Monday, June 3, 2013

Qualities I Respect And Admire In A Man.

I sat down and tried to think through some qualities that when I find in a man,I am impressed and inspired. When I started out, I didn't actually imagine they could be this many.Some may look like they couldn't possibly exist in the same man without there being a contradiction but interestingly, it happens. Their numbering is arbitrary and is not meant to imply priority.So here goes...

1. Gentleness
I respect and admire a man who is gentle both in word and deed especially because of his regard for others. He never speaks with the intention of offending even though the truth he speaks may be offensive to some. He does not needlessly cause others hurt-whether physical or emotional. This is not at all to say that he is weak or timid but rather that he does not deem his superiority as a justification for stepping on other people's toes.He is not insensitive.

I respect and admire a man who has through experience learned to endure hard times. This quality is unattainable except by experience. Some learn it by circumstances beyond their control while some others may voluntarily choose a life where hardships are certain for some good cause to be achieved. This kind of man is the one anyone would go to for leadership when the going gets tough-because of his experience-he always has an idea of what to do.

3. Hope
This ties in with hardiness. Many men who go through hard circumstances come out hardy, but not in a good way, they come out hard-hearted actually; bitter,pessimistic or resentful of those who have not been through situations as hard as they have. That is why I think a hardy man who has a hopeful heart is a gem among men. He is the kind of man who in the darkness of hopeless circumstances will hold onto the ray,however thin,of hope left to him. Because of him all those around him take heart and trudge on in the light of his hope. He is forever positive, though never living in denial of reality.

I respect and admire a courageous man. The truth of the matter is, he has fears too but he never let's them paralyze him. He may have let it in the past but he learns the lesson and never again let's fear prevent him from action.When it comes right down to it, he will stride into places he fears, confront people or things he fears,just because that seems to him to be the only reasonable and noble choice.

5. Honour
I respect and admire a man of honour. There are things this man will not stoop low to do and this is not because he is haughty but rather because he has a sober estimate of himself. He does not behave honorably to gain a good name but because he considers not living so as a betrayal to who he is-he values his integrity. Such a man will not awaken love in a woman's heart for himself if he has no intentions of loving her.

I respect and admire a compassionate man. Kindliness is not one of those qualities commonly associated with manliness but I think it is one of the best qualities to be found in a  man.Some may even consider it a weakness in a man to be easily moved to compassion for those less fortunate or weaker or less wise-but it is not.This compassion may not be expressed the same way a woman would show compassion but a man who feels deeply about things and people will the sooner exert all of his wits and effort to heroic deeds for their sake.

7.A Hero's Heart
I respect and admire a man with a heroic heart. I am not thinking all men should be soldiers or firefighters here or that they should attempt achievements that will be recognized by the whole world.A man who is a hero in the small things is just fine by me and worthy of praise- being an involved and dependable brother, friend, or father and doing meaningful things for the people that count on him- that's a hero.

I respect and admire an honest man; a man whose word can be counted on. When he gives you his word, it is as steadfast as the collateral a bank would ask for a billion dollar loan. His ways are without guile or treachery and this quality is best coupled with shrewdness. Many honest people make the mistake of believing that everyone else is as honest as they are but as Jesus Christ advised,be wise as serpents but harmless as doves.

I respect and admire a man with foresight-he is mindful of what has happened before, is attentive to whatever is going on around him, and therefore always has an accurate estimate of what's coming ahead thus making wise decisions. He is not rash in making decisions or speaking too soon on matters of importance but he thoroughly thinks things through and as a result, his life is ever a progression-obstacles only delay him but never stop him.

10.Ability to read people
I respect a man who has the ability to read people.He is a sharp observer as to what kind of person each person he encounters is.Not that he is distrustful of people or paranoid but he is not rash to trust new acquaintances. He studies people, not to manipulate them, but to know how best to be of service to them if they are friends and how to counter them if their intentions are far from good.

11. Wisdom
I respect and admire a man of wisdom. There is such great depth in the words of counsel given by such a man that you have to ruminate on them to get their full meaning. Sometimes you may think they have advised you in only one thing but when you look again,you'll realize that so much was said that was not said. And they do not do this because they wish to sound deep but rather it is inevitable that the depth of their understanding should be reflected by their words.

12. Shrewdness
I respect and admire a shrewd man. By shrewd, I mean practical wisdom.Many men may resound words they have heard from others but the truly wise  are seen by the choices they make. A shrewd man has a way with people and circumstances and always manages to come out on top- this is because he thinks on his feet and clearly and acts appropriately and on time.To others they appear shrewd, but to themselves it's merely common sense.

13. Humility
I respect and admire a humble man. The word man almost always seems to dovetail with the word ego.Yet humility is an admirable quality in a man. And I don't mean a weak,spineless,grovelling, obsequiousness when I talk of humility. I mean rather a man who, knowing himself to be strong,wise,famous,powerful,or wealthy, forgets himself-not his dignity but himself-and makes himself available to others. The usual word is down to earth. If say such a man is the CEO of a company, his employees will never feel like they're being stepped upon but rather respected,valued, and appreciated-and they will hold him in higher honor still for this very reason.Such a man will not hesitate to say "I am sorry" as soon as he realizes he is in the wrong.

14.A heart of service
I respect and admire a man who has the heart of a servant.The first question this kind of man always asks in any situation is, what can I do to be of help? How can I be useful? He is ever ready and willing to employ his time, effort and abilities when they are needed. But this requires balance.It does not mean that he should be ever jumping from one activity to another,no,he identifies where his talents will be most useful and gives himself fully to serving there without care for who will get the credit.

15. Sternness
I respect and admire a stern man. This is not at all in conflict with being gentle or compassionate.There are circumstances where tough love is necessary and that requires a man to employ a degree of sternness. Toughness of mind is needed to think through and tackle difficult issues, make tough decisions and stick it out once they're made. I admire such a man because he is not ever wavering in his beliefs or decisions-shifty is the word. Such a man commands respect from friends and foes alike.

Alright,that's my take on it, you're free to make additions or subtractions as you wish.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Success? On Whose Terms?

It is a beautiful feeling,isn't it,to arrive at the summit of a mountain you have been climbing for a long while- or a corporate ladder for that matter (You know what I'm talking about if you have watched Will Smith in "The Pursuit of Happiness").To be the champion in a race or to marry a girl you've pursued over hills and valleys, to win an award for excellent performance or to see monetary returns to your investments or to graduate after a period of intense study. Everyone of us loves success-and it does have it's benefits and fulfillment. I have mentioned a few of the successes we usually achieve but my focus in writing today is that larger thing itself, the one to which all these others are subject-success in life.

From my reading and musing over the past few days my attention has been drawn afresh to this issue and what God's view on it is, if I may presume to know it from Scripture and history. After reading an Eric Metaxas biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and pastor who was executed on Hitler's orders for his involvement in Operation Valkyrie-the unsuccessful plot to assassinate the tyrant, I couldn't help but think that this was one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies. Bonhoeffer had just made 39 years at the time of his execution and was engaged to be married to his fiancee Maria von Werdemeyer- and this was just two weeks before Hitler himself would commit suicide in a bunker in Berlin because the  Allied Forces had virtually defeated his army.

Bonhoeffer,a brilliant mind and yet a humble leader and devout disciple of Christ, would doubtless have played a pivotal role in the rebuilding of Germany after almost twelve years of the destructive lunacy of the Reich Fuhrer-Adolf Hitler. Hitler destroyed Germany from within and it's reputation without because of the massacres in war and in the death camps. Bonhoeffer's road ended at the concentration camp in Flossenb├╝rg on the morning of April 9th 1945. Some of his last words to his fellow political prisoners were "This is the end. But the beginning of life for me."

He figured, long before his arrest, imprisonment and execution  that the road he was taking could possibly end here-yet he did not turn back or take the easy route of passivity-He obeyed what he was convinced was God's will for him. Which brings me to my conclusion- that success in life does not consist in achieving what we set out to achieve or what everyone around us assumes we should achieve in order to be considered successful-but rather in obeying what we know to be God's will for us. To the ordinary eye, Bonhoeffer, his friends and family-many of whom were executed too, were failures because they had failed to assassinate Hitler and had been killed instead-but how true is that?

Allow me to digress a bit to make a clarification; Bonhoeffer's justification for his participation in Valkyrie was his concern for the Jews,millions of whom were killed during the Nazi regime. As a Christian, he concluded that it was not enough just to speak against what the Nazi government was doing yet hundreds and even thousands of Jews across Europe were dying daily-just like William Wilberforce had not just spoken against slavery in Britain but actively worked tirelessly towards it's abolition. The difference though between the Britain of Wilberforce's time and the Germany of Bonhoeffer's time is, Britain had a functional parliament whereby slavery could be stopped through lawful means- Germany didn't-Hitler was the law.There would be no stopping the killings without first toppling this madman.

Back to our point- was Bonhoeffer successful? After all,he lost two brothers-one to the First World War and the other was executed like himself for involvement in Valkyrie along with two of his brothers-in-law,not to mention his many Jewish and German friends. He never finished writing some of his books and forfeited the opportunity to lecture at Berlin University for which he was fully qualified, he never married his beloved Maria,he never lived to be a part of rebuilding Germany after Hitler- in short, many of his hopes died unfulfilled. But he chose obedience over convenience or safety. He died content in God, content that he had obeyed and given his life without reservation in that obedience-in spite of his hopes and the hopes of those who loved him.The camp doctor who witnessed the execution wrote:

“I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

Which leads me to ask myself,is Bonhoeffer's case peculiar or is this the case for all true Christians, faithful disciples of Christ-that the path of obedience is the path of true success in life. I am of the view that it is indeed the case for us all. Moses never entered the promised land but he obeyed in leading the people there. Jeremiah,for all his fiery preaching,did not succeed in convincing the people of Israel to repent and avoid being taken into captivity-and neither did the other prophets-his contemporaries, but they obeyed in preaching all the same.Daniel's friends got tossed into a furnace for their obedience and Daniel was served as dinner to lions. John the Baptist lost his head and Jesus his life.

 As can be seen in the above examples and thousands of others that I can't squeeze into this one article, the path of obedience is a costly one. That's why so few find the narrow way- it is hard, it won't earn you praise from those who see as the world sees, it will even look stupid to most. But it is the right way. Sometimes God may let us live through it and sometimes he may not.But at all times we must obey to know success as God sees it. Of course we don't always get it right, sometimes we cower away in fear like Simon Peter and seek to preserve our lives but remember what Jesus said, "He who saves his life, shall lose it". The world's way of success is-save your own skin-we have even coined a term for it, "Every man for himself and God for us all." But God's view of success is the path of obedience and more often than not-it calls us to lay down our lives.So you want success, right? On whose terms?