Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Self-Righteousness - The Demise of Compromise

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In the halls of many levels of government the lack of cooperation and compromise from differing sides of the aisle has resulted in divisiveness, animosity, anger, a potential economic disaster, and most importantly a lack of efficiency in governing. Honest public service is not allowing pride and ego to override the responsibilities and obligations to those who are to be served. Throughout history compromise has played a vital role in the progression of human achievement. Agreements, policies, treaties, and doctrines of all kinds have been created and subsequently implemented through effective compromise. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights is a prime example. There are exceptions, but genuine leadership recognizes that unifying the many outweighs the self-interest, and self-driven agendas of the few.

Compromise is a vital component in creating an atmosphere of unity, and cooperation. A lack of compromise by leadership sustains a polarization of those impacted by any decision made. This breeds greater distrust and anger as a result of the lack of inclusion of differing viewpoints and considerations. Granted, their are times when compromise is not part of the leadership equation, especially when life or death may be at stake, such as in the midst of military combat. Compromise is defined as, "a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands." Is it just me, or does that understanding appear to not resonate with many in positions of political power?

The antithesis of compromising leadership is self-righteous leadership. Self-Righteous is defined as, "confident of one's own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others." A self-righteous leader is less likely to be empathetic, inclusive, compassionate, selfless or considerate of another. Self-Righteous leadership on all levels displays arrogance and creates division within a family, organization, community, state and nation. It demeans, divides, disrespects and denigrates those who are to follow.

To compromise on an issue or a policy does not necessarily demand one to compromise on their values. For example, one can be honest and still work toward a solution that involves compromise. However, there are those issues that relate to an adherence to a certain faith, or moralistic belief that tend to generate the most emotion, and are the most challenging to compromise on. When opposing parties collide, the most beneficial and successful decisions made stem from a degree of cooperation, and some level of compromise. The more inclusive the result of a decision may be, the more unifying the role of leadership has been demonstrated.

Any successful relationship has elements of concessions and compromise. Marriage immediately comes to mind, and I have never witnessed a happy marriage, happy family, or any happy relationship that is totalitarian or dictatorial in nature. It discounts the very value of those you have a relationship with. To reach a compromise on any issue requires greater listening on both sides, and seeing a practical picture not solely an ideological one. It requires patience, perseverance, empathy and a willingness to be objective in the process of reaching a mutually beneficial, and most importantly, a fair and reasonable decision.

Of course, to compromise in regard to a violation of human rights by another person, citizenry or government is irresponsible, and should not be tolerated by any society. It is always the few, the powerful, and the extreme that destroy the many, and disintegrate the value of humanity. Compromise is never to be used as an excuse to not hold people, institutions and governments accountable for irresponsible behavior, and inhumane treatment. There has been, and continues to be, those in positions of power and leadership that recognize the destructive nature of self righteous leadership, and work to lessen its detrimental impact on the greater good. Our world would be much worse off if there were not those who fought the good fight for the many, rather than the few. As the poet Phyllis McGinley said, “Compromise, if not the spice of life, is its solidity. It is what makes nations great and marriages happy.” Be a leader of the many in your home, your community and those you influence every day.



Family Time - Being Thankful for Togetherness

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Over the past several months I have appreciated time with family more than ever in my life. Recently my daughter and son-in-law moved back to the area from Albuquerque, NM. To experience my daughter’s maturity has been genuinely rewarding. To have family near is a blessing and something I will never take for granted.

Bonding as a family requires patience, loyalty, trust, tolerance, and objectivity. It also demands discipline, a foundation of core values, and a consistency in the application of those values. That’s why what your family stands for and believes in should be defined, reviewed, shared, questioned, and acted upon. It is more than a discussion; it is a decision to live by the values that unify a mother, father, their children, and the grandchildren now and into the future.

Family is defined as “a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family.” There are many variations of families and how families can be defined; however, it is the mutual respect and love demonstrated to one another within a family that is enduring through good times and bad. Granted, there will always be issues, mistakes made, and differences among family members, but the union within an immediate family should display a level of unconditional love, loyalty, and commitment that supersedes all others.

To be loving is to be respectful regardless of differences in opinion. Doing so demonstrates a commitment to the familial relationship. Family forms the foundation for fortitude. To be an effective parent is to align what you project outside your home with how you behave inside your home. Hypocrisy between words and actions destroys respect, trust, and the bonds that build a strong, resilient, and perseverant family.

Do your children know the values of their family? Have you ever asked them? What would they say? Do not assume they know the answer, for assumptions are based on personal impressions and perceptions, not a mutual analysis and understanding of a situation. Assume is defined as “the act of taking for granted or supposing.” To assume and not ask the value question of those you parent and love only creates potential misunderstanding, confusion, and unexpected behaviors.

In raising my own children, there were times I assumed what my children were thinking and how they were behaving. When my assumption was wrong, there were always consequences and misunderstandings that followed. I am not suggesting you should be a “Velcro” parent and attach yourself to your children every moment of every day, but I am suggesting a consistency in dialogue and parental behavior by reiterating the values important to your family.

Every family, like every person, has their dysfunctions. Anyone who believes otherwise is in serious denial. Personal and family development is a continuous work in progress that never ends. It is being accountable for the journey and striving to consistently live the values you believe in that bring your individual and family efforts to a positive fruition. Fun is fleeting, but family is forever. Of course, nothing is perfect and there will always be situations and family conflicts that are challenging to overcome, and at times never resolved. However, it is worthwhile to always strive to build on the strengths that exist and not dwell on the weaknesses or failures that might have occurred.

As in all of life's endeavors, it is important to surround yourself with positive people and behaviors rather than the negative ones, for you attract what you associate with. There may be those in your “Relative” circle who I call the “Dranoids,” those who just suck the positive energy right out of you. To be respectful is important, but to attempt to change them will be exhausting and doubtful. It will only be their own recognition their taking accountability for their self-destructive behavior that will be the catalyst for them to change.

Families are like fudge, mostly sweet, but occasionally a few nuts are thrown in. With Thanksgiving soon upon us and family around us, I hope you will take the time to pose the question of family values to those you love. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised, proud, and educated by the responses provided. It will also provide a framework of respect and accountability as you and your family move forward. As Mother Teresa stated, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”



Appreciating the Youngster In All of Us

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As I enjoyed my recent birthday, I reflected on earlier days and realized I am happier now then those many years ago. I may have had a bit more fun, energy, in better physical shape, and willing to take more risks, but the abundance and joy of living today comes from within. This is only revealed to each of us, celebrated, and understood with experience and maturity. To witness your efforts, successes, perseverance through failures, and execution of your core values come to fruition is a time for appreciation and quiet reflection. As Einstein said, “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”

There is no one, no family and no life that is perfect, but it is the journey where the roads you chose bring joy, challenge and at times sadness. The journey is not supposed to be an easy one, but a challenging and demanding one. Without the struggles you cannot discover your successes. Youth is an opportunity to discover and learn from those who came before us. What is our youth learning from us, and those who came before us? I find it interesting how generation after generation tends to point fingers at the younger generation for many of the ills of society. Is it me, or were we all not part of a younger generation at one time? I find it humorous that a baby boomer, such as myself, could ever say with a straight face that growing up we were pure as the driven snow in all our behaviors and attitudes. Anybody remember the 60’s? Many years ago, I can vividly remember my parents reflecting on my generation stating, “What is this world coming to?”

Yet, it is and has always been the younger generation that eventually replaces the present generation, carries the torch, and with it has come enhanced creativity, innovation, technology and amazing human advancements. If there are aspects of the younger generation that disturb you, what are you doing as a parent, professional,community leader and citizen to lessen that disturbance? What are your expectations of the younger generation, and are you setting an example that would live up to your own expectations? Having served on the local school board, coached our youth, serving on the Service Academy Selection Committee, and continue to be a parent, I have witnessed the skills and talents our youth possess and the accomplishments that many have achieved. It is not the time to disparage our youth, but to motivate, inspire and encourage our young people to work hard, achieve their dreams, and provide them the insight to live up to their potential.

If we want our children to be ethical, accountable, be mannerly, have a strong work ethic and be respectful, are we as the adults that surround them setting that example? Why would a child believe in the importance of being accountable when there are adults who blame everything around them for the failures in their life? Why would a child believe in the importance of being ethical and honorable when there are adults who are dishonest and dishonorable? Why would a child believe in what intrinsically brings happiness when society is focused on materialism, consumption, an acceptance of disrespect and a lack of civility? Throughout my years of speaking, which includes young audiences, I have always found our youth yearning for structure, discipline and those who have the character to stand up for what they feel is right. There is no respect generated by the young toward an elder if the elder lacks moral fortitude, integrity, and is inconsistent in their beliefs and behaviors.

Our youth want to learn, they want strong examples and they desire to be better than those from generations past. If we as adults, parents and community leaders do not take the high road why would we expect our youth to be any different? Let us all display a belief in the goodness and potential of our youth, not through artificial praise and giving them trophies for showing up to practice, but rather by providing them the time, energy, setting a positive example, and being the role model for them to have a bright and fulfilling future. As Emerson said, “The search after the great men is the dream of youth, and the most serious occupation of manhood.”



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