the crisis of love

There is a true story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance of recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was an ideal donor.

“Would you give your blood to Mary?” the doctor asked.

Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.”

Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room. Mary, pale and thin. Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned.

As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny’s smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube.

With the ordeal almost over, Johnny’s voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence.

“Doctor, when do I die?”

Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he agreed to donate his blood. He thought giving his blood to his sister would mean giving up his life. In that brief moment, he had made his great decision. Johnny faced a “crisis of love”. He won the test and experienced love at the deepest level.

David Needham, Close to His Majesty

The Good Samaritan Experiment

In 1973, the research duo of John Darley and Daniel Batson asked Princeton Theological Seminary students to visit a group of children across campus to deliver a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan. 

The researchers told some of the future pastors, “It’ll be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head on over.” They told others, “You’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. You’d better get moving.”

While proceeding across campus, each subject passed a man slumped in a doorway, moaning and coughing. 

Imagine yourself in this situation: A classroom of children awaits you but, along the way, you encounter a man who’s clearly in distress. Is there any doubt what you do? Or what religiously attuned students would do? No matter the circumstances, we’d expect everyone to help. However, only 10 percent of the “hurried” students stopped to offer assistance. 

The best explanation for this behavior is that, amid the anxiety of running late, most of the students experienced a perceptual shift that caused them not to see the man or recognize his distress.

Robert Pearl writing in Vox

He Came… to Give

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. -Mark 10:45

When Jesus took the time to explain his reason for coming among us, he was simple and direct: to serve and to give. Not to be served. Not to grab the spotlight in the center ring. Not to make a name or attract attention or become successful or famous or powerful or idolized. 

Charles Swindoll, Improving Your Serve

Would you be Willing?

Elizabeth Stokoe, professor of social interaction at Loughborough University, and her colleagues, have analysed thousands of hours of recorded conversations, from customer services to mediation hotlines and police crisis negotiation. They discovered that certain words or phrases have the power to change the course of a conversation.

People who had already responded negatively when asked if they would like to attend mediation seemed to change their minds when the mediator used the phrase, “Would you be willing to come for a meeting?” “As soon as the word ‘willing’ was uttered, people would say: ‘Oh, yes, definitely’ – they would actually interrupt the sentence to agree.” Stokoe found it had the same effect in different settings: with business-to-business cold callers; with doctors trying to persuade people to go to a weight-loss class. She also looked at phrases such as “Would you like to” and “Would you be interested in”. “Sometimes they worked, but ‘willing’ was the one that got people to agree more rapidly and with more enthusiasm.”

Rosie Ifouldwriting in The Guardian 

The Shape of a Moral Hero

What shapes a moral hero? And how does someone choose to save people that others turn away? 

Research on those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust shows that many exhibited a streak of independence from an early age.  

A second characteristic of such heroes and heroines, as the psychologist Philip Zimbardo writes, is “that the very same situations that inflame the hostile imagination in some people, making them villains, can also instill the heroic imagination in other people, prompting them to perform heroic deeds.”  

David Wolpe writing in the New York Times 

a Call for Help

Asking for help is smart. It's also the answer to fatigue and the "I'm indispensable" image. But something keeps us from this wise course of action, and that something is pride. Plain, stubborn unwillingness to admit need. The result, painful though it is to admit, is a lifestyle of impatience. We become easily irritated- often angry. We work long hours. Take less time off. Forget how to laugh. Cancel vacations. And all the while the specter of discouragement looms across our horizon like a dark storm front,- threatening to choke out any remaining sunshine.

Say, my friend, it's time to declare it. You are not the Messiah of the twentieth century! There is no way you can keep pushing your life at that pace and expect to stay effective. Analyze yourself any way you please, you are H-U-M-A-M... nothing more. So? So slow down. So give yourself a break. So stop trying to cover all the bases and sell popcorn in the stands at the same time. So relax for a change!

Charles Swindoll, Encourage Me

Rich and Poor Cheat for Different Reasons

In certain circumstances, it's the poor who are more likely to cheat. The difference is that the rich do wrong to help themselves, while the poor do wrong to help others. In several experiments reported in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology… the studies suggest a straightforward sequence: Money leads to the perception that one is higher in the social hierarchy, which in turn leads to a sense of power, which in turn leads to a greater willingness to cheat for selfish reasons.

People with less money (and therefore less power), however, are more communal. They need to rely on each other to get by, and as a result, research shows, they’re more compassionate and empathically accurate. Breaking rules is always risky, but social cohesion is paramount — so you do what it takes to help those around you.

The researchers think their findings could lead to some easy practical applications. If you’re speaking to higher-class individuals, you might want to appeal to their selfishness and warn that cheating will ultimately backfire. But when talking to those with fewer resources, you might be better off noting that their actions could harm those around them.

Matthew Hutson, New York Magazine

Painting your Internal World

Therapists often run into a curious problem during treatment: Clients aren’t very good at describing their emotions. How exactly do you express the nature of your depression? So this spring, relationship counselor Crystal Rice hit upon a clever idea. She had her clients use Pinterest, the popular picture-pinning social network, to create arrays of images that map out their feelings. It’s a brilliant epiphany: While emotions can be devilishly difficult to convey in words, they’re often very accessible via pictures. “This way we can really identify what’s going on,” Rice says.

As Rice discovered with her clients, Pinterest’s appeal is that it gives us curiously powerful visual ways to communicate, think, and remember. If you see one picture of a guitar, it’s just a guitar; but when you see 80 of them lined up you start to see guitarness. This additive power is precisely what helps Rice’s clients paint their internal worlds.

Part of the value of Pinterest is that it brings you out of yourself and into the world of things. As the Huffington Post writer Bianca Bosker argued, Facebook and Twitter are inwardly focused (“Look at me!”) while Pinterest is outwardly focused (“Look at this!”). It’s the world as seen through not your eyes but your imagination.

Granted, Pinterest encourages plenty of dubious behavior too. It can be grindingly materialistic; all those pins of stuff to buy! Marketers are predictably adrool, and as they swarm aboard, the whole service might very well end up collapsing into a heap of product shilling.

But I suspect we’ll see increasingly odd and clever ways of using Pinterest. If a picture is worth a thousand words, those collections are worth millions.

Clive Thompson, Wired Magazine

listening is more than hearing

Effective listening takes practice; it’s actually a discipline. It doesn’t come easily or naturally. Listening means more than just hearing what a person says.

A counselor I know expressed the difference like this: "Hearing captures the words a person speaks; listening captures the meaning and the feeling beneath those words."

Listening is the mental step by which we become more aware of the other person than we are of ourselves.

The best definition of listening I ever came across is that given by Norman H. Wright, who wrote, “Listening is not thinking about what you are going to say when the other person has stopped talking."

Stephen Goforth

a stone and a rusty nail

How do we keep from developing judgmental attitudes? This used to be my big hang-up when I first started counseling. Whenever people shared their problems with me, I found myself thinking,

“If he had stay away from the wrong crowd, this would never have happened.”

“He should have known better.”

“A little common sense could have prevented this…”

“A good lecture show sort her out.”

One day I shared my difficulties with an older counselor, who said, “That used to be my problem, too- and this is how I overcame it.’

Reaching into a desk drawer he took out a stone and a rusty nail.

‘I keep these here,’ he said, "For a special reason. The stone to remind me of the text, 'Let him who is without sin.. be the first to throw a stone' and the nail to remind me what a Friend did for me a long, long time ago on a hill called Calvary."

Since then, whenever I counsel anyone who has gone astray, I say to myself, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

a Counselor

Improving your inner circle

I reviewed my life when I turned forty. I had the desire to keep going to a higher level and to make a greater impact, but I realized that I had leveraged my time as much as I possibly could, and it would have been impossible to sharpen the focus on my priorities any more than it already was. In other words, I could not work harder or smarter. That left me only one choice: learning to work through others.

John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

those pathetic people

Most of us, driven by our own aching needs and voids, address life and other people in the stance of seekers. We become what CS Lewis, in his book, The Four Loves, calls “..those pathetic people who simply want friends and can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends.”

Most of us know our need to be loved and try to seek the love that we need from others. But the paradox remains uncompromised; if we seek the love which we need, we will never find it. We are lost.

Love can effect the solution of our problems but we must face the fact that to be loved, we must become loveable. When a person orients his life towards the satisfaction of his own needs, when he goes out of seek the love which he needs, no matter how we try to soften our judgments of him, he is self-centered. He is not lovable, even if he does deserve our compassion, He is concentrating on himself, and as long as he continues to concentrate on himself, his ability to love will always remain stunted and he will himself remain a perennial infant.

If, however, a person seeks not to receive love, but rather to give it, he will become lovable and he will most certainly be loved in the end. This is the immutable law under which we live: concern for ourselves and convergence upon self can only isolate self and induce an even deeper and more torturous loneliness. It is a vicious and terrible cycle that closes in on us when loneliness, seeking to be relieved through the love of others, only increases. The only way we can break this cycle formed by our lusting egos is to stop being concerned with ourselves and to being to be concerned with others.

John Powell, Why Am I Afraid to Love?

the power of touch

A study of NBA players found the best teams touch each other a lot--while the losing teams seldom touched each other. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley looked at what happened between teammates during the 2009 season and found the most touch-prone were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, two of the league’s top teams at the time. The mediocre Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats were at the bottom of touch list. The same held true for individual players. The study took into account the possibility of teams high-fiving just because they were winning and adjusted accordingly. Even when the high expectations surrounding the more talented teams were taken into account, the correlation persisted.

A warm touch reduces stress by releasing hormones that promote a sensation of trust. This can free up the part of the brain that regulates emotion to engage in problem solving.

The investigators also tested couples, finding with more touching came greater satisfaction in the relationship. Previous research has suggested students receiving a teacher's supportive touch on the arm or back or arm were much more likely to volunteer in class and a sympathetic touch from a doctor gives patients feeling that a visit lasted twice as long as it actually did.

Stephen Goforth

My Life with One Arm

Two months to the day after my accident, I went to see a therapist for the first time in my life. I didn’t know where to begin. We discussed loss and resilience and the will to live and adapt. But when I started talking about the outpouring of love and support that I had received since my accident, I began weeping uncontrollably. I realized that for the first time in my life, I was truly letting love into my heart. Losing an arm has connected me to others in a way I have never felt. Yes, I have suffered a tremendous loss, but in a way, I feel as if I have gained much more.

Miles O’Brian, Writing in New York Magazine

Time to Cheer

Encourage others and cheer for them. Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are leads to good places – productive, fulfilling, peaceful places. So be happy for those who are making progress. Cheer for their victories. Be thankful for their blessings, openly. What goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you’re cheering for will start cheering for you.

Marc and Angel Chernoff

Give people you don’t know a fair chance

When you look at a person, any person, remember that everyone has a story. Everyone has gone through something that has changed them, and forced them to grow. Every passing face on the street represents a story every bit as compelling and complicated as yours. We meet no ordinary people in our lives. If you give them a chance, everyone has something amazing to offer. So appreciate the possibility of new relationships as you naturally let go of old ones that no longer work. Trust your judgment. Embrace new relationships, knowing that you are entering into unfamiliar territory. Be ready to learn, be ready for a challenge, and be ready to meet someone that might just change your life forever.

Marc & Angel Chernoff

True Friendship

If friends relate to you only on their terms--or see you as just a means to an end (that is, they are trying to turn you into little versions of themselves) then they have created a barrier to true friendship. The irreligious actually honor God more than the professing believer when accepting people for who they are, as means in themselves. This does not mean you don't try to help friends grow and learn and move into truth. It means you start by acknowledging they are made in the image of God and worthwhile and valuable--simply for being themselves (Psalm 139:13).

Stephen Goforth

You Need Two Things

Building a genuine relationship with another person depends on at least two abilities. The first is seeing the world from another person's perspective. The second ability is being able to think about how you can collaborate with and help the other person rather than thinking about what you can get.

We're not suggesting that you be so saintly that a self-interested thought never crosses your mind. What we're saying is that your first move should always be to help. A study on negotiation found that a key difference between skilled and average negotiators was the time spent searching for shared interests and asking questions of the other person.

Follow that model. Start with a friendly gesture and genuinely mean it. Dale Carnegie's classic book on relationships, despite all its wisdom, has the unfortunate title How to Win Friends and Influence People. This makes Carnegie widely misunderstood. You don't "win" a friend. A friend is not an asset you own; a friend is an ally, a collaborator. When you can tell that someone is attempting sincerity, it leaves you cold. It is like the feeling you have when someone calls you by your first name repeatedly in conversation.

Reid Hoffman, The Start-Up of You

emotional blackmail

When someone attempts to make you responsible for their feelings, they are committing what psychologists call emotional blackmail. A parent uses this when he or she tells a child, "You've hurt me so much" or when a spouse says, "You hurt my feelings."

It is placing responsibility for their emotional outcome on you--pretending you have control over something you do not. The parent may choose to become angry or sulk or become bitter or irritable toward the child. Someone may claim your action justifies their emotion. But that person is still doing the choosing of their own emotions.

When you see a family tiptoe around the house because "we don't want to upset mother (or father)" then you have a family who has decided to make everyone responsible for a single person's feelings--taking on a burden they were never meant to carry. Each family member is responsible for his or her actions. To make preventing someone from being upset a goal is wrong.

Elizabeth Kenny once said, “Anyone who angers you, conquers you.” To allow someone else to decide how you feel is abdicating your responsibility to define yourself. Don't allow someone else to sell you on the idea that you are responsible for what they feel. And don't blackmail those around you by threatening to unleash an emotional outburst over something you are blaming them for creating.. when you did that yourself.

Stephen Goforth