Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stop Being Offended and Do Something

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. - Joel A. Barker

Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you. - Thomas Jefferson

Action expresses priorities. - Mahatma Gandhi

At 6am this morning, my local Starbucks was busier than normal.  My Quiet Hour had ended and I was gearing up for another day of orchestrated chaos and the test of mettle that strains under the pressure of closing a complex business deal.

It was a typical day in any major city – people coming and going in haste, on the way to wherever, focused on whatever, as they stared straight ahead with expressionless or strained faces.

There were a couple of women passionately discussing Scripture.

And there was a homeless guy, keeping a watchful eye on his shopping cart outside.

It contains everything he has.

I hadn’t noticed him at first.  What drew my attention to him were the two women discussing Scripture.  Drinking their $5 lattes that stood beside their Michael Kors bags, they discussed how they were glad that being homeless wasn’t something that they needed to worry about.  After discussing it for a few minutes, one followed the lead of the other, bowed her head and they both said a prayer for the homeless guy before returning to their idle chatter, complaining about the lousy nail salon in the area.

Seeing him sitting there, I got up, asked him if I could buy him breakfast (to which he said yes), I asked him what he wanted and brought it back to him.  He said thank-you and proceeded to enjoy it.

It may be the only food he eats today.

As I walked past the two obviously affluent ladies, I stopped, politely interrupted them and said “Did it ever occur to either of you that perhaps instead of praying for him, that you were in fact the answer to someone else’s prayer for him?”

I don’t think they knew what to make of me and stared at me with nothing to say.

In the same coffee shop the day before (yes, my Life revolves mostly in my office, my lawyer’s office and the coffee shop these days with whatever is left over for family), I noticed a guy repairing the coffee machine.  By a strange twist of fate, whether I am in the coffee shop at 6 in the morning or 6 in the evening, he is often there at the same time and he has seen me many times.

I was joking with the barista about being too hard on the machine (to which she laughed) when he turned to me and snapped, “I see you here all the time.  Why don’t you get a job like a real man?”

He had taken an opportunity to speak his truth or what he perceived as his truth, based on the assumption that if I am there when he is there, I must be a “lazy sod” (albeit a well-dressed one) idly passing time there.

And so I took an opportunity to respectfully speak my truth back to him and when I was done, I received a mumbled apology as he stared at the floor.

My colleague was shocked by the repairman’s rude audacity but not at my response – most people get used to me over time.

The same colleague had been with me a few weeks before when two people sitting next to us spilled coffee on their table.  They concluded their business, stood up and started to walk away.

“Excuse me, sir”, I sang out, “Are you going to leave a mess like that?”

One continued out the door without looking back but the other guy looked at me, said “I thought my partner was going to do it” (even though his partner was already ahead of him and out the door), cleaned it up and thanked me for calling him on it.

It was only fair – he was, in fact, the guy who had spilled the coffee in the first place.

Meanwhile, my colleague was shocked that I had spoken up.

“Was it wrong that he was leaving a mess behind?”, I asked.

“Of course it was”, came the reply.

“Were you upset that he was leaving a mess behind?”, I asked.

“I was”, came the reply.

“So why didn’t you speak up instead of merely choosing to be offended?”, I asked.

The light came on.

People in need don’t need your prayers alone.

They also don’t need passive-aggressive discomfort with a situation.

By the same token, problems at-hand or things that bother us are not solved if we just sit there being offended or bothered by them.

If you want to fix your world, then you must be the change you wish to see.

It reminds me of the time I became aware of a woman who had been compromised by a guy who, with his twisted interest in child pornography and other bizarre needs, had managed to secure some compromising photos of her.  He used the photos and the threat of releasing them on the Web to deepen his control over her and it appeared that damaging her family or her company were next on the agenda for him.

I could have offered to say a prayer for her.

I could have given her a hug, whispering encouraging words about how I knew she would overcome this.

I could have done nothing but used it as a conversation topic with friends, waxing on about the scumbags in the world.

There are many things I could have offered or done of little value to her.

Instead, I fixed the problem as I described in the post Answering the Cry For Help.

Deeds and results, unlike words, do not lie nor do they pass the buck, allowing someone else to fix a problem (hopefully) while we focus on how offended we are.

The Bottom Line

When we choose to be offended or surprised and carry that feeling around all day without addressing it, we waste an opportunity to make a difference.  Too many of us spend time wasting brain cycles that could have been used for something else more important, more impactful or more productive.

And then there is the problem of wasting time wondering what the answers / results should be for unasked questions and actions not taken.

This morning, my business partner was surprised to see one of my thumbnails with bright, pink nail polish on it.

He looked at it several times with a light smile but said nothing although he was clearly distracted by it.

“You want to ask, don’t you?”, I said to him as I observed him.

“I do”, he said, smiling.

“Then ask”, I replied.

“Ok”, he said, “Why does the President of our company have a pink thumbnail?”

“Great question”, I replied, “Perhaps it is nice to be in touch with a softer side once in a while as we spend inordinate amounts of time being aggressive, assertive, Alpha males pretending to be kings of the universe as we make plans for our next conquest.  What do you think?”

He paused for a moment and then he smiled.

“I like it”, he replied.

“Me too”, I replied, “And besides, since when did I care what others think of what I say or do as long as what I do gets the job done and honors others?”

“I really like it”, he said.

An hour later, my small action was greeted with applause in the boardroom.

And then one of the guys at the office went out to buy a bottle of vivid, bright blue nail polish to give it a try. 

After all, blue is our corporate color.

I wonder what people on the street will think.

I don’t care.

Neither should you.

Stop being offended by the world, wasting time and energy being upset by the actions (or lack thereof) of others.

Stop leaving questions unanswered, incessantly turning them over in your mind when you could be using the gift of your intellect to solve problems for you, your family, your friends, your colleagues, your country and your planet.

Speak your truth ….

…. dare to defend it …

…. and dare to live it.

The world is waiting for you to take action.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood – create a great day because merely having one is too passive an experience.


PS As I wrote this today, a great friend of mine by the name of Leonard Szymczak came to mind.  In powerful books such as The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace, Leonard reminds us all about the importance of living our truth – forcefully and directly but always delivered with peace, love and respect.

If only more people had the courage to do so.

Imagine what a world we could create.

Don’t wait to be asked.

Don’t spin on being offended.

Don’t waste time pondering the answers to unasked questions.

Perhaps consider the following questions I ask myself every day during my Quiet Hour?

  • What do I do?
  • Where do I go?
  • What do I say?
  • …. and to whom?
  • What quality do I seek?
  • What quality do I create?
  • Who should I be?
  • Who am I being?

Do something.


Addendum – A Memory From a Friend

A friend contacted me after reading this post and asked if I remembered the time we were in a coffee shop where a table of women were howling with laughter - loudly and rudely.  Everyone around them stared at them, shaking their head and muttering and one person who asked them to quiet down out of respect for others was ignored.

My friend and I went over and sat at the table next to them and howled and laughed louder than they did (over nothing in particular).

The key jester at the other table addressed us sharply and told us that we were being rude.

I told her that I thought that they were being rude in drowning out everyone else in the coffee shop.  She replied that she wasn’t being rude and that she was trying to make an important point to everyone at the table.

I replied, “So am I.”

She got the message.

Oh the memories - I guess I’ve been a nuisance in public longer than I remembered.

Closing Thoughts – Some Reactions to my Thumbnail

After wearing my pink thumbnail for a day, I was intrigued and amused by people’s reactions, either communicated directly to me or from one person to another.

Some examples (with my thoughts in italics):

  • It’s hot (or very hot) – ahem - thanks
  • It’s cool – sounds good to me
  • I wonder how kinky he is – define kinky
  • He’s in touch with his feminine self – nothing wrong with that
  • It’s weird – by whose definition?
  • Normal men don’t do that – see previous question
  • **stare** / avert eyes when noticed / repeat – passive aggressive behavior never solves anything – be assertive
  • **stare** / freeze in place (as I held out money to pay for something) – is there something wrong?
  • He’s probably a pedophile or some other type of sickie (from one mother to another as she moved her child closer to her) – really?
  • He’s gay – wearing pink nail polish is insufficient qualification criteria
  • He’s “whipped” – you clearly don’t know me very well
  • **snickers / laughter** – courageous and mature

That’s a lot of character analysis derived from a single, pink thumbnail.

No one asked me anything but they came to some interesting conclusions in absence of data.

Some were titillated.

Some were impressed.

Some were frightened.

Some were insulted or offended.

And some questioned my sense of normality based on their standard.

When I see how poorly informed and easily influenced they were, based entirely on insufficient, incomplete and irrelevant data, it’s easy to see why so many people are lost personally, professionally, intellectually, emotionally, financially and relationally.

How do we fix this?

Should we?

Can we?

What happens if we don’t?


  1. Harry, Your blogs are always entertaining, inspiring, educational and a bit edgy. Never would have seen you with a pink thumb nail. But you love to stretch the world and I love that about you. Keep stretching us so we can be the change we want to see in the world. AND get your book out with a collection of your blogs!! The cover of the book could show your pink thumbnail!

    1. My dear friend,

      Thank you for such kind comments. People like you are the role model I strive to emulate.

      As for the book, I may need some prodding. :-)

      Create a great day, Leonard - keep inspiring us the way you do.