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Breath on Paper Blog Grow

Peace: The Parting Gift

The Prince of Peace showed me early on that I have no reason to be afraid or have a troubled heart, but that it's really about the absence of something we consider unpleasant.

The peace that passes all understanding….well, let’s just say it took me a while to grasp it.

Two hours after law school graduation, I embarked on my journey into adulthood in a packed-to-the brim Cutlass Olds.

Destination: Miami

18 hours later, I walked to the front desk of the small, Art Deco-style Miami Beach residential hotel where I’d lived the previous summer.

The same building manager handed me the key to my efficiency unit and I walked up 3 flights of stairs. As I reached to insert the key, the unlocked door swung open and I was greeted by an awful stench and a floor littered with trash. I eased inside, peeked into the bathroom, and discovered the source of the disgusting odor.

Clearly, the wicked had not known peace (Isaiah 57:21).

The building manager didn’t ask why when I said I couldn’t live there after all.

I was a bit nonplussed, but I’d faced worse.

I am strong. I am invincible.

Chin up.

I drove across town, booked a room at the Holiday Inn in Coral Gables, and set out to find an apartment unlikely to have been squatted by drug addicts.

It was a quick search. Lease signed, I returned to the hotel and called home to explain the change of plans.

The next morning I reported to work—an eager legal eagle ready to begin my dream job as a corporate securities lawyer. Six new associates were ushered into a conference room, where we learned we would all be doing insurance defense work for two years.

My heart sank.

Fast forward one week. I felt less than invincible but still resilient.

I knew the Lord was in control, but despite a lifetime in church and a deep faith, I was a spiritual baby. If you grew up in a church culture that focused on fire insurance, you understand.

Peace was not flowing like a river.

Two weeks in, the AC on my car retired. I traded the Cutlass for a Suzuki Samurai thinking that would raise my spirits. Of course, things don’t bring peace.

Three weeks in, I was invited to accompany a junior partner to an early morning hearing at the courthouse. I’d worked on the case, so it seemed innocuous. Afterwards, he suggested we stop in at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Who was I to object?

The Metro train back downtown was standing-room only, and we were scrunched in tightly in the middle of the car. The only place for my hand on the pole between us was at waist level—my waist. At first, I’d thought it was just the crowded train, but with the fourth bump and grind….lightbulb moment.

After this already auspicious start to my day, he invited me to his office, where I learned my new job also came with, as they say, fringe benefits. We could go out on his boat.

A few days later, I turned in my resignation and returned the signing bonus. It was the only choice I could make.

I am woman. With self-respect.

In that moment, I felt a brief shimmering glance of infinite peace in the midst of massive anxiety about my worldly future.

I think I made the right choice, although it changed the trajectory of my life.

As the Rolling Stones sang:

You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you might find that you get what you need.

That month was life-altering for a 24-year-old, but the wisdom didn’t come quickly. Decades of refinement were required for diamonds to appear.

It turns out that peace really is about the absence of something—self.

When we let go of self, we make room for God to shine his light into our hearts and fill us with the Spirit in which we find true freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:1-6, 4:6, Romans 15:13, Galatians 6:8-10).

Simple, but not always easy. It requires daily practice.

A version of this post was originally published on BreathOnPaperBlog.com

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how side and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,..." Ephesians 3:17-18. Sheree Martin

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Grow Professional

Coming Full Circle?

18 years ago—June 1997—I was in the midst of an internal struggle about what I should do next with my life.

On the outside, I was a successful lawyer. I was a shareholder in my law firm and, for the first time in my life, starting to make “real” money, by which I mean that I finally had enough to travel and invest after covering relatively modest living expenses and sizable student loans from law and tax school.

But despite the relative career security and stable financial situation, I was unfulfilled, both professionally and personally. I’d reached a place where I feared I was at the point of no return. Of course, that was probably not the reality of the immediate situation, but that’s what I felt at that point.

The Fork in the Road

I was 34 years old and it seemed like I was about to cross some threshold of life and professional standing that would close off opportunities.

If I stayed in my career as a lawyer, I would forgo the chance to make a significant change for years to come. Whether that was true or not, I don’t know. But that’s what I felt at that point.

I was at the proverbial fork in the road.

For several years I’d been grappling with whether I should be practicing law or doing something else, like writing which seemed to be at the core of my being. I would get up at 5 a.m. most days–sometimes 4–to do my “morning pages” in a journal and then write more professional stuff.

Throughout 1996 I sought the professional advice of others: Spiritual counseling through a pastoral counseling program in my community, professional career counseling, psychological counseling. I met with several professionals in fields I thought might be suitable to get guidance on careers in those fields.

I didn't have anyone in my family or circle of friends that I could call on for real, deep guidance. My brother was the most helpful, but even he could not offer anything more than support. A couple of the lawyers in my firm were as helpful as they could be when I shared things with them, but they could not define my happiness and my own future for me.

Confused & Uncertain

The whole process of counseling left me more confused and uncertain. I could not find a thread of consistency in any of the guidance I received from these others (all men, I recall in retrospect), other than impression that this was going to be something I had to figure out on my own.

I began to realize that the answers had to come from inside.

My heart-of-hearts felt that communication and creativity had to be the core of whatever I did, but I had not idea how to pursue that.

I’d been writing for several years, but had doubts about my ability to “make a living” as a writer. In those days, you still had to be picked by an editor, a publisher, a producer.

On a lark in Fall 1996 I enrolled in a graduate course in organizational communication and applied to take the GRE. I’d explored the possibility of moving from law into corporate communication, to focus on communications in crisis management.

I had been applying for executive-level positions in the PR and corporate communications field and to the extent I ever received feedback on my applications I was told that I was “overqualified” or “underqualified.”

Spiritual Discernment

My morning pages ritual included spiritual reading, writing and reflection and I was a frequent reader of Ecclesiastes. In 1997, as I approached the point of decision, I was deep into struggling with the words in the book of James.

I was very hung up on the faith vs. doubt message of James 1:5-8. I remember asking my brother, an ordained minister, to help me understand that passage.

I wanted to make a wise choice because I knew (or at least felt at the time) that I would be closing a door by leaving my career as a lawyer. I knew I could always practice law again, but I would be leaving a position of relative security and even if I returned to law I would be starting anew, to some extent.

What Goes Around

Anyway, here I am today in 2015 at a very similar point in my life.

In August 2014 I tendered my notice to Samford that I would be leaving the tenure-track position I had and leaving the University in May 2015, when my contract expired. So that decision has been made and is final and I am very confident that was the correct decision.

A few weeks ago, the pastor of my church—Avondale United Methodist—embarked on a summer sermon focus on the New Testament book of James. I’ve been very excited about that because James remains one of my go-to books when I’m perplexed and seeking guidance. That said, I haven’t studied or pondered it, deeply, in a couple of years.

As I began to re-read the first chapter of James on my own over the past few days, I began to focus words and phrases that I had not previously underlined.

This new focus was not of my own intention. As I read, my eyes are automatically drawn to the underlined verses and phrases, which I struggled with in the past, but my perception is different.

Today, I’m seeing the underlined passages in the light of other words not previously emphasized. For example:

“Count yourself supremely HAPPY [emphasis mine, today] in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure.”

James 1:2

“HAPPY [emphasis mine, today] is the man who stands up to trial! Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12.

“But he who looks into the perfect law, the law that makes us free, and does not turn away, remembers what he hears; he acts on it, and by so acting he will find HAPPINESS.” [emphasis mine, today]

James 1:25

“…By so acting he will find happiness.”

Discovering the Path to Happiness

In February 2013 I sat down to write something that I called the Happy Life Manifesto–my thesis on happiness and what it takes to achieve a happiness, based on the lessons I’d learned in my 50 years of life.

I’d embarked on period of self-reflection in the second-half of 2012, in anticipation of my 50th birthday in late November of that year and you might say the Happy Life Manifesto was the summation of what I'd learned from that process.

What I’d recognized is that I was happy, in spite of an ongoing time of trial and tribulation in my job, uncertainty about the future, and occasional family challenges that still surfaced from time to time.

So it’s interesting to come today to the place where I’m in the midst of a major change in my life and no human certainty as to how it will play out and yet I feel happy and at peace and back in the book of James.

I’m finally moving to turn the Happy Life Manifesto in the book that I envisioned in 2013, when I was about half-way through writing the first iteration. But the thing is this: I don’t think I was fully ready then. Some of the pieces to the puzzle weren’t yet in place.

Happiness Is….

The first thesis in the Happy Life Manifesto is this:

It starts with Love.

When I was writing the Happy Life Manifesto, I wasn’t thinking specifically of the fruits of the spirit, the first of which is love.

Love came from an internalized message that had been growing inside over the past few decades, particularly in the years between 2004 and 2013.

But it’s an even stronger feeling inside today. I don’t think I was fully cognizant in 2013 of what it means to say “it starts with Love.” And for that reason, the book has had to wait until now, when I'm better equipped to write it.

Faith, Hope & Love

I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in June 2015 and continuing to grow into the person and purpose I’m here for now.

I believe I’m in this place for a reason and a purpose.

I am moving in faith to take the actions each day that I discern to be the right ones to fulfill the purpose that I'm here for right now. I'm not perfect–I still get distracted and off-track, but I’m trying.

I’m trying to be the person I am–the person God designed and created.  And taking action in faith.

I have hope–I'm confident, not doubting (at least rarely having a flash of doubt).

And I'm trying, in faith, to BE love.

Love prevails.

[Writer's Note: This is something of a stream-of-consciousness first draft from my journal, edited slightly here for clarity. I write to think.]

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Discover Grow

Work Values Assessment

When I re-took the MBTI in late August along with students in a course I'm teaching, we also had the chance to complete the Work Values assessment.

I finally found the PDF of those results and wanted to include them in this series. If you're following along, this is another in a series of posts I've been writing over the past month or so. I'm looking back at the results of various personality, communication styles and strengths assessments I've taken over the course of my adult life.

Work Values Clusters

This particular assessment is based responses to 20 statements. These responses measure work needs based on importance and yield results which are classified into six core work values: Achievement, Independence, Recognition, Relationships, Support and Working Conditions.

My top two work needs are: Independence and Achievement.

Work Values Assessment Sheree Martin

Work Values: Independence

Independence encompasses three needs:

  • Creativity
  • Responsibility
  • Autonomy

Work Values: Achievement

The top needs associated with the Achievement value are:

  • Ability Utilization
  • Achievement

I'm excited by what seems to be a consistent thread that's evident across all of these results and I can't wait to finish up my evaluation of all the data.

 

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Grow Professional

What’s Your Moral Personality?

We all have a smorgasbord of personality traits, a preferred style or preference for decision-making, and a values system that governs (or at least shapes) our choices.

As I continue my series that looks at the common thread between the results of various interests, style and personality tests (validated and otherwise) that I've taken over the years, I thought it might be helpful to revisit the results from the MoralDNA™ test.

Background

I discovered the MoralDNA™ test at the beginning of 2014. I had been assigned to teach a course in mass media ethics, which I'd never taught before. I've had many students in our major mention from time to time that they like taking personality-type tests so I went looking for an online version of the Ball-Rokeach values assessment and ended up going with the MoralDNA™ assessment instead. (I didn't want to know the students' results. I just wanted them to take the test to provide a foundation for what might be potential blindspots as we discussed ethical decision-making frameworks and ethical challenges in the workplace).

How the MoralDNA™ Test Works

Professor Roger Steare, known as The Corporate Philosopher, and Pavlos Stanboulides, Director of Psycholate, developed the MoralDNA™ test as a way to assess the relationship between decision-making styles and moral values.

The assessment covers three areas: Decision-making preferences, personal vs. work life distinctions, and moral values. Scores in these areas are used to place you into one of six archetypes or “characters” within the MoralDNA™ spectrum: Philosopher, Judge, Angel, Teacher, Enforcer or Guardian.

My MoralDNA™ Results

I look the test in January 2014 in advance of teaching the ethics course.

I was placed in the Philosopher archetype, with a caveat that my results were also closely-aligned with the Angel archetype.

The dominant moral values reflected in my results were:

  • Wisdom
  • Self-Control
  • Excellence
  • Care
  • Fairness
  • Humility

Screenshot of Results of MoralDNA(TM) Philosopher or Angel

 

My dominant decision-making style was identified as logic, with love running a close second.

What is a Philosopher?

In the MoralDNA™ framework, the Philosopher is someone for whom virtue is the most important consideration when making choices. This archetype would seem to be aligned with Aristotle's ethical philosophy.

According to the MoralDNA report I received, the Philosopher begins with a consideration of what is most honorable and most courageous in a given situation and then looks at how this choice would affect other people. Only then do rules and regulations come into play.

The Philosopher archetype might sometimes be described as a “maverick,” says the report, “but good to have around when really difficult decisions have to be made.” (MoralDNA™ Report for Sheree Martin, January 2014). The report estimates about 17% of Americans fall into the Philosopher archetype.

The main distinction between the Philosopher and the Judge is that the Judge consults the rules and regulations before considering how the outcome would affect others.

The Philosopher and the Judge archetypes are described as being very good at dealing with complex situations and difficult problems.

What is an Angel?

For the Angel, the most important consideration is how a choice will affect other people. They consider values like love, hope, trust and respect. The Angel is somewhat aligned with the Philosopher in that the Angel considers rules and regulations last, before making a decision.

Valid for Me?

Overall, I would say these are valid results and fairly accurately describe my dominant approach to decision-making. I certainly place personal virtue at the highest level of importance. I focus on doing what seems to be the most “right” thing to do in a given situation and not simply what I might technically be permitted to do under some rule or regulation.

This might explain some of my disgust with the current state of politics (especially in the campaign finance arena).  High-frequency trading and hedge-fund investment practices also bother me.

Just because something is legal doesn't make it right and I believe we do have a moral duty to consider how our actions affect other people. We have a right to look out for ourselves first and certainly that is the survival instinct we all have–and rightly solve. We are not expected to be martyrs for others, but pure selfishness is equally extreme.

I'm somewhat of a libertarian in my political beliefs, and very market-oriented in my economic values but I am most definitely NOT a disciple of Ayn Rand! The whole issue of government regulation is extraordinarily complex because the market is complicated by issues of corporate limited liability, imperfect information, monopolies, oligopolies, and the reality that humans are not purely rational creatures. But I digress—those issues are a subjects for a  different series of posts.

More later.