The First Duty of Love

Couple“The first duty of love is to listen.”  Wow, that quote by Paul Tillich held my attention from the moment I read it.   Then the slight twinge of guilt followed as I evaluated myself.  “How good of a listener am I?”  The last two years in my new business have been fast paced and extremely demanding – physically, emotionally and financially.  It seemed as if I didn’t have enough time to really listen to me much less anyone else.  But, how does that affect the people who matter to me?  I think of my fiancé, my family, my team, my close friends and most importantly, GOD.  How well am I listening?

As a relationship coach and talk show host, I’ve had the privilege to invest hours listening to persons share their thoughts and concerns.  Yet, I hold myself in contempt when it comes to how well I have listened otherwise.

For example, I love my ‘special lady’ and my folks and make it a point to tell them.  Yet, as I look more closely at my level of listening, I become more self-critical.  I’m not saying that I don’t listen but rather that good isn’t good enough when you can do better.  In the words of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”

So I challenge you as I commit to being an effective listener.  More so, an ‘active listener.’   Starting with my spiritual life.  My level of listening impacts the quality of my life and relationships.  By the way, your level affects yours too.  Active listening can be compared to the way the pores of our skin opens in response to hot water vapour.   It expands our awareness as it benefits both the sender and receiver.  Relationship experts Linda & Charlie Bloom says ‘The Three Magic Words in Relationships‘ are ‘communication, communication, communication.’  They say that in good communication, speaking is only half of the equation.  The other is listening.

With active listening by all involved, relationships become stronger as friends and love ones see life through each other’s eyes.  Stress levels lower.  Arguments and misunderstandings are avoided or amicably resolved.  Conversely, failing to actively listen can corrupt even the most promising relationship.

What is active listening?  Essentially, it is the act of making someone else the priority by focusing your attention on understanding and validating their message,  even if their view differs from yours.   In his article ‘Become a Better Listener,’ psychologist, Dr. John M. Grohol says active listening is all about building rapport, understanding, and trust.

Hence, I will hold my tongue and open my ears to honour my special lady.  To be her safe harbor where she can freely express her thoughts, hopes and dreams.  I will set aside distractions and decidedly listen to my love ones and to my inner voice.  I will make it a part of my daily life to listen to GOD as he speaks to my heart.  Ours is a commitment to actively listening to each other.   Are you already committed to the same?

What you do Matters.  ~ Kirk Johnson

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They Shot and Killed My Brother…

Police Crime Scene

Police Crime Scene

My younger brother Craig was shot and killed by a group of men during what police described as an attempted robbery.   How could this happen and I’m asking God, “why?”  Why my brother?    He was attacked by thugs who shot him and then shot my father.   My dad survived but my brother did not.  I cried like a baby when I got the news.

Today, more than 10 years later, I still feel the pain.  Even now my eyes are filling with tears as I write this message.  Tucked away in my office, I’m doing the best I can to quickly wipe away the tears but they keep falling.   Each wiped tear is replaced by several others.  God help me.  How do I handle this?  I have so many questions.  They killed my little brother and it hurts inside.  What’s more, the murderers have not yet been apprehended.

It’s my father’s birthday today and so is Craig’s.  He would have been thirty-five years old if he were alive.  One of his favorite songs was Believe by Cher.   For several years following his death, my brother’s birthday was my father’s worst day.   He would become melancholy and withdrawn as he asked God the same question I have, “Why?”   My mom has battled with the same question and her hurt hurts my heart.   She has silently faced the reality that Craig is no longer here.   I know that God is not responsible for my brother’s death, but someone is.  The loss has personally touched my entire family, my brothers, my sisters, my friends and my community.   Despite the sobering loss, I’m thankful that my father is here today and that Craig had time to make amends with God before he died.

I’m not trying to force my beliefs on you but rather to first acknowledge that despite how strong we are, there is a source greater than us and that secondly, I have found that source to be God in Christ Jesus.  What you do matters.

KJW

The “Perfect” Storm

Hurrican Sandy 4bHave you experienced a hurricane or tornado?  I have.  In fact, several.  The threat of a hurricane or cyclone strike is as much a way of life for those of us in Florida, China and the Caribbean as the threat of twisters in Kansas, Texas or Oklahoma.  What’s more, social media and news stories share the experience with the world.

Right now I’m having to stay inside as Hurricane Sandy leaves her footprints throughout my community.  Gale force winds rush through every opening it can find and the trees outside move like a disorganized Olympic rowing team.  While most of us know of the destructive power of a storm, earthquake or tsunami, we may not as quickly consider the “little” things we do or say that may damage or potentially destroy our lives or someone else’s.

Poor eating habits, consuming or abusing substances (not all of which are illegal), conversations and associations that undermine good character and integrity, thoughts that move our minds to self-defeating attitudes, condescending remarks to others (even those we say we love), viewing and reading material that blur the line between right and wrong and the list goes on.  A few days go, a mechanic told me that a car is like a human being. What you put in (fuel, oil etc) is what comes out (performance and reliability). Invest your time, talents and resources in building the best you and those around you.  What you do matters.

KJW

If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time

Today, my fiance unexpectedly had to travel to an island in The Bahamas.  We had plans for our date night but an emergency came up that needed her immediate attention.  I took her to the airport and even waited for a while after she checked in.  However, our time together was a little strained.  Honestly, my logic fully understood her having to go but my feelings weren’t so cooperative.  It was our date night and after two very busy weeks for us, I was looking forward to us sharing some quality time.

Nonetheless, she was about to leave for her trip and my attitude could’ve been better.  She even gave me a kiss on the cheek as we waited.  We hugged and said our goodbyes just before she left the main terminal but I was still withdrawn.  As she turned to leave, I  was already missing her and knew that my pride had gotten in the way of making the most of our time together.

Life comes with twists and turns, pleasant surprises and disappointments BUT we must DECIDE to make the most of every moment. What’s more, we must talk about what’s going on inside.   It  can help to relieve a tense situation.  It’s said that attitude determines altitude and today my attitude sucked.  Still, I can’t turn back the hands of time.  It’s a lesson I won’t repeat.  The mind is a terrible thing to waste  and so is time spent on negative feelings (smile).  There are some things we can change and others not so much.   I can’t change what I should have done but I’m going to apologize, work to better communicate and to look for the good in a “bad” situation.  What you do Matters.

KJW

When Doves Cry

Today I spoke with Melissa during my weekday talk show.   Her doctor had told her that she had a rare form of cancer and could possibly die in 3 months to a year.  And to think that I thought I had things to stress about!   She had cried constantly for about four months as she tried to wrap her mind around her mortality.  Then, with the help of those around her, Melissa packed her bags and traveled to Texas for treatment.  Despite the days she felt discouraged, she kept her hopes high.

Thankfully, it’s now more than 5 years since that first diagnosis. Melissa fought to stay alive and won!  She credits the treatment, a loving husband, a praying family and the healing hands of GOD for her life today and now reaches out to the community with her story of hope.

We’ve all had reasons to cry.  I certainly have.  Men, it’s ok for us to cry.  Ladies you too.  Crying has a cleansing power and laughter a rejuvenating benefit. Let us all be willing to drop a tear or two but still keep hope alive.  Let us remember that even with the long Winters of the Arctic and constant rainfall in England, a brighter, warmer day does come.  It must!   Expect it, anticipate it and share it with someone who needs a little sunshine.  What you do Matters.

KJW

The Man in the Mirror

Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” is one of my favorite songs.   Today I reflect on my own quote, “The world is looking for its next hero but your child only wants you. Are you that hero?”  Once I posted it to my FB page, I realized that my message wasn’t just for the world but first for me.  How often do we think about the depth of responsibility and privilege of influence parenthood brings?  While I’m not a biological parent, my responsibility to father, protect and guide are no less pressing.  After all, I am a father figure, a godfather and an uncle.  More so, I am a human being. Whether you are a woman in France, an uncle in Canada, a hubby in the USA or a father in the Caribbean, we all have a role to play in the healthy development of the children around us.  What You do Matters.

KJW