Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Attitude

Elimination or Adaptation?

Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated.

Lou Holtz

That’s one possible solution. The coach may bench an unmotivated player or cut him from the team. The boss in the workplace may be able to fire an unproductive worker. 

But not always.

There are three reasons for this. First, you can’t always get rid of problematic people. The lazy athlete may be more popular than the coach. The athlete may be protected by a stubborn administrator or irate parents or an ironclad contract. Or maybe nobody better is available.

Second, there may be better ways of motivating others: Being patient with them; showing them a better way; offering further training or opportunities; making the workplace more internally competitive. All these tactics might be better motivators than the threat of punishment.

Third, this approach overlooks the fact that success sometimes emerges from situations we can’t change. We may not be able to control our coworkers’ attitudes, but we can change ours. We may not be able to change the work others do, but we can improve ours. And, when all else fails, we could learn to be content with the situation. Yikes!

When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi, he was in jail at the time. Some of his fellow preachers took advantage of his imprisonment. They thought that since he was in jail, they could gain a competitive advantage over Paul. With him out of the way, they could advance their own ministries.

Paul’s response? “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice” (Philippians 1.15-18).

Paul couldn’t control his circumstances or theirs. He couldn’t change their motives or actions. So, he found the good in what they did, even if their motives were corrupt.

For us, maybe we can’t change someone else’s motivation, but we can change our own. Maybe we can’t change our circumstances, but we can certainly change our attitudes. Maybe we can’t get rid of our problems, but we can choose to thrive and grow anyway. 

It’s about doing whatever we can do, regardless of what others may or may not do. 

Of Bricks & Cathedrals

Two masons were working hard building a wall. A stranger stopped and asked, “What are you doing?” 

One of the men glared at him with a scowl and snarled, “I’m laying bricks! What do you think?”

The other man smiled at him with a gleam in his eyes and said, “I’m building a cathedral!”

The difference between the two men wasn’t what they were doing, but how they perceived what they were doing. One man had vision, while the other didn’t. The same thing applies us. It’s the difference between going through the motions and using imagination in our work. It’s the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Biblically, it’s the difference between Simon and Peter. In John chapter one, Andrew introduced his brother Simon to Jesus. We’re told (John 1.42), “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).” The name Peter was the Greek word petros, which meant a rock. In the gospels, Peter is anything but a rock: he’s rash, brash, boastful, cocky, and foolish, and at the end of the gospels, he publicly denies Jesus three times. But John also records that Jesus restored him in the end (John 21). So, when we get to the book of Acts, Peter (the Rock) becomes a source of strength and encouragement to his fellow apostles and fellow Christians in the early days of the church. Jesus had vision – he saw Simon for what he could become.

This kind of vision transforms everything we do. Typing an email becomes an act of communication. Staring at a spreadsheet becomes strategic business planning. Pulling weeds becomes landscaping. Laying tile becomes interior design. 

It also transforms our lives as Christians. Planning your monthly budget becomes stewardship. Sunday church attendance becomes worship. Studying your Bible becomes a spiritual feast. Socializing with other Christians becomes fellowship. Visiting the sick becomes serving the body of Christ.

Whatever your job, and however mundane you may think it is, apply imagination, perspective, and vision, and you’ll completely transform your attitude about your work.

Are you laying bricks or building cathedrals? The choice is yours.