Mike Henderson
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Toxic Cultures

Toxic WasteIt’s so easy to overlook culture. At times it appears to be like carbon monoxide.  You can’t see it or smell it, but it’s there.

The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.

Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of.  It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.

While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.

Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it?  God did. And He set the example for all of us.

At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities.  Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.

Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.

To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun.  Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them?  No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture.  We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.

Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church.  One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”

In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.

Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll.  I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker.  You will be glad you did.

Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.

Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.

We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!

Words Can Hurt….All the Way to the Grave!

iStockWordsHave you ever thought about the power and impact of your words. No doubt we have all shared many that we wish we hadn’t.

As little kids we were taught, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Wow! Who thought that one up? And who passed that rhyme along? There is absolutely no truth in it, yet it gets repeated continually.

We all know it’s a lie. Words do hurt. We have been hurt by words. Right now you are recalling some hurtful words that were said to you.

Perhaps you are also recalling words that you said. It’s too late to take them back. Yes, you wish you could. But once they come out there is no taking back.

Plus they are rarely forgotten. Sadly, some we take all the way to the grave.

Many are said due to anger. We allow anger to take over and we let the words fly. Later we apologize, but the damage is done.

In 2 Samuel 16:5-14 David has lost the throne and is on his way out of town. One of his enemies, Shimei, berates him. His criticism of David goes over the top. There are some relational issues going on as Shimei was from the tribe of Benjamin just like Saul. Saul is now dead, but Shimei is still loyal to Saul, not David.

Time moves on. In 1 Kings 2:8-10 David comes toward the end of his life and gives his son Solomon some final counsel. Here David recounts the hurtful words Shimei leveled against him years earlier.

Those words still hurt. David had not forgotten them.

He took those hurtful words all the way to the grave. That’s sad. Perhaps even in your own life, perhaps even in your marriage you have said some words that you can’t take back.

We have all said things we wish we hadn’t. It’s time to move on. From here on out you can do a couple of things.

1. Stop. You don’t have to immediately say what has come into your mind.

2. Think. Not everything has to be said. Some things are better left unsaid. That little zinger you want to let fly will add nothing to the relationship.

3. Multiply. Research suggests that one negative can undo twenty positives. Do you realize now the power of hurtful words?

4. Ask. Is it helpful? Will this help the situation or exasperate it? Am I saying this while I am still upset and angry?

5. Proceed. If it is helpful and you have control over your emotions you will do a much better job communicating.

Just remember, if you fail to do these things your words may very well hurt…all the way to the grave!