Monday, February 16, 2009

Go for it! Connect more!

Back on the strengths train. Woo! Woo! If you're just now joining this party you may want to hearken back to my orignial post about strengths. Without further ado, all aboard my third strength: connectedness.

"People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost everything happens for a reason. The sense of being linked to other people means a lot more to you than finishing first or claiming an award. Perhaps you sense there is a force greater than you at work in the world. It's very likely that you sometimes experience an unexplainable yet natural link with some people. Perhaps this is a common occurrence with certain individuals, particularly those whose talents, limitations, interests, goals, needs, or fears are known to you."

Yeah, this is me. What I see peeking out of this strength is my faith in God and how that sets my worldview. I do believe that all people are connected because I think God created all of us. Since I believe that God created and cares for each person specifically I feel that I should care for each person too. Obviously I don't do a perfect job at that. Saying that everything happens for a reason is a complicated thing when you believe in God because it sounds like I'm saying that everything that happens, God wanted to happen for some reason and I don't believe that. However, I do believe that God is present and working in the midst of all things that do happen. I absolutely value being linked to people and desire to know people well, as well as for people to know me well.

A few of the ideas for action that intrigue me are:
1. Exploring specific ways to expand your sense of connection such as starting a book club
2. Change the mindset of those who think in terms of "us" and "them."

1. I love book clubs! I love the idea of hearing what other people think about things. I've found that I can learn the best when I get to hear many perspectives on a single issue/text. Maybe I need to start a blog book club since I have about three friends in Cbus. Any takers?

2. The "us and them" mindset is a tough one to battle. I work with middle school and high school students and if there is a better training ground for this mindset than a school, I don't know what it is. It's also an issue I care a lot about because I think American Christians as a whole have been very guilty of this mindset since I've been alive. When I boil it down, I think it is only natural to see yourself as a part of an "us," in terms of a group of friends, co-workers, teammates, etc. and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is when we see other people as an automatic "them" for some reason instead of a potential "us."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Faith healing

My friend Andy tweeted me a link to an article and asked me to respond. If you don't want to read the whole thing, here is a synopsis: There is a couple from Wisconsin whose 11-year old daughter died from complications of undiagnosed and untreated juvenile diabetes. The couple didn't take their daughter to get medical treatment because they believe in faith healing, essentially, refusing any medical treatment other than prayer and the will of God (to be fair, that is my assessment of what faith healing is based on the article). The couple now faces charges of reckless endangerment and could face charges up to 25 years if convicted.

There is a lot to chew on and respond to from this article.

The first issue is religious freedom, which is what the parents say should allow them to refrain from medical treatment. Wisconsin law, the article states, basically agrees that it's legal to treat a sick child with only prayer until a child's life is threatened, so I guess the question is if the parents were aware of how bad the child's condition was. I'm no expert on the constitution and have no desire to be a judge, so it's tough for me to make a comment on the legality of the issue. My dad's the lawyer in the family.

The angle I'd like to respond to is the spiritual one. One quote in the article was from a woman who once belonged to a community that believed in faith healing (as the only appropriate medical treatment). She said, "we knew that once we went to the doctor, we'd be cut off from God." Later the article quotes an essay from the website of the church this couple belonged to. It said, "Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor or a hospital. Jesus offered healing by one means only! Healing was by faith!"

I guess I can only respond by saying what I would do. I consider myself a person of faith and I just can't imagine having a child and not doing everything possible to make sure my child is healthy. I think the idea that going to a hospital for medical treatment somehow takes God out of the equation is a pretty narrow view of faith, perhaps a narrow view of God. When people I love are sick, I not only pray for them but I pray for the doctors, surgeons, and other professionals who are treating them. And when they get well I praise God for their recovery. And when they don't, I grapple with where and how God is present and healing in the midst of that pain.

I do believe that the power to be healed by faith, in the sense that the Bible talks about Jesus healing people, still exists today, though I can't admit to having ever really experienced that. This whole concept reminds me of a story I heard once:

There was a huge flood in this town and this guy had no choice but to climb on his roof in order to survive. As the waters continued to rise he prayed that God would save him. A few minutes later his neighbor showed up with a rowboat and told him to get in. The man said, "No thanks, I've prayed and God will save me." So the neighbor left. As the waters kept getting closer to the roof a rescue chopper approached the house and when the rescue worker came down to grab him, the man said, "No thanks, I've prayed and God will save me." So the chopper left. Eventually the water overtook the roof and the man drowned. In heaven, the man asked God, "Why didn't you save me?" God said, "I sent you a boat and a helicopter, what more do you want?"

I can't imagine getting to heaven and God saying, "Seth, I'm really disappointed that all those times you were sick you took medicine. I can't believe that you actually allowed the doctors to remove your appendix when it was about to burst. And when you had a heart attack, what were you thinking calling 911?" Let's be serious, if God wants me in Heaven, He can take me right now. Otherwise, I have to imagine that He's got some plans for me down here, and I intend to stay alive long enough to find out what they are.

Do I believe in faith healing? Yes! And when my children get sick, I will, with faith, take them to every doctor on planet earth if that's what it takes to get them healthy.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Yes I Can!

My second strength was positivity.

"People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do. You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation. Somehow you can't quite escape your conviction that it is good to be alive, that work can be fun, and that no matter what the setbacks, one must never lose one's sense of humor. It's very likely that you often declare life is very good. This feeling usually envelopes you after you have given an individual your support and approval. You like to lift the spirits of those around you. You welcome opportunities to create merriment."

Okay, I have to admit, I feel like I'm sort of bragging by posting this strength. The input strength from my last post was pretty much saying I'm a nerd, which everyone knows, but this just feels...different. But honestly, I don't care. Out of all the five strengths the test gave me, I felt this one was most clearly me (or at least how I like to see myself, I guess). So I have my horn and I'll toot it, thank you very much.

There seemed to be two basic components to this trait: A happy outlook on life, and creating happiness for others. I think I have more of the former than the latter. I do have a conviction that it's good to be alive, that life is very good! I hope I have some sort of that impact on others, but unfortunately I fear I may keep my positivity to myself too much. A few months ago a friend was visiting and said one of the worst things I ever had a friend say to me. He said that I didn't laugh as much as I used to and it made me very said. He didn't mean it to be mean and I didn't hold it against him at all, it was just such a bummer thing to hear. I hope I'm laughing more now. I love that it says I welcome opportunities to create merriment. That is cool.

As much as I identified with this strength, the ideas for action section didn't hit me as hard. Maybe that's because I am really positive already so if I were any more positive people might throw up in their mouths a little bit just from being around me. The one suggestion I did like was this: "Because people will rely on you to help them rise above their daily frustrations, arm yourself with good stories, jokes, and sayings." I've always wanted to be a better storyteller. What, in your opinion, makes a good storyteller?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

PackRat of Knowledge

My first strength was input. The following are snippets of the theme description that I felt most applied to me. 

"People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information. You might collect information--words, facts, books, and quotations...If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. These can be acquired and stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful?"

This is most def. me. I love to collect knowledge and to read and I love to make note of passages from texts which I find particularly poignant. I type these passages out and save them on my computer. I've even started a topical index for such striking passages. I love Jeopardy and now I know it's not just because Alex Trebec is such a world beater. 

Along with the descriptions, Strengths Finder offers 10 "Ideas for Action." Here are some that stuck out to me: 

"Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing it with them." 
-This is a great idea! I hope to think more often about who could benefit from what I'm learning. I also think blogging is a great way to start getting a steady stream of output. 

"Your inquisitiveness leads you down intriguing but distracting avenues...Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you'll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action."
-Not only do I struggle with this, but my boss and my office roommate totally called me out on it today as we were discussing our strengths (It's interesting considering yesterday's conversation that SF seems to use strengths to highlight a potential weakness). Sometimes I get so bogged down with collecting info that I drag my feet in making a decision. What good is information if it just sits in my head and "stagnates?" 

This insight has made me want to come up with some way to force myself to put information into action. Any thoughts? Do you find yourself with stagnant info in your brain or do you put a lot of info you receive into action?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Who am I?

So my boss is asking our entire staff to do this Strengths Finder thing, which is kind of like a personality test on HGH (or PTGH I guess). You take this test with a ton of paired questions and then it tells you what your five biggest strengths are.

The special thing about Strengths Finder compared to other similar tests is that it focuses on your (you guessed it) strengths! In our culture we are used to focusing on and trying to improve our weaknesses, which kind of doesn't make sense. If we are naturally weak in one area, we are only going to accomplish so much there. But, if we focus on growing our strengths, we have the ability to accomplish a lot more (this is the philosophy of SF). One nugget from the introduction which pretty much sold me on the idea was that

"Over the past decade, Gallup has surveyed more than 10 million people worldwide on the topic of employee engagement (or how positive and productive people are at work) and only one-third 'strongly agree' with the statement:
'At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.'"

Being able to agree to that statement sounds pretty great to me.

So anyway, I took the test and I thought it'd be interesting to blog about the results and what action steps (SF gives you actions steps!) I'm planning on taking to strengthen my strengths. I'm not a fan of long blogs, so instead of starting with this one, I'll just reveal my 5 strengths and then dip into each one individually in future blogs. So my five strengths are...drumroll please....


Yeah, I know. Kind of anti-climactic, that's what I thought too. Sure a few of those words may make sense for me, but some I'm not really sure how to interpret, and spellcheck isn't isn't even satisfied with "intellection" as a word. But after reading through the descriptions, they do describe me pretty well, and the action steps seem like even more fun.

I thought I'd also try to include questions for my vast audience (of 0-2?) to respond to if they so wish. What do you guys think about personality tests? Has anyone done Strengths Finders and if so, what are your strengths? At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?