More than just a food quote

S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, passed away today. In light of this, I thought it’d be appropriate to take a look at one of his guiding principles. You can find this quote from Cathy in every Chick-fil-A restaurant:

“Food is essential to life, therefore make it good.”

This is one of my favorite quotes, but not just because it’s about food. This quote is more than simply a cooking philosophy; it’s a life philosophy. The idea behind this quote is that we should focus on what we can give people, not what we can get from people. Many businesses have the practice of identifying a need and then making as much profit from it as possible. Something like, “food is essential to life, therefore make as much money as possible from it.”

Now, I’m not saying making money is bad. But imagine just how different our world would be if monetary gain wasn’t the primary goal. What if the goal was to bless others? What if the goal was to make the world a more enjoyable place to live in?

This philosophy has made quite an impact in the fast food industry. Chick-fil-A stores are noticeably different from all other fast food restaurants. And people love it. Normally, when I go to a fast food restaurant, it’s because I need food not because I enjoy going to fast food restaurants. Chick-fil-A is the only exception.

I’ve made this quote from S. Truett Cathy one of my life principles. My goal is to view life through the lens of giving, not getting. I want to love life, not just live life. Cathy wanted food to be more than just fuel for the body, but something to be enjoyed. I want to live that principle out in every aspect of my life. For example, I don’t want to be employed merely so I can make money (although that’s a good goal also). I want to be employed because I love what I do and I know I’m making the world better for others through what I do.

Basically, this philosophy can be summed up like this:

People before things. Others before yourself.

That’s it. People before things. Others before yourself. That kind of philosophy can change the world. S. Truett Cathy did in fast food. How can we do it where God has placed us?

Image courtesy of thecreativepaige.com

Image courtesy of thecreativepaige.com

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Modesty: A New Perspective

A young woman looking at clothes

Modesty. It’s an issue people have been discussing for years. A lot of years. And we still can’t come to an agreement. Maybe we never will. I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of modesty for quite a while and want to share a completely new perspective on the issue. The focus will be modesty for women, but I believe that what I’m sharing can apply to both genders pretty equally.

So get ready for something maybe a little different than you’re used to when reading about the issue of modesty.

I’ve noticed that modesty has become an issue that’s a whole lot bigger than it needs to be. Here’s what I mean. The Bible makes it clear that purity of heart and mind is just as important as purity of body (Matthew 5:27-28). But a mistake that Christians have made is that they’ve inadvertently employed the power of suggestion to make things a problem that aren’t really a problem at all.

Let me explain. Throughout history, clothing fashions have changed a whole lot. It’s interesting to note that some of today’s styles would have been considered horribly inappropriate a hundred fifty years ago, and styles that were totally fine a hundred fifty years ago are today considered immodest. Why? Just for the simple reason that what society deems acceptable changes over the years. It’s how culture operates. And for us to say that the standards for styles today are better than those from a hundred fifty years ago just doesn’t make sense. For example, at one time in history, exposure of ankles was considered immodest and provocative, while exposure of additional skin elsewhere was completely acceptable. Today it’s the opposite. What was once considered immodest is now considered modest, and what once was considered modest is now considered immodest.

My point is this: it’s not how much skin is shown. It’s not where that skin is. It’s not about the tightness of the clothing. It’s not about any of the things we typically talk about in the “modesty talk.” Here’s what it is about. It’s about attitude and heart. The attitude and heart of both the girl wearing the clothes, and the guy looking at the girl.

In fact, I’m much more inclined to put more responsibility on the guys than the girls. When I see a girl and my mind goes in a direction it shouldn’t, my reaction is to change my thoughts and apologize to God for those thoughts, not to immediately think “wow, her clothes are immodest.” Why?

Because I chose to have those thoughts. I allowed my mind to go that direction. My attitude and my perspective is my choice and my responsibility. I control it. I can make a decision when I see a girl to either think things that are inappropriate and objectify her, or to view her as the beautiful woman God designed. And it’s completely up to me. My thoughts and my mind are controlled by me, not by anyone else.

A challenge I face, though, is that for much of my life I’ve had the impression that certain clothing or styles are “sinful.” But what that did was sensationalize them. The power of suggestion and curiosity is huge. Because I was led to believe that a certain style was sinful, my mind would go there. But as I’ve trained my mind to move away from those thoughts, I’ve been able to view styles not as “sinful” or “not sinful” but instead simply as a style. Guys, our minds are our responsibility. But removing the stereotypes sure would help. As I’ve been able to remove my preconceived beliefs about certain types of clothing, I’ve discovered that they are no longer a stumbling block. The style hasn’t changed. How much skin it reveals or covers hasn’t changed. How tight or loose it is hasn’t changed. But my mind has.

Intention-MattersI do have a few thoughts for girls as well. Because the issue of modesty ultimately comes down to attitude and heart, I think there is some responsibility on the side of the girls as well. I would encourage ladies to consider their motive and attitude for what they wear and how they wear it. Because it shows. I know that might sound strange, but normally it is pretty easy to tell why a girl is wearing what she’s wearing. I can typically tell if she’s looking for attention, if she just wants something comfortable, if she wants to look pretty, if she doesn’t care, if she wants to appear provocative. And that most certainly does factor into the equation. Guys are definitely going to have a tougher time keeping their mind pure if the girls around them are wearing clothing with the intention of getting the wrong kind of attention. So it is helpful for girls to be aware of their attitude and what they might be communicating through what they wear and how they carry themselves.

Also, ladies, it’s good to be aware of the kind of guys you’ll be interacting with. In Romans, Paul talks a lot about being aware of what could be a stumbling block to some. Depending on how guys have been raised and their background (among other things), certain styles could be a stumbling block. That doesn’t mean you should never wear that style, but it may mean not wearing it in certain situations.

Notice that in this entire post, I haven’t said anything about amount of clothing or how much skin should be allowed to be shown or how tight or loose clothing should be or whether one-piece swimsuits are more modest than two-piece suits or how skirts need to be a certain length or anything about necklines or anything like that. That’s because rules just don’t work. The Bible doesn’t make rules. In fact, it has very little to say on the subject of modesty. And when it does address the issue, the focus is primarily on attitude and heart. So who are we to make rules? Also, rules are made to be broken. Someone playing by “the rules” can be super immodest but get away with it and someone “breaking the rules” could be totally modest but restricted by the rules. It’s not about rules; it’s about heart.

To wrap this up…

Ladies, as a guy I would ask you to analyze your heart and your attitude as you choose what to wear. But don’t allow the stupidity of guys to limit you. You are beautiful. You are attractive. And that’s good. That’s what God intended! Guys, let’s take responsibility for our mind and our thoughts. Let’s get our minds out of the gutter. We control what we think. We control our attitude and our heart. It’s up to us. Let’s take some responsibility for what belongs to us and not shove it onto the girls. We are men. Let’s act like it.

If you’re interested in reading another man’s perspective on this, check out this blog post. I can’t speak for anything else on the blog, but thought this post was excellent.

Thoughts on this topic? Share in the comments below!

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Social Media and Self-Worth

social media

I love social media. I have a presence on most major social media/networking platforms; I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. Not quite all of them, but a good majority.

I think that social media is an incredible tool and has definitely benefited me in many ways. But I’m frustrated. Not with the tool, but with how it’s being used/viewed (by me included. I don’t believe for a moment I’ve got all of this figured out). I’ve noticed that a lot of social media users are just looking for attention. It’s all about how many likes we can get on our Facebook post or Instagram picture or how many favorites and retweets we can get on that Tweet. We seem to think that our “performance” on social media is a reflection of who we are and that our self-worth is directly proportional to how “popular” we are on social media.

That is not true. It’s just not. Your self-worth has nothing to do with social media. Nothing.

Posting more often, posting less often, posting completely random stuff, posting a ton of pointless photos, posting a ton of meaningful photos, posting only deep quotes, posting only “important” information, none of those “tactics” are going to make you a better person. They’re not going to affect your self-worth.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that social media is about connecting with people. It’s about communicating with them, talking with them, getting to know them. Don’t use social media just to get, but rather to give. 

I’ve found that when I do let myself slip into the mindset that I need to “perform well” on social media, I tend to be more discontent and more frustrated. But I when treat social media as the tool it’s supposed to be and  just enjoy it for what it is, I’m a whole lot more satisfied and much happier.

Think about it this way. In the long run, which is going to matter more? The number of likes you get on your profile picture or status? Or the lives you impact and bless because you care about others?

Use social media. Don’t let it use you or define you.

P.S. – In a previous blog post, I discussed a video that looks at the connection between social media and loneliness. Here’s the video again if you’re interested. It’s very thought-provoking and helps explain some of the challenges that come with social media.

Just a Few Sentences…

I analyze everything. I pay close attention to what’s going on around me and have to take time to think through and process things. So when it comes to making quick decisions, I don’t typically feel very comfortable. I’ve often tended to view this aspect of my personality negatively.

About three months ago, I was having a conversation with an adult leader about streamlining some different systems and processes for an event. When we came to one of the responsibilities and how to improve it, I made a passing comment about how I wasn’t very good at that job because I need to think through things and this job required thinking on the spot. And then I just made a small comment about how I viewed this part of my personality as a disadvantage. And the leader stopped me. She said, “Matthew, don’t say that. It’s important and valuable think through things the way you do. We need that!” And she went on to explain how my perspective could actually contribute to improving this responsibility. This took me entirely by surprise and completely changed my perspective!

I took away a few big lessons from this discussion with that leader.

I realized that it’s all about perspective. I looked at this certain situation from my assumption that my personality was a disadvantage, while the leader viewed it from a different vantage point. While it’s true that sometimes that part of my personality can be negative, I shouldn’t start with that belief. I should begin with a positive perspective.

I also realized how different personalities work together. If everyone was just like me and analyzed everything deeply and took time to process everything, we’d be in deep trouble. And if no one was like me, we’d also be in deep trouble because so many details would be ignored. But when people with all of the different personalities that God has created work together, everyone contributes and adds value.

But the biggest lesson I took away from this conversation actually had nothing to do with my personality, or the issue we were discussing. From this conversation, I realized just how powerful words are, if they are spoken. That leader didn’t have to stop me and encourage me and help me see things differently. She could have easily said nothing; the conversation would have continued and neither of us would have thought anything about it. It wasn’t that I thought this “disadvantage” of mine was that big of a deal. It was a “small” opportunity to encourage, but she chose to affirm me anyway. Now I wonder how often I miss out on opportunities to affirm and encourage people, not because I’m not paying attention, but rather because I see the chance but don’t think it’s really that important. But that leader thought it was important. And it meant a whole lot to me. Those couple of sentences made a world of difference.

Now, I’m inspired to do the same for others. My words have impact, and I shouldn’t ignore that. I don’t want to waste opportunities I have to be an encourager. I want to encourage and affirm, no matter how “small” I think the opportunity is. Those words from that leader blessed me, and I want to pass that on.

We never know the impact we can have on someone because of a couple of sentences in a conversation!

Don’t Wait to Be a Hero

I think this is my favorite TED talk out of all the ones I’ve ever watched.

As I re-watched this video, I got goosebumps at the end. This message really hits home for me. How often do I not do something because I think it won’t matter or because I don’t think it’s big enough?

Don’t wait. I love what Mark Bezos concludes with:

Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save somebody’s life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one.

It’s not the accomplishment that matters. People matter. It’s not the size of what we do. It’s that we do.

Don’t wait to be a hero. Who can you be a hero to today?

You Never Know

Recently, a friend on Facebook shared this true story that is powerful, thought-provoking, inspiring, challenging, and fits perfectly with the purpose of my blog.

I went to the store to buy ammunition for my airsoft gun. When I reached the aisle that carried airsoft guns and supplies, there was a man standing there looking at the various guns that you could buy. He asked me a few questions, and we started talking about gun rights here in the U.S. As soon as I had finished giving him my opinion on the matter, he turned to me and said, “Wow, how old are you?” I replied, “I’m 16.” He looked at me for several seconds without saying anything, then he proceeded to say, “There’s no way you can be 16 and speak that eloquently and actually know what you’re talking about.” I was slightly taken aback, in a pleasant way, but nevertheless I had difficulty thinking of how to reply other than with a “Thank you.” He went on to tell me that he was a lawyer that worked for a huge law firm in my hometown…. He told me that he had never met a person my age that could communicate their stand on a certain issue with the same level of understanding and professionalism that I had when I spoke to him. I thanked him multiple times, and the last thing he asked me was, “Where do you go to school?” I said, “I’m home-schooled actually.” Again, he looked at me for several seconds and said, “If homeschooling produces such well-educated, polite, and professional students, then I am absolutely going to home-school my children.” It was the ultimate lollipop moment… I thanked him several times… We finished the conversation, and he told me that he was very impressed by what I had said to him. He soon left, but he left me with a thought that keeps reverberating in my mind: people pay attention to the way we behave, both inside and outside of our education. The image we portray in such circumstances either promotes God or degrades Him, and as Christians, we are to glorify God, not only in what we say, but also in what we do. I knew this already, but it carried so much more meaning after my experience in talking to this man. I’m not boasting about my accomplishments, but I am pointing out that even the smallest things we do can have a huge impact on others…

When I read this, I was amazed. Think of the influence and impact this young man had on that lawyer, just because of how he communicated! Let this sink in for a moment – this lawyer determined the style of education for his children based off of the actions of one individual! This just goes to show the influence, the power, that each of us have in our communication.

Will you be intentional and purposeful in your communication? How are you going to use your influence? You never know who you’re impacting.

Lollipop Moments

This is one of the best TED talks I have seen. The six minutes it takes to watch it is a valuable investment of your time.

I came away from watching this video with two main observations:

Tell people that you appreciate them.

“How many of you guys have a lollipop moment? A moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better? How many of you have told that person they did it? See, why not? We celebrate birthdays where all you have to do is not die for 365 days, and yet we’ve got people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it.”

Drew Dudley hit the nail on the head with this quote. Imagine if someone came up to you and told you that you’d had a profound impact on their lives. Think about the impact that would make on you. I know it would make my day, or even my whole week! Some of you may have had that experience already – you know what it’s like. Go do that for the people in your life who have profoundly impacted you. Show appreciation to the people you appreciate.

What kind of influence did you have when you don’t remember what you did?

Drew Dudley said that he didn’t at all remember the entire situation. In this case, something he had no recollection of ended up positively impacting someone. But he didn’t remember it. What about the times we don’t remember? What kind of impact have we had that we aren’t aware of? It could have been a positive impact, but it could also have been negative. This is why purposeful communication is so important. Apparently the scenario didn’t stick with Drew Dudley because his brain for some reason didn’t recognize it as important. But it was important. We can never let our guard down. We’re always communicating, so we always have to be intentional in what we communicate.

People have changed our lives, and we are changing other’s lives. Don’t let opportunities slip away, both to thank people and to be a positive influence.

Influencers: Leaders vs. Rulers

Influence. If you think about it, everyone has influence in some sphere of life. It’s just a fact. But that fact should make you stop and think. What am I doing with that influence? How am I using and managing that influence? How am I acquiring that influence?

There are two ways to use your influence. You can be a leader, or you can be a ruler. The difference between leaders and rulers is huge and extremely fundamental. At an Institute for Cultural Communicators training event this past spring, president and co-founder of ICC, Teresa Moon, spoke on the differences between leaders and rulers. Let’s take a look at a few of the differences that she pointed out:

  1. Leaders have followers; rulers have subjects. This is big! The primary difference between leaders and followers is the people they are influencing. Leaders have followers, people who want to follow and be influenced. Rulers, on the other hand, have subjects, people who have no choice but to follow and do what they’re told.
  2. Leaders are given their influence; rulers create their influence. Leaders are given their position by their followers. The followers want the leader to lead because of something in them – their character. Rulers force their position on their subjects. Followers choose; subjects are chosen.
  3. Leaders care about their followers; rulers use their subjects. Leaders are who they are not because they want influence but because they care about people and want to help them. That’s why followers choose them as leaders to start with. To contrast, rulers are only interested in influence and view their subjects only as means to an end. Rulers don’t care about their subjects as people, but merely as “things” to exert influence on.

Ultimately, leaders reflect the heart of God and His love, whereas rulers use force, which isn’t in accordance with what God calls us to.

From this comparison, it’s pretty clear which we should desire to be! Like I said at the beginning, we all have influence in some way. We must, therefore, choose whether we’ll be leaders or rulers. It’s easy to want to be a leader, but harder to actually practice it. I can definitely attest to this. Normally I’m fine with being a leader until things don’t go exactly how I want them to. Then I start to turn to the practices of a ruler so I can get things done the way I want them. It’s not always easy to be a leader! But it’s the right thing.

I encourage you to analyze your actions in light of leaders versus rulers. Strive to be a leader, no matter how hard it might be. When you find yourself tending toward the habits of a ruler instead of a leader, identify the circumstances encouraging this behavior so that you can best adjust your perspective, attitude, and actions.

If we all have influence in some way, then we must choose to be either a leader or a ruler. Choose to be a leader. Yes, let’s be leaders.

You Get What You Expect

Take a quick look around your world, and it’s pretty obvious how much of a mess we’re in. Especially when it comes to young people. Young people think they’re entitled to everything, are disrespectful, and it’s pretty sobering to think of what the world will be like once the next generation takes over. If we were to plot this reality on a graph of 0-20 (with zero being as bad as possible and twenty being incredible), it might look something like this:Low reality

But there’s more to this graph. Reality can also be referred to as “results.” Why? Because you get what you expect. In other words, reality is the result of whatever you expect. So there’s actually two parts to this graph: results and expectations. And they are very closely related. Today, we have very low expectations of young people. You might think the reason is because the results are low. But it’s actually the other way around. We have low results because we have low expectations.2

When expectations change, the results will follow to match the expectations. So if you raise your expectations, then your results will rise.3

So what happens when you lower your expectations? The results decrease.5

This is the problem with today’s young people. Our culture expects “not much” from young people, so “not much” is the result. Young people play close attention to the cues given them by adults. And they respond. Society tells us that teenagers go through a rebellious stage. So parents expect their kids to go through a rebellious stage. And so they do. Not because it’s “natural” but because it’s expected. I never went through a rebellious teenager stage. Not because I’m unique, but because my parents didn’t expect me to. In fact, they expected the exact opposite. Results follow expectations.

So if we want better results from young people, what do we have to do? We must raise our expectations. Once our expectations rise, then results will rise to match them. And this trend will continue.7

Not only are we not getting good results by having low expectations, but what are we communicating? If I have low expectations of you, what am I telling you? That I don’t believe in you. That I don’t think you’re capable of something better. That I don’t think you’re mature enough. This is what’s being communicated to young people today. But here’s the deal. Young people won’t become mature unless they’re expected to and are treated like the people they’re expected to be.

Of course, this does’t acquit young people of responsibility for their actions. Not by a long shot! Young people can fight against low expectations. Yet, they might not even realize that there’s something to fight against. The environment young people live in has a great effect on them. I was able to fight against low expectations because of the environment my parents created at home. If that environment doesn’t exist, then young people might not realize that they should be fighting to start with.

If adults expect young people to waste their life, they’ll treat them like that, and young people will waste their life. That’s what we’re seeing today. Let’s reverse that! Adults, I ask you to expect more of us as young people. And we will rise to that expectation. Treat us like the people you want us to be. We will rise to the challenge. Because you always get what you expect.