Suffer everything – dare everything: why difficulties matter

What does great leadership look like to you?

True security and great leadership looks for ways to give place to others. Great leaders can put other people’s strengths on display. They know it’s not solely about them. I’m honored to call Jan Rutherford a mentor. Jan is a leader who can truly do the above. He has shown me an amazing range of leadership styles that both inspire and bring hope. Jan is a US-Irish citizen and a retired Special Forces green beret. He lives in Oregon with his lovely wife Jackie and leads trips to Ireland with MBA students from The University of Denver. I’ve learned so much from his Leadership Podcasts, and have watched some of his hard test crucible expeditions with executives and military veterans all over the world.

Check out his recent TEDtalk. Suffer Everything – Dare Everything : Why Difficulties Matter.


Why am I honoring my mum on International Women’s Day ?

“We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.”
Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister on International Women’s Day.

This week a friend recollected my mum as “an amazing chick” in our phone conversation. Her description made me smile. It reminded me of how modern mum was even though she had been imprisoned within the four walls of an old, oppressive and controlling religious convent for the first twelve years of her childhood.

The photograph above shows her coming up a series of steps within the Giant’s Causeway on the north coast of Ireland. It was taken more than 20 years ago. As I look back on her childhood I continue to be amazed at what she overcame and how she lived out the rest of her life. It really is a story of incredible courage and determination. She rose out of the ashes of her crushing childhood to produce the very best in many different ways. That’s why I’m honoring her today.

It’s interesting to know a United Nations special rapporteur-Maud de Boer-Buquicchio visited Ireland just last May and met with government representatives, Tusla, gardai and others. She said, “there is a culture of silence in Ireland around issues of childhood abuse and exploitation.” According to her report: “Ireland has made progress in recent years to prevent and respond to circumstances constituting sale or sexual exploitation of children, particularly in the areas of child marriage and ICT-related sexual exploitation. However, enough has not been done to provide information, accountability and redress to those who suffered abuse in the past in institutions and to those who were adopted in a manner that would almost amount to sale of children under international law.”

The special rapporteur also expressed concern that there is a lack of dedicated and integrated strategy to respond to violence (especially sexual violence) against children in Ireland today.

I like this quote. “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotion, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”

L.R. Knost

The heart precedes the mind

“I use to believe thinking was the highest function of human beings … I now realize loving is our supreme function.”

Lois Wilson, co-founder of Alanon.

I was quite shocked when I first discovered that to love my neighbor well I had to first learn how to love myself well. Say that again? I can’t love anybody else well if I haven’t mastered truly loving myself well. When we get this and grow in love of ourselves we don’t have to worry so much about our day to day trivialities or activities or what we’re accomplishing or not accomplishing. When we speak or move our actions will flow from the spirit of a loving heart and they will accomplish so much more around us. They don’t tell you this in school but when you become more loving and spiritual, it’s probably THE most important thing you will do in your whole life.

Oh, it’s also the second greatest commandment in the bible. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Feeling the love from ten year olds and comedians

“Travel is fatal to narrow-mindedness, prejudice and bigotry.” Mark Twain

A ten year old told me yesterday my website was lovely and it made her feel good about everything in life. She suggested I write more blogs. What a lovely thing to say. A lot has happened in my life this year and it’s only February. I feel behind in my writing and sharing and I can’t wait to share all the love that’s been flowing into my heart this year.

Have you ever received praise or a compliment that catches you completely off guard? My new friends innocent and sincere praise reminded me of the scripture in Matthew 25:40;

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Whilst reading my blog, my new friend asked me, “Why do you travel?”

I didn’t answer her right away and on further reflection I found a few reasons. The quote from Mark Twain above describes one of them. Travel is a fatal blow to bigotry, prejudice and narrow-mindedness. Another reason is Ireland is very beautiful but small geographically. I’m also naturally adventurous and enjoy exploring new places. And, I grew up under the shadow of fear and terror gangs. By the age of ten a horrific civil conflict was well underway and my freedoms were regularly disrupted and restricted.

However, since I came back to Northern Ireland, just over a year ago, I’ve been able to integrate the bad memories from the past into my present day life more fully than ever before. I can see people, places and things with a new more holistic perspective. I’m grateful for this gift of time in Ireland given to me solely by the generosity of my late mother.

The video below, titled, My Dad, the Peace Deal and Me by Patrick Kielty has been helpful on my emotional healing journey. Patrick also grew up in Northern Ireland and has traveled a fair bit too. In this documentary he reflects on his father’s murder and the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland 20 years on.

Feature photo: Me and my best friends at my 10th birthday party in Craigavon, County Armagh.

Does your communication let others down or build them up?

“Didn’t the US celebrate taking the iron curtain down? Why are we putting another one up?”

Sonja Orban.

The above quote comes from a friend in Minneapolis who has a great sense of humour. She plays a mean violin too. It’s a good question. Have you noticed all the Martin Luther King quotes circulating on social media, this week? I’ve enjoyed them. It’s nice how we can share quotes and stories and honour other people’s lives and life messages through these platforms. But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes we have to use our own unique voice. And speaking up can sometimes be costly. I heard on Irish radio today that Ghandi was terrified of public speaking. He actually ran out of a public event once so great was his fear. Who knew?

I’ve noticed lately how some cultures permit or promote a lot of judgement and opinion based communication. Opinions rarely change anything. And judgment and condemnation can have an emotional and psychological crippling effect on others, especially on young people. I’ve been fortunate to experience cultures where there is a lot of love and grace based communication. But sometimes there can be a lack of truth in that style. On the up side of the love and grace based environment people open up more and take more risks. So there’s a balance.

Have you heard of PPS ? Perpetual positivity syndrome. If this style isn’t grounded in truth, reality, or the rough and tumble of community life it can come across as superficial or inauthentic.

Sometimes it’s hard to admit to blind spots in how we communicate with others? I have them. We all have them. But we can ask those who truly care for us and wish the very best for us for feed forward? We can use the freedom of expression we enjoy to develop our OWN voice and speak out for those who have no voice? Especially in the area of human rights violations.

I draw great inspiration from leaders like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German pastor who used his voice and platform to preach against Nazism. He was executed under direct order from Hitler two weeks before his camp was liberated. He was a man and leader of great courage and conviction who spoke out AND wrote for the greater good of humanity, regardless of the cost to his own life.

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. This is a local and global issue that IMPACTS millions of families, children and communities.

But, there is HOPE.

Raising awareness is just one step towards ending this issue. We can make an impact on the lives of exploited women by watching the AIM – Agape International Missions video below. We can share it with our friends. We can support the work of AIM, financially. Some of my friends work for, and volunteer with this wonderfully holistic ministry. I’ve seen first-hand the incredible work they do to release the oppressed and exploited. And AIM have pioneered one of the most holistic models for recovery from sex trafficking out there.