This isn’t The Porch reflection I intended to share on this First Thursday of the New Year. I had been reflecting on 2020 and had been relishing-in (or fantasizing-about) thoughts of new beginnings.
Yet, yesterday in America, the 6th day of a New Year – it all felt more like an ending.
And anything about new beginnings simply felt tone deaf to this historic reality that was unfolding in front of our own eyes. As if the pandemic of 2020 wasn’t enough of an historic reality. I want to be clear; I have no political agenda in sharing this following reflection. Frankly, I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of politics right now. It has consumed far too much focus, conversation, and emotion – as well as sucked out of all us way more energy than it ever should. At the same time, I’ll admit, I do have a precise agenda of “depth” in trying to pen these thoughts for The Porch. It is simply this:
We don’t have a political problem. We have a problem of depth.
In a world of social media notifications, sound bites, corporate slogans and meeting themes, weekend church sermon series, fly-by zoom conversations, metrics, measurements and exercises of polishing veneer – we are all drawn to the illusional surface of this great mystery of life. Granted, if there is a hidden gift in the pandemic, it has been a relative improvement in some deeper reflecting and time for some refreshing reconnections. Yet, in all of my now thousands of hours of work on the rediscovery and reimagination of the concept of integrity, the most common resistance I hear is this: People just don’t want to dig that deep. I get that. And it is, in fact, true. Very true. Yet, I’m not sure we any longer have a choice. Digging deep and doing the interior work, individually or organizationally, is not easy. In fact, it can be really hard. It’s certainly, confusing at times. There is never instantaneous gratification … and rarely does progress show itself in the short term.
Let’s face it, nothing meaningful ever does.
Most people don’t like to “practice” either – athletes, musicians, artists or communicators. Yet, the great ones do it anyway. When athletes, musicians, artist and communicators don’t practice – they simply don’t improve. There are also a lot of leaders who don’t want to dig inside themselves. And when they don’t – they wreak havoc. Maybe leaders don’t dig inside because we don’t demand it of them. Perhaps because we can’t. It’s hard to demand what you haven’t individually experienced. A leader can only lead you as deep as they have been themselves. At the same time, it may be just as true that we can’t demand more depth of them any deeper than we have dug inside ourselves. I would suggest that we are in the midst of a real “depth-privation.” Not some of us, but all of us. No doubt to different degrees. Our depth determines the health of our passion, the breadth of our insights, and the nature of our persistence and resistance. Our great nation is struggling. We are better than this — we know this, our friends around the world know this and our enemies, no doubt, know this. We need more than political viewpoints and opinions in America today. We need some serious self-reflection to unearth imbedded subtleties of selfishness and self-interests, greed bordering on gluttony, a craving for soundbites rather than a real hunger for sound truth, a misguided draw to individualism rather than inclusion. A nation deaf to the greater good of the whole is certain to grow shallow and shrink in stature and influence. Such a nation eventually accepts the unacceptable, blames those not at fault and shakes their head in disbelief to what is happening around them. It would be easy to suggest that the actions at our Nation’s Capitol were simply an isolated representation.
So is a tumor inside a body.
I have never felt sadder for our great nation than I did yesterday. Is this what we have come to? Is this really who we are? September 11th was shocking – a terrorist attack from the outside. January 6th was depressing terrorist attack from the inside. One is a virus. The other is a cancer. It wasn’t lost on me that this attack on our Nation’s Capitol came on the day known as Epiphany – a word defined as a moment of sudden revelation or insight. On the surface it may look like January 6th was a wake-up call. I would suggest, that if we don’t call ourselves and our nation to a greater depth, we will simply roll-over and go back to sleep. It is time for all of us to pick-up a shovel and start digging towards an Epiphany in America. Together. Which, maybe in the end, brings me back to what I had hoped to write about to begin with … a new beginning. As always, I would love for you to share your thoughts below.
Hi John, I could not agree with you more. Even worse, I was horrified when 2 women were being interviewed on TV after the mobbing of the capital occurred. They were asked if they were proud of what they did and the violence that transpired with 4 dead. They both said that they were very proud and that there was no violence. How could we have gotten so far off track? I do feel that it is time for very deep reflection to figure out where this cancer is and to heal it. But as we all know, leadership comes from the top. I do know that on January 20th we will have a new beginning! Rosie
Rosie … thank you for sharing. Being blind to our blindness is such a sad and dangerous thing. I join you in hoping that we can find a new way forward that works for all of us. There is no question we have the resources and talent to figure this out. The question becomes … do we have the heart. I am always hopeful.
As you said, John: “A nation deaf to the greater good of the whole is certain to grow shallow and shrink in stature and influence.” I fear that path will continue in the says ahead. The problem stems from the human heart — or spirit. Thus, it is a spiritual weakness within our country. We are a people rejecting a change of heart.
Mark … thanks for sharing in our porch discussion. We are certainly at a weak point. My hope is that in digging deeper we can all be honest about where we participate and contribute to this weakness and in doing so we can each find the strength within that brings a more cohesive approach to the greater good of all of us!
John, Just a quick note. It’s always lovely to hear your thoughts. It’s been a tough week and to be honest it was a very painful 4 years. I a cautious that new leadership brings new hope, but as a country we need to look very hard at ourselves. My heart aches. Take good care – Gretchen
Gretchen … such a JOY to see your comments on the porch. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experience. Let’s hope and pray that we can begin to move forward together. Maybe it might be helpful for us to start remember what it feels like to accomplish real advancements together joining together the voices of all who wish for unity.
BRAVO, JOHN, BRAVO!!!!
Terri … thanks for engaging with us with your usual and wonderful enthusiasm. I hope you are doing well and staying well. YOU taking such loving care of my Mom in her final years showed what it looks like to LIVE DEEP for others. Forever grateful for you my friend.
Thank you for this, John. So beautifully and powerfully said.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If the world read your book, Return on Integrity, it would have a profound impact. The world of politics has changed dramatically, there is no accountability, no depth, no more people first. It makes me sad. Yet, chaos can inspire (your word) digging, which people typically don’t want to do. I hope it’s never too late to begin “the dig”.
Nicki … Thanks for your forever kind words and encouragement for others to read “Return On Integrity” … I’m so grateful for your digging into the book and for always being one who lives the essence of the message shared across those pages. Also, so deeply grateful for you being such a wonderful participant in The CIRCLE of INTEGRITY too!
John, thank you for these words of inspiration which unfortunately will not be received well by a world which is breathing poorly. We are living in a self reliant culture that is in a state of survival. Our physiology has shifted to one of self protection, which more reactive and unaware. Emotionally, we are isolated in fear and unpredictability. Spiritually, we are dead! As you well state, we are (self) living on the surface I believe CPR is needed.
Tom … being a great doc, you name it so well. A CPR is needed to check our hearts. We could all benefit with a heart activation that hears the cry of all who hurt and fear and find a new desire to move forward arm-in-arm together. Grateful for you jumping-up on the porch with us this month!
Thank you for sharing, John. Our country seems to be a ship without a rudder right now…just was we all our without faith. I continue to pray for a return to God, a return to morals, a return to goodness, a return to integrity.
Julie … rudderless is a great metaphor. That is precisely why we need to do the work of digging deeper. Sometimes a shallow faith is the most dangerous of all. Thank you for gathering on the porch with us!
John, thank you for your heartfelt piece of writing.
I agree that we need to dig deep for our core values individually, and also we have to regain the sense that relationship with others who are different from us is valuable in itself, and more than just a means to an end. There is joy and life in relationship, family ties, friendships, community.
Many forces have conspired to make us more rushed, more shallow, more continuously stimulated by electronics, more caught in our bubbles and echo chambers.
America has always been a country that has prized individualism, but it seems we’ve recently taken that so far that we’ve lost a sense that there is a common good, and being willing to do the work to build a society that works for all. A common force I see over so many events of the past year is the effect of isolation, where people feel that they don’t have a voice, don’t belong to a greater whole, and therefore feel justified in extremism. It seems like slow work, but building community is the only way out of these quagmires.
John … thank you for sitting on the porch with us and for sharing your thoughtful reflection. I could not agree with you more. We do have to take responsibility to do our own deep digging, but not for ourselves … rather so we can show up better for the community in which we exist, the country we live in and the planet we live on. I often talk about how integrity isn’t defined in the individual … it is defined by the connection to the greater whole. It just starts in the individual. Thanks again for sharing!