It's simple: Make it a point to use your words and actions to build and create instead of tearing down and destroying. While simple, it is baffling to think that this seems so hard to do and so rare to experience in our personal and professional lives today.
Reality-based television shows have become the dominant entertainment of the 21st Century. From Keeping Up with The Kardashians and The Real Housewives of Fill-in-the-Blank City to talent competitions and baby beauty pageants, America is being saturated with “heroes” and “role models” that glorify the approach of tearing down and destroying.
But this is television and one
could argue that television has always had a strong element of exagerration and
the outlandish. After all, one would be hard-pressed to say that Archie Bunker
or George Jefferson were 20th Century role models or provided us
with examples of how people should treat others.
What inspired me to write this
article, however, is that these televised fictional and non-fictional characters
have become the model for behavior by those who are supposed to be the leaders
of our country – in business and government. In a nutshell, words and actions
that place close to 100% of the focus on the self through tearing down and
destroying, while placing almost no value on building and creating with a sense
of community or anything else greater than self.
disrespectful, hateful mudslinging and the personal attacks that took over the
2016 U.S. Presidential campaign are the antithesis of the way humans are
supposed to treat each other – whether they agree or disagree on any given
topic or philosophy. As I told my 10 year-old daughter after the election,
regardless of the outcome, know that it is never acceptable to put aside
morals, values and ethics (read: tear down and destroy) to achieve an
And in business, we have the most recent example of the unethical and destructive behavior that was tolerated, expected and rewarded at Wells Fargo that led to the resignation of the company’s CEO.
With all of these poor examples of people appearing to be rewarded for their words and action that tear down and destroy, where can we turn for an alternative approach and what should guide our words and actions in order to build and create?
Wake up each morning with the specific intention to use the gift of another day to build and create with words and actions in order make a positive impact on the world.
Be Impeccable with Your Words.
In The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, one of the four guiding principles for life is to “be impeccable with your words.” Ruiz expounds upon this concept by encouraging his readers to:
1. Speak with integrity.
2. Say only what you mean.
3. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
4. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Of course, the concept of being impeccable with your words is not unique to Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. This concept is central to Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. Both the Old Testament and New Testament describe how one is to treat his or her fellow man, as well as the important yet difficult balance between self-interest and desire on the one hand, and looking out for what is best to maintain community on the other hand.
Loyalty, Respect & Sanctity.
According to the former Chief Rabbi of the UK, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, maintaining loyalty, respect and sanctity as the key moral values are what allow us to maintain this balance between self and community.
Loyalty, respect and sanctity create a moral community
with values as opposed to merely a group of autonomous individuals.
No one is perfect in their words and actions, yet it is important to maintain a commitment and the desire to always improve. Personally, one way I work on this is to take a moment when I wake up each morning, before doing anything else, to express thanks for the mere gift of waking up and being given another day to live. I make a promise that I will focus on using this gift to build and create – to make a positive impact on the world, in general, and, specifically, make a postive impact on the people with whom I directly interact.
Keeping this commitment forefront has also served me well in diffusing conflict. As a volunteer leader in my community, I was once blind-sided by a member of the community who went on a tirade about an incredibly trivial matter. Rather than engaging, I merely shared with him what I say each morning with respect to the commitment to use my words and actions to build and create rather than tear down and destroy. I followed this up by saying that he clearly made his choice at this moment to use his words and actions to tear down and destroy, and that I hoped that tomorrow he would make a different choice: to build and create instead. As you can imagine, this person was absolutely speechless and our relationship has been strong and respectful since.
We have a choice each day when we wake up to use our words and actions to either build and create or destroy and tear down. Which choice will you make?
And may the present and future leaders of business and government make the same choice going forward each day: to build and create.
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