Taking Care of Each Other

My prayers and love go out to all of the folks whose lives have been impacted by the terrible fires in Northern and Southern California. Special prayers go out to families and friends of people who have perished in these fires. Times like this emphasize how much we need to care about each other and live every moment to the fullest—because we never know what’s around the corner.

Margie and I know what it’s like to have a home destroyed by fire: in 2007 we lost our house of 25 years in the Witch fire here in San Diego. We were out of town when it happened. When we were finally allowed back in our neighborhood, we walked down our driveway and our whole place looked like it had been cremated, including our cars. We were fortunate—although losing our house and all of our possessions was devastating, nobody got hurt.

Special praisings go out to the selfless firefighters who have come from all over to put their lives on the line as they battle the fires. Without them, the devastation could be so much worse. Many thanks as well to other courageous first responders including police and EMTs, as well as volunteers staffing the shelters that have been set up for displaced people, pets, and livestock. We are blessed to have these amazing servant leaders aiding our communities during this tough time.

Please take care of yourselves and those you love—and always keep your “I love yous” up to date!

Love is the Answer. What is the Question?

Today I’m finishing up my five-part blog series on the nine elements of love as conceived by Henry Drummond, a 19th century author, in his book The Greatest Thing in the World. Drummond based his nine elements of love on the “love passage” from the Bible—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

We are on Drummond’s seventh element of love, which is Good Temper:

“Love as good temper restrains the passions and is not exasperated. It corrects a sharpness of temper and sweetens and softens attitudes. Love as good temper is never angry without a cause, and endeavors to confine the passions within proper limits. Anger cannot rest in the heart where love reigns. It is hard to be angry with those we love in good temper, but very easy to drop our resentments and be reconciled.”

Drummond spends more time on this element then any other. Why? Because if you tend to lose your temper and start yelling at people, you will negate all the other elements of love—patience, kindness, generosity, humility, and all the rest. A bad temperament can get you off a loving track easier than anything else. There’s just no place for it if you want to be a loving person. So if you’re somebody who tends to lose your temper, when you feel it coming on, take a walk around the block and come back when you’re ready to deal with the issue in a calm way.

Drummond identified Guilelessness as the eighth element of love this way:

“Love as guilelessness thinks no evil, suspects no ill motive, sees the bright side, and puts the best construction on every action. It is grace for suspicious people. It cherishes no malice; it does not give way to revenge. It is not apt to be jealous and suspicious.

I had never heard the word guilelessness before I read this passage. It’s about always seeing the brighter side of life. My mom always told me, “Ken, don’t let anybody act like they’re better than you but don’t you act like you’re better than anybody else. God did not make junk! There’s a pearl of goodness in everyone. Dig for it and you’ll find it!” My wife, Margie, thinks I’m a guilelessness fanatic because I always see the good in people. One of the things that attracted her to me was that I had a lot of odd friends other people had written off. But I saw the good in them and maybe that brought out the good in them.

Sincerity is the final element of love Drummond talks about:

“Love as sincerity takes no pleasure in doing injury or hurt to others or broadcasting their seeming miscues. It speaks only what is known to be true, necessary, and edifying. It bears no false witness and does not gossip. It rejoices in the truth.”

This element also reminds me of my mother. She rejoiced in the truth. She would tell me, “Never lie. Always tell the truth. Mean what you say and say what you mean.” That’s the way Mom was. She gave it to you straight. She modeled sincerity.

Well, that ends my blog series about love—one of my favorite words and one of my favorite topics. I always say, “Love is the answer! What is the question?” because I believe love is the answer to just about any dilemma human beings can come up with. You can make all the money in the world, get tons of recognition, and have lots of power and status—and yet when you die, as my friend John Ortberg says, “it all goes back in the box.” The only thing that remains is your soul, where you store who you loved and who loved you.

So be sure to practice patience, kindness, generosity, courtesy, humility, unselfishness, good temper, guilelessness, and sincerity. And I’ll add one of Margie’s favorite phrases: Always keep your I love you’s up to date. God bless!

The Unselfishness of Love in Action

Time for Part 4 of my “Elements of Love” series based on Henry Drummond’s nine elements of love from his book The Greatest Thing in the World.

Drummond’s sixth element is Unselfishness. Here’s what he writes about it:

“Love as unselfishness never seeks its own to the harm or disadvantage of others, or with the neglect of others. It often neglects its own for the sake of others; it prefers their welfare, satisfaction, and advantage to its own; and it ever prefers good of the community to its private advantage. It would not advance, aggrandize, enrich, or gratify itself at the cost and damage of the public.”

I interpret Drummond’s definition of unselfishness in many ways as being related to humility. It’s all about moving from a focus on yourself to concern about helping others. This is really a journey in life. How many of you have ever known a baby who came home from the hospital asking “How can I help around the house?” No, they’re screaming for what they want! Humans are naturally selfish beings. Being unselfish is a learned behavior.

My father modeled unselfishness for me when I was very young. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1924. Since World War I had ended and people thought that was the war to end all wars, the Navy didn’t think they needed as many officers at that time. As a result, my father was released after his senior cruise. In January 1925 he entered Harvard Business School with a major in finance and then headed to Wall Street to begin his career.

In 1940, when I was one year old, he was about to be made a vice president of National City Bank. Instead, he came home and said to my mother, “I quit my job today.”

My mother said, “To do what?”

“I rejoined the Navy.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

My father responded, “Remember when we got married, I said that if the country ever got in trouble, I owed it something. Hitler is crazy and pretty soon the Japanese will be in this war.”

So my father went from being a potential bank vice president to a second lieutenant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. When Pearl Harbor happened in December 1941, it looked like he was going to stay there because he was 40 years old with no naval experience. But that wasn’t my father’s style—so he called one of his classmates from the Academy who was a top person at the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington and said, “What do you have for an old fart with no experience? I’ve got to get in the action.”

His buddy said, “Let me see what I can find and I’ll get back to you.” A few days later he called my dad and said, “All I have for a guy with your experience is heading up a suicide group going into the Marshall Islands.”

My dad immediately said “You’ve got your man!” Of course, he didn’t tell my mother what his friend had said. He was given the command of twelve LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) leading the first wave into the Marshall Islands. Well over half of his men were killed or wounded. I have a picture of me at five years old in a sailor suit saluting him as he got off the train, returning home after being away for more than two years.

All this to say my dad was the most unselfish person I have ever met. How about you? Who models or has modeled unselfishness for you in your life? Remember—just because we were all born selfish doesn’t mean we can’t master unselfish behavior as adults!

The Humility and Courtesy of Love

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll know this is Part 3 of my series about the nine elements of love as written by Henry Drummond in his book The Greatest Thing in the World.

We are on the fourth element, which is Humility. Drummond wrote:

“Love as humility does not promote or call attention to itself, is not puffed up, is not bloated with self-conceit, and does not dwell upon its accomplishments. When you exhibit true love, you will find things to praise in others and will esteem others as you esteem yourself.”

When some people hear the word humility, they think of it as a weakness. Even Jim Collins, the author of From Good to Great, told his researchers to recheck the data when humility came up as the second trait of great leaders. He couldn’t believe that humility could be one of the top two traits! But I’ve always thought of humility as a strength. In fact, one of my favorite sayings was coined by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California:

“People with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less.”

If this statement applies to you, there is a good chance that you have what it takes to be an effective servant leader. Rather than spending your days doing things that benefit yourself, your loving spirit wants to serve others.

I learned this lesson early in life from my father, who retired as a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. When I won the presidency of the seventh grade in junior high school, I came home all proud and told my dad that I had won. He said “Congratulations Ken—but now that you are president, don’t ever use your position. Great leaders are great not because they have power, but because people respect and trust them. Leadership is not about you, it’s about the people you’re serving.” Quite a lesson for 13-year-old kid!

Here’s what Drummond had to say about the fifth element of love, Courtesy:

“Love as courtesy is said to be love in little things. It behaves toward all people with goodwill. It seeks to promote the happiness of all.”

It’s all about being polite—holding a door for someone, saying thanks when someone does something nice for you, and the like.

In the Disney parks, their first value is safety, followed by courtesy—the friendly, helpful service you get from each cast member every time you visit one of their parks or hotels. It can be as simple as a smiling face or a “My pleasure”—whatever brings happiness to their guests.

So this week, remember to reach out in love with a humble heart and be a courteous and considerate person in all your interactions with people. You’ll be surprised how good it feels when you make somebody else feel good!

Defining Love, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my continuing discussion on love! The second element of love according to Henry Drummond is Kindness. In The Greatest Thing in the World, he writes:

 

“Love as kindness is active. Kindness seeks to be useful. It not only seizes on opportunities for doing good, but also searches for them.”

A lot of people are writing about kindness these days. God knows we need a kinder world where people search for opportunities to do good, rather than getting into win/lose battles about who’s right and who’s wrong. What a difference it would make if people were constantly looking for ways to do good. I’m sure many of you know this quotation that is generally credited to a Stephen Grellet, a French-born Quaker missionary:

“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

That gets us back to the “precious present.” Be kind when? Now! Today!

Drummond’s third element of love is Generosity

“Love as generosity does not envy the good fortune or accomplishments of others. If we love our neighbors, we will be so far from envying them and what they possess or accomplish that we will share in and rejoice at these things. The prosperity of those to whom we wish well can never grieve us.”

Here we’re talking about generosity of spirit—showing no envy toward others. When most people hear the word generosity, they think you’re talking about giving away money. But in the Bible, before it mentions sharing your treasure, it talks about sharing your time and talent. In other words, if you are volunteering to help others, that shows a generosity of spirit.

In the book The Generosity Factor which I coauthored with the late S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, we added a fourth aspect of generosity: touch. By touch, we meant reaching out to encourage others. Truett lived his life by the quotation “Who needs encouragement? Everyone!” Isn’t that the truth!

So today, with a spirit of kindness and generosity, look for opportunities to do good for others by sharing your time, talent, treasure, or touch. Life is not about being served, but serving others. That is love in action.