Tag Archives: candor

Speak Your Mind | A Tribute

Bumper stickers not only entertain, amuse, and sometimes offend. They also educate.

I came across the following bumper sticker in the parking lot of Austin State Hospital several months ago: Speak Your Mind, Even if Your Voice Shakes.

Apparently the words originated from Maggie Kuhn, an elderly Presbyterian educator and activist, who I had no knowledge of until I googled her. After a forced retirement at 65 she went on to found the Gray Panthers, an advocacy initiative focused on social issues specific to the elderly and women.

Wikipedia notes that in her social gospel advocacy, she refused to give any of her seminarian students a passing grade unless they each one risked venturing out and away from their respective comfortable confines of neighborhood and church–to seek, find and involve themselves in local impoverished communities.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame records this of Kuhn–

“Her advice to activists interested in creating social change shows the strength of her convictions: ‘Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.'”

This blog isn’t about Maggie, however. It’s about my friend Will who passed away this week. Nevertheless, Maggie and Will evidently shared at least two commonalities: feistiness (scrappy/determined) and candor (speaking one’s mind).

I won’t sugar coat what is likely the truth about any individual who is feisty and candid: They’re not going to win a popularity contest–not on planet earth, anyway! That’s not to say they aren’t liked or loved, because Will will have more people attend his funeral than I’m sure will be at my own.

Let’s just say that Will had a will! He, like Maggie, was an influencer, a mover and a shaker, a seeker of the real and meaningful in life (versus platitudes and popular culture), an advocate of equitable and wellness of life and opportunity for all people.

One thing that endeared Will to me, but might repel you, was his unabashed use of expletives, especially when confronted by today’s all too common and pervasive gobbledygook religious and political perspective and power, which over time has assumed a venerable, yet erroneous inviolability as “truth-Truth with a capital ‘T'” (what I wish I hadn’t overheard one church-going man tell his four religious brothers at a Panera Bread table yesterday morning).

I’m going to miss my hour-long chats in his “office”–a patio situated just outside the back door, looking out on a small but beautifully landscaped garden with a loaded Meyer lemon tree.

I regret that I never shared a smoke with Will, similar to what close friends J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis did customarily with their pipes.

You’ll be greatly missed, always loved, and forever remembered my friend!

 

 

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Filed under Death and Dying, Life, Loss, Memories, Mentor, Perspective, Relationships, Religion and Faith

The Gift of “Cut To The Chase(rs)”

This morning I spoke plainly with my dawdling youngest daughter, because departure for school was rapidly approaching and she still had a number of daily and allocated responsibilities to complete (meds to take, teeth to brush, and, oh yes, the dishwasher to unload with the help of her older sister – a task that was allocated the previous afternoon!).

I told her, “You better speed up!  I assure you that you’ll be late to broadcast (she’s an in-school TV anchor for morning announcements) rather than us leave home with chores undone!” Do I even need to mention that she didn’t particularly like my message or my forthrightness?

Can you recall words and statements, expressed by never-t0-be-forgotten persons of influence (admired and hated), which stung like salt in even the smallest of open wounds, like a blister, BUT, which, you look back on with gratitude for the truth you needed to hear?

Early 2004 I remember one such occasion.  I was under pressure to finish my research dissertation and be able to graduate by May.  I e-mailed my advisor (and friend) what I thought was a decent, if not good concluding chapter.  After a few days wait he responded with this basic message, “Scott, this stinks! Re-write the chapter.”

Me & Advisor/Friend, William H. Brackney

Me & Advisor/Friend, William H. Brackney

Like my daughter, I didn’t much care for his response, let alone his candor. But, I knuckled back down and persevered through the tediousness of a concluding chapter re-write. The result?  Gratitude to my advisor for not allowing me to settle for mediocrity, or for wasting my time in circuitous efforts to soften the message I needed to hear.

Wiki defines “cut to the chase” as “getting to the point without wasting time.” Some individuals have a knack for compassionately cutting to the chase, while some people are more abrasive in their “cutting.”  Either way, personally speaking, I’m grateful for parents, friends, mentors, colleagues, and occasional acquaintances, who cared enough about my life and potential that they risked cutting to the chase with me.

I hope you can be so grateful as well.  AND, perhaps today will bring an occasion and opportunity, whereby you can return the favor to someone.  In so doing, however, remember to abide by Google’s informal motto  – “Don’t Be Evil!”

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Filed under Family, Memories, Mentor, Relationships

More Conversation and Candor, Please

This blog is an appeal for change.

As individuals, groups, communities, societies, even corporate and government, let us please resolve differences of opinion and feeling by a commitment to and practice of “More Conversation” (MOCO) and “More Candor” (MOCA). 

Candor – i.e., frank, sincere, open, transparent, blunt, direct, plainspoken, honest, and forthright.

Like Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign/slogan, why don’t we more often “Just Say It”?

“MOCO” is from Liz Ryan’s Harvard Business Review Blog, “We Approach Diversity the Wrong Way.”

As for “MOCA” . . . as Mike Myers, aka Austin Powers might express it, “It’s my own acronym, baby!”

My appeal for a MOCO/MOCA commitment might on the surface seem silly.  A no-brainer. Yet is it?

My point is this:

Unlike in many African and Asian countries, in much of the so-called Western world there are few, if any, cultural or social norms that exert pressure on individuals or groups to stick with and work through interpersonal conflict.

-Your best friend says or does something that hurts, offends or disrespects you? Disengage. Find another.

-Your pastor frequently speaks on topics that trouble your conscience?  Leave and find another church.

-Your parents persist and insist on managing your life? Go live elsewhere.

-Your neighborhood is morphing into a racial and cultural hue of a different kind? Relocate.

-Your spouse cheats on you?  Forget the kids’ well-being or any extenuating circumstances that precipitated this hurtful indiscretion, divorce the good-for-nothing. Refuse any efforts to reconcile.

Working through disagreement, differences and conflict is more often than not all-consuming for a time.

Sometimes sustained dialogue is unsuccessful in resolving differences, yet it often results at a minimum to understanding and respect for the other’s position.

Yes, the process of sustained engagement and dialogue might leave one feeling physically and emotionally comparable to clothes having been wrung through an old wringer washing machine. And, yes, I realize that life’s pace and socio-political complexities don’t always allow for such privileged hashing out of differences.

I’m not suggesting that we shout more, or be even more of an ass toward others than we already might be.

I am asking that we commit more time, effort and compassionate/empathetic candor to resolving differences and disagreements.

It might not make us popular in the short-term, but it will improve our long-term credibility, as well as strengthen relationships.

Perhaps Wendy Lea’s (CEO of Get Satisfaction) responses about entrepreneurship to The New York Times’ Adam Bryant are a fitting closure:

“If you think there’s a problem, there is. If your instincts say there’s something wrong, there is, and the longer you wait to tackle it, the worse it gets. I’m so tired of having to relearn that lesson. . . . I am open and willing to tell the truth that you need to hear, and I expect people to do the same with me.”

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