Category Archives: integrity

The Number One Reason to Stay Focused

MP900177811I was distracted. I had other things on my mind. I was committed, don’t get me wrong. But other things have a way of getting in the way.

I had a wakeup call. A reason to snap back to the present. He was following me around the church during prayer meeting. It was special prayer for the ministries and leaders of our church. We were walking around to designated areas where prayer needs were posted and the leaders of each ministry were stationed to receive special prayer. Each time I prayed over the needs and prayed over the leaders, I had a shadow doing the same thing.

He is a 6-year-old version of me that was fully engaged in what he was doing.

There was a little bit of excitement over getting to walk around the church instead of sitting still. And getting to use the anointing oil. But when I heard him pray, at first imitating my words but then finding his own, and seeking God with all his heart, I knew I had the greatest reason to stay focused on the important things in life. The example I’m leaving behind.

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My View of Personal Morality’s Place in Social Work Practice

One of my most recent posts touched on the subject of this post, but I am writing this one by request in a more personal way, with a focus on personal beliefs as they influence professional social work.

In the post I mentioned above, I made this statement:

Value people as much as you value your morals. Don’t agree with their beliefs if they conflict with yours- but believe in them. That’s the cure for intolerance.

I started out in Christian ministry before I decided to get my social work degrees and pursue the profession. I chose social work as an avenue for helping for a good reason- in the church, the pat responses of, “Just have faith,” or “I’ll be praying for you,” are not enough to help people in the greatest need. In fact, those statements typically translate into loss of faith and increase in despair because at the point of need, a person wants to be with someone who can be fully present and can help skillfully and compassionately.

This disparity that brought me to social work does not compromise my personal or spiritual beliefs at all- it was a recognition of where the church can do better. I believe in prayer to Christ and faith in God- I rely on those things. It’s not a belief problem- it’s a people problem. And so, in working to correct that, I haven’t given up on my beliefs, but I have tried to learn how to appreciate people, their stages of life, and the situations they find themselves in.

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I have explained this to numerous social work students that come out of our faith-based liberal arts colleges in the area aspiring to be social workers. One question I always receive is: “If you really believe in Christ and that He is the answer to the problems people face, how do work in a profession/with a company/in a position that often restricts you from sharing your faith?” I think the answer I give these students is the answer I would give to anyone wanting to know how my personal beliefs work together with my professional choices. And here it goes:

It is one thing to talk about Jesus. It is another thing to embody what He did. Social work isn’t preaching or evangelization, but it is meeting people in need where they are. I certainly get to help more people in their time of need in social work than I would otherwise.

With that mindset, I realize that I am fulfilling a certain, narrow role in the life of the person. What is most important for this individual at the moment? I am in the business of crisis intervention. Keeping a child or adolescent from harming himself is paramount in the moment. The morality of what they are thinking or doing is irrelevant. The goal is to preserve the opportunity for healthier choices in the future. I know I can only make a difference with that person in the here-and-now. The only person I can make a difference in for all time and eternity- is me. But I trust One who is greater and wiser than I to guide and direct other people to the best things in life now and forever. And ever so often, I do see a lasting change occur due to my efforts as a social worker.

This post has been a glimpse into how social work has shaped me. It has also provided a view of the way my personal beliefs have shaped my practice and my perception of what I do as a social worker. There is more that could be said, but I want to leave room for discussion, or even to write another post. So what do you want to know from me about the tension between strong personal beliefs and being open to differences posed by clients? What has been your experience? What is your motivation to help through the social work profession? I feel that my strong beliefs are my greatest motivation to help others. What about you?

The Making of Strong Moral Boundaries

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Clarity- moral boundaries are first of all personal. So establishing strong personal boundaries has little to do with the beliefs of others. What you will accept and allow; what you are willing to do; how you determine to behave in certain circumstances; what you will teach your children: these are the things established by strong moral boundaries. They are individual.

The reason that making these boundaries is so important to me is that in an age of relativism, we are encouraged to not stand so strongly on personal morality, but to accept every way as valid. We are told that we have to accept ideas that we do not have to accept. And that if we personally reject ideals and philosophies that conflict with our sense of morals, then we are intolerant. None of this is true.

Strong families must stand on a strong foundation. And parents that are empowered to determine what they believe and teach their children are the best authority to establish this foundation.

The making of strong moral boundaries:
Strong moral boundaries are rooted in universal truth. Do you believe in right and wrong? Or is it all relative to different points of view? On morality, there has to be established what is right, and what is wrong. Even if you have to say to yourself, “They may not think this is right/wrong, but I believe it is.”

They recognize the right of others to disagree and live differently, without caving to those other views/ways.

They stand the test of time. Not to say that people do not change, but a strong moral belief by-and-large remains the same.

They actually dictate your behaviors and choices. Otherwise, they mean very little. I think this is a huge reason children choose to leave the morals parent have tried to instill verbally- they are not demonstrated daily.

Tension exists between a person’s moral boundaries and the world around them from time to time. The mistake is in thinking that tension is bad. It isn’t. If you are serious about your beliefs and think that they are right, you will influence great change by living with the tension in daily life with the right attitude, and maintaining the integrity of your moral boundaries. Your children will be more likely to adopt those same values.

Finally- value people as much as you value your morals. Don’t agree with their beliefs if they conflict with yours- but believe in them. That’s the cure for intolerance.

Moral boundaries- where do you stand? Where is the tension right now? What are the struggles? His bless you in your effort to do right!

What Matters Most

We live and die by the priorities we set.

The answers to the question, “What matters most?” may be many and varied, but the consequences for not answering are great.

Leading ourselves isn’t nearly as much about managing time as it is about managing priorities. Making the most of your time means spending quality time on what counts.

The steps of a [good] man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Psalms 37:23

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Throughly Furnished

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV)

Based on verse 16, I have come up with 4 C’s for being “throughly furnished” unto God’s work:

Caring: We all care about something; a passion that drives each of us. Instruction from the scripture is meant to shape our natural passions into passions that please God.

Character: Character matters, especially in a day in which everything seems relative and little is believed to be absolute. The correction of God’s Word is a character-shaping function that conforms us to Christ.

Competence: If you want someone to follow you, they have to know that you know where you are going. Doctrine is a teaching in order to build knowledge and increase competence in the work of God.

Confidence: It is so important to be convinced of who you are and Whose you are. The reproof of God’s Word is what separates the pure from the impure, and proves that there is an undying purpose in your heart for your work.

Combining the 4 C’s mentioned here in your life and work will make you a high performer and a noticeable leader. When the source of the 4 C’s is the Word of God, you will be throughly furnished for eternal work and an asset to Jesus’ Kingdom.

Don’t You Have Somewhere To Be?

And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1 KJV)

“Don’t you have somewhere to be right now?” is a question we have all heard at some point. The person asking, usually a parent, teacher, or spouse depending on your age, typically is not asking for their own benefit, and they usually know the answer already.

If there had been a higher authority than King David in Israel, then perhaps someone would have posed this question to him as he stood in the comfort and safety of his home. He was supposed to be off to war. But he was in the wrong place at just the right time to make a huge mistake. In due time, David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife.

Big trouble happens when we aren’t where we should be. It becomes easy to lose track of important priorities when we aren’t attending to our duties. Plenty of people mess up and blame some sort of character flaw for their fall, but much more often, good-intentioned people fall into moral, ethical, and spiritual pits because they are not spending time in the right places, working on the right things.

Be at home working on your family relationships. At work earning a living. In school getting an education. There is a time for everything- for fun, for rest, for work. Take work home less and be involved at home.

Wives and children get neglected when time passes without the presence and involvement of a husband/father. Whether physically or emotionally absent, there are consequences for not fulfilling your role in the lives of those around you. Don’t you have somewhere to be right now?

Culture vs. Process (starting at home)

I admit it. I am a process guy. Throughout my life, I have not always been the best organized person, so I have learned how to develop processes for almost everything that I do. The good thing is that conceptualizing everything and boiling it down to a simple process comes pretty easy to me.

The bad thing is, process may produce efficiency, but it does not produce quality. Take family life for example. Rules, discipline, and consequences are so important in developing good habits in children. In my line of work, we try to help in the regard quite often. When life is chaotic, as it seems to be for so many these days, it helps to have a process for gauging appropriate behavior and providing rewards or consequences accordingly.

As important as process is, it takes creating an overall expectation for interaction and behavior that goes beyond just following rules in order to create caring, responsible adults. There are a few points of consideration that may help get beyond the mechanics of family life and begin working on a culture of positive interactions:

Communication- begin early. Babies are spoken to all the time. Somewhere along the line children get harder to talk to- but you can’t stop. If you want to be able to talk about the real problem areas of life for teens (and expect your teen to speak to you in return with honesty and candor), communication should be top priority. Speak about a variety of things, positive and negative. Give praise and constructive criticism as appropriate. Tell them what you like, and listen to what they like. Find enjoyment in being together.

Consistency- not only in your relationship with your child/family, but in every area of life. Inconsistency shows through in whether or not we do what we say we will do in all areas of life. Children and teens take notice.

Community- promote it in daily life. Moms, dads, brothers and sisters need to do things together at home and in public just because they’re family. Community provides context for conversation and allows family members to be themselves the presence of those closest to them. Common activities should be opportunities for everyone and not taken away from anyone in the family as a punishment.

Next time- process vs. culture in an organization.