When you offend someone, confess and ask forgiveness

confessionRelational offenses are inevitable. It’s not a matter of if you’re going to offend someone, just a matter of when and how seriously. The best and perhaps the only way to make things right is to confess your offense and ask forgiveness.

Her are some characteristics of a good confession.

1. The scope of a confession should equal the scope of the offense.

You should confess to everyone who was privy to a particular offense. If three people heard you yell at your spouse, you need to confess to four people.

If you just think poorly about someone but don’t actually say anything, you don’t need to confess to that person; in fact, doing so might create unnecessary hurt and confusion.

2. Confessions are most effective when we take initiative to confess without having to be confronted.

Can you sense the difference in these two scenarios?

Joan: Hey Bob, got a minute?
Bob: Sure, what’s up?
Joan: When we were having lunch yesterday you said something that really offended me.
Bob: Oh yeah? What did I say?
Joan: It was the comment about my work on the Meyers project.
Bob: Oh, that bothered you? Well, okay, perhaps it did come across a bit tacky. Sorry about that.

Bob: Hi Joan, got a minute?
Joan: Sure, what’s up?
Bob: Yesterday, when we had lunch together, I made a tacky comment about your work on the Meyers project. It was wrong of me to say what I did. Would you forgive me?

In the first scenario, Joan confronts a clueless Bob. In the second scenario Bob initiates the conversation. There’s a huge difference.

3. Be specific; name the offense.

Hurts don’t come in generalities; they are specific. So our confession must be specific. Can you sense the difference between these two statements?

“Honey, if I’ve ever done anything to offend you, would you forgive me?”

“Honey, I realize that I have had a critical spirit toward you. Last night I criticized you about the hotel arrangements you made for our vacation. I should have been grateful that you took the initiative to plan such a nice trip.”

A good confession will mention a specific wrong.

4. Properly address the emotional hurt that your offense has caused.

Offenses are not only technically wrong, they hurt the offended person. So when we offend someone, we should confess our wrong and address the hurt that we caused. For instance, if I yell at my children, I have not only wronged them, I have hurt them. I must deal with both the technical aspect of being wrong and also the emotional dimension. That’s why a good confession will often involve empathetic words such as, “I’m so sorry that I hurt you by yelling.”

You may even want to ask the offended person to elaborate on how your offense has affected him or her.

5. In your confession, use the phrase “I was wrong”; not just, “I’m sorry.”

Just saying “I’m sorry” can compromise and even neutralize a confession. For instance:

  • “I’m sorry what I said offended you (but it wouldn’t have offended you if you weren’t so hypersensitive).”
  • “I’m sorry you feel neglected (but after all, you are overly dependent).”
  • “I’m sorry you were upset by my teasing you at the party (even though everyone else thought my story was hilarious).”

Use the phrase “I was wrong” because it admits personal responsibility for the offense and conveys a sense of seriousness.

6. Don’t dilute the confession.

When confessing an offense, don’t include any statements that would dilute the confession. Do not:

  • Minimize the offense – “Yeah, I got angry and yelled at you, but that’s not the main issue.”
  • Rationalize/justify – “The reason I yelled was…”
  • Blame others – “I wouldn’t have become angry if you hadn’t…”
  • Offer a trite confession – “Okay, okay; I’m sorry.”
  • Ignore the offense – “Let’s talk about something else.”

7. Ask forgiveness.

For a confession to be complete, we must ask to be forgiven. The best way to do this is simply to say, “Will you forgive me?” Hopefully, the offended person will forgive you.

If he or she does not, and you have genuinely and properly confessed, you have done all that you can and should do; it is now the other person’s decision whether or not to forgive you, but regardless of his or her response, you should be free from guilt.

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Seek happiness, not just joy



Compared to joy, happiness has gotten a bad reputation. Particularly among Christians.

In the recent past (30-40 years) we have been taught that there is a significant difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is a temporary emotion; joy is an abiding attitude. Christians have joy; the “world” is relegated to mere happiness. In a nicely written article, author Randy Alcorn debunks this misunderstanding. He makes it clear that, biblically, there is no difference between joy and happiness. Click here for the article.

But for a moment, let’s explore the premise that joy may be deeper and more enduring and happiness is short-lived and momentary. Okay; what’s wrong with that? They both sound good to me.

I value, even pursue, moments of happiness.

  • Several months ago I shared a meal with 27 friends in a restaurant in Helsinki. We talked, laughed, and ate reindeer tongue. To this day, I pause and smile when I reminisce about that time.
  • My wife and I walked, slowly and uncovered, through a pouring rain in New Orleans until we were soaked to the bone. What a wonderful moment.
  • I am happy when holding my hands around a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning.
  • When my grandson falls asleep on my chest and his breathing syncs with mine, it is a fleeting but transcendent moment.

If you seldom have “happy moments” you might not be looking for them. (See my post on the Badder-Meinhof phenomenon.)

A story is told of a monk who, while out walking one day, is confronted by a ferocious, man-eating tiger. He slowly backs away from the animal, only to find that he is trapped at the edge of a high cliff. The tiger snarls with hunger and pursues the monk whose only hope of escape is to suspend himself over the abyss by holding onto a vine that grows at its edge. As the monk dangles from the cliff, a mouse begins to gnaw on the vine. If he climbs back up, the tiger will devour him; if he remains clutching the vine he faces the certain death of a long fall onto jagged rocks. The slender vine begins to give way, and death is imminent. Just then the monk notices a lovely ripe wild strawberry growing along the cliff’s edge. He plucks the succulent berry, eats it, and says, “This lovely strawberry, how sweet it tastes.”

At the core of my being, I do want to possess a steady and enduring sense of peace, contentment, and hope—perhaps we can call it, joy. But I also value moments of relief from the unrelenting stress and pressure of life—perhaps we can call it, happiness.

Let’s embrace both.

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Leaders: Lead

Only 5 openings remain for the Sept. 21-22 Lead Well workshop

Lead2.001When in a position of leadership, lead.

My impatience peaks when I’m at a stoplight and there are several cars in front of me and the light turns green and the person at the front of the line doesn’t move. Arghhh… I usually honk.

I start an imaginary conversation with this person: “Ma’am, sir, do you not realize that because you are at the front of the line, no one can move until you move? Therefore you must be doubly attentive. You’re wasting everyone’s time by not acting responsibly and quickly. Move it…”

My contrived conversation is therapeutic; I feel better after venting my frustration, if only to myself. But this reoccurring scenario also reminds me of a basic tenant of leadership: when in a position of leadership—lead.

Leaders, your team and organization are waiting for you to act. You’re at the front of the line. They won’t move until you do. If you’re passive, they will be, too.

When do leaders move and where do they go? Leaders move because of and toward, vision.

The sine qua non of leadership is having fresh vision. Vision is a picture of the future that is better than the present that produces passion. If you’re in a position of leadership and you don’t have credible vision you may be managing but you’re not leading. Good leaders are obsessed with developing good vision because that’s what “turns the light green” and dictates where you “drive.”

Leaders also take initiative; they have an agenda; they want to get from point A to point B; they are dissatisfied with the status quo.

Vision + initiative = progress.

Warren Bennis said, “Action without vision is stumbling in the dark and vision without action is poverty-stricken poetry.” Leaders need both vision (where we are going) and initiative (let’s start moving in that direction).

The analogy I’ve created is not exact, but it will work. The next time you’re stopped at a streetlight and the light turns green and the person in front doesn’t move, let it be a reminder of the fact that leaders must lead.

When you’re at the front of the line and the light turns green—go.
When you’re in a position of leadership—lead.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Only 5 openings remain for the Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information click here.

Make friends

friends3.001Besides, which would you rather have, money or a faithful and modest friend? Epictetus

Years ago I saw a cartoon depicting a thief pointing his gun at a frightened victim and yelling, “Give me all your valuables.” The next panel showed the victim stuffing all of his friends into the thief’s sack.

Friendships are among the most valuable assets in life. I value them more than currency or possessions. In terms of friendships, how wealthy are you?

Take the initiative to develop friendships.

An ancient proverb says, “He who would have friends must show himself to be friendly.” My favorite word in the English language is initiative. It is a common trait of leaders and people who progress in life. And it is mentioned in this proverb as a key to developing friendships. To make friends you must “show yourself to be friendly.” Take the first step; make the first move; pick up the phone and call someone you would like to start a new friendship with or contact an existing friend to deepen the relationship.

 I went out in the world to find a friend.
And I could not find one there.
Then I went out to be a friend.
And friends were everywhere.

It’s okay to categorize your friendships.

There’s nothing wrong with categorizing friendships based on how close the relationships are. When I consider the different levels of my friendships I visualize concentric circles. The inner circle represents my closest friends. The next, larger circle includes a larger group of friends that I’m not as close to, and so on.

It’s interesting and satisfying to watch a friendship move from an outer circle to one nearer the center. For instance, I first met my friend Ken Allen about nine years ago when our families were sharing a meal together. Ken joined the church choir that I direct so we started seeing each other at least twice a week. In the next five years he participated in several choir tours so we traveled the world together with other choir members. We’ve shared a lot of meals together. We have slowly become very good friends. Our friendship deepened in a natural, unforced manner.

Don’t underestimate how many friendships you can develop.

Don’t think “I can only negotiate 10 close friends” or “about 50 friends is all I can handle.” Through the years, my concentric circles of friendships all get larger.

One of my goals in 2016 is to make 50 new friends. As of August, I’ve cultivated 25 new friends. I met Larry on a European trip we were on together. My new friend, John, is married to a woman who works in my office. I met Sayed when I opened an account at Fidelity Investments. If you look for them, potential friends are everywhere (see my post on the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon).

One way I’m solidifying and deepening these new friendships is to host a weekly luncheon where six of us meet to talk about important issues. We meet for five consecutive weeks. It’s amazing how quickly friendships can deepen if you talk openly about significant thoughts.

Soon after Jack Benny died, George Burns was interviewed on T.V. Burns commented, “Jack and I had a wonderful friendship for nearly fifty-five years. Jack never walked out on me when I sang a song, and I never walked out on him when he played the violin. We laughed together, we played together, we worked together, we ate together. I suppose that for many of those years we talked every single day.”

Jack and George shared a priceless commodity—friendship.

Click here to read a great article on the topic of friendship.

Utilize the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

Only 10 openings available for the Sept. 21-22 Lead Well workshop

baader2Several months ago Mary and I were contemplating buying a new car. We narrowed our search to a Honda CRV. Suddenly, Honda CRVs were everywhere. I saw them on the road and noticed them in advertisements in magazines and online. I soon met several people who owned one. Within 48 hours that particular car became ubiquitous. Why had I not noticed them before?

We’ve all experienced this phenomenon—a concept or item is put on the forefront of our minds and suddenly it seems to show up everywhere. Of course, it was there all along; we’re just now seeing it.

There are several terms that describe this phenomenon; one is colloquial, coined by a journalist, and the other is a more academic phrase coined by a psychology professor.

The term Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was first used in 1994 by a commenter on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ online discussion board, who came up with it after hearing, for the first time, the name of the ultra-left-wing German terrorist group twice in 24 hours.

In 2006 Stanford professor Arnold Zwicky coined the phrase “frequency illusion” to describe this syndrome. It’s caused, he wrote, by two psychological processes. The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you subconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence.

We can use this phenomenon to our advantage. Since we tend to notice that which we look for, let’s choose what we look for.

For instance:

  • We are surrounded by innumerable reasons to be grateful—life, freedom, friends—but we’ll remain unaware, and perhaps ungrateful, unless we look for them.
  • We are encompassed by beauty—nature, children, music, books—but often don’t recognize it.
  • God is at work in our lives but we may not recognize His activity because we’re looking elsewhere.

This concept has huge implications for goal setting. I’ve often wondered why, when we set a goal and go public with it, our chances of accomplishing the goal dramatically increase. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon would suggest that once goals are placed on the forefront of our minds we’re more aware of them and we’ll devote more time and effort to achieving them.

For instance, one of my goals for 2016 is to make 50 new friends. Having set and announced the goal, making friends has become an important part of my conscious thinking. I’m constantly looking for friends and, guess what, I’m finding them everywhere.

What do you look for?
Here’s an engaging YouTube video on this topic.

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Only 10 openings remain for the Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information click here.

Don’t give people what you like; give what they value

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gift givine

Self-centeredness is a powerful force. If left unchecked, it will sully every aspect of our lives. For instance, even when we want to give something to someone else, our preoccupation with self can pollute our act—we’ll give what we value and would enjoy receiving instead of what he or she would like.

  • For my honeymoon I planned a trip to Acapulco; I had been there before and loved it, so I assumed Mary would, also. She didn’t.
  • I recently gave a friend a copy of a novel that I enjoyed reading. My friend doesn’t like fiction.
  • I took a friend out to dinner for his birthday to my favorite Mexican food restaurant. His favorite food is Italian.
  • I spoke words of instruction to my hurting friend. What he really needed was comfort.

So the next time you want to give, find out what the intended receiver wants. If you’re not sure what he prefers, ask him. He will tell you.

To get the full impact of this essay, please respond to two topics.

  • Think of a time when someone gave you a gift that he or she valued but you did not.
  • Think of a time when you gave someone a gift that you valued but the recipient probably did not.

The antidote for self-centeredness is to focus on others. Think about others and put them first – especially when giving gifts.

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Recently, I signed up to receive a daily summary – from the New York Times – of the most important news items of each day. It’s free and it’s good. To sign up, click here and choose Evening Briefings. 

Don’t make excuses for character flaws and bad behavior, thinking “that’s just who I am.”

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excuses3.001I once had an employee who had the audacity to declare, “I know I have a short fuse and a bad temper, but that’s just who I am. People who work with me just need to deal with it.” I informed him that his inordinate temper would not be tolerated because it is an area that he has control over and needs to change.

I have a friend who is always late. She’ll probably be late to her own funeral. When I questioned her about her tardiness, she replied, “Yeah, I’ve always struggled with being on time. My mother was that way; I must have gotten it from her.” Her attitude is unacceptable. It’s rude to be tardy and everyone can learn to be punctual.

Don’t ever make excuses for character flaws and bad behavior because they are not part of your inalterable essence—you can, and should, change.

The serenity prayer says it quite eloquently:

Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

  • You can’t change your height but you can change your weight.
  • You can’t change your basic personality (and you don’t need to) but you can choose to be punctual, positive, kind, discreet, fair, etc.
  • You can’t change who your parents are but you can choose your friends.
  • You can’t change the weather but you do have sovereign control over your attitude.

Take responsibility for your attitude and behavior. Don’t minimize, ignore, or make excuses for personal deficiencies. If you talk too much, talk less. If you talk too loudly, speak more softly. If you are pessimistic, choose to be optimistic.

Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach, said, “Over time, it is easy for each of us to cross the line and begin to make a virtue of our flaws—simply because the flaws constitute what we think of as ‘me.’ This misguided loyalty to our true natures—this excessive need to be me—is one of the toughest obstacles to making positive long-term change in our behavior.”

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Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information at learntoleadwell.com

Lead Well workshop – Sept. 21-22 – Irving, TX

Learn to be an effective leader

The health and growth of all organizations rises and falls on leadership.

Leadership is the primary factor influencing the health and growth of every organization. Organizations can increase their leadership quotient by:

  • Increasing the effectiveness of existing leaders.
  • Increasing the quantity of leaders by identifying, training and empowering new leaders.

Fifteen year ago I developed a leadership development curriculum that has been taught to thousands of leaders in diverse industries including technology, medical, non-profit, and financial services.

Lead Well offers leadership training and resources to organizations and individuals in all industries. Our propriety curriculum focuses on 12 indispensable leadership skills – six hard skills (what a leader does) and six soft skills (who a leader is). The training provides a thorough and systematic approach to leadership development.

The fall workshop will be held September 21-22 in Irving, TX. We’ll meet both days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Click here for a summary of the curriculum.

Go to learntoleadwell.com to take a free, leadership skills assessment tool and to learn more about the workshop.

For more information and registration contact don@donmcminn.com