Finding Your Alva… January 6, 2012

(1,385) 

His name was Thomas Alva Edison, and considering the fact that he invented the light bulb, we can certainly credit him for helping to illuminate the world. We know three things about him:  he was kind, he was inventive and he had a funny middle name. What would have happened if Mr. Edison had decided to be overly sensitive about his middle name? What if he had heard the “Johnson jeers” of his young playmates as a boy and had become reclusive, burying his inventive nature and failing to birth his kind one? What if he had allowed society and the world around him to determine his reactions and destiny?

I don’t have all of the insight on Thomas, but I do know that his middle name is no secret and that it is often included as part of his whole signature. So somewhere along the line, Edison made his peace with his “Alva.”

The majority of humanity is stymied by their own obvious weakness. They become ashamed of their uniqueness, overwhelmed by critique or they just attempt to escape any further scrutiny. They are ashamed of their “Alva.” Rather than pushing their weakness to the forefront, making it obvious and developing a sense of humor about it, they become sensitive and often fail to unearth the better parts of themselves.

Yes, if Thomas Alva Edison had been intimidated by those who mocked his middle name, he not only would have failed to become kind–and an inventor–but would have remained a bitter unknown.

How about Jesus of Nazareth? He was a Galilean and uneducated–but who just happened to be the son of God. As you read his story, you discover that the world around him wanted to point out over and over again that he was “from Galilee”–and therefore meaningless–and that he had no formal education and should have been relegated to the status of a carpenter. If Jesus had a defensive nature, a fear of critique or had judged himself by the opinions of others, we would have nothing to show for him except a few artifacts of wood and maybe a partially destroyed wall. Jesus decided to make it clear that he was a Nazarene by beginning his work in Galilee, without apology. He never argued when they claimed he was not educated or not worthy to be a priest, because he ignored the standard teaching style of the religious folks of the day, and instead, just told stories. And because he was not fearful of what others deemed to be his weakness, he was able to play up his strengths. He found his “Alva”–and rather than fighting over it, hiding it or becoming despaired because he wasn’t viewed to be the “top dog,” he played up his weaknesses and the world ended up playing them down.

I have spent the past two days in a little town called Alva, Florida. The people there are isolated, not very wealthy, but tender-hearted. I will tell you the truth–if they look at themselves as isolated–stuck somewhere between Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers and Miami–and they spend all their time complaining about their lack of funds, they will never make it into the history books, let alone create a newness of life in their own community. Just as Thomas Edison had to learn how to laugh at his own middle name, giving the world no ammunition against him, and Jesus of Nazareth embraced being a Galilean and refused to be relegated to ignorance, but instead, told stories about real life, the people of Alva must lead with their tender-hearted nature, while freely admitting they are isolated and don’t have many bucks. If they do, they will disarm their critics and fail to give anyone the bullets to gun down their spirits.

My name is Jonathan Richard Cring. I am a fat boy who has no college education but was born with a creative streak. I could have spent most of my life apologizing for my lack of degrees, or hiding away in my house because my obesity was so obvious, but instead, I decided to laugh at my tubbiness, be honest about my schooling and lead with my creative streak. So what the world could have used against me, I stole from them.

The key to your success, my dear friend, is finding your “Alva,” and rather than denying it, fussing about it or becoming extremely angry over people’s reaction, play it up so the world has to play it down. Because Jesus said it well:

“He that will gain his life will lose it.”  He who thinks he becomes stronger by being angry at the criticism of others will end up at their mercy. “But he that will lose his life for my sake shall gain it.”

Bluntly, if your foibles are already spoken into the air, anybody else mentioning them becomes ridiculous and redundant.

Find your Alva.  Be honest about your weakness–which gives you permission to play up your strengths.

**************

Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

**************

To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Three Comin’ and Three Goin’ — October 22, 2011

(1,307)

Yesterday on our drive from Salisbury, North Carolina, down to Spartanburg, South Carolina, I told Janet and Dollie that I would treat them to lunch at a restaurant. (Actually, as we travel we spend very little time eating in restaurants because they’re quite expensive and also you never know what you’re getting in terms of nutrition. We do a lot of our own cooking and therefore can procure our own personal better choices. That said, every once in a while, we enter the mainstream of the dining world and allow other folks to do the cooking and serving.)

The ladies opted to eat at The Golden Corral. When they mentioned the name, I thought about how important it is to select a title for your particular organization or business. In other words, The Golden Corral sounds much better than The Yellow Horsepen. You see, I don’t see anything wrong with utilizing good promotional skills to put your best foot forward in the world of business–or even in personal presentation.

But I do think it’s important to be honest–and to use the wisdom of the Spirit to lead with your weaknesses and follow with your strengths. I know this is contrary to American capitalism, where we’re taught to lead with our strengths and play down our weaknesses, but there is a natural sensibility in human beings to do exactly what their Creator taught them to do, which is resist the proud and give grace to the humble. So when we lead with our strengths and trail with tiny increments of weaknesses, we encourage those around us to become investigative reporters and further probe into our history to find additional chinks in our armor.

It’s not good.

Honestly, the last thing in the world I want is for anyone to discover my hidden sins and stupidities because I have been unwilling to unmask them for myself. Yet we persist in this “social boomerang” in America–to push ourselves forward in a positive light instead of presenting ourselves truthfully in a more subtle beam of attention.

Let’s take The Golden Corral, for example. Using the concept of “Three Comin’ and Three Goin,” I think they could lead with the weaknesses of the restaurant and close with the strengths. So let’s look at the three comin’. The weaknesses of The Golden Corral are:  the food is high in calories, it has too much salt (so you’ll drink more and eat less) and has unknown content in the gravies, which lift both the fat and calorie count. The positives — or the three goin’–are that it’s reasonably priced, it offers a tremendous collection of fruits, vegetables and salads, and if you’re careful you can get some delicious casseroles and meats that would be very expensive to procure on your own.

The difficulty with leading with your strengths is in trailing with your weaknesses.  It comes across a bit insipid.  Back to The Golden Corral, for example. If I said to you that The Golden Corral has a great collection of fruits, vegetables and salads, casseroles and meats and is reasonably priced, but is high in calories, fat content and too salty, you would assume that the LAST thing I shared was my actual opinion. You would be left with a negative flavor. So it actually defeats the purpose.

If I tell you that I am man with an ever-growing love of humanity and a little dab of talent which I have multiplied into a lifestyle that reaches tens of thousands of people, but that I am fat, bald and have a high school education, I would be leading with my positives, but ending with my negatives, which would make you believe that I am insecure.  What I’m saying is that the American contention of leading with your positives actually doesn’t work UNLESS you leave out your weaknesses altogether, which also doesn’t work because people will find them out anyway.

That’s why I practice three comin’ and three goin’.  I always lead with my weaknesses and close with my strengths.  In so doing, I let you know of my human inadequacy, but finish off with how, by the grace of God, I have been able to overcome my lack.  So here’s how I would actually say it:

“I am fat, bald and have a high school education BUT have an ever-growing love of humanity and a little dab of talent, which I have been able to multiply into a life’s work which is reaching tens of thousands of people.”

You see what I mean? It’s better. If you decide to lead with your strengths, you’re going to have to leave out your weaknesses, or end up appearing to be a total short-comer. Unfortunately, this is what people decide to do–and it renders them prideful and fair game for scrutiny and criticism. If you lead with your weaknesses and close with your strengths, it shows how you have used your life to grow and overcome obstacles to gain a better footing.

I do not know why this escapes people. I do not know why we feel an honest assessment of our vacancies makes us look like we’re not worthy of occupancy. But because we do this, it puts us in a position to be vulnerable to the critique of others instead of being uplifted because we have led with humility.

I can recommend it. I’m not suggesting you change your name from The Golden Corral to The Yellow Horsepen. It’s always good to allow yourself a more colorful portrait. But I do caution you that leading with your strengths will tempt you to ignore your weaknesses. 

On the other hand, leading with your weaknesses will make your strengths ingenious and inventive, granting you the appearance of the persevering warrior instead of the hapless trainee.

***************

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

%d bloggers like this: