Nov 192013
 

Recently I’ve been pretty interested in what true leadership really looks like. After a few searches on the Internet, I’ve noticed that most articles written have to do with being a successful business leader. While being a successful leader in the “business world” is quite a wonderful thing, some of the qualities listed in those articles I have a hard time agreeing with. So from there I turned to my favorite resource for everything which is commonly referred to as “The Bible.” Jesus, being the Son of God and God himself was the ultimate leader. Using Him as a guide and some other Biblical figures, I started researching what a real leader is.

I believe that as with most things in our lives, we tend to have a somewhat twisted view on truth and reality. Although Jesus was (and is) the Son of God and the promised Messiah, the Pharisees were unable to believe that He was who He said He was. As a self-titled “long time” Christian, I often forget myself that I could easily do the same thing. So I asked myself the question, “If a Christlike leader were standing right beside me, would I recognize him?” The answer I came up with was, “probably not.”

As with all good things that come from God, there is always a counterfeit. Oftentimes, living in the world that we do we are trained to seek after the counterfeit. We use our parents or other figures growing up in our lives as examples for what good qualities in true leadership looks like. That can become pretty dangerous when parents are abusive or even just simply imperfect. We already reviewed in a previous article how this could affect the type of person we seek to marry and how we behave while dating. Although, there are also good things we learn from our parents and I am not saying that looking for good leadership qualities in people who really possess them is a bad thing.

Now, there exist a ton of counterfeit leadership qualities. Arrogance, which is fake confidence, is very attractive to people. Charisma, which is fake genuineness, is a compelling trait to be around. Power is intoxicating. Strength, the false kind AKA “in flesh,” is reassuring. Confinement, which often appears as legalism or imposing limitations, can make us feel safe and secure.

Leaders that subscribe to the rest of the world’s leadership theories, or “Worldly Leaders,” have qualities that come from and are made to uphold their own pride and protect their insecurities. However, people find these qualities somehow attractive and appealing. Worldly Leaders are more concerned with being in the limelight. They would rather be leaders in the view of people and only exist as the face of leadership. However, they do not possess any of the real leadership qualities that Jesus possessed.

I believe that all Christians are called to be leaders. The most simple example being when we become parents. We will have to lead and direct our kids. Also, we are leaders in our own social circles, with our friends, our jobs, and any other place where we are being called to shine light. However, the leadership that we are called to does not have the same flair as the rest of the world’s. So let’s review the less attractive traits of leadership.

Leaders recognize that leadership is not about them.

John (the Baptist) recognized that Jesus was the one that he was preparing the way for. John had disciples himself, and a following, but he still deferred to Jesus.

John says himself, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11). John wasn’t concerned about his ministry, or people leaving his church to go follow Jesus. He wasn’t concerned about his position as a leader, and he wasn’t threatened. He understood his own calling and gifts and was secure in that. Leaders are not concerned with losing their status because they have a security in who they are and where they are appointed.

Jesus sent out His disciples to do His work. He wanted to train them, teach them, and give them confidence and wasn’t worried about losing face. He wasn’t worried about letting go control of them.

We see in Matthew 10:5-6 that Jesus sends out His disciples and giving them a command before they go. Also, even in the story of the loaves and the fish in Matthew 14, we notice that after Jesus blesses the food, He gives the baskets to his disciples to hand out. Leaders are not concerned with controlling every aspect of people or even people gaining glory over them.

Jesus could have done everything Himself instead of sending His disciples out and He could have even done it all better, but instead He chose to send His disciples out. However, leaders want to disciple, encourage, and train their people. They do not want to confine, they want to give freedom and build confidence in their people.

Leaders understand authority and that they are not the ultimate be-all-end-all. Leaders cannot be leaders if they cannot be submitted to authority and take correction. Leaders cannot themselves be rebellious.

In the Kingdom of Heaven, there is an authority structure. Jesus said “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.” (Matthew 10:24-25). We are all under some type of authority, even in God’s kingdom. We are called to be submitted to our pastors (and other spiritual authorities), parents, our government (most of the time), etc. God has set up a definite authority structure in His kingdom and when we are in line with that, we position ourselves to be blessed.

Jesus also commends the centurion when he comes to Jesus to ask for healing for his paralyzed servant. Jesus offers to personally to go and heal the servant and in return the centurion refuses. He says, For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8:9). When Jesus heard this he was amazed by His faith and understanding of authority. When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10). The centurion understood this authority, and because of this Jesus healed the servant without going to visit him.

Leaders understand that there are people more capable than they are and have talents and gifts that they do not. They know when to step out of the way. They do not try to do everything themselves or take all of the glory for themselves.

Take the story of Jonathan and David. Jonathan, being Saul’s son, was rightfully in line for the kingdom. However, Jonathan understood that David was anointed by God to be the king of Israel. He was not threatened, but instead says to David, “You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” (1 Samuel 23:17).

Instead, leaders know how to surround themselves with talented people and embrace that they cannot possible be good at everything. They are masters at encouraging in truth and bringing out gifts in others. They recognize that this is mutually beneficially.

Leaders are not concerned with being the star of the show.

They understand that it is the Kingdom of God and not their own kingdom. They are not concerned with how big or small their role appears to be, but they recognize that their role is of infinite importance. Whether they are actually to become the face of leadership where people can see, or only operating behind the scenes refreshing and encouraging, they are still leaders.

Leaders will be spoken ill of and gossiped about.

Leaders will take the blame for things that aren’t even theirs to be blamed for. They will be made scapegoats and receive persecution. The Bible promises this.

And we all thought that because we became Christians life would magically become easy. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth. Jesus offers up this little tidbit about the matter, “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:21-22). In other words, there will be some really awful stuff happening when you go and preach My words, and you will be blamed for all of it. That is some pretty heavy stuff.

Furthermore, Jesus speaks about what the criteria where we will be spoken ill of. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” (Matthew 11:18-19). So, pretty much no matter what we do we will be spoken ill of. Leaders understand that it is far better to be themselves and be truthful with all men than to please people, as they understand that people-pleasing only benefits for but a season, and fades quickly.

The Pharisees blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. They spoke terribly ill of Jesus. The Bible promises the same for any Christian. However, in the defense of the Pharisees, and just to be honest about my own heart, would I recognize the Jesus that eats with sinners and drinks wine? Or would I as well be judgmental and exclude Him from my list of leaders?

Leaders bring to this world a great light. Light shines in the darkness and causes people to be uncomfortable and angry. Light will tear darkness apart..

People trapped in “darkness” will not like it when light is shined into those places. Those places remain in the darkness for a reason. Jesus promises, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” (Matthew 10:40). The inverse is also true that he who does not receive Jesus also will not receive us. We will all be gossiped about and our names slandered.

However, leaders still love those who gossip about them.

They may hate gossip, as clearly God does as well, but they adhere to the characteristics of love. Love thinks no evil and believes all things. One who leads in love will do the same.

Leaders are held to a higher standard.

Leaders are in a position of being looked up to. The world watches to see what they will do and how they will act in the toughest of situations. It may not seem like the case, but they carry a great influence with them and in the most unexpected of places. They are held to such a standard.

Jesus tells us very clearly, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19). Teaching is a hard thing to do. I hear it said in Japanese, 教えるには、3倍理解しないといけない. Or “in order to teach, you have to understand (the matter) three times over.” Leaders are teachers. They are held to the same standard.

To make matters worse, Jesus says again “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6). Leaders have the ability to lead people. They have the ability to lead people also into a trap. They will be held accountable for that.

Leaders need to be right even in their hearts. They cannot be double minded or double tongued. They have to watch what they do in secret. They must be found blameless.

To quote the apostle Paul, “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.” (1 Timothy 3:8-10). Leaders are under some pretty rough scrutiny. If they do not walk blameless lives themselves, they can easily train others to do the same.

Whether or not we wish to believe it ourselves, we are also being watched by others. How we respond to situations affects the lives of others as well. Our decisions to get involved with foul language or even to be given to too much drinking has an impact on people. I remember when I was going through a rough patch in my life and I told somebody slightly offhandedly that I didn’t know why I was alive. The person looked at me with scared eyes and said with desperation, “if you committed suicide I would question my faith.” I knew then that my actions and even feelings have influence on others.

Leaders are also acquainted with this truth, Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, But he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall. (Proverbs 28:18). The Bible has it written over and over that God avenges His people. We need only to walk blamelessly and rely on Him.

People want to bring down leaders to their level, but they have to remain unchanged.

Standing on the “moral high-ground” causes others to become uncomfortable, and sometimes can even offend. For example, choosing not to have a drink at an occasion may cause another to say “Oh so you’re one of those?” Leaders understand that even under peer pressure or other sorts of pressures that they must remain in their integrity. If they give in to the demands of others they are no longer teaching, but enabling bad behavior. Leaders must make themselves exempt from even things like participating in gossip.

The Pharisees even egged Jesus on, Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” (Matthew 12:38). Jesus denies them and does not perform a sign. The Pharisees did not really want to see a sign in order to believe in Him, and Jesus knew their hearts.

Leaders are faithful even when nobody is watching (in the secret place).

Jesus tells us that even our charitable deeds cannot bring us fame.

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1). This is just an overall command. Along with this He attaches a promise, “…your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:4) So the promise is that our acts in secret will have rewards in the open.

The hardest battles for a leader will be in secret, in the prayer closet, and in the heart. Nobody will see these accomplishments.

A classic example of this is found in the story of David and Goliath. Before David received permission to face off against Goliath, he tries to convince Saul to let him fight. But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

Unbeknown to the world, David had already been fighting battles. He fought against both a lion and a bear. He may not have been well known for it, but in those moments he was still being prepared to be a leader. As a result of those accomplishments in secret, he was now ready to conquer Goliaths. Leaders have battles in secret that have direct effects on things that will happen in public. Most of these battles will take place in prayer.

Leaders will be asked to lay down their lives even where nobody will see and there will not be any reward in sight. Their decisions in secret will affect the lives of many.

When there was a plot by Haman to destroy all of the Jews during the reign of the king Ahasuerus, Esther sought to gain the favor of the king to reverse the plot by Haman. However, she was not called by the king so in her doing so she would put herself in danger. She explains her dilemma to Mordecai, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.” (Esther 4:11).

Regardless, Esther appears in the inner court to seek the king. She knew that if she was put to death she would die a silent death and nobody would know of her brave action. The king did hold out his golden scepter and Esther did live. As a result of this, later on at a banquet she pleaded with the king, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king’s loss.” (Esther 7:3-4). Those words won her the favor of the king and saved the Jews from being killed.

Again referring back to David and the time when he was running from king Saul who sought after his life, he found himself with the opportunity to take the life of the man who was seeking his life. David was a man who understood God’s timing and laws, and says to his men who urged him to take Saul’s life, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 24:6). This decision in secret affected the outcome of things for generations to come.

Leaders build communities, relationships, strengthen friends, and do all of these things behind the scenes.

Building a community is a difficult task. Even keeping relationships can sometimes be onerous and difficult. Most of the work is done in secret and little by little, piece by piece. However, leaders understand the importance of this.

Leaders are humble (secure in themselves and in love).

Leaders are not afraid to be walked on, and to the rest of the world it may not seem manly or leader-like. It may just seem like they are being taken advantage of and that they are weak.

Jesus turned the world upside-down with the command, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 4:48).

Leaders are secure in themselves in all things. Being secure in themselves they are also humble, and more readily understand the hurt in others. They understand that hurt people hurt, and their goal is to restore and help people. That they have the power to do that in love, and they stand firm in that truth.

Alternatively, it is a good point to say that leaders also need healthy boundaries. I do believe that even Jesus walked the earth with healthy boundaries. However, I believe that He harped more on the side of being more giving than having boundaries because we humans are quick to go only in one direction. We are quick to put up walls because of fear or other such things. Jesus sought to bring those walls down so that we could see and love people for who they really are.

Proper boundaries are only effective when they are beneficial to the other person. They are oftentimes misused, but when in place for the right reasons we cease to enable people in their bad habits and bring them to a more Christlike place. Showing the mercy and love of Christ includes having boundaries that are healthy for the other person.

Interestingly enough, also, Jesus says later on Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48). Apparently loving your enemies and doing good to hose who hate you helps us to be perfect. I wonder how that works.

Leaders are the least. They have a secure knowledge of themselves being rooted in God, which to the rest of the world may appear as a weakness.

Jesus says it Himself, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matthew 11:11. Leaders who push their people forward will naturally find themselves being more in the background. After all, leaders are not called to be great but to make other people great. In doing so they will have to become the least. It’s only natural.

Leaders are gentle and lowly in heart. They have no need to overpower or take by force. They know that compassion is their greatest weapon, and they bear the fruit of gentleness.

Jesus, the ultimate leader, reminds us of a very important part of His character, “…for I am gentle and lowly in heart…” (Matthew 11:29). It’s interesting to see that all of the power that Jesus possessed through the Father. He says Himself that if He had wanted He could call upon the Father and have over twelve legions of angels at His disposal (Matthew 26:53). However, He chooses to be gentle. He chooses to come in meekness. He chooses to come in love and compassion. That is the true power of a leader.

Also, we can take a look at how the Holy Spirit leads us in our hearts. The Holy Spirit never tries to drive or force us to do anything. He merely leads gently and impresses upon our hearts in love. The gentle and lowly character of God is very beautiful and amazing. It is something to aspire to for all leaders.

Leaders don’t need to answer for themselves in the sight of men. They are not afraid to risk being made to look bad.

Leaders know when it is appropriate to stand up to adversity and when to be quiet. They understand that defending themselves may not be beneficial, and they know how to pick their battles. They do not let their insecurities work in them behind the scenes to drive them to be on the same level as those who would oppose.

Jesus demonstrates this when He was questioned about His authority. Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:23-25).

However, they did not answer Him because of their own fears. Nor did He answer their original question. Jesus did not need to please all people and answer to all men.

Leaders are meek. Meekness is quiet and docile. It does not become provoked and is submissive and compliant. They can be easily unnoticed by the world.

For it is written, “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). It doesn’t seem very clear what that means in full, however I could imagine that inheriting the earth is a big responsibility. God would have to entrust that to some pretty good leaders. If meekness is the criterion for it, then it seems that it must somehow be connected.

Leaders are to be lowly and gentle, for with these weapons they are able to be peacemakers and bring unity. Leaders bring unity.

As Paul so nicely put it, I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3).

There is much to be said of lowliness and gentleness. Acting in such ways will definitely require a longsuffering in love. However, in keeping peace and unity there is no other way. Leading in fear will not suffice. Making people follow out of compulsion will fail yet still. Peacemaking and unity is about leading in love. That is the glue that holds it all together.

Also, it is worth mentioning that Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9). A wonderful thing indeed to be called sons of God.

Leaders have a broken and contrite heart.

Broken and repentant hearts are unassuming and easily teachable. They are easy to be around and can understand their own faults as well as grow quickly in humility. Leaders have a depth and deepness within themselves stemming from such a heart. Those who are like-hearted are also attracted to leaders like this.

Again to quote Jesus in His famous beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). As though being poor in spirit, or broken and humble, has a direct relation to inheriting the kingdom of heaven. That’s a big responsibility, and an exciting prospect.

God gives us more of His promises about how He feels about the humble of heart in the Psalms, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17) And also in, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18).

Maybe it’s hard to see why God values the brokenhearted so much. It’s easier to look at what the opposite looks like. Imagine trying to talk sense into somebody who is thickheaded, rebellious, and unyielding in their attitude. They are much harder to teach and probably won’t learn anything. They even become harder to deal with as people and tend to change less over the years, if at all.

On the opposite end, somebody with a repentant heart who is willing to listen, look at themselves, and leave room for change will grow much faster. Better is a leader who adapts and grows than a stubborn tyrant who is very one-sided. Which would be more preferable?

As a side note, this does not mean that leaders walk around brokenhearted and downcast. This merely expresses a state of mind of humility. Humility is not self-deprecation but a healthy view of oneself based in truth. Actual humility comes with the security of one’s own self worth. It is a good place to be.

Leaders are not afraid to be unpopular.

Leaders will be tempted with false power, but the power is false. The true power we have inherited from God, and it is the love that we have.

The best example of being tempted with false power we find when The Devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness, Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9).

Notice that Jesus, being the son of God, already inherits the heaven and the earth. All that the Father has is already His. However, The Devil tries to tempt Him with power that is false.

Leaders will experience the same. Having followers, or people under them, leaders will be tempted to use that to feed a sense of power. However, that power is actually false. There is never any power in the number of people that a leader leads, but merely the kingdom that they already inherit. Leaders, as well as all of us, already possess the kingdom being joint heirs (Romans 8:17). Therein the true power lies.

Leaders speak truth.

In society, people tend to mistake gifts and talents in others for good character. Good looks and charm can be deceiving, but somehow leadership becomes a popularity contest. People become more focused on the gifts rather than the character of the person who has the gifts.

And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. (1 Samuel 9:2). We see that Saul was handsome and tall. It would make sense that he should lead because he looked like he could. However, as we see the story progress, he turns out to be a little bit crazy and the kingdom was promised to a scrawny boy named David who just happens to have killed a giant.

On the contrary, Paul was not as eloquent a speaker as some who would preach a different doctrine in his time period. In his letters he writes, For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles. Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge. But we have been thoroughly manifested among you in all things. (2 Corinthians 11:5-6). Paul may not have been able to compare to the sophistication of those who taught otherwise, but he spoke the truth. God deemed that more important, and chose to stand behind Paul’s ministry.

Also along with false leadership gifts, we have charm. Charm seems to have quite an effect on people. However, to quote proverbs, Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing… (Proverbs 31:30).

It is far easier to be charming than it is to be truthful. It is much easier to have people like us than it is to speak words that could possibly cause the opposite. Leaders are respectable, and value truth over being liked. Their true charm is in their genuineness, which they are not afraid to express.

Leaders hang around with people who will not necessarily help their “career.” They are not afraid to hang out with “losers” nor how they will look hanging out with them. They are more concerned about loving people than their own status.

Leaders are established by God (Romans 13:1), and their connections are given by God. They do not need to step on people of lesser social status or with seemingly no value in order to attain to what they need. They just need to follow the example of Jesus and who He hung around with.

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10,11).

As far as business goes, I’d say Jesus was even smarter than those who may seek to further their careers. Even the “losers” of society possess beautiful and amazing gifts that are just waiting to be groomed and brought out. How much more is the loyalty of somebody who has been loved even when they felt unlovable and seen for who they are?

Leaders do not need to perform in front of the sight of men. They don’t need to people-please.

Leaders recognize that pleasing people or even showing off isn’t meant to bring them glory or recognition. It is only for the benefit of others that they would ever consider doing these things. Again, Jesus shows us this in His example of when the Pharisees demanded a sign from Him (Matthew 12:38). However, Jesus knew their hearts. He knew a sign would benefit them none, so the son of God who could clearly do miracles, chose to abstain for the benefit of others. He was unconcerned about how He looked by saying “no.”

Leaders offend people. Leaders bring with them the convicting light of Christ, which is foolishness to the world. They turn the world upside-down with the truth. That truth will offend this evil world. Leaders care more about bringing truth and changing hearts than about popularity and self gain.

Offense is sort of an interesting topic. It is something that we can spend a lot of time talking about, and there are plenty of people speaking about it. It is clear to me, though, that the Bible teaches that offenses are not a bad thing if done correctly.

When Jesus was doing miracles in His hometown, the people were saying about Him “is this not the carpenter’s son?” And finally it says “so they were offended at Him.” (Matthew 13:53-57). Also, in another situation when He had said one of His many rebuking things to the Pharisees, His disciples came to Him and said, “do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” Jesus, of course, knew this.

Offenses can be good things. If leaders, and all Christians, bring to the dark world a light that will shine into that darkness, the darkness will naturally become afraid of it. Practically, people do not like their dirty laundry being aired out or things that they are trying to hide, consciously or subconsciously, being exposed. That sort of thing will bring offenses. Leaders will naturally bring offenses.

Jesus promises two things about offenses, “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:7). The first thing He promises is that offenses must come. They will come. If not through you or I, through somebody else. The second thing that He promises is that the person doing the offending, will have it pretty rough.

Conversely, not all offenses are good and beneficial. The Bible tells us to do all things in love. Paul’s famous epistle on love (1 Corinthians 13) reminds us that if we do things without love it has no eternal value and profits us nothing. So if we are to offend, we should be offending in love. It might sound like a paradox, but that was part of Jesus’ ministry!

Although, even Jesus, when His disciple Peter inquired of Him about paying the temple tax, agreed that He should pay it. The reason He gives for paying it is “lest we offend them” (Matthew 17:26-27). So, as we clearly see even in our own lives, there is such a thing as negative offenses.

Leaders are servants.

Perhaps the most clear point in the Bible (or at least in the New Testament) is that Jesus was (and is) a servant to all. He set the example for leaders to come after Him. There are many scripture verses to back up this statement, but one stands out in particular.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28).

This is the sort of thing that turns our regular view of things upside-down. Leaders will have authority. Leaders will naturally have power. But even still, they will be but mere servants. That is what makes them real leaders.

One of my favorite stories about servant-hood, comes from Perry Stone. Perry was asked how it is that he became to have a big enough ministry that he was on TV. Perry then gave the person his secret. He said that he started out by scrubbing toilets, and to be big in ministry, you have to scrub toilets.

I wanted to test out this theory, and finally I had a chance. One day a friend of mine had invited me to her church, and on this particular day she had toilet cleaning duty. Naturally, I jumped in and volunteered to help. As I was doing so, I was met with so much appreciation by people in the church. People came up to me and introduced themselves, thanking me for cleaning their toilets. Some even gave me their business cards and offered me free services from their trade. I was amazed that the power of cleaning toilets really had.

In Conclusion

If it were that God’s Word was not true, and that all of humanity was on its own, then none of these things would ever work. What makes a true leader a leader is that the God of the Universe is behind him. There is a Supernatural Element that backs him up. It is good to remember that all of these qualities are useless and have no power in themselves, but in Christ, they are infinitely powerful.

Mar 212013
 

I haven’t posted in this Blog in forever. Well, not necessarily forever, but it’s been quite a long time. I would love to get back into the habit of writing more inspired posts, and I think in season those will return. As for now, I’ve been pretty busy coding and working on some new things.

My latest personal venture is a new App called Prayer Catch. It’s an App that allows you to post prayers, commit to pray for other people’s prayers, and manage your own personal prayer lists. It was a lot of fun to work on, although to be completely honest I worked on it so much I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it for a little while.

As it usually happens when I get into a deep programming trance, I stopped eating properly, slept less, pushed everything social aside, and just programmed day and night. Honestly, it’s never healthy and it causes some serious anxiety and small bouts of depression, but the end result isn’t so bad! The App is released, isn’t it? Isn’t it?! Well, next time I should probably make more of an effort to not overdo it and stop programming like there is no tomorrow. There was a tomorrow. There always was.

The idea and inspiration did not originate with me. My wonderful friend Michele came up with the idea and she deserves the credit for it. The images and color planning were done by my friend Brian and lastly my business partner Kenya has been helping as well. Maybe I am a really smart and talented guy, but I can’t do everything by myself! There are people who are more talented and more inspired than I am in different areas, and I love that there are.

If you are able to please download the App and “give it a shot.” If you are feeling particularly frisky you can even rate it! Please e-mail my or comment on any bugs or feature requests. Pray that this App will be big!

Nov 172012
 

I have been away for a little bit. Most of my absence was due to Hurricane Sandy. Well, now that I think about it, all of my absence was due to Hurricane Sandy. I have learned quite a lesson from this “little” hurricane. I have learned that truly all things can change in an instant and there is no guarantee that things will ever be the same after they have been changed. Indeed there are no guarantees in life.

The hurricane began for me on the night that it “hit” on Monday, October 29th, 2012. That day before the storm, I was programming my new website project that I’ve recently started developing. All day my friends had been texting (as in cell phone SMS Messaging) me telling me that I was crazy for not evacuating. With also the news and the state of New York telling me to evacuate along with the dreary and evil-portending skies, I was getting a bit nervous. It’s slightly more of a challenge to work with strained nerves.

I live on the south shore of Long Island. If a major hurricane were to hit, I would most certainly be under water. If a cataclysmic hurricane hit, I would be dead likely. However, the last hurricane that hit, Hurricane Irene, was also supposed to be bad. The news also had told all residents on the south shore to evacuate for Hurricane Irene as well. However, Hurricane Irene proved to be much unlike the news said it would be. Now I realize that I was fortunate that it was not as devastating, as predicted. In either case, this time I had decided against evacuating.

The first taste of Hurricane Sandy came about during the early hours of 7 AM, which was the first high tide. The “storm surge” had brought the waters up out of the channels and the bays and brought them closer to people’s homes. I received pictures from my family who live closer to the bay in the same town. The first high tide was exactly the same as Hurricane Irene’s worst. The waters receded before they became worse, but this was only the first high tide. The second high tide would occur at 7 PM, which would be during the height of the storm.

As the weather-people predicted, the when 6 PM approached the winds started blowing and the rain came down. Hurricane Sandy had started. Not much time had passed since then that the electricity had failed. Candles, flash-lights, and cell phones were then all that I had left to keep myself occupied. I ventured outside a few times to see if the flood waters had reached my street. From the reports of Facebook and text messages from my family I knew that the rest of my town was under water, but were nowhere to be seen for me.

Around 8 PM the winds had blown some stuff of of my roof and continued to ravage the town, but I had yet to see any flood waters. Suddenly, I lost a carrier signal on my cell phone and was unable to reach anybody. In the dark, with the sounds of the winds and rain beating against my windows I did what anybody else would do. I prayed.

Around 8:30 PM I had not seen any sign of water coming down my block. By that point I figured that the waters brought about from high tide would be receding so I decided that I would sleep through the remainder of the hurricane. Outside my window people were playing musical cars trying to find parking on my street. I laid in bed and closed my eyes.

I awoke the next morning at 7 AM. The hurricane was over. Outside it was still overcast. Electricity was still a no-show and my cell phone still refused to function properly. I ventured out into my town and took a drive around. Trees and debris litter the streets. The flood waters still blocked off most parts of the town. People were outside wandering around with blank expressions wondering what had happened to them and in their homes. The curbs in front of these homes began filling up with wet furniture and carpets.

With not many places to go because of the streets being blocked off, I decided to return home. It wasn’t until later that my family appeared at my back door in tears telling of how the flood waters had put the first floor of the house under water. Out of my own curiosity, I took a walk around to see what other damage had come upon my town. This time I saw much more.

Boats lay across the street a block from my house in parking lots. People walked the streets in a daze. There were rumours of looting, gas shortages, and no electricity for most of the areas in Long Island. However, rumours were all people had. Cell phones would simply not be able to make any calls. At the height of the storm the night before, every block in my town had been flooded and every home shared the same story. Somehow, my small block was safe.

The first night after the storm was cold and dark. There was not much to do and there was nobody to call. I could not let anybody know I was okay. I could not ask any of my friends if they were okay. I had an incredible story to tell already, but nobody could listen. Again, I decided to go to sleep early.

On the third day, I helped my family clean out their house. Everybody in the town was doing the same thing. The curb-side garbage piles only grew and grew. The rumours of looting and gas shortages grew worse. Tension in the hearts of the town’s people rose. The military started patrolling the streets and there were also rumours of FEMA and other organizations bringing food. People who said they had spoken with the local electric company said that restored power was a fairytale and it would be a miracle if people would be able to have lights for Christmas. But none of these rumours could be confirmed.

I was able to get in touch with briefly a friend of mine who was hosting a few families who were closer to the storm at his house. Being more inland, he had not experienced any flooding, but he was also without power and travelled to a shelter to charge his cell phone. I decided then that there was no need to stick around any longer.

With no fuel for my car, any means to contact people, any light or electricity to occupy myself, or heat to warm myself I made the decision to go find greener pastures. My Aunt and Uncle had invited me to stay in their house more north in New York until the “dust settled.” The traffic lights were out all around me and there was no way of telling how bad the roads were or how easy my trip would be, but that was a risk I wanted to take. I had saved just enough gas in my car to make the journey.

I grabbed a few of my cousins and started the drive. About an hour into the trip I finally received a signal connexion on my cell phone and received a backlog of a ton of text messages asking me if I was okay. Finally I was able to tell people that I was okay and ask if others were okay. My town had just been a dead zone for cell phones.

I spent the rest of the two weeks until power was restored to my town in my greener pastures. I had travelled back briefly the week prior delivering some gas to friends and family, but the nights I spent back in this town were less than comfortable. There were police checkpoints and the army roamed the streets. There was a curfew enforced for the night and all of the people here were wet and starved. Government based and other organizations handed out food and the people here continued to live without gas, heat, power, and everything else that came with it. However, I was unable to sleep much in the cold and the sound of helicopters patrolling the air. The house would light up periodically with the spotlights of the nightly patrols bleeding through the windows.

In retrospect, evacuating before the storm would have been the lesser of all of these evils. There are many more stories exposing more of the inner-dysfunctions that I deal with daily inward and outward, but those stories will be for another article. I have learned a great deal during this storm about myself even. Again, this just teaches me that character-building really only comes from hardship. I should learn to be more grateful for hardship.

For an audio recap of this story, please check out Dat’s Bananas! Podcast Episode 10.

Oct 232012
 

It is a good thing to want things. Our different wants and likes set us apart from other people and can also provide an individuality. Each person has his own likes and dislikes as well. From those likes and dislikes comes also various wants.

There are some general things  that most people want. For example, most people want to live comfortable lives. Most people just want to live or survive in general. Most people want to accumulate money to satisfy the want to survive and to live comfortably. Maybe these can all be attributed to humanity’s “basic needs,” but in this article we will specifically be dealing with the want aspect.

Although most wants are generally very innocent and benign, they all originate from somewhere. Since I am also indeed a firm believer that all things have a starting point (and ultimately a purpose), I do believe all wants and desires are the same. Because of this, is it possible to want things that are unhealthy.

To break it down further, it is possible to want things for the sake of obtaining a negative effect. In other words, it is possible to want bad things like pain and destruction. The scary thing, of course, is that negative-wanting is usually very concealed in our subconscious.

There are many good examples of negative-wanting like cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs (as in the illegal ones that are widely accepted as being harmful). Things like these have negative effects from the very first use and can even kill a person . Although this type of negative-wanting does not necessarily apply so much to me as I have not really had to struggle much with drugs and the like. But the one good example I have, is the example of wanting the wrong type of girl. I think that this is also my favorite subject. I am such a romantic.

I am more than willing to accept the thought that all of the things I am about to mention are feelings and incidents that are completely isolated to just me. However, all good theories should be considered before rejected. It’s only fair!

I have a habit of “catching” crushes on women who are unhealthy for me. It is a staple of who I am. It is a staple that I’m trying hard to get rid of (or un-staple). I didn’t always understand that my failed relationships and rejection experiences were a result of me chasing after the wrong type of chick, though. There was an honest period of my life where I believed the thought that “I like who I like and there is nothing that can be done about it.” In thinking this I overlooked a very simple truth. I have choice. I cannot control my emotions and how I feel about a girl, but I can choose to not pursue her.

How exactly did I realize that I only chase after girls who will be unhealthy for me? Well, it was pretty easy. I just looked at the pattern of the types of girls that I fancied. I noticed that all of the girls that I would chase had a quality in them where they would not take a very big liking to my personality and inevitably reject me. As in, I like cold and narcissistic girls who will openly devalue me.

Does it sound too complicated or too wacky to be true? Maybe it is. On the other hand, maybe it is spot on. It fit the pattern and accurately predicted the shape of the future relationships that I have had. Isn’t there an expression that starts off  “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…?” If something makes sense why seek other sense?

Basically, I’m not saying anything different from what any other guy would say. You may hear one guy say “I don’t know what it is. Every girl I date is mean to me.” I just take it one step further and add a little bit of insightful truth to my statements. For example, I would enhance the above by saying “I chase women who will devalue me because the success of getting them to idealize me creates a feeling in me that I am worth being loved.” Although I bet that in your life travels you will likely hear many more statements like the first rather than my ultra-honest-and-insightful-run-on-mess.

Returning to our original topic, it is most certainly possible to want things that are bad for you. It is a very human thing, but it is also a very fixable thing. I believe that if we do examine our motives and exercise our ability to choose we can actually reverse the negative-wanting effect. The first step, though, always needs to be coming to terms with the want of the negative result and seeing past our own defense mechanisms. That is no simple task.

Oct 202012
 

Recently I feel as though I’ve been around people constantly this past week and I have not really had much time to “de-stress” or “recharge.” Being the introvert that I am I do need periods of time by myself. Without those, usually I find myself starting to gradually lose the ability to cope with the “smaller” things in life.

Usually if I am around people where I feel like I have to be “sociable” or maintain a social front, I tend to be given easier to fatigue than if I’m by myself or around people where I feel like I can truly be “myself.” If situations like this continue for days at a time with little rest, I tend to have too little time in order to process all of the stimuli and I start doing and saying strange things. If I am not doing strange things then I am being excessively quiet and that tends to confuse people and draws an unnecessary amount of attention to me.

Also, during times of strange emotional crises I find that I need to retreat to quiet places in order to first deal with things internally. I am also the type of person who needs to speak with people and seek advice, but it unfortunately needs to be in my own timing. If I feel forced into talking or I feel that it isn’t the appropriate time, I just simply won’t have my thoughts sorted out and won’t be able to say much. It actually does me more harm than good to talk about things when I’m not ready.

This past week was what could be referred to as a “perfect storm.” It was filled with an “emotional crisis” at the head of the week which lead into non-stop social-ness each day of the week with minimal thinking-recharge time. Unfortunately today and tomorrow will also be the same type of crazy-social days. Then there is also the associated anxiety that comes with the territory of needing a good recharge.

Although I would rather not, I may have to adjust my schedule a bit so I’m much more antisocial this coming week. Usually I only require one good day to be alone to recharge when I’m at my worst moments, but I will have to make that judgment call tomorrow. I must admit, it is slightly annoying needing “recharge time” as often as I do. I guess that just proves that I am not a superhero and like everybody else, I require periods of “rest.”

Oct 172012
 

I suppose the real title of this article should be “you can’t run from your problems” or “you can’t run from reality.” Those sound closer to the actual point. I’m not known for getting to the point too quickly sometimes. This is also another story about none other than me.

A very popular fantasy of mine in times of extreme distress is a fantasy about me running away. Usually the fantasy involves relocating somewhere where I can truly feel alone and isolated. Maybe the truth of the matter is that if I had the ability to just run away (or walk away from my life) like that, I actually would. Without saying a word to anybody, I would leave my cell phone and just drive away somewhere and perhaps not come back. It scares me not so much that I have this fantasy, but that it is so appealing to me.

Even before having the fantasy this year, I used to believe that at this time in my life (as in mid 2012) I would be in Japan studying to be a teacher. I had my life-changing Japan trip even semi planned out. I was going to fly to Japan in order to take a very specific test and subsequently use the results to apply to a college in Japan. There I would study to officially teach English formally in a school. I am reminded of this by all of those who I spoke about these plans. I can usually spot those who I did tell because they are the ones asking me why I am still in this country.

The truth is, I am still in America. I have not moved to Japan. I realized a very simple truth, and that truth is that I was only trying to move to Japan to run away from my problems. I am very sure that if I do move to Japan, I would have feel better. I may have even quite a wonderful time for a little while. I will likely study and complete all of the degrees I need to do what I planned. I’m sure that I may even be able to become a formal English teacher the way I wanted.

After some time, though, I would start to repeat the same patterns. I would start to have the same problems in relationships (platonic and romantic alike). I would still start to feel again like I have to run away from my troubles. Nothing internally would have changed so eventually the external would reflect the same.

I am glad that I did not run away to Japan. A lot of things have been happening that have been molding my character. Now I am better able to experience joy even where I am (as in even though I am not in Japan). What I had to learn was not that my environment was awful and that I needed to run away, which can sometimes actually be the case even, but I needed to learn that I needed a change on the inside. I needed to be different and come to the realization that I have the ability to change my environment to be more comfortable. I needed to  understand that I have the choice and ability to change the shape of my own relationships and my environment to enjoy even where I am in life.

Of course, the goal of life is not to achieve the ultimate comfort, at least my goal is not to do that. Being healthy or wanting to be healthy does not always mean making the most comfortable choices. However, even though things can be uncomfortable, there can be a joy in things. Most times the change to have this join requires first a change on the inside, as I keep saying in this blog.

So, to sum it all up, your problems that come from the inside, or rather the internal struggles that continue on from un-confronted issues, will follow you where ever you go. They are a part of you until they are faced and dealt with. I believe all people are given a choice. That is choice is the choice between living a blind life of internal struggles or deciding to experience freedom.

Oct 102012
 

I am a narcissist. Not all of my character is completely narcissistic, but there are certainly components of it quite heavily at play on a day-to-day basis. Does this mean that I am egotistical, vain, conceited, and downright selfish? Do I sit in the mirror every day so consumed with self-love that I stare at my own reflection for hours telling myself how beautiful and wonderful I am? No, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

As a child, I loved the story of Narcissus as a beginning of where the term narcissism is derived in English. Roughly, the story tells of the character Narcissus who was renowned for his beauty. In the story he found his own reflection in a pool of water where he fell in love with it, and could not stop looking at it. Being able to do nothing but look at  his own reflection, eventually Narcissus died. This story is told to be the origin of the word narcissist.

As with all things in psychology, not all diagnoses are black and white. I do not posses all of the traits that a narcissist is said to. As time goes on and I develop more (mentally and emotionally) I also find myself possessing even fewer qualities of a narcissist. However, there are some qualities that I still possess. One trait in particular that I struggle with and even more-so struggled with as a child is the defense mechanism of idealizing and devaluing.

Narcissists, like most people with personality disorders, are narcissists because of childhood trauma. At a young age, narcissists are taught (usually by the parents) that they will need to exist as a false self that the world will “admire” and “love.” Desperate for love, as we all are, the child will confirm to the false notion that the only way to receive love is to pretend. Emotion and self-expression are thrown out of the window in the process. Thus a narcissist is born.

The now adult-narcissist carries with him his false exterior but empty core. The narcissist lacks the required natural love-and-security-within that tells him that he is good regardless of the opinions of others. Instead what the narcissist has is merely an empty shell that needs to be upheld by others. In other words, narcissists require the admiration and esteem of others to keep them from “falling apart.” Nobody wants to fall apart, so narcissists will do everything in their power even subconsciously to prevent that from happening.

For a narcissist, the truth about his emptiness and false way of living must never be sought or found out. Nobody must know the secret, not even he himself can know. For this reason defense mechanisms need to be put in place to cover up the cracks where this truth could potentially shine through. The most important thing to a narcissist is self survival (as with most healthy human beings). One defense mechanism that I subscribe to as well is splitting, or rather categorizing people into only two black-and-white types of either idealized or devalued.

A person who is idealized by a narcissist will be considered to be “completely good.” A narcissist will exaggerate good qualities in a person and ignore the bad. He will view the idealized person as somebody to give him the appropriate admiration and “love” in order to fill the lack-thereof internally. Idealized people will be showered with compliments by the narcissist doing the idealization. These compliments are meant to attract the idealized person as well as to prompt reciprocation.

At the other end of the extreme is the devalued person. A narcissist will devalue a person who threatens his rigid way of life. Keep in mind narcissists need to live very rigid lives in order to keep up the facade of completion and healthiness. In order to ensure that there can be no doubt in the mind of a narcissist that his rules of living are superior, those who do not follow the same rules become devalued. People who are devalued by a narcissist will serve the reverse function of the idealized group. A narcissist will reject his devalued group of people and he will be secure and confident in being better than them.

Not being capable of being a complex person himself and having a free range of emotions, a narcissist will use that same standard for the rest of the world. A narcissist will not see people as being complex but will only see the “whole picture” as being black-and-white, or rather idealized or devalued. Unfortunately this is harmful for the people who interact with the narcissist as well as the narcissist himself.

I myself have experienced both being idealized and devalued by a narcissist as I’m sure everybody has as well. I have concluded that it is much more “fun” to be idealized. Being that I have some narcissistic qualities myself, I identify with both extremes easily. I will become big-headed when being idealized by a narcissist and extremely dejected when being devalued. I have grown to not enjoy both, however. I find myself longing to be thought of as a complex person made up of good and bad points. That is who I am. I would much rather people see me and accept me for who I am.

Psychology uses the term narcissism to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption. But I’d like to propose here that unhealthy narcissism is not a self-absorption, but rather it is an obsession with the lack of self-love and emptiness. It is a crisis that needs to be understood thought of differently in society.

Narcissists are not the way they are because they want to be. They do not act the way they do because they realize and enjoy what it does in others. In other words, narcissists are not evil people. They are not to become social outcasts and branded with a letter.

As a first hand experience in what it  is like to be a narcissist I will offer my own experience. I myself have also done things like classifying (splitting) people into the category of idealized and devalued.  Usually for me it becomes manifested in the “banishing” of people from my life. I have pushed away even the closest of friends because they became devalued in my eyes, and sometimes at no fault of theirs.

When I am around people who I idealize and those people shower me with compliments and admiration I will have a normal level of self-confidence (or sometimes an elevated level of self confidence bordering grandiose). The problem with this is that I am also a self-aware introvert. Recently I’ve been spending even more time than usual by myself. It is forcing me to contend with the hard fact that when I am by myself and I have no external “narcissistic supply” of love, I feel empty. It is not a type of emptiness that is “comfortable” or “comforting.” It is a terrible emptiness. Sometimes it feels as though I am going to disappear. It is as though I do not exist as a person. This  is the severity of the crisis of a narcissist.

Of course, as I grow and I challenge these feelings, I find myself having them less and less. Eventually I plan on not having them at all. I plan on having a complete internal supply of love. As I understand it, this is the goal essentially of all human beings whether or not they wish to admit it.

Now, at this point, although we have all of the components to end this article here-and-now, I would like to offer up, as usual, “the balance.” There is such a thing as healthy narcissism. It is okay to want compliments from people. In fact, if we as humans did not receive any compliments whatsoever we would naturally assume that we are doing something wrong. This would be a healthy and natural assumption.

Compliments are a generally good thing and should be given to people freely. It is okay to want to receive compliments and to want to receive them. It is also okay to behave in a way that one might receive them. However, the issue comes about when there is a dependency on the compliments and the approval of others. When there is a crisis from a lack of such things.

Narcissists are not people to be feared or hated. They are not men and women who have such a high self-opinion that they need to be brought down and “put in their place.” In fact it is the opposite. They need to be brought up in a healthy way. Narcissists need love, just like the rest of humanity. They should not be penalized for what they are. I do believe with enough healthy love (which takes many faces) a narcissist will be able to eventually internalize the love and become cured. Helping a narcissist helps more than just the narcissist. It betters society as a collective. The helped narcissist will also be eternal grateful. I know I would be.

Oct 102012
 

I love not being the center of attention. It brings me joy to do things for, but not in the view of others. I love to operate in the shadows of “great men,” and defer credit. Doing “nice” things for people without them ever finding out is something that I excel at.

At face value, it does sound kind of nice and amazing. It makes me feel like I must have enough confidence in myself that I do not need the approval of others. It sounds like I have it all figured out. That is until I examine my motives more closely and I am greeted with a less pleasant reality.

The reality is that I do have a kind heart. My desire is to build up others without needing to take anything in return. I do honestly enjoy doing things that will be a benefit to even just one person. It is not as though my intentions cannot be completely healthy. I would like to state for the record that this is not an article about how I am undeserving of things and must be looked at under a microscope for some serious “fault-finding.”

The balance is this, the giving-of-myself is a great thing, but at the same time I find it hard to “receive.” As in, I exist in the shadows of “great men” because I believe that I am not a great man. I become uncomfortable when the same type of giving that I do is offered by others to me seemingly unwarranted. For example, when I am given credit, I immediately try to discredit.

Let me give a real life example which I believe I may have written about here already. Let us say that I am arranging a birthday party (or any other event) for myself. I would become very anxious about doing so. I would have trouble inviting people, even those who are close to me. I would be uncomfortable attending the event even. On the other hand, if I were asked to plan a party for another person I would do so with great ease and joy. It would go as far as making it my “mission in life.”

Is this scenario an hyperbole? Unfortunately, no. It is a “recap of recent events.” I became a little bit sick nearing my own birthday dinner this year. It was a good thing, however, that I felt that way. It helped me to understand more about how I think. After all, if it were just a slight discomfort it would have passed by unnoticed likely.

If I were to “dig into the past” I’m sure I could find the roots of where this all started. It does sound like a relationship-type patterned after the one I had with my mother. As with most things, there is a starting point. But there are some things that I need to understand about the rules of giving and receiving and the selfishness involved with not being receptive to the goodness of others.

In an “if the tables were turned” scenario, truly if I were trying to offer something to another person it would feel much better if the person accepted and not rejected it. As in, just like when giving a birthday gift or even one’s own time to another it feels much better when the gift is received well and not denied. In fact, in the society I live in it is considered rude to turn down birthday gifts. Why would it be different for anything else?

Of course, on the other side of the spectrum there are things that are done with selfish intentions and motives. Like a gift given or an act done with the intention of receiving glory for it. Having somewhat of a narcissistic personality myself I understand how this type of behavior could “feel good.” Perhaps somebody may argue and say “Either way, what does it matter what the intention is? ‘Good’ is being done.” But it does matter. In a scenario of a secret motive, the person who is doing the act with a secret motive is actually being harmed. True credit-giving comes from within (oneself). This should be the goal.

Giving and receiving must be done in a healthy balance. Nobody ever considers the dangerous of being “too charitable.” It is possible to give too much. The penalty of which is having a lack. Giving too much of one’s time, for example, causes no time, stress, and eventually a breakdown. Giving too much of one’s energy causes fatigue and eventually unwillingness. The dangers of giving too much are not always evident, but this is not proof of their non-existence.

So in this balance it is much better to have both. I have learned only in recent years that there are those who want to give simply because they want to. Learning how to receive these things is an important part of giving. After all, if in the world only existed giving there would be none to receive.

Oct 062012
 

Internet piracy is a very hot topic these days. Recently, there have been articles like this one stating that even Japan has been cracking down more on piracy with its people. The following article shows Japan to be instating the following new policy.

Japan-based internet users who download copyright infringing files face up to two years in prison or fines of up to two million yen ($25,700; £15,900) after a change to the law.

In the United States we have had similar things like SOPA and PIPA. These are bills that if passed will severely limit the freedom of the Internet not just for the United States, but for the entire world. The issue of Internet Piracy aside, if these bills are passed they will severely undermine the very natural rights given to all human beings. There will be those who will decide what web pages will be acceptable for viewing and what web pages will be outlawed. The world will simply have no choice. It will be forced to comply because web sites will simply just stop working.

The truth of the matter is, even without these bills your rights can be violated. I have friends who have had authorities come to their house and confiscate their equipment without giving a reason. Internet Piracy can cost you a pretty penny if you are “found out” even in The States as it is. I would suggest to nobody to ever try Internet Piracy. It can be very risky business. You may be paying for your Internet service, but your ISP is legally required to provide all information about you to “an authority” if necessary.

So why is it that people are so concerned with Internet Piracy? Is it the “little people” who are simply just upset because they cannot make an honest living? Is it the “upright and moral” of the world who are claiming that “stealing” is wrong? Surely those who backed bills like SOPA are the “do-gooders” of the world trying to save the world from all illegal activities online like sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and child pornography.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to Wikipedia the major supporters included Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Entertainment Software Association, etc. If we even trace Internet Piracy lawsuits further back to when Napster (one of the first “mainstream” mediums for Internet Piracy) was around we see that a band named Metallica were the ones to sue Napster. Even though Napster was only providing a medium with which Internet Piracy could be used, Napster did lose the lawsuit.

In my opinion, declaring that Napster is the reason that Metallica’s music is being “stolen” is equivalent to saying that Apache (the HTTP server) is the reason that there is pornography on the Internet. To liken it to something less technical, it would be equivalent to deciding that cars are the reason that people die. Napster simply didn’t have enough money to contend, and eventually lost their case.

Herein lies another lesson. If you disagree with Anti-Piracy rules in any country and engage in activities to bend them on a large scale by providing ways to increase piracy, you are effectively going up against people with much more money than you have. If we have learned anything by living in society, it is that greater wealth means greater influence. Unless you believe in miracles, you are destined to lose. Be prepared for such.

No matter where you are in the world you will be subjected to this rule. As proof let me offer up as an example an organization called The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay is a medium for illegal downloading and they are very upfront about it as well. They are (or at least were) hosted in Sweden and Swedish laws seem to be much more lenient in when it comes to Internet Piracy. It is noteworthy that Sweden even has a political party called The Pirate Party.

Even though The Pirate Bay existed in Sweden and were protected by the Swedish government, they were still not untouchable. In May of 2006 The Pirate Bay servers were raided and confiscated. Major players of the organizations stood trial. They were later on found guilty of the crimes thrown on them by their accusers.

The four operators of the site were convicted by Stockholm district court on 17 April 2009 and sentenced to one year in jail each and a total of 30 million Swedish kronor (approximately US$3.5 million, €2.7 million) in fines and damages. The court found that the defendants were all guilty of accessory to crime against copyright law, strengthened by the commercial and organized nature of the activity.

However, today The Pirate Bay still stands. Their famous web site is still up and running and doing business as usual. The trial only served to create martyrs out of The Pirate Bay. Later on in the same year after their servers were confiscated, to support some hackers even responded by taking down the web site of the Swedish police. Internet Piracy is no closer to being ended than it was before the lawsuit began. The only difference is, people went to jail and people got paid.

The problem is as long as there is The Internet there will be Internet Piracy. If a law is passed outlawing all torrents (a popular medium for Internet Piracy), Internet Pirates will shift to use something else. If SOPA or PIPA become passed, Pirates will find another way to distribute pirated media. For every crafty man that exists to make a law or means to prevent it, three or four exist to create a way around it. This is the unavoidable truth.

What can be done then to stop Internet Piracy completely? Well, there is one thing. Most of the world will be opposed to it, though. The solution is this, don’t try to stop it. Make better quality products that people will want to spend money on to support.

Now, before you go off and start ranting about how I’m a crazy pirate and a socialist let me explain myself. I would like to state that I do not promote the “theft” of intellectual property. People work hard on things and they deserve credit for it. Every laborer also deserves his hire. But I think we can discover the solution to our problem using the concept we see in Open Source Software.

Open Source Software is software that is given out for free. Not only is it given out for free, but the coding (as in the instructions that make up the software) are given out also for free! The majority of people designing open source software hold real jobs. In fact, they are self motivated and most devote their spare time to making open source software! As in, they don’t even get paid for it and they still do it!

What is the result? Good quality software that can be shared by anybody. The code is out there for anybody to see. This means that the programmers have no choice but to make their software of good quality. After all, if there are bugs in it a hacker could discover them much easier having the coding behind it. Because of this operating systems like GNU/Linux that are based completely on open source software are some of the most secure operating systems around to date. And they are completely free!

Open source software is protected under a copyright called The GNU GPL which basically state the following for all coding.

Nobody should be restricted by the software they use. There are four freedoms that every user should have:

  • the freedom to use the software for any purpose,
  • the freedom to change the software to suit your needs,
  • the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and
  • the freedom to share the changes you make.

As in, you can use the software, modify it, give it out, but you can’t distribute it as your own and charge money for it. Usually what you see under these circumstances is that users will even credit the original authors of the software. It is a system that has been around since the beginning of “software.”

How does open source make money? Well, some companies offer the code for free but the support services on the software they offer as a paid service. So their employees still make money developing the software because the company receives profit. Some open source organizations simply just work on a donate system. That’s how Wikipedia runs and Wikipedia seems to always meet their yearly goal of millions of dollars in funding.

Taking open source software as an example, we can see that if a product is good enough people will want to pay for it. In fact, according to this article and this article, the on-line piracy of anime has actually increased anime DVD sales! As in, people like what they see so much that despite having it pirated and the freedom to watch it whenever, they still opt to purchase the DVDs. Is this not directly contrary to what would seem to be true?

In conclusion, I’m not a socialist and I’m not an idealist. I’m just simply saying that the only way to end Internet Piracy is to actually make a product that people will want to buy. If you do that, then people will buy it and you will get paid. On the other hand, if you make bad movies or music and people have the option using the Internet to pirate it instead of spending money on a DVD, BluRay, or CD then prepare to watch your profits skyrocket down.

Oct 062012
 

Last night I had a very strange dream. I haven’t been dreaming and remembering much lately so it’s something that is a little rare. Since I still remember it I will try and write it here as best I can. Hopefully I’ll remember it in good enough detail that becomes at least a little entertaining.

It felt like another end-of-the-world dream. I used to have those much more frequently than I do nowadays. The theme is very dark and far into the future. The feeling is that society “as we know it” has collapsed and there is now no central government anywhere in the world. There are only groups of people helping each other out for a “common good.” This is common knowledge for me in this dream.

Keep in mind that as you read this you may be tempted to think it’s a nightmare. It is not a nightmare. My nightmares are much worse. Perhaps one day I will be “fortunate” enough” to remember a nightmare so that you may compare. Although my nightmares are no joke, as they say.

From what I remember, the dream starts off in an apartment. I am using a flashlight to provide light for myself to see because there is no electricity and it is nighttime. A group of guys who are also residents and the “protectors” of the apartment are scrambling around. I recognize all of them as being my friends (in real life). They are looking for a group of monsters who have somehow gotten into the apartment and are terrorizing the other residents. They all have flashlights as well. Flashlights were also apparently the way to destroy these monsters.

I traveled into the basement of the apartment and could sense that the monsters were there. At that point I went back to grab a flashlight which I knew would be brighter to exterminate the monsters quicker. I knew that by using a superior flashlight I would be able to defeat the monsters easier than the others who lived in the apartment. Upon getting the flashlight I ran to the basement and found the monsters in an underground kitchen. I started killing them by shining the super-flashlight’s light on them. The monsters melted as I did.

While in the process of monster-killing I was lifted up and out of the apartment scene almost as if being pulled up by a mysterious hand. Slowly I saw the monsters in the kitchen below me get smaller and smaller and finally I was placed onto a giant bridge in the middle of the ocean. The bridge looked like it spanned quite some miles. It was in turmoil because there was a storm beating down upon it. It was also closed at several points for “public safety.”

The storm raged all around the bridge. There was rain coming from all angles and the winds were loud and harsh. The storm was very fierce. It was very apparent that the bridge was not going to hold up for much longer.

The bottom section of the bridge, where I was placed, was separated much like the different levels of a parking garage. Some levels were slightly higher than others. On each “level” was a group of people waiting out the storm. I looked upon one group of people and I had a feeling that they no longer cared for their own lives and were fed up with living. All of them had been given automatic weapons (machine guns) for protection. I saw some of them taking pictures while making jokes with their machine guns pretending that they were going to shoot themselves in the head.

I became angry and yelled out to a friend (who is not only a friend in real life also but was mysteriously at this point with me) saying “Are these people nuts? What if the gun misfires?” I ran over to the people taking pictures with their guns to stop them from further foolishness, but as I was doing so as if the bridge could no longer hold up in the storm it started collapsing all around me.

I knew at that point the best thing for me to do would be to find my car and try and drive out of there. I searched with my friend (the same one mentioned above) to try and find my car where I believe I parked it last. I circled the same area of the parking garage over and over. When I thought I had finally found my car, a piece of the bridge above broke and fell right before me.

In a panic, I tried to find anything still sticking up from the rubble proving that my car was indeed crushed. I noticed then the back end of a car that looked exactly like mine sticking up in the debris. I ran over to confirm the license place number and found that it was indeed my car that had been crushed.

Instead of being filled with anger and disappointment that my car was crushed, I knew at that point that I had been circling around my car this whole time and never finding it. If I had found and gotten into my car I would have been crushed by the debris from above. I fell onto my knees and beat my chest in joy that I had been spared death. I beat my chest and screamed into the heavens until finally I became unconscious as the rain and winds continued to ravage the bridge.

I awoke alone with a safe feeling in the upstairs of a house. In front of me news of the bridge and how it collapsed completely was being displayed on a television in the same room where I awoke. The storm had apparently ended, but not without taking as many casualties as it could. I had again been spared.

A man walked into the room and handed me some food. He said some comforting words to me mentioning he was glad that I was still alive. I do not recognize this man, nor do I remember what he said. But I do know that he had rescued me and brought me from the bridge as well as my friend.

As he left the room I sat by myself on the bed that I awoke on staring at the television in the room. I thought to myself that for the rest of my life there will be storms, monsters, and tragedies that will follow me around. These two experiences that I had would not be isolated ones. I would have to grow used to dealing with them. With a hopeless feeling, I lamented my situation and then I awoke in my bed in the real world.