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Archive for July, 2009


During this entire episode between President Obama, Professor Gates, and Sgt. Crowley, there has been a cacophony, primarily from political conservatives, demanding that Obama apologize for telling the nation that the Cambridge Police acted “stupidly.” Ducking and weaving, the President has avoided such an apology and hopes to resolve the whole incident by sharing a beer with both parties at a picnic table at The White House. I suspect that is what will happen.

Others, who view the entire incident as silly and distracting, point to the issue of universal healthcare and say that our attention should be focused on this important piece of legislation. Interestingly. I disagree with them. I believe Beer-Gate is more important because it gives the American people insight into the President’s character, and the picture isn’t pretty.

Unfortunately, nobody from the press has asked this simple question: “Mr. President, why are you unwilling to admit you were wrong? Instead of hedging, why can’t you simply say, ‘I was wrong.’”

Come to think about it, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Obama say he was wrong about anything. I doubt that he can. His pride will not allow it. Showing genuine humility is not part of Obama’s character, which Beer-Gate demonstrates vividly. The person who probably recognizes this character flaw best is the First lady, but she not talking—that’s for sure. It’s impossible to hide a flaw like this in a long-term marriage.

For me, this whole incident has been “a teachable moment,” and I’m very concerned that we have someone driving the ship of state that is absolutely certain he’s right about everything—even when it’s obvious he’s dead wrong. To recognize Obama for who he is has been very sobering for me—too sobering. I guess I need a Red Stripe or Blue Moon and hope it all goes away. On second thought, just pass me the Kool Aid.

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I, for one, am delighted the incident involving the arrest of Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. has made such a splash in the news—not because it was so embarrassing for the President, which it was—but because I learned so much from it.

When confronted by Sgt. Crowley, Gates, who is obviously a bright man, chose not to take the wise course of action. Solomon, another wise man, said, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Had Gates chosen to respond gently, he would have made a friend of the cop, and there would be no story. Fortunately, he chose to be offended.

Gates assumed the role of a wounded black man—a role probably hardwired into his character. He can’t help it; it’s who he is. Millions of guys feel this way. At the same time, he must be very embarrassed, knowing that a lifetime of accomplishments will be forever overshadowed by this incident. As Monica Lewinsky is to Bill Clinton, Gates will forever be to Obama—each linked together by their foolish actions and reactions. Perhaps the Professor realizes how ridiculous he looks; perhaps not. If he doesn’t, he will soon enough—just like Lewinsky.

President Obama’s reaction was even more interesting than the Professor’s. Obama sided with the affronted black man, showing he has that same wounded spirit, which he carefully camouflages beneath a thin veneer of espousing racial neutrality. Even though the President admitted he didn’t know the facts of the case, he spoke out as a black man—not as the President of the United States. When he called the police stupid, I learned two things about President Obama.

First, it’s obvious that Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Black Liberation Theology has had far greater influence over the President for the past twenty years than we have been led to believe. At this point—so early in his Presidency—few will admit this, but it’s hard to come to a different conclusion. Obama may have campaigned as a man who transcends race, but his comments were certainly those of a black man. He can’t help it; it’s hardwired in his DNA as well. I understand that. We are all products of our experiences, but his position is antithetical to his campaign rhetoric, calling himself a man who transcends race.

The second thing I learned is far more troubling. President Obama can’t admit it when he’s wrong. He dances all around in an effort to clarify his position, but he can’t say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Lots of men have this problem—just ask a woman. When Obama is Commander-in-Chief and has our economy in our hands, however, this character flaw is particularly troublesome. Perhaps he doesn’t think he is ever wrong, which is even more troubling. We certainly don’t need another President with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

This incident with Gates was important because it provided insight into the man’s character—into his core values. His supporters—those who drank the Cool Aid—hope this will just go away and not cause further damage. I suspect that’s what will happen. For those of us who didn’t drink the Cool Aid, however, we gained valuable insight into the man. Perhaps it’s too soon to say, “The Emperor is wearing no clothes,” but he’s at least down to his skivvies.

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I was watching a movie the other day where a man, who had fallen badly, said, “It’s easier to maintain character than to recover it.” No sooner had he spoken the words than I knew I had to write about them.

As a superficial statement, it’s obviously true. It is easier to maintain character than recover it once it is lost. But that’s only part of it. Once virtue has been abandoned, most lose hope and simply live out the role they believe they have been destined to live. From a legalistic perspective, they’re done; their goose is cooked. They believe they are beyond hope, which produces despair, poor behavior, and low self-esteem.

From God’s perspective, it’s entirely different. He seeks those who desire recovery above all others. They know the value of restoration—the value of having their dignity reinstated. Being forgiven much; they love much, which is of value to Him. If you’re in recovery—any kind of recovery—you know this as well.

Those who have never fallen don’t understand this perspective. It’s beyond their narrow comprehension. They don’t have a clue about recovery—nor does it interest them. They don’t understand its value, but we do. Don’t we?

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When despair comes, ask God, “What do you want me to learn from this experience? What is the lesson you are trying to teach me? Please, give me the insight I need to ‘get it.’”

When you ask this, be still, wait, and listen. Be patient—even when it’s the last thing you want to do. If you do, the lesson will come to you—not in a loud, bombastic way but gently. Your illumination will come from deep within. That’s the way God does it. Something will just click into place—something you never knew before. When that happens, you can transform your character and become a different person—a wiser person, a better person. The alternative is to dismiss the lesson, which means you’re destined to repeat it. There’s no getting around it.

A wise person listens—a stubborn person does not. Most people who are in recovery lack wisdom, which means they have to go through a world of pain before they learn what God intends for them to learn. When the pain becomes unbearable, you’ll be willing to listen. Until then, you will flounder.

The choice is yours— learn the lesson early or learn it later on, after you’ve been through many more painful experiences.

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If you listen to most, being positive and looking on the bright side is essential to be a winner in life. Isn’t that right? Don’t we hear the following to the exclusion of everything else?

  • Give 110 percent!
  • The glass is half full.
  • Count your blessing—one by one.
  • You can make it—just think positively.
  • Name what you want and claim it. If you do, it will be yours.
  • Don’t look at the downside; keep focused on the positive.

Although it’s essential to keep a good mindset and not allowing self-pity to rule your life, there’s another side to the story—one that doesn’t receive the attention it should. It’s despair—an emotion experienced by nearly all.

Despair has a purpose—an important purpose, especially to those in recovery. Instead of denying it, try embracing it. If you do, you’ll learn the lessons necessary to become the man or woman God intends you to be.

When despair comes—and it will—instead of complaining, ask God what He wants you to learn from it. If you do, you’ll learn more about life and about yourself than you can possibly imagine. You’ll learn about who you are supposed to be and who you are not supposed to be.

When everything is going well, most rarely take a good look at themselves. When you’ve been shattered and broken, however, all pretentiousness leaves you. You cease being puffed up and arrogant. It’s when you can bow your knee and embrace humility. It’s the place God brings you to get your attention. When He does, it’s time to stop, listen, and learn.

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Whenever you talk about recovery, whether it’s from alcoholism, from drug addiction, or from religious abuse—failure is a prerequisite. Without being a failure, there would be no need for recovery. But failure doesn’t have to be negative—not in the long term. The key isn’t whether or not you’ve failed but what you do with your failure—how you process it. If you deny that you’ve failed, you’ll stay stuck where you are, constantly justifying past behavior, saying, “I was right. They were wrong.”

Sadly, that’s where most people live their lives—looking back rather than looking forward, which makes every aspect of their lives a struggle. It’s not at all what God wants; that’s for sure. Denial never works—never, never, never. Instead of living in denial, embrace your failure—make it your own. Accept it; acknowledge it; and move on. Never allow your failures to corrupt your future. Stop living in shame, looking back at the past, which you have no power to change. That’s what God’s forgiveness and mercy are all about, and it’s where recovery begins. It’s the bottom you have to reach before real growth can begin.

Remember, God has allowed you to go through difficult periods for a purpose. Use that difficulty constructively. It will help you get “unstuck,” and allow your experience to have value—for yourself and for others.

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