Rob Voyle's Appreciative Way Blog
The Amur Tigers Need You!
Posted: December 20, 2016 by Rob Voyle
This time last year my wife Kim and I were returning from a tiger tracking expedition in Eastern Russia. Tiger conservation is an expression of Kim's love of cats and especially tigers which are her great love. And I would like to share the story of how we created the Trees for Tigers 501c3 charity.
The Amur tiger, also known as a Siberian tiger is the largest of all cats and is critically endangered with only an estimated 500 remaining in the wild.
While the tigers in the area we visited are not generally threatened by poaching as they are in other areas they do face another substantial threat: Disposable Chopsticks! Yes you read that right, Disposable Chopsticks.
The tiger's wilderness forest is being legally and illegally harvested, trucked across the border to China, machined into disposable chopsticks and exported to Japan and Asian themed restaurants here in the US.
Tigers don't specifically need trees, but their primary food source, the wild boar does. For the wild boar to flourish they need nut bearing trees such as the Mongolian oak and the Manchurian walnut.
While we didn't see any tigers in the wild we did see many tracks and were within 20 minutes of at least one tiger based on freshness of the tiger tracks. What we also saw was their natural habitat in Dumiskoye a wilderness reserve overseen by Alexander Batalov a Russian conservationist and authority on the Amur tiger and Himalayan bear that also inhabits the area.
It's natural when seeing something bad, such as the destruction of the tiger habitat, fueled by greed it is easy to get angry and focus on getting people to stop doing these bad things.
From an Appreciative Inquiry perspective problems exist because we keep asking the wrong questions, or focusing in the wrong direction. As we tracked and then spent the long nights enjoying good conversation, great hospitality at the reserve, and lots of laughter my mind began to think of the questions that weren't being asked.
While poaching isn't a significant problem where we were, indifference to their plight will kill off the remaining tigers. But if we were to think of the problem of poaching, most people focus on stopping the poaching. I think we need to ask a different question:
What do we need to do to make a live tiger (or other endangered species) more valuable than a dead tiger?
One of the answers to that question is eco-tourism. Where the local population benefit financially from those who come to see the tigers. And like all good appreciative inquiry interventions there are also multiple benefits, because people who come to these places are profoundly impacted and changed.
When awe and wonder touch the human soul all sorts of good things happen.
As I sat at the dining table drinking vodka, and laughing outrageously as we told jokes in Russian, German and English and watched Viktor our great interpreter try to translate a joke that relies on a play of words. I sat and marveled with some sadness over who had taught us to be afraid of one another and consider each other an enemy. Here we were joined in laughter and a joint concern for the well-being of such a magnificent animal as the tiger. We had found a common ground that was not just good for each one of us, but connected us to something far greater than ourselves.
Another question began to echo in my mind. How can I become part of a solution? It is easy to sit and talk and ask who is to blame for some problem. In the Appreciative Way we begin by changing the question and the focus.
It is easy to say what the government should do or what other people should, which all avoids the question, what can I do?
Personally, as an engineer, I like simple, practical solutions. The problem is deforestation the solution is reforestation. But not just any reforestation. Most of the cut over forests, being wilderness, quickly regenerate with white larch, however these trees have no benefit to wild boar or tigers. It takes many generations before the oak and walnut and other nut bearing trees return.
As I pondered these problems my memory took me back to a story I had hear many years before about Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, a contemporary in the British navy of Lord Nelson. This was a time of wooden sailing ships built primarily from oak. When he was on leave Collingwood was fond of walking and hiking and would always have one of his pockets filled with acorns, which he would plant wherever he thought was a good spot for an oak tree. This simple act was his way of ensuring an ongoing supply of the lumber from which to build new ships.
In conversation with Kim and Martin Royle of Royle Safaris who was our tour guide and also shares our passion for tigers, and with Alexander we started an organization Trees for Tigers which we have now incorporated into a charitable organization. It is a collaborative effort with all the stakeholders to create a safe and sustainable habitat for people and tigers in Eastern Russia.
Our three core collaborative activities are:
Reforestation of logged areas with a balanced ecosystem of trees that can sustain wild boar and consequently tigers. This will include research into the best practices of creating sustainable forests.
Promoting eco-tourism to ensure that live tigers are more valuable to the people than dead tigers. Eco-tourism also build bridges of cross-cultural awareness that can further collaboration for environmental conservation.
Education, partly through the eco-tourism, and partly through direct education programs in schools and conservation groups. The education will focus not only on the plight of the tigers, but on the simple things people can do to be part of the solution.
We are currently working on a website: http://www.treesfortigers.org that describes in more detail the challenges the tigers face and the nature of our work.
If you would like to join us in our efforts on behalf of the Amur Tiger:
Educate people about the negative impact of disposable chopsticks and refrain from using them when they are offered.
If my newsletters over the years have proven helpful to you in your life and work I invite you to make a Christmas gift to the Trees for Tigers. You can do so online at: https://www.treesfortigers.org/donate.cfm
And in the meantime I encourage you when faced with a problem to listen to the questions being asked and then ask the question that isn't being asked. As my friend Steve Andreas says, "it is easy to spot wrong answers but much harder to spot wrong questions," and I would add it would be simpler to ask the question that isn't being asked.
With Christmas Blessings
No Reconciliation Without Repentance
Posted: December 2, 2016 by Rob Voyle
There is much talk in our society today about coming together, unity, and reconciliation. And most of the talk is actually making things worse rather than creating unity and reconciliation. My personal response to most of the calls for reconciliation is: "reconciliation, you have got to be crazy ... over my dead body (I hope it doesn't come to that) but my revulsion to the idea of reconciliation is pretty intense because I will never reconcile with hate and the denigration of others."
As those who know of my recent work, I am on a mission to teach the world to forgive, so the issue of reconciliation often comes up in conversation, especially because forgiveness and reconciliation are two very different realities that are often confused.
Forgiveness is how I deal with my past and those who have hurt me. It is totally independent of the offender, forgiveness is how I chose to live today in response to what others have done to me in the past.
Reconciliation is about the future, it is an agreement between two or more people about how they will live and work together in the future. And my basic rule is, never be reconciled to those who violate my values. Jesus forgave the Romans, even as they pounded nails into his body, but he was never reconciled to the mission of Rome.
However, I also believe that we have been given a ministry of reconciliation, not a ministry of tolerance, nor of conflict management, but of reconciliation. So how are we to reconcile.
I don't think there can be any reconciliation until there is repentance. In South Africa, it was Truth and Reconciliation, not denial and reconciliation, nor truth and punishment. We can not gloss over those acts where lives were destroyed and others profoundly restricted in their access to the resources they need for daily living and thriving.
So before there can be any reconciliation there needs to be repentance.
To actually repent we need to do three things - the 3Rs of Repentance.
We need to "Recognize" that we have done wrong or are heading in the wrong direction. We can not reconcile with anyone who does not recognize what they have done wrong, and similarly we can not reconcile until we recognize that we have also done wrong.
We then need to "Regret" that we have done wrong. This is counting the cost of what we have done. Many people know they are doing something wrong but don't regret it, especially when the cost of their actions is not immediate. Sadly, we may only discover the real cost when it is too late to halt the consequences we have set in motion. With respect to reconciliation we need to regret the enormous cost of sustained hatred. Unfortunately in our society we put such a huge value on revenge and getting even that we rarely count the cost of our hate motivated social and political processes.
We need to "Reorient" from what we have been doing and turn to what we need to be doing. We can not be reconciled unless we turn from our hate based motivations. Here is where we need to reorient from hate to curiosity and compassion to discover the deeper values that we do share and on which we can build a foundation of reconciliation.
At the moment we are arguing over strategies to achieve something of dubious value, and the real issues are being unexplored. For example when people are living in poverty they are not interested in being great, they are interested in their next meal. And as long as there are people in our world who think a cold, secondhand chunk of pizza would be great I have failed, and we as a nation have failed, to repent and reorient which are the precursors and path to reconciliation.
I wish you a Blessed Advent with much repentance and path straightening as we prepare for the coming of the one we follow and call Lord.
Confessions and Repentance for Election Failure!
Posted: November 11, 2016 by Rob Voyle
My first confession is that this is all in hindsight and comes under the heading: I really should have known better.
Like many in our country I awoke Wednesday feeling physically miserable and distraught because of the results of the election. My emotions ranged from anger, fear, sadness, bewilderment, and concern for those who would be preaching this Sunday.
But my mood has changed and what I would have said this Sunday if I was preaching has also changed.
Here is my personal reflection:
The extreme emotions I and many have felt, are what many millions in our country would have felt if the vote had gone the other way. I now get it!
To bring this home to our churches when people have been in torment over the way a decision, especially on issues of sexuality, has not gone their way and I would stand bewildered by their degree of torment. I now get and have empathy for that distress and I want to know more, to discover the core of that distress.
Here is my personal confession for my failure. Taking responsibility for that which is in my locus of control has actually been helpful in reducing my distress.
My first failing is that for the past year I have focused totally on why Mr. Trump was unfit to be president, and he regularly gave us evidence to confirm my perception, so I kept paying attention to why he was wrong and delighted in the new evidence I could add to my list.
As a leading practitioner in the field of Appreciative Inquiry where we say "what we focus on will become our reality," I really should have known better.
My second failing was my utter arrogance in looking down on those who supported Mr. Trump, without considering for an instance what their pain was that would make them want to vote for him. I gave them the tag idiots and then could dismiss their pain, their concerns, their fears.
As the founder of the Appreciative Way, with its foundation in compassion I really should have done better to listen to and understand those who differ from me and to find a common ground of core values rather than argue about strategies to achieve a very temporal solution to perceived problems.
One of my core values is the baptismal promise "to respect the dignity of every human being." I violated that value by despising and rejecting Mr. Trump and more importantly his supporters rather respecting their dignity and seeking to understand what motivated their actions.
From my perspective contrition is not about paying for past mistakes but focusing efforts on new behaviors to create a just and life-giving world, not simply for myself but for all of humanity. So here are my actions in contrition:
To pay attention regularly to whether I am living and behaving from a place of fear or love.
To continue to develop and practice ways of respecting the dignity of every human being.
And more importantly I want to continue to develop simple tools for people to actually practice "respecting the dignity of others." How do we actually do "respecting the dignity of others" when they strongly disagree with me, and how can we do it in ways that lead to reconciliation based on our deeper values that we have in common? I am not interested in being naive and having nice feelings about people who violate my values, but I am interested in developing ways for finding common ground with those with whom I disagree and working together to create a shared better world.
Over the past few years I have been adapting Connirae Andreas' Core Transformation process to exploring the dreams behind people's behaviors from simple volunteerism, to those things that violate our values. I want to continue developing those processes so that our congregations can be a place of healing and reconciliation in a world that desperately needs it.
Those Damn Foreigners!
Posted: October 7, 2016 by Rob Voyle
Perhaps it was because he was a Gentile, or a Hellinzed Jew outside of the norm of the Palestinian disciples, Luke seems to focus several stories on "the foreigners getting it" whereas the people of Israel miss it completely. The good Samaritan and this week's Gospel in which only one leper, the foreigner, returns to give thanks for his healing are examples of the acceptance and righteousness of foreigners.
There is a strong theme throughout the Scriptures that the "outsiders" are actually "in" and the ones who think they are "in" are actually "out." There is also a strong theme of caring for the outsider, and the failure of this basic hospitality is a constant source of judgment from the prophets in the Old Testament.
In many of the healing stories in the Gospels there are two dimensions to the healing. A physical healing of some malady such as blindness or leprosy, and a spiritual healing of being an outcast. Jesus' unwillingness to let the woman with the hemorrhage anonymously steal a healing was possibly prompted by his desire to resolve her outcast narrative rather than let her settle for a physical healing.
It seems this Gospel message is very timely amidst the rhetoric against foreigners and immigrants in American politics today. What is especially vile is that much of it is supported by those espousing a Christian faith who claim to take the Bible seriously.
It seems that those who "claim to be in" are as blind to what they read as the nine lepers who were healed and failed to acknowledge the source of their healing. As both a priest and a psychologist this blindness baffles me.
Clearly we have a group of people who are not overburdened with insight. How to help them have insight is the challenge. Perhaps we should be like Jesus and not even bother as he didn't even try with the nine who were formerly lepers. I think Jesus knows better than me that arguing with ignorant people is a waste of time.
I also wonder whether Jesus was too successful in his healing of the nine former lepers. In many of the healing narratives the healing is instantaneous rather than a gradual curing process.
As my colleague Andy Austin has pointed out in his Metaphors of Movement work that when a person describes their predicament as something they are "in" they are describing their problem as a container. When the solution arises they will be "out" of the container and the transformation will be rapid if not instantaneous. In contrast, a person who describes their predicament as though they were walking through a desert, may have a significant journey before their problem is resolved.
I often experience this when teaching people to forgive. One moment they are "in" a state of resentment and the next moment they are "in" a state of forgiveness. They can't be in two states at once. Sometimes it is possible to see the instant the change occurs with a change in facial expression or posture. I have not had a person need to do a follow-up session once that shift has occurred.
What I have also discovered is that these instantaneous changes are very robust and stable over time. They are so stable that people quickly habituate to the new state and often very quickly forget that they used to resent. At follow-up several weeks later they respond with: "what resentment?" I wonder whether that is what happened with the nine former lepers, that they were so profoundly healed that they forgot to remember that they had been lepers.
It seems that way in our nation. Beyond the Native Americans we are all recent immigrants in this land. But once we have the feeling of being "in" America we forget what it is like to be "out" to be an outsider. Sadly, so many people who live within the boundary of America live like outsiders as they live in the American nightmare of poverty and hunger and not in the American dream of freedom and prosperity.
Spiritually speaking we were all outsiders. We kneel and eat at a table that is not of our own making nor our own entitlement. We can't inherit it from our parents or our friends. We can however share it with everyone.
From a spiritual perspective we live in two giant containers. One is to be "in" fear the other is to be "in" love. When we are in the existential container of fear we will want to exclude all those who are different because they frighten us. Yelling at, ridiculing, or berating such people will not help as it will only reinforce their fear. The only thing we can do is stand at the door of love and welcome them "in."
Can you remember when you were an outsider or have you forgotten. Are you still an outsider or did you get "in." If you did get "in" can you remember how you got "in" and who do you need to thank for helping you "in."
With much gratitude to a man named George who welcomed this foreigner in.
Moving Mountains of Resentment and Uprooting Mulberry Trees of Misery
Posted: September 30, 2016 by Rob Voyle
In this week's Gospel the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. In Luke's Gospel this request comes directly after Jesus has told the disciples that they need to forgive, and forgive, and forgive someone who repeatedly offends (Luke 17:4).
Whether Luke intended any connection between the saying about staying in a state of forgiveness and the disciples request for an increase in faith is unclear to me. Luke's Gospel often seems like he had lots of sayings of Jesus and parables that he couldn't leave out and so he puts them in somewhere, so there may not have been a connection between these two verses.
However, in my current mission of teaching the world to forgive, I can see a significant connection. For many people the idea of forgiving requires an enormous amount of faith when they are living on the dark side of a mountain of resentment.
Also interesting is the disciples request, "increase our faith!" But the object of that faith is not stated. Possibly they are asking for an increase in faith in God. But maybe they are not asking for extra faith in an external God but an increase in their own ability and belief that they would be able to forgive repeatedly.
Jesus tells the disciples if they had faith the size of a mustard see they could tell mulberry trees to take a hike, and in Matthew's Gospel you could move mountains.
Over the years the one area where my faith has grown astronomically is in the area of helping people learn how to rapidly achieve and sustain a state of forgiveness. Usually it only takes one session, and in many cases it can be done without my ever knowing the story of what somebody did. I have the faith that I can move mountains of resentment, in large part because I have, and nothing builds faith like success.
It is not uncommon after a forgiveness retreat for people to say that they have set themselves free of years, often decades, of resentment, and that they now feel lighter, can breathe now and various aches and pains in shoulders and limbs have gone. One of the coolest stories was of a UCC minister who had come to a training and gone back to his congregation and helped a person free themselves from 65 years of resentment.
I will readily admit that there are lots of others things in myself or the lives of the people whom I encounter where I have very little faith in my ability to even move a mole hill of misery. But not so with resentment.
I often hear people say that they can't forgive and my response is simple: "You are right you can't (they really are right because if they had been able to forgive they would have) and then to continue, "would you like me to teach you how."
I have found that is useless to argue with the assertion they can't forgive, or tell people that they should forgive. In fact telling someone that they should forgive when they have told you they can't is just giving them one more person to resent. What we need to do is teach and empower people how to forgive.
One of the biggest things we need to teach people that forgiveness is not reconciliation, they are two very different things. Forgiveness is how you respond to what has happened to you in the past. It is totally independent of the person who has hurt you.
Reconciliation is an agreement between two or more people about how they will live and work together in the future. Without forgiveness there can be no reconciliation. Even with forgiveness there are some people you don't want to be reconciled with. I forgive the Hitlers of this world but I will never be reconciled to them or their mission.
If you want to grow your faith in your ability to move mountains of resentment I encourage you to attend one of the upcoming forgiveness training programs.
Or if you know someone who needs to learn how to forgive I am also leading forgiveness retreats in:
The full schedule and registration for all programs can be found at: Training Schedule
With blessings on your life and work and with a prayer that at the end of your days, or even before, you hear the heavens proclaim: "Well done!"
P.S. If you are interested in joining in my act of cultural sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church please let me know.
Teach Your Congregation to Forgive: Five Week Lenten program
Posted: September 26, 2016 by Rob Voyle
If you are tired of living in a world that:
Then learn to teach the people you care about how to forgive and live in love with one another.
"Jesus told us we need to forgive but he never taught us how." - Steve Andreas
In this program designed for Lent you will receive the resources to:
Week 1: Living in Unconditional Love: Not All Gods are Created Equal
Sermon: Not All Gods are Created Equal
Living in the Presence of the God of Love
Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises
Crazy God's Make People Crazy
Week 2: Discovering the Golden Thread of Life Within Your Life
Sermon: The Golden Thread of Life
Discovering the eternal life-giving qualities in the temporal things we love
Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises
The golden thread of life
Week 3: The Three Faces of Compassion: Tenderness, Fierceness, and Mischievousness
Sermon: Compassion as the temporal manifestation of Eternal Loving Kindness in the world
Compassion as the agent of transformation
Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises
Discovering how Jesus was tender, fierce, and mischievous
Week 4: Forgiving Others
Sermon: Discovering the Freedom of Forgiveness
What do you have to do to be resentful
Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises
Satisfying objections to forgiving
Week 5: Forgiving Self
Sermon: If God forgives you why shouldn't you?
Guilt as an act of arrogance
Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises
Creating a robust, realistic, reliable, self-image
For more details please see: Teach Your Congregation How to Forgive.
No, You Don't Want to Take Your Ministry to the Next Level
Posted: August 25, 2016 by Rob Voyle
The Problem of Status
No, You Don't Want to Take Your Ministry to the Next Level
Taking something, as in job, career, business, ministry, church etc., to the next level is a very common phrase in the coaching world. It is often used in the promotion of coaching services:
Do you want to take your career to the next level?
Or we are promised that we can "Take your business to the level!
And many clients come to coaching with a genuine desire to achieve the next level in their career, thinking this is an honorable goal.
But all this desire and promotion to get to the next level indicates that coaching (or any form of helping) can be perverted for an erroneous and potentially harmful goal.
As my friend Andy Austin has shown in the Metaphors of Movement Training the motivation of "taking something to the next level" is all about status seeking.
Jesus had some words of advice about not seeking status because when you reach that level you have further to fall and the greater the humiliation.
The higher you go the more painful the fall and so we spend more energy ensuring we will not fall rather than pursuing the good we could be doing. Protecting status can be very energy consuming.
Clergy too often want to take their ministry to the next level, often because they want a bigger church. The next level is always up. I have never had a pastor say: "I want to take my ministry to the next level and find a smaller church."
I have heard of people "down-sizing" which seems to be a good thing especially when we are tired of maintaining a higher level but in general when we think of levels and direction up seems to be good and down bad. For example, heaven is always up and hell is always down.
The idea of being at different levels is also interesting from the perspective of who we look up to and who we look down on. If we look up to someone then they will have to look down on us.
When Jesus called his disciples friends, he leveled the playing field. There would be no looking up or down on one another, we are now all on the same level.
So why engage a coach. Definitely not to take your ministry to the next level.
Here are some status free possibilities:
• Perhaps you want to develop your expertise in ministry not so that you would be at a new level above others but that you would be able to do more good and more efficiently regardless of what level you are at.
• Perhaps you want to level out the discrepancies in your life and integrate the demands of your personal and professional life.
• Perhaps you want a thinking partner to help you discern where the One who calls you his friend is leading you next.
If you are interested in learning more about the language of levels check you calendars for Andy Austin's training in Boulder next year May 5-10, Metaphors of Movement Training
With Blessings for Your Life and Work
P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.
Parishioners and Staff are Treasures not Assets
Posted: August 5, 2016 by Rob Voyle
"People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why
It has become common in business circles to hear leaders say something like:
At first glance that seems to be an affirmation of employees or parishioners
Several years ago when I was in West Virginia I heard people complaining about
When people experience burnout that tells me some one has been strip mined. They
Thinking of people as assets is a first step on the path to dehumanizing and
One of the assumptions of the Appreciative Way is that "our language creates our
Rather than thinking of people and especially employees and parishioners as
I know I would rather be treasured than treated like an asset.
I will also acknowledge that in our history we haven't treated the treasures of
Who do you know that needs to be treasured?
P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural
Why Be Good
Posted: July 28, 2016 by Rob Voyle
I love the book of Ecclesiastes or Why be Good?
I work hard, I put in lots of effort, and it all will come to nothing, says the
I love the book of Ecclesiastes and the preacher's relentless refrain. Its the
I also love that the preacher never gives us an answer, he leaves it up to us to
We have to decide for ourselves whether to do good or do bad, live only for
The book of Ecclesiastes predates Christianity. In general Christians take a
Take a moment and imagine there is no heaven, no afterlife, and think of what
Now imagine there is an afterlife and think of what you will do today? Why will
Has your decision changed because you believe in an afterlife?
I was once teaching a class on St. Paul's belief in universal salvation. One of
For many Christians there is now an external motivation to do good. Doing good
If we are all going to the grave as the Preacher says, or to eternal salvation
I have a teacher, a man I appreciate deeply for his wisdom and compassion, who
I want to be like that. Without thought of some future reward to love and do
Why do you do good?
With hope that there would be more good in the world, because that would be
Teach Us to Pray
Posted: July 22, 2016 by Rob Voyle
This weeks Gospel (Luke 11:1-13) one of the disciples ask Jesus, "Teach us to
Apparently John was known for teaching his disciples to pray. What is not clear
Jesus' response seems to cover both bases. He teaches them what to say when they
The whole point of prayer is not to get stuff, or change other people, or change
Perfunctory prayers said before meetings, especially by professional pray-ers,
Prayer is about communicating with God. We need to spend as much time listening
When I began this journey with Jesus many years ago I read a small book on
So many congregations want to grow, they keep telling God they want to grow, but
All revivals, all times of transformation, begin with a fresh understanding of
Even in our own lives the times of transformation where preceded by a new
If you really want to create transformation in your congregation the first thing
Without a new understanding of God, the old God in understanding will continue
With a few moments of silence...
Good Samaritans and What Is Love Calling Us To Do
Posted: July 8, 2016 by Rob Voyle
The Good Samaritan story was Jesus response to someone who wanted to "justify himself."
I often hear or see people claiming God is on their side as they seek to justify their perspectives and actions. Our political processes are rife with such justification in ways that were very rare when I arrived in this country 34 years ago. And the actions taken in the name of these justifications leaves me wanting to have nothing to do with the God these people proclaim to honor.
I also hear people in churches, and I have said it myself, "what is God calling us to do?"
The use of God language as a stamp of divine authority to justify a pursuit of unjust actions leaves me thinking we would be better off as atheists. So much of our country's God language leads to hate and fuels the bigotry, hypocrisy, and violence of our times.
My friend Ron English, who was raised in Ebenezer Baptist church and ordained by Martin Luther King Jr., asks the question differently. Rather than asking, what is God calling us to do he asks: What is love calling us to do?
I have found asking "What is love calling us to do?" leads to a very different response both within me and the people that I am working with.
And I wonder what would happen if our politicians began asking: "What is love calling us to do as a nation?" rather than justifying their actions of hate-filled power mongering with mindless god talk.
By love I am not meaning a sentimentality nor a tolerance for evil. In my teaching on love I use Stephen Gilligan's understanding of compassion: tenderness, fierceness, and mischievousness. Fierceness is a single minded pursuit of a just future.
I distinguish fierceness from anger. Anger is what we experience when we look back on a past injustice. Fierceness is what happens when we transform that anger into a fierce pursuit of a just future. Without that transformation anger, focused on the past, will lead to hatred and a desire for revenge and retribution. We cannot fix the past but we can create a new future.
One of my role models for fierceness is Martin Luther King Jr. His "I have a dream speech..." is a fierce proclamation and desire for a just future. It is not an angry rail against an oppressive and evil past but a fierce vision of a better future. Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela are other role models of the fierce rather than the angry way.
There is no place for hate.
And as Jesus reveals in the story of the good Samaritan.
There is no place for indifference.
There is no place for self-justification.
There is only a place for love.
Praying for us all to have the courage to love tenderly, fiercely, and mischievously, in this time of darkness.
P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.
I Saw Satan Fall From Heaven
Posted: July 2, 2016 by Rob Voyle
This Sunday's Gospel Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 has really got me pondering.
The word "Satan" means the "Accuser of the Brethren" and in this Gospel Jesus says he saw Satan fall from heaven. What Satan was doing in heaven is beyond me, but here is what I know.
There Are Three Realms of Accusation:
Each of these accusations threatens us with alienation. When all three are aligned they create a living hell. Just one accusatory voice can make our lives miserable or limit our ability to perform at our best.
None of these accusations are likely to be rational and any attempt to rationalize ourselves out of them is likely to fail. For example arguing with an internal critical voice is just likely to make the critical voice louder and more distressing.
In the world of contemplative prayer we are taught to let them "float on by" as arguing with them is another form of attachment to them. Yet many times the accusations keep floating on back.
The good news is that these voices of accusation are actually quite resolvable without long analysis.
If you want to help people resolve voices of accusation then I invite you to join one of the coach training programs where you can join us and learn the strategies to watch Satan fall from heaven.
We Are God's Chosen People Not God's Protected People
Posted: June 26, 2016 by Rob Voyle
The harshness of the Gospel, Luke 9:51-62, for this coming Sunday and the random
"We are God's chosen people not God's protected people."
I don't know about you but there are many days I would rather be protected than
It is clear we are pilgrims, not settlers on this earth, and the harsh reality
To make sense of the randomness of violence and death many resort to simplistic
While the reality of eternal life offers protection in the ultimate sense, it is
But for what have we been chosen. It is very easy to let the idea of being
As a Christian I would say I have been chosen to be as liberal in sharing God's
With gratitude for the joys of this life and God's love and presence in the hard
Almighty God, you have made us your chosen people, not your protected people.
Forgiveness and Standing Silent Before the Pilates of this World
Posted: March 24, 2016 by Rob Voyle
Over the past few weeks I have taught several Teach Them How To Forgive
One of the big challenges to forgiving comes when the person we feel resentful
In both scenarios the resentful person has placed their well-being in the hands
Never entrust your happiness, or what you deeply value about yourself, to
It is interesting to note that resenting doesn't get the bully to change. In
I recall Jesus saying: "Forgive them because they are ignorant." Actually that
I also wonder about the utter stupidity of arguing with an ignorant person. I
Alternatively you could deal with a bully by becoming a bigger bully. However
So how are we to deal with the bullies in our lives? Especially the ones we will
Personally I want to be compassionate. In the Appreciative Way I think of
Being compassionate with bullies typically requires fierceness or
One of the resources many participants have found helpful to move beyond the
While physically vulnerable to Pilate, Jesus never allowed himself to be
What would it look like and feel like to be emotionally and spiritually silent
Take a moment and imagine what that would be like...
My prayer this Easter is that we would find new life in the fierce silence of
Transforming Anger Into Practical Compassion
Posted: February 24, 2016 by Rob Voyle
What would it be worth to you to live free from resentment?
What would it be worth to you to be able to lead a person to a place of
While I am tired of living in a frightened and angry frightened world I am more
Some have said that we need to be angry about the injustices we see. I would
So what are we to do with the anger that arises when we see injustice. It needs
Within myself I recognize a substantial difference between my being angry and my
When I am angry, I am aware of my stomach being in turmoil, there is also a lot
When I am fierce my focus is not in my stomach but my forehead and there is no
And the big question is HOW! How we do we move from ego driven anger to fiercely
The Gospel for this Sunday calls us to repent. The 3Rs of repentance,
More than recognizing that we are resenting, we need to "recognize" what we
We need to "regret" the cost and ineffectiveness of resenting. This is a huge
We need to "reorient" to a compassionate way of being that honors our values and
In the forgiveness training program we will explore both your personal ways of
Details can be found at http://www.appreciativeway.com/training/schedule.cfm
Waiting with compassion is one way to meet the challenge of staying in love. As
Teaching Forgiveness and Staying in Love
Posted: February 8, 2016 by Rob Voyle
My friend and colleague Chris Rankin-Williams said in his sermon on the Sunday
That idea brought into focus what my ministry was about and what it has
Personally I don't like being afraid and I don't like being angry. They are very
It seems that at every moment of every day I am confronted with opportunities to
And then there is this Jesus guy who says: "love your enemies." That is about
One of the ways Christians justify the existence of hate in their lives is to
I listen to Jesus telling me to love my enemies, and I hear Chris' words "the
Teaching people how to forgive is my act of sedition, to overthrow the culture
How Do We Want To Wait Until Others Change?
Think of someone who really annoys you and who is not likely to change their
The only thing we can do is decide on how we want to wait for them to change.
We can wait in hate.
Or we can forgive and wait with a twinkle in our eye and love in our hearts.
This is the kind of waiting that I see in Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama.
Perhaps for most of us there is an intermediate state where we have forgiven and
And another, perhaps more enlightened place is a compassionate state where we
Waiting with compassion is one way to meet the challenge of staying in love. As
Church Growth Makes Absolutely no Sense
Posted: January 29, 2016 by Rob Voyle
The language of Church Growth has dominated the religious culture for all of my
Many people have written books and theorized on why we haven't grown and we
We have been called to make disciples and followers of Jesus and not to grow
Take a moment and think what comes to mind when you contemplate making followers
Now think of what comes to mind when you contemplate growing churches...
The language we use has a powerful impact on the images and ideas that come into
The words "church growth" evokes a picture of the white clapboard church I
One of the core assumptions of the Appreciative Way is that language not only
Andy's work is important for both the Chiefs in our congregations and for the
Example 1 for Chiefs: Aligning Our Language and Core Metaphors
In the last newsletter I looked at the core charism of a denomination. The same
What is the core charism of your congregation?
Often that core charism will be represented as a metaphor. I think of one
Now imagine you are the leader of each of these congregations and are about to
Telling the "shade tree" community that you are ready to embark on a new
Or telling the "ship" congregation it is time for them to prune back some of
Or we could confuse everyone by really mixing the metaphors and talk of pruning
Whenever the metaphors are incongruent with perceived reality the metaphors will
As leaders we need to align calls to action with our core metaphors.
Example 2: For Shaman and Spiritual Directors
Imagine you are offering pastoral care to two different parishioners who are
Before reading on you might like to consider what you think death is like... Or
Now consider how to respond to the two people.
The first is getting ready for the "Rest of their Life." The sleep metaphor also
"Passing over" suggests that death is perceived as a journey and I recall
In the Metaphors of Movement Training training Andy will teach you how to listen for and elicit a person's metaphors as they describe their life predicament.
You will then learn how to respond to the specific metaphors.
You will also discover not all metaphors are created equally, in fact there is a
For example people describing themselves as "being boxed in" are using a
I have posted an article by Andy that outlines some of the types of metaphors
With gratitude to Andy for teaching me about the use of metaphors in my work and daily living.
Anglican Primates: My Appreciative Way Perspective on the Conflict
Posted: January 27, 2016 by Rob Voyle
What are we to do about the Anglican Communion and our current conflict?
An appreciative perspective on conflict and collaboration.
For the past couple of weeks the news, social media, and church conversations
What has been missing in all the conversation is any practical understanding of
One of the things that saddens me most about all church conflict is the level of
And so for the past couple of weeks I have been pondering, as a consultant, what
I view conflict as the result of competition for resources to live a sustainable
I use an adaptation of Gregory Bateson's logical levels of learning to
I have posted a brief article: From Conflict to Collaboration on my website
How would I use the model to create a strategy for transformation.
From my perspective the conflict in the Anglican communion is in the realm of
Without transformed awareness all attempts at conflict resolution will be egos
The solution to such conflict is to return to the core charism or resource of
The core charism of Anglicans is common prayer, not common dialogue, not common
In the light of common prayer I think it is time for the Primates
to stop talking to each other,
and start being in each others presence and the presence of God.
When we can't agree on words and their meaning then we need to be silent in the
I wonder what God would have done if the primates had simply got together for
Shared Eucharist from one of the prayerbooks of our communion
I wonder not what the Primates would end up doing after three day but what God
And I wonder what would happen to us if we surrendered our desire to change
P.S. I am still on my mission to "Teach the World How to Forgive" and am looking
Stick with Love if You Want Others to Change
Posted: January 18, 2016 by Rob Voyle
"I have decided to stick with love because hate is too greater burden to bear."
Today the words of Dr. King echo in my heart, as I remember him and as I share
From our political and religious landscape there is way too much to hate, that
I am so fed up with idiots and am tired of saying "Father forgive them for they
Then this character I have decided to follow says: "love your enemies" and Dr.
And the pragmatic, solution focused part of me, that wants all sorts of change,
"I have never known anyone to change, at least in the direction I want, because
Or to put it in St. Paul's way: "The anger of Rob does not work the
My program "Teaching Your Congregation to Forgive" is part of my response to the
But telling people they need to love is not that helpful if we don't teach them
So here are three things that I have found helpful in practically choosing to
1: Give Up Wanting
I think of all the things that I want to be different...
And I catch myself saying: "I will be happy when..."
The real question is: "how do we want to wait while the other person gets around
I can live in love as I wait rather than wait in hate.
Or it is waiting with happiness while I work for those things that I want.
This is the twinkle in the eye of the great justice seekers. It is not denial of
Years ago, giving up wanting was a daily habit until it became an unconscious
2: Transforming Demands into Preferences
Resentment is not a natural consequence of what others do to us. Resentment is
But demanding the past would have been different, regardless of the rights or
The solution is to change the demand into a preference. This keeps intact our
Living from a place of preference rather than demand is also helpful when
Living in an attitude of preference keeps intact our values and is a gentler
3: Wishing our Enemies Well (and not in the well)
I have no idea what would be good for me or good for anyone else. I have prayed
So I have stopped praying for people and myself to receive specific things.
I have also found that when we pray for our enemies it is rarely for their
And so I can wish my enemies well but I do not define what that well is. I
I find that these three things provide a foundation for beholding others in an
I wish you a very blessed Martin Luther King, Jr. day and the joy of sticking to
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About the Author
The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.
Rob's Approach to Writing and Training
Practical Appreciative Inquiry based strategies to effectively resolve grief and resentment.