Category Archives: leadership

Faith and Resilience

In 2014, Julie K. Hersh, a writer for Psychology Today Online posted a question on Facebook asking readers to share their tactics for building resilience. Their top response was “faith.”

The response isn’t surprising. Faith links our present circumstances to our vision for the future. Hope is similar but wraps our present struggles in an image of better times. Both faith and hope are crucial elements of resilience, “the process of positive adaptation in the face of significant adversity.”

Resilient people have the capability to move ahead in the face of difficult circumstances.

In a blog titled “The Resilience of Faith,” author Jenni White states, “Faith can best be understood as the way in which an individual draws upon and enters into the life of God.”

Faith requires discipline of the emotions and the mind. Those of us who place our trust in the eternal, loving, just, omniscient, and all-powerful God of the Bible, place our faith in Someone who understands and knows our deepest sorrows, who is all-powerful and is for us. This faith gives us hope for a certain future and the strength to move forward in spite of our circumstances.

How Faith Builds Resilience

  • Faith gives us the vision to see beyond victimization.Faith gives us the heart to search for meaning in the messes of life.
  • Faith builds discipline, as we look beyond what is to what will be.
  • Faith is a tool against rumination.
  • Faith is the starting point of our relationship with God, the source of our faith.
  • Christians—those who accept by faith the gift that Jesus offers—gain access to the power of God.
  • The power of faith does not lie in faith itself, but in faith’s object. Christians place their faith in an all-powerful God. We trust His power and His strength to carry us beyond impossible circumstances.

The Source of Our Faith

Faith itself is purposeless if we place that faith in a limited, unloving, non-reasoning, or inconsistent object. Our source of faith must be placed in an intellect bigger than our own who is interested in our welfare and control any circumstance. This is the role of faith for Bible-believing Christians. They boldly move forward because they place their confidence in a personal God who loves them.

Building Organizational Resilience

The psychological health of organizations, just like individuals, hinges on the capacity to bounce back or recover from significant setbacks. Managers need to help their employees navigate layoffs, restructuring, budget cuts, institutional change, economic downturns, and challenging interpersonal dynamics.

So how can faith-based and non faith-based establishments help create resilience in their employees and create cultures of resilience within their establishments?

First, anticipate and acknowledge the reality of adversity. All organizations experience challenges and change. Anticipating and preparing for challenging situations reduces stress and creates a sense of preparedness and confidence. Stress and anxiety are expected responses. Create realistic strategies for addressing those factors.

Be personally involved. Employees need personal responses to stressful conditions. Educate yourself about the stress-producing effects of decisions, policies, the economy, administrative changes, and other elements. Who is the most vulnerable? What do they fear? How can you offer support? Personal communication and support builds resilience.

Share encouraging personal experiences. Draw from your personal experience and share positive stories. Ask others within your organization to share their experiences as well. Build a culture of positivity as you evaluate factors that contributed to past success. Create a culture of appreciation and celebrate staff successes.

Communicate Positively. Employees and staff are reassured when they feel they are kept within the communication loop. Keep the tone and outlook realistic, yet positive. Monitor employees’ attitudes and offer frequent encouragement. Create a culture of connectedness where everyone feels valued and included.

Reward and encourage positive problem-solving and service. Encourage your employees to think outside the box. Provide opportunities for creative problem-solving and organizational and community service. Encourage diverse opinions and perspectives. Develop mentoring programs.

Regularly assess organizational health. Good managers identify what factors can be controlled and what factors cannot be controlled. They focus on factors within their sphere of control. Good managers ask for help and communicate high standards for employee performance, accountability and commitment. Good managers challenge their employees and understand that organizational growth and resilience occurs only if people feel supported when they are required to meet challenges.

What about you? I’d love to hear from you!

What mechanisms are in place in your organization that help promote a culture of resilience and well-being?

How has faith helped you in building resilience?

Peace and Health,

Dr. Clem


Belonging Matters

We’ve all experienced times when we felt we didn’t belong. That feeling can range from uncomfortable to excruciating. The human need to belong and form relationships refers to our need to associate with, be accepted by, supported by, and known by a group. We feel this need in many areas of life: our profession, family, school, on teams, among friends, and in our churches. The need to belong is a natural and universal need. We all want to be heard, loved, and cared for.

God, who has eternally existed as Father, Son, and Spirit, created humans in His image. As God’s image bearers, we long for the sense of belonging that exists in the unity of the Father, Son, and Spirit. This need to belong is wired into our DNA and plays a critical role in our overall wellness. When we feel that we don’t belong, we may experience emotional, psychological distress and isolation.

Belonging influences motivation and behavior.

The desire to belong motivates us. This motivation can be both positive and negative. For instance, a longing to belong to a group may motivate us to conform to norms and relate positively to others. However, when our desire to belong is out of balance, we may conform to the point of compromising our values or identity.

We can also over-emphasize comparing ourselves to others in a group. This can create self-doubt and self-criticism. However, comparing ourselves can also be a positive motivator and initiate self-reflection and personal growth.

We are wired for relationships.

A sense of belonging increases happiness and reduces isolation. Belonging instills a sense of safety, where people feel they can be heard, understood, and known. Belonging encourages creativity and problem-solving because people in healthy relationships thrive. A sense of belonging promotes avenues for fellowship, service, learning, and stimulates personal and professional growth.  

In the fellowship of belonging, we cultivate and restore our sense of humanity. A healthy sense of belonging impels us to seek out healthy relationships. It motivates us to participate in clubs, teams, community service, and faith-based activities. Community is cultivated upon the foundation of belonging. This is because we are spiritual beings, and our need for love and acceptance lie at the core of our being.

Build a sense of belonging.

  1. Building a sense of belonging requires personal investment. Look for people with similar interests or aspects of life (children, marital status, vocation, etc.). Take a class or join a Bible study. Join a yoga or swimming class. Enroll in a college course or seek out specialized training.
  2. Work on accepting others. Get to know people who are different from you. Serve in an inner city ministry. Visit nursing homes and shut-ins. Participate in a prison/jail ministry. ‘Adopt’ a widow or single mother. Volunteer at a hospital, school, or community outreach.
  3. Focus on serving. It’s always possible to find someone to serve. Offer respite breaks to a caregiving parent or spouse. Offer free child care to a single parent. Become a mentor. Teach your special gifts/talents to someone who would appreciate learning.
  4. Take time for self-assessment. What do you enjoy? What kind of people do you enjoy being around? What special abilities do you have? What groups interest you? Pray and ask God to direct you to an area of need.
  5. Seek out churches, community activities, and ministries that create a sense of belonging.
  6. Be open to change. Ask friends and family who know and love you where you might fit and how you can best reach out to others.
  7. Evaluate your effectiveness at helping others feel that they belong. What qualities do you possess that create a sense of belonging in others? Where could you improve?

Tips for Churches and Organizations

  • Foster an environment of service. Organize groups that offer practical help to widows, single mothers, the sick or injured, caregivers, people who are moving or need transitional housing or home maintenance. Wherever there are people, we find needs.
  • Teach your team to communicate compassion and grace. Train greeters, teachers, staff, and personnel in your church/organization how to nurture an environment of belonging. Training should be ongoing and be modeled by leaders who lovingly and graciously instill a sense of acceptance and care for others.
  • Teach your people to put themselves aside and reach out. Offer opportunities for service as part of membership training. Incorporate media clips that teach about and show your people reaching out to others and thriving in groups. Model compassion and soul care in leadership.
  • Know and pray over the needs of your members. Involve your church or organization in prayer chains and ongoing posting of prayer needs.
  • Walk alongside people. Create a sense of safety by living out a culture of transparency, welcome, and grace.  
  • Inventory the groups in your organization and evaluate how their need for belonging is being met: married, divorced, single, widowed, chronically ill, caregivers, parents, those without children, students, etc.
  • Become knowledgeable about barriers to belonging: health challenges, power imbalance, discrimination, shame, loneliness, emotional wounds, and lack of social attunement, socioeconomic and cultural factors, to name a few. Seek out training from experts about how to meet these people where they are.
  • Create environments for people to fulfill the “one another” commands of fellowship, confession, repentance, encouragement, forgiveness, friendship, and walking together in love: small groups, accountability, breaking bread together, prayer groups, hosting others, service groups, etc.

What about you? I’d love to hear how the need to belong has influenced your personal or professional growth.

What does your organization do to foster a culture of belonging? I’d also welcome your story of helping someone else gain a sense of belonging.

Peace and hope,

Dr. Clem


Learn by Serving Others

Serving others blog
Nurse serving dinner to a senior man in an armchair at home

When we think about serving, we typically think about what we offer others.

But we should also see service as learning. Serving others allows us to develop and refine leadership and relationship skills that maximize our personal growth. Working alongside others allows us to gain new perspectives and learn from the experiences and wisdom of people whose diverse lives can inform our thinking.

Humility

Serving others requires humility. Jesus, who was God in human form, repeatedly chose the role of a servant. He came to earth and took the form of a human, washed the feet of His disciples, switched places with people in lowly positions, and intervened on behalf of powerless people.

When we serve, it’s easy to see ourselves as saviors. But when we humble ourselves, we understand that everyone else is just as important as we are. We lay aside our agendas so we can elevate the people we serve. When we treat people as though they are as important or more important than ourselves, we dignify those we serve and demonstrate true humility.

Gladness

Serve gladly.
Avoid complacency, inaction, and self-centered actions.
Don’t use your status to demean others or gossip.
Use your position wisely: your words, your influence, your resources. Every God-given gift is bestowed to enable us to do good in the world.

Listen

Intentionality fosters relationships. Take time to serve by sharing a meal, playing cards, or taking a walk. Get to know the people you serve. Look into their eyes. Learn their names. Ask about their lives. Listen for the subtext beneath their words. Is the person you’re talking to lonely? In pain? Needing comfort? Fearful? The gift of listening can greatly impact someone’s life.

Taking time to listen also enlarges our capacity for compassion and our knowledge of how to care for those who are hurting. Listening increases our empathy and sensitivity to others and can powerfully change both them and us.

Care, Even When It Costs

When we open our hearts to help, we may be asked to change our agendas or step out of our comfort zones. But service is marked by willingness to put others’ needs before our own. 

This can be as simple as tea with a lonely friend or picking up groceries for a busy caregiver. It might mean giving up a round of golf to help paint a widow’s house or taking your granddaughter with you for a visit to a nursing home. It could even be as humble as cleaning for a friend whose body is wracked by pain.

Solution or Support?

Listening to people talk about their heartaches can be draining. Our natural response is to try to fix problems or to distance ourselves from things we can’t fix.

Our job isn’t always to bring a solution to a problem. Sometimes our job is to listen and provide support. This means trusting God and letting go of control. Our greatest service may be stepping  back and allowing Him to work through others.

God is responsible for changing people’s lives, not us. We’re called to love people where they are and listen for God’s call to serve. This is not an excuse to sit and wait for someone else to help. When the Spirit moves, we should confidently move forward.

The Good Samaritan

It would have been easy for the Good Samaritan to look at his enemy’s problems as too big or complicated for him to get involved. After all, he was on a business trip and had places to go and things to do. But instead, he stepped in, did what he could, found a place for the Samaritan to stay, and people who could care for him. The Samaritan didn’t try to create peace between the two communities or address local crime rates. He saw a need he was able to address, and he did something about it. The Samaritan took responsibility for his enemy’s problems because he saw them as God saw them; the Samaritan believed it was his responsibility to go the extra mile—even when it was costly and inconvenient.

Be Willing to Be Served

We create opportunities for the flow of mutual respect and growth when we allow ourselves to be served. Allowing others to serve us (accepting coffee, a meal, prayer, hospitality, hugs, or gifts of gratitude) tells people serving us that they have value, dignity, and that we engage equally. Accepting places us on level ground.

Jesus allowed others to serve Him. He also quieted Martha’s worries when she was more caught up in the act of serving than the heart of serving. On the other hand, Jesus defended a woman who spent a year’s wages on perfume to wash his feet in an outrageously sacrificial act of devotion.

  • Be content to be interrupted and disrupted.
  • Make space for someone else’s unique personhood, value, and worth, and learn to see them through God’s eyes.

Most of all, if we desire to serve, we must first live by Jesus’ words:

“Whoever finds their life will lose it,
 and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” 
— Matthew 10:39


How to Become an Everyday Hero

When we think about heroes, characters with super-powers or people who perform death-defying acts of courage typically spring to our minds. But USA Today recently reported that 20% of Americans have done heroic deeds. Professor Philip Zimbardo from Stanford University conducted a study that was supported by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Using a national sample of 4,000 adults, Zimbardo’s team discovered that 20% of participants qualified as heroes.

How could this be true?

 These participants had

  • helped during a dangerous emergency,
  • taken a stand against injustice, or
  • sacrificed for a stranger.

Heroes are ordinary people,” Zimbardo states. “You become a hero by doing an extraordinary deed.”

Who Are the Heroes in Your Life?

We all face opportunities to step up, do the extraordinary, and become a hero to someone.

Sometimes those we hold dear fall short during times of need, and the people we expect to spark our hope shroud it in their own despair. Interestingly, Zimbardo’s study also revealed that someone is more likely to act in a heroic capacity if they have walked through personal trauma or have been involved in compassionate outreach.

The world longs for heroes, and we can see the evidence in top-running movies and televisions shows. Social psychologist Scott Allison of Richmond, Virginia puts it this way: “We love heroes because of what they offer us—hope for a better world.”

So how do we become an everyday hero? I suggest the following:

  1. Respect people and live peacefully with others. My mother always said, “Don’t underestimate anyone because you never know what tomorrow brings.”  Sometimes when we are happy, strong, and powerful, we are tempted to ignore the least among us. However, we never know where heroes will come from.
  2. Trust God to bring the right people and circumstances into your life at the right time. Proverbs 16:9 tells us “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” God may send a hero to speak wisdom, to intervene on your behalf, or to stand beside you as an advocate.
  3. Manage your expectations of people. The people you believe will be your heroes may not be equipped to help you and may need help themselves.
  4. Acknowledge people who step up. Gratitude opens doors and fosters a hero’s heart. Heroes often place others first as a lifestyle.  
  5. Be a hero to someone else. This may be as simple as making a phone call, taking time to listen, checking on someone, answering a call, showing unexpected kindness, standing beside someone against injustice, helping to open closed doors, or promoting someone’s well being. Use your power and influence to make a difference.
  6. Stand beside ‘heroes in the making.’ Support the heroic efforts of others and encourage family, friends, and those in your circle of influence to join you. Model what it means to act as a hero and a person of integrity, honor, and positive influence, and consider mentoring others.

I thank God for everyday heroes—people who positively influenced not only my life but the lives of my friends and loved ones and in so doing made the world a better place. I salute you and dedicate this blog to you and to all everyday heroes.

Can you name someone who’s been an unlikely hero in your life? How did their action influence you? I’d love to hear your story.

Peace & Health!

Dr. Clem


10 Strategies for Balanced Living

Photo Credit: Unsplash

One Saturday afternoon, I took a break and reached out to friends I had not been in touch with for a long time. During one conversation, I questioned a friend who seemed to have it all together.

“How do you accomplish everything you do as a mother, wife, community volunteer, and employee with a full-time, demanding job and still find time to exercise, eat healthy, and take time for personal growth?”

Her answer was simple.

“I work to balance my priorities, but it’s not easy.”

My friend’s response confirmed what I had learned over the years: successful personal growth flows from intentional living. Effective individuals schedule time for development because they live with vision and purpose.

Living with vision and purpose requires us to balance our busy daily lives with our personal development goals.

I’ve found the following strategies helpful in learning to live a balanced life while making time for personal growth:

  1. Identify areas of your life to target for growth that will help you become the person you want to be.
  2. Schedule 15 minutes every day to learn. Read, watch challenging videos, listen to podcasts or audio books, or seek mentoring.
  3. Schedule time slots each week to do things that inspire you, fulfill you, or help you meet a goal, even if it is small steps.
  4. Become comfortable with the realities of balance. Various seasons of life will require you to focus on one area more than another, depending upon needs and circumstances.
  5. Be realistic. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Your work will always be there. It’s okay to occasionally leave items unchecked on your to-do list.
  6. Set firm boundaries around your availability. Notify colleagues, clients, and family of your schedule. Explain that setting boundaries makes it possible for you to be 100% there for them when you are “on the clock” with them.
  7. Take technology breaks. This allows you to be focused and productive and releases you from the tyranny of notifications and calls.
  8. Schedule brain-intensive tasks during your most productive hours, and complete low-energy jobs during your ‘slower’ times of the day.
  9. Delegate tasks and consider paying someone to do house cleaning, yard work, or errands.
  10. Last, but definitely not least in priority, schedule important family and personal activities such as regular vacations. Then, treat them as top priorities because they are. Enjoy your family, relax in the sun, hike, and tour your favorite locale—whatever energizes you, renews your soul, and draws you closer to those you love.

Now, what about you? How do you balance personal development, professional life, and family priorities? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Peace and Health,

Dr. Clem


Does Our Spirituality Influence Our Health?

I have been always interested in the relationship between spirituality and health. I’ve noticed that when I feel closer to God, I’m more likely to pay attention to other areas of my life. Similarly, being spiritually dry can cause imbalances in other areas of life. Taking time to cultivate spiritual growth also helps me focus on God and reframes my purpose in life.  According to FamilyDoctor.org, spirituality is the way we find hope, meaning, comfort, and inner peace in life. Research demonstrates that the body, mind, and spirit are connected.

Dr. David Anderson, co-founder of StayWell Health Management, states that approximately 40% of all deaths in the United States are premature due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, misuse of alcohol and drugs, as well as accidents. Other contributors to early death include genetic predisposition (30%), social circumstances (15%), poor access to quality health care (10%), and environmental exposure (5%).

Our behavior and choices influence not only our future, but our bodies, minds, and our spirits and souls. Health influence the way we relate to God and others. Prayer and meditation also contribute to a sense of peace and calm. Maximizing health is an important aspect of our spiritual pursuit.

Maximizing our health provides energy and focus for spiritual priorities.
When we feel well, we have more energy to invest in maintaining spiritual disciplines and ministering to others. When we’re fatigued or in pain, it’s hard to maintain a schedule, exercise, stay hydrated, and eat healthfully. Sometimes just reaching for a water bottle can seem overwhelming. The more we can maximize our health, the more energy we have for spiritual priorities.

Caring for our health is part of stewardship of God’s gifts. Stewardship isn’t just about giving money to God. It’s about managing all the resources He’s entrusted to our care. One of the most important facets of our stewardship is caring for our bodies, which are the physical means through which we express love for others. Caring for our health enables us to carry out the double-love command: love God, and as a result, love others as we desire to be loved.

Health struggles can draw us closer to God as we learn dependence and trust. Even when we do not enjoy good health, caring for our health can be an act of devotion to God. When we are ill, struggle with pain, and deal with physical frailty, we can choose to turn to God, trust Him, and thrive in our dependence upon Him. Life often doesn’t give us the answers we want, and it’s in those times that our faith is put to the test. These moments often draw us closer to God than times of health and prosperity.

How has God used your health to grow your spiritual life? Or has your health pulled you away from pursuing faith?

In what ways do your physical health and spiritual health connect, and how do you balance both areas to your benefit? I’d love to hear from you.

Peace and Health,

Dr. Clem


Wisdom Wins

For all my life, I’ve pursued wisdom. I vividly recall my mom encouraging me to hang out more with older people, especially those with grey hair because they are great sources of wisdom. My parents planted this seed in my heart when I was a child. They also taught me to look beyond actions and behaviors to causes, effects, influences, consequences, and relationships. Education became part of my pursuit of wisdom—acquiring knowledge that could be applied to transforming communities, people’s lives, and positively influencing the world.

But what is wisdom?

The word often defines wisdom as higher knowledge or application of knowledge. I have gained wisdom through personal experiences, observing and interacting with others, and trying new things.

As a woman of faith, I look to God as my ultimate source of wisdom (James, 1:5), as human knowledge and reasoning are always limited and flawed.

Aristotle believed that wisdom is the understanding of causes. Understanding causes involves the ability to analyze cause and effect, interrelationships, and therefore, understand interdependence. For instance, a wise person understands that today’s decision will influence life down the road. They understand that time is a commodity to be invested and not spent. And they also comprehend the many ways their actions (and inactions) influence others.

Wisdom sees the bigger picture and makes decisions that respect the goals and values of life.

For me, values of life encompass faith, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and investing in my community and in others. At the core of wisdom is love for others that allows us to make decisions that override selfishness and me-first, right-now, make-me-happy motives.

Wisdom

  • considers the bigger picture.
  • evaluates outcomes on others.
  • makes decisions with long-term goals.
  • is motivated by mercy, grace, and love.
  • waits for the right moment and circumstances.
  • gracefully responds to the hurt, disappointment, and grief of others.

The journey to gain wisdom never ends.

For me, acquiring wisdom and learning from others has become sweeter with each passing year. As part of my self-study,  I recently came across the Center for Practical Wisdom at the University of Chicago.

https://www.uchicago.edu/research/center/the_center_for_practical_wisdom/

I believe that life should be a journey to acquire wisdom. What about you? What are your thoughts on wisdom? I’d like to hear from you. Comments are always welcome.

Dr. Clem


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