giving him any business. I advised him I had found another supplier. He never asked why; he just got angry and stormed off.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

When we view our relationships from only one side, we find it harder to be honest. We begin to feel entitled and justified. We cross the boundary of fairness. Our short-term gains turn into a crisis of reputation. It happens slowly. Customers leave without telling us why. People begin to avoid us. Our reputation becomes a hidden curse. Proverbs 22:1 reminds us of this, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

When we treat our neighbors with respect and honesty, we may suffer short-term financial setbacks, but we build long- term relationships. Recently, I needed a moving company and asked around. I was told to use Company X, they were the best and most honest. I called them, and in our conversations, I asked, “Why don’t you advertise?” The company representative’s response was “We have more than we can handle from our referrals.”

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What are the questions we ask ourselves about fairness?

How do we resist the temptation of the short term?

How are your referrals?

 

“But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God”

– John [3:21]

 

EMBRACING THE LIGHT

Chris Gardner, the real-life main character in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, was at one time homeless, a foster child, a single dad, and penniless. He rose to be one of the first African-Americans to start a brokerage firm. When asked, “Where did you discover your faith?” He replied, “My mom, I chose to embrace the light I saw in my mom.” He goes on to say he could have embraced darkness like the other young men from his neighborhood but chose instead to embrace the light of Jesus.

Life wasn’t easy for Chris. An abusive stepfather forced him at times to live in a foster home. He enlisted in the navy and then moved on to start a business, selling medical devices. His business failed and his wife left both him and his two-year-old son. He then entered an internship program with Dean Witter, a brokerage firm. Unpaid for six months and with only a 5 percent chance of getting hired he sold all he owned. Along the way he and his son were evicted from their rented apartment, thrown out of a motel room, and slept in a subway station. He never gave up on his dreams. He followed “plan A” and embraced the light. Outwardly he expressed a positive and trustworthy attitude that allowed him to gain clients for his firm. He was unfailingly optimistic and faithful, and as you would guess, he became the stockbroker he wanted to be.

Seven years later he started his own firm. After twenty-five years of running a successful business, he sold his business and became a philanthropist and an inspirational speaker.

“Embrace the light of Jesus and press on. We are tested by obstacles. When we surmount our obstacles, we signal to God that we have faith.”

The last Gospel, John, encourages us to embrace the light. Light being many things that are good, but most importantly being the light of Jesus. The book of John uses the imagery of light as a contrast to darkness. Darkness representing evil, materialism, and a disregard of our neighbor; light being “the way” and an option to despair and broken dreams. When we have obstacles that prevent our path to the dreams we hold dear, the Gospel of John reminds us to embrace the light of Jesus and press on. We are tested by obstacles. When we surmount our obstacles, we signal to God that we have faith.

In the marketplace we are often confronted with compromises and shortcuts. Our dreams become diminished. We go along to get along. Our plan A becomes plan B. Chris Gardner’s plan was simple: do what gave him passion and be a good dad. He put this plan under the light of God. He succeeded and achieved his dreams. He stayed riveted and focused on both his dreams and God. He endured under impossible circumstances, motivated by his partnership with God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What are our dreams?

Are we centered with God with our dreams?

Are we willing to have a plan A or plan B?

Do we embrace the light or embrace darkness?