I’ve been to a lot of weddings, but none have touched me as deeply as the wedding of Michael and Merrill. A simple, beautiful wedding, held down by the river at Grace Chapel, it was deeply moving. Under an archway built of branches and with the sun setting at their backs, the couple exchanged beautiful vows they had written -“You have captured my heart.” And it was so evident that the Michael had captured Merrill’s heart. Her face was lit from within as the excitement about marrying the man she loved was reflected in every movement, facial expression and word. She couldn’t wait. Michael choked up over his vows. Their love was evident to all who attended and, of course, I cried.
Thirty years ago Bill and I exchanged our wedding vows – til death do us part. It’s been an adventure, a delight, and a blessing to be married to my spiritual warrior. It’s also been hard work – learning to truly listen, to respect and to give. The years have melded, molded, moved, and made us into a couple who cherish our time together. At our wedding, my grandmother gave me her best advice: Never go to bed angry. I didn’t know at the time that her advice came from the Bible – “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”(Eph 4:26) Jesus stood with Michael and Merrill at their wedding as they asked him to bless their marriage. He entered our marriage two years after we said our vows and captured our hearts. I think that’s why I cried at their wedding – it foreshadowed a future reunion of even greater excitement and beauty – with Jesus.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. – Song of Songs 8:6
Shirley Sherrod, an official with the USDA, was asked to resign via blackberry by Tom Vilsack based on an initial video and report of racism. I’m sure the spectre of media coverage sent panic through the USDA office, causing them to act in haste. Secretary Vilsack issued an apology today and offered her a new position. But the entire incident has some lessons for any leaders who want to operate with integrity.
(1) When accusations are made, take the time – despite media pressure – to get the facts straight. That includes interviewing all parties involved before making a decision.
(2) If you find wrong doing, take action to rectify the situation. If you find no wrong doing, have the courage to stand up for what’s right. In either case, craft your talking points carefully.
(3) Ms. Sherrod shared about lessons she’d personally learned about discrimination. Yet her words could have been better chosen. In today’s culture of media, YouTube, and video cameras on phones, careful planning of speeches and words is essential.
(3) We live in world where anyone can doctor a video clip, spin facts or distort the truth. Critical thinking and careful analysis of any issue we are researching is critical. Consider the source of the information – is it reliable? Is the source known for integrity?
We’re all human and make mistakes – this is one mistake on the part of Secretary Vilsack we can learn from.
A bald cardinal lives in our trees, feeding at the feeders and bathing in the birdbath. A quirk of nature gave him a body gloriously robed in brilliant scarlet, and a black head with an orange beak, but no red crown of feathers. He looks a little like a miniature red vulture. This cardinal doesn’t spend his days worrying about what the other cardinals think of him. He feeds, he bathes, and he flies – going on about life oblivious to his “different” looks. The other birds treat him no differently.
What would our world be like, if as humans, we didn’t worry about being different? About what people thought of us? Perhaps:
- The word bigot wouldn’t be in our vocabulary.
- The word harassment wouldn’t be in our vocabulary.
- The word racism wouldn’t be in our vocabulary.
- The word intolerance wouldn’t be in our vocabulary.
Instead the word respect would abound . We’d understand that all people matter, no matter what. We would show regard for the worth of people, valuing the dignity of race, gender, or faith. And the word integrity would abound. Instead of people pleasing, we’d worry less about what they think about us and instead just do what was important, right, and good. I think I’d like to live in a world where difference is celebrated. How about you?
Floyd Landis vs. Lance Armstrong. In the recent Wall Street Journal story, the two had drastically different claims about Armstrong’s participation in doping for the Tour de France. It’s a case of Solomon proportions. Solomon was the king of great wisdom who had to determine which of two mothers a baby actually belonged to. Both claimed the child. Solomon’s wisdom quickly determined who was lying.
When you hear two conflicting stories, how do you know which side to believe? Using the core principles in the book The Dichotomy of Power: Using Power with Intelligence and Integrity, here are some suggestions for the next time you’re faced with two very different versions of a situation.
Avoid jumping to conclusions based on initial information. Now is the time to think critically through the claims using these tools:
1) Analyze the arguments on both sides.
2)What observed, provable evidence exists for the claims?
3) Are there two or more eye witnesses?
3) Merge that evidence with the integrity and character of each person.
a) Do they have a record of speaking the truth? A record of reliability?
b) Is bitterness, anger, or hate underlying the comments of either person?
c) Is pride present? Humility? Pride and lies often go together.
I don’t know who is telling the truth. What I do know is that time will tell – for a lie is short lived, but truth endures.