You are the CEO

 Have you ever had those times in life where things around you start speaking to you in a new way? You start hearing new meaning in things your friends say. New friends with special qualities come along in serendipitous ways.  Certain TV shows take on special significance. Song lyrics jump out at you. Random strangers say things that make you stop and think. That’s what’s been happening to me recently.  I’ve realized that I’m still hurting and angry over some things in my past.

I am tired.

I want to get rid of it.

I know that I’m meant to spend energy creating amazing things, not carrying around horrible things.

But first, let’s talk about video games!

In April 2011, Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) was hacked. Of course, the gaming service was unavailable for a few weeks, but the grave concern was the loss of personal information of 77 million users, making this one of the biggest data security breaches in history.  Sony’s CEO Howard Stringer apologized: “As a company we — and I — apologize for the inconvenience and concern caused by this attack…. Let me assure you that the resources of this company have been focused on investigating the entire nature and impact of the cyber-attack we’ve all experienced and on fixing it,” he said. “We are absolutely dedicated to restoring full and safe service as soon as possible and rewarding you for your patience. We will settle for nothing less.” To make up for the attack, Stringer offered affected users a 1 million dollar identity theft insurance policy, free of charge, along with other PSN membership perks.” In an attempt to right the wrong, Stringer offered users free identity theft insurance and some free PSN membership perks.

Shame is a corrupt imitation of healthy stress

Should Sony CEO Stringer feel personally shamed and guilty for the data breach? No, of course not. He didn’t really have anything to do with it.  He may have hired the guy who hired the guy who hired the guy who hired the guy who hired the guy who hired the guy who hired the guy who hired the guy that made the mistake… but his personal accountability is diluted by these realities.  He certainly didn’t have anything to do with the hacker’s malicious desires, either. Shit happens.

Is it reasonable for him to feel stress about his responsibility to craft an appropriate amends?  Sure. But there’s a difference between stress and guilt / shame. It’s his job to follow up and lead the clean up effort. And once he’s employed every reasonable measure to clean up the mess, should he be able to sleep at night?  Of course.

When I was in college studying psychology, I gained a profound appreciation for the power of social conditioning in human beings.  We are irrefutably the products of our environment. Clearly, we are some combination of nature and nurture.  Every behavior has a rich history of influences that helped cause it:

When you graph it out, your own thoughts really aren’t even that big of a part of the pie – ESPECIALLY considering that your own thoughts are largely a product of the various other components of your environment.  But this doesn’t excuse you or I from responsibility – it just explains the mechanics of our behavior. There’s a profound and important difference between explaining and blaming.  If you accidentally drop a bottle, WHY you did it doesn’t change the fact that it’s your job to mop it up.  BUT – there is an important lesson in parsing out the difference between explaining and blame / shame.

We just commemorated 9/11.Deep feeling of retaliation and anger were stirred up in many Americans. It’s important to understand that the  9/11 hijackers believed they were being obedient to God’s edicts.  Suppose you or I were born into the same time, city, family, social, political, and religious situation that these hijackers were born into. Is it possible that you or I would have helped hijack a plane?

We are, to a large extent, shaped by our environments. But that doesn’t let us off the hook per se – it just changes our understanding of the hook.

It’s important to give credit where credit is due. Not only will a good CEO step up and lead the effort to right wrongs committed by the company he represents, he will organize the party and pass the glory along to all involved when the company succeeds.

Guilt and gloat are fundamentally the same error: the Ego believes that it is solely to credit for an event.

Some call this a “sin of pride”. Pride is a funny term, it is usually associated with boasting. It’s a bigger concept than that. Pride and boasting are very different. Pride is the misappropriation of credit, good or bad.

Here’s where I’m at in life at the moment: It seems that guilt and shame are totally unnecessary.  Responsibility is the key. When things go right, it’s my job to turn around and spread the glory to those that helped make it possible. When things go wrong, it’s my job to step up and be the solution to the problem. Just like Sony CEO Stringer. It’s no longer my place to walk around suffering for things that I can no longer change and that I couldn’t have even controlled fully when it happened. 

Sometimes it’s easier to apply standards to other people than ourselves, so let’s do that for a second…

In some brands of christian mythology, the story goes like this: All of the spirits of humanity existed in a state prior to becoming humans on Earth. They were created by a master creator, God the Father. These spirits (which included you and I) desired to become more like our Creator. Inhabiting bodies on earth was seen as the next step in our evolution. One person volunteered to assist the human race in “succeeding” on earth, by forcing everyone to do the right thing. He wanted to take full credit for everyone’s “success”. That being is referred to as Lucifer.  Another candidate – one referred to as Jesus Christ – came forward and volunteered to come to earth and do his best to show people the right way to live, but he’d never force anyone to do anything To the extent that people succeeded, he would convey the glory of that success to The Father (and obviously, the succeeding individuals would enjoy the fruit of that success, too). Jesus wouldn’t partake in any of that glory – he’d just pass it along, like a good CEO would to his employees and shareholders. Since problems were going to be inevitable, He would come down be the face of the solution.

Jesus’s 3rd to last sentence may have been the most profound he ever uttered.  As he was hanging crucified on the cross, being taunted and tortured, near death, he said:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34

Stop for a moment to think of everything that this means. Jesus recognized a truth- the people who were not just slowly and cruelly killing him, were a product of their environment.  They were like the 9/11 hijackers.  They were just doing what they thought was right at the moment.  They had good intentions.  Even in his moment of the most exquisite physical agony, even as people stood around yelling insults at him, he comprehended this truth so deeply, that he yelled out this amazing expression of compassion and understanding. 

Time has a way of shifting our perspective on things. Have you ever had the experience of looking back on a part of your life and realizing that you really didn’t understand things as well as you thought you did?  How powerful would that be to shrink that amount of time down, so that you can have a real-time awareness that when you make “mistakes”, you “know not what [you] do”?

If Jesus, under such incalculable emotional and physical pain, could have this compassion for his murderers, might it be possible for you and I to have this same compassion and perspective about ourselves?

Such understanding would cleanse us of the self inflicted crucifixion of guilt and shame, and leave us fully imbued with response-able dignity and power to create good in the world. 

Let us all be good CEOs in the corporation of our lives. Just like Jesus.

*** Addendum:

This morning, it dawned on me that all this letting go of shame business I’ve been talking about, is the precursor to what Marianne Williamson meant when she said:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.”

And there is no higher calling that we can aspire to than this.  This is it, folks.  This is the essence of the fully expressed and well lived life.

Thanks for stopping by.




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