Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

I had mused in the conclusion to my last series to take the scripture thoughts onto a YouTube channel. Well, it is live, so we shall see how this goes. The first video I am still sorting things out but let me know what you think: Finding Neighbour.


A quick fix. Fitting in. Ensuring stakeholders are appeased, not inspired. Ensuring that the right buzzwords are used, and terminology if not properly implemented. Either the anxious few, or the zombiefied majority may lead. Any of this sound familiar? We are in a world of managers. I was one, so I do not intend to slight the profession, but it needs to be acknowledged for what it is. That is the function of maintaining, growing, an short term vision casting. It is not about a long-term vision, or dream. It is responsive, can be pragmatic, but also is usually caught in many triangulations (the unhealthy use of a relationship triangle). One may have entered into the profession through pursuit, working hard and earning their colleague’s trust, or simply being the last one standing the longest (in some instances, it can also be the one that made eye contact at the wrong time in a meeting with the chair).

Image result for a failure of nerve quotesEdwin H. Friedman (and editors who completed the work after his passing) attempt to unpack what makes a healthy leader in the modern context in his 2017 (10th anniversary edition) A Failure of Nerve” Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. Friedman, a rabbi and practicing family therapist in his life, takes his family systems theory and expands it out into the world of leadership. His theories are shaped around anecdotes from his work in therapy, as a consultant to business, politics and religious organizations. As far as leadership authors go, he is as qualified as any to put forward a theory. It is a theory that lends itself to the human end of leadership and organizations.

The lynch-pin of his theory is on the concept of Chronic Anxiety hat has developed within the institutions of the world. The book walks the reader through eight thesis to unpack this concept, and point to the need for a healthy differentiated leader to move an organization into health and break the anxiety cycle.

Friedman touches upon the need for emotion, imagination and the spirit of adventure back into leadership. Within our understanding this many years on, I would say it is now focused on the idea of manager versus leader, or someone able to bark the loudest, over someone able to move through life with integrity. Sadly, within the concept of Chronic Anxiety, or in my understanding of U Theory and Change, a world stuck in pre-contemplation, or anger-denial and not wanting to let go of where we are to allow what come to come. The places that open themselves up to a leadership with integrity, not an autocrat, but someone who casts a position, and functions healthily to keep the boat steady. It is an understanding to be able to see those that need time to understand, and if you have not gutted the core values of self or organization to change direction you will hold on to the healthy ones. That is the strength will stay. If you do not, you will have workers, parishners, etc. that will constantly show up, but will not allow for true growth-expansion and depth.

That is they will constantly be creating emotional triangles to drag the leader down, or to attempt to trigger their anxiety to come down to the level they are at. It is what is known in addiction recovery as misery likes company. As you heal, then those still in the cycle will try to sabotage you. Same is being put forward by Friedman in his leadership theory. One piece he could’ve drawn out more in the concept of saboteur is the interior one, the old soundtracks, or ignored soundtracks that under moments of intense stress can re-emerge in our own lives. Ones that a point in time may have kept us safe or healthy, but are not healthy and no longer serve a purpose but are comfortable. These interior saboteurs can be as destructive as the exterior ones on leadership.

There is also a touchstone on the drive for data. It is true, data is important, yet as our world becomes more data obsessed, we have lost the ability for the qualitative and have driven hard for the quantitative exclusively. The only flaw is that it is only part of the story, and the numbers part can be swayed to prove any point depending on what one focuses on and how it is presented. Also what’s the context that it is being presented in, like a budget that shows a deficit for one year, but ignores the surpluses of previous years, not the whole story is there. So is a data set, without an emotional component. The story piece, the impact piece.

For example in housing first work it was based (and may still be) in the early days on acuity, which means those with the most complexity get housed first. Unfortunately this left a huge gap for literally those that fell between the gaps for affordable housing and housing subsidies. Either those that were working poor, or elderly, or with disabilities, in some cases veterans, or someone who had been housed based on acuity but had “graduated” after x number of years, and was now back. Those in the gap had a story, and a right, but did not fit the targeted data set. Those that cast a vision of home for those in the gap were often ridiculed, and finally forced into silence. But what has been missed? It was not an either or dichotomy that a chronic anxious society wants, because when in anxiety or trauma or depression the world becomes inherently black and white. It was a both and lens to look at how we cared for all our neighbours in need, and walked with them out of institution into community, and home (not simply a place with walls and a door) but a place of authentic belonging.

One only gets there, regardless of sector, by being able to have heart, compassion, understanding, and a holistic understanding of the story, data and all. The other piece though is sometimes the data does not show the outliers or the gappers, and that is where a differentiated leader will take one. Just take the church with the plug and play program mentality for survival or social club atmosphere instead of looking into its heart as an organization and ask, why are we here? What do we offer that is different? What happens if we close, outside of those in the pews who would miss us? Would even those in the pews miss us or simply find a new social group? It takes a leader outside of the anxiety, and willing to face the brunt of the sabotage and attack to speak out of the Spirit, and state that it is something different. It is not breadth, but depth, and there is many ways to get there if the group is willing.

That is the hard part, for an anxious leader with an strong healthy group can look great, while a strong healthy leader may collapse with an unhealthy group that is unwilling to take the journey to health. Friedman’s opus, that was finished by others, is a guide for leadership formation that is against the grain, and also shows a community how to come into health. The challenge coming from a social psychology bent is that it can be easily silenced, the deeper biological science he uses, while a path to follow as illustrations can be a deterrent for the laity in picking up the work. It is a text that needs to be discussed with others, and to be used as a self-reflective tool. The challenge is that it has a highly American bent in the context it shares one functioning in. I know there is a Chronic Anxiety in Canada in our communities, but if you have traveled in both countries it is different, and manifests differently.

You can look at different leadership roles and unpack the anxieties you had, those you led, the saboteurs, and what worked and did not work to learn and grow from. In between leadership roles, it can be explored as a source of renewing the heart set, but also read along other resources to seek to understand context. The context then, being looked at, does need to be applied locally. A fallacy I do believe Friedman falls into is the universality fallacy that cultural competency and empathy are not important. I give that his understanding of empathy as allowing one not to face their own “demons” (my word) is wrong, and that one should not use it to hide from healing, but there is something about being able to see from another’s perspective, and to understand the impact the path may take on that. It can and does shape healthy conversations of separation or departure if needed for colleagues and team mates with a new vision.

This exploration came as I began challenging my brain once more by auditing a condensed course on Strategic Leadership. The topic popped up as it had been the central topic in many coffee conversations and how one can be strategic and hold to their core values, and the core values an organization “professes” to have. Too often “becoming strategic” has been a buzz word to drastically change an organizations culture, do harm to long term staff, remove staff care, and focus more on the monetary over the person before us. The journey is seeking the Via Media of what should be in caring for all, and ensuring funding.


coverA stone skipping across a pond leaves ripples with each impact.

The joys and life of traumas are the like the skipping stone through the generations.

Soul Ripples

What happens when the helper needs help?

For over 20 years Ty Ragan served his neighbour from the rough camps to the shelters to home and every where’s in-between. The simple life lesson of Jesus of Nazareth to love your neighbour as yourself was the centre question to be answered in his life. In May 2016 his life would begin to change drastically through unknown seizures and strokes.

Enter into the ripples that brought him to 2016, the transformational power of love of family and friends as he seeks new ripples in hope for his soul.

Buy your copy at today.


Renewing Leaders

Posted: January 27, 2019 by Ty in Brunch & Bible
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The stories of Nehemiah and Ezra  are about returns from exile. Communities growing and changing, rebuilding themselves. Deciding what is the important pieces of their historical story, and what needs to be left to the shadows. How many people and organizations are in this flux currently? Mainline or evangelical churches?

There are some keys lessons within these stories to be teased out. The first is a belief in what one is called to do. Nehemiah could have continued on as the cup bearer to the oppressor king, but he took a risk on something different. An act of rebuilding and renewal. I know many look to this as how devout he was, and this is probably true to hear the still quiet voice and respond, but there is still the internal struggle of change, the grieving for what is lost as one steps into the unknown.

At the rebuilding of the city wall, we get two lessons in leadership. One is being in the midst of the work with the front liners. Literally these workers were building with one hand, and had a sword in the other. Nehemiah as a leader understood the stressors that the workers were going through, the risks they were taking because he was not hidden from them. He was in the midst.

Then he would take midnight rides. Those times a leader must pull away from the day to day operations on the lines, to get to a higher plain (a balcony view some call it) to take in the whole scope of the work, the project. It can be a quiet coffee shop away from work in today’s world to remove distractions, unplugging from phone, e-mail, social media for a span of time- a day retreat, a few hours, to remove the constant white noise buzz of busyness, and rest in the silence. In the silence to hear the guidance, to renew one’s mind, heart and eyes to look anew upon what is being done.

This clarity leads to better understanding, on how to manager transition, transformation, rebuilding and renewal, while bringing as many as possible along for the ride. If there are losses, it can create a space where those are healthy transitions.

In Ezra we see the high priest, rebuilding the sacred imagery by rebuilding the temple. In ancient wars, as we see echoes of today by extremists, winning was not just beating the other army but proving one’s deity (ideology) superior to theirs by laying waste to that which they held sacred. It is in the rebuilding history guides us to the “discovery” of the lost fifth roll of the Torah- Deuteronomy. It is within this re-telling of the Law, that rules are tightened up and there is a move to transform the community. Though it still uses the same understandings, meta-narratives, and trappings that provide comfort.

It is easy when on the journey of change to want to be an iconoclast, I also enjoy blowing things up. Letting the pieces blow away in the breeze and start anew. Sometimes though, it is honouring what has come before, building the next level upon the already existing foundation. It was through this journey of renewal that the sanitized history of Israel would be produced- 1&2 Chronicles, which re-writes the stories of 1& 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings, but takes out all the drama, treachery, rape, bloodshed, and well, non-holy things that the people and kings had done to end up broken and in exile. The new history was a way to highlight that when things were done as they should be, when the new-old system was working properly, things were good. It was an encouragement text. It was also a prime example of how history can change due to one’s own point of view.

As one enters into leadership, it may not be as a Paul or a Peter striking something brand new, it could very well be tasked with a vocation like Nehemiah or Ezra in rebuilding and renewing. Which do you feel called into?

Values. It is a scary word. It speaks to what we, well value. What is important to us, as individuals, a community. They can be used to divide if the value is about control, power, etc. Or they can be life giving. John is writing to a community in a constant flux of change. They are in the mystery of the journey of life. Having re-discovered the Love Commandment, and figuring out what it means to live that way. What needs to go away? What needs to stay? What needs to be brought in?

It is a change process.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s[b] seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

-Epistle of 1 John 3:1-10 (English Standard Version)

As we know, change is about loss. Even positive change of better employment, goal achievement, birth of a child, discovery of true self, sobriety, graduation, the list can go on. There is grief, for what happens with the change is what was known is gone. Let that sit for a while as we reflect on this part of sin and deceit from these first ten verses. It is about clinging to what was, knowing it is over, but not being able to grow upon the foundation. It is also about one’s personal and communal values. Has the change created something you can still be apart of? Has the change, literally or figuratively changed the vocation you are called to? Values are icky. They are hard mushy conversations many want to avoid. Much like understanding that change is a grief journey. May be short, may be long. But it is about honouring and letting go of the old, being present in the now, and living into the new birth.

 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers,[c] that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God,[d]and God[e] in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

-Epistle of 1 John 3:11-24 (English Standard Version)

What is newly birthed? Is it a new birth completely or a rebirth of the old with impediments, sludge burnt away? Are you comfortable after the change? Does it still resonate with who you truly know yourself to be? This is the metaphor used with the story of Cain. A move from sibling rivalry. That is yearning for what your neighbour has, living in discontent, making everything a monetary value. Or bringing people down to a number, in churches and non-profits it can be seen as simply a donor line item of their value based on what they gave. For populist movements politically it is about taxpayers, those that pay taxes are the only needs that matter in society- not children, seniors, those with disabilities… 2000 years on from Jesus of Nazareth’s wanderings, teachings and living out the Love Commandment, and worlds built supposedly on these pillars. We are still having adventures in missing the point.

Change is scary. It is scary due to the fact it is grieving. You feel. You have to acknowledge feelings. Acknowledge values. Gut check. Sometimes it is stepping out into a new reality even if you have no clue how it will work. But the path has been illuminated before you.

Do you follow the light? or rest in the darkness?

Do you manage the change and maintain…

Or jouney through grief to a rebirth?

Change management, much like efficiency has become buzzwords around multiple industries from human services to political organizations to spiritual gatherings to corporate board rooms.

But what is change? And why do we only manage it?

Alberta currently can be a case study in drastic change. Change creates friction. Leads to identity politics in some instances where groups entrench to be on the preserve or change sides. Perhaps there is a frozen entrenchment were yelling just happens (hello NDP-UCP Governance)… but the root is missed completely.

See change happens. It is part of human society, and human life. It can be expected (such as boom and bust economic cycles, and the need to diversify). It can be that even though the wealthiest may not be doing as well, the economic shift is changing things. Those are some examples. Others are when belief systems shift, say in a church denomination one is apart of. It can be seemingly as insignificant as a focus on youth or children, as innocuous as leadership-governance structural changes or simply a new cleric. Yet ripples are sent, some stay, some go. Emotional weight hits many, and we yearn for a black and white existence.

Unfortunately the world has never been black and white. It exists in worlds of gray mostly due to the pesky of factors- humanity. As I wrote in the past about ISO systems and such under efficiency, it was the strategic process of an organization mapping out what they did, and what role did what in the process so that anyone could walk in and take the thick binder off the shelf and know what to do.

The mechanics of the work. The how, not the why.

That is the cusp of change management. Reactions to change need to be processed, not managed. You can manage chaos as a manager or director. This can mean continuing to push forward, pull along those who are willing or need survival income, but many will fall off and be lost in the wilderness to different levels of harm. Either financial, emotional, physical or spiritual. In the end though you can claim being proficient in change management as you had mapped out a process, a manual anyone can now pull off the shelf to show the system and that it is implemented. Yet in the push-pull to accomplish, what was missed is the values-morals-ethics that brought one to your organization.

It is not so much about managing change, as processing grief. We are at a time in human history where we know much about grief and trauma. Great knowledge, yet without application there is no wisdom. We seek those who can manage, not those that can lead. Mostly due to the fact that true leadership in the icky field of values, in grief work is not something that comes with fancy title but is the one that others seek out to understand and process with.

It is in the journey of processing. The ritual of acknowledging what has been lost. Celebrating what remains, that one can become open to the new being birthed within their community, organization or institution. The same journey of healing one goes through with a death in their life, or an enforced change of life circumstance due to health. It is a journey. It happens with every life change, we go through a grief cycle it can be brief or long dependent on what is changing, the social and professional supports we have access to, and if the new reality fits within our existing values, or are those values being challenged for growth or change or holding firm to the values and making a different change in life.

When it comes to change it is a harder conversation, and requires and understanding of those who are in the journey. It is not about managing change for the outcome wanted at a strategic level.

It is processing grief for the new direction to be birthed organically.

But it is messy, and requires seeing all pieces of the organization as people, not cogs. Are we willing?


Ah a conclusion for this piece of the journey. The Pastoral Epistles close of with the Epistle of Titus chapter 3. It continues what it means to be a servant leader, as Pseudo-Paul attempts to guide in the Way, but at the same time trying to continue to distance Pauline Christianity from Petrine, James, or Johannine to name but a few. Yet still trying to keep the Pauline flavour of grace alone. But a stumbling block is hit, as the change of one’s heart, the falling away of the sludge; the light dispersing the Shadow Self. In other words, the personal Transfiguration leads to actions in alignment with the love being lived into and out of. The new hope of life.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

-Epistle of Titus 3:1-11 (English Standard Version)

It does not mean there will not be conflict, heated discussion. What it means is at the core, as we explored last chapter, is the Holy Mystery. Due to this, the resonance of what is true reality…in other words avoiding the foolish controversies. Those stumbling blocks we create for ourselves simply because we are driven by love of ego, money, power and the list can go on. Those things that allow for a slippery slope into the corruption spoken of. Esteem, character being known only by who your ancestors or parents are or that you are responsible for their “sins” or debts…it does not matter.

Pseudo-Paul was trying to get through this wall.

Delving into the darkness. Centering yourself. As taught in mindfulness, those things that led Thomas Merton to leave his hermitage and live with Buddhists to rediscover the practice of mindfulness and meditation within the Christianities. It is the tools the Universe holds to discover the true self.

For every tool, there is a counter-measure that allows you to be warped, not who you are meant to be:

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

15 All who are with me send greetings to you.

Epistle of Titus 3: 12-15 (English Standard Version)

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A meme from Facebook that seemed fitting.

This is the key for leaders. It is not the responsibility of a leader to push, pull and by whatever means necessary to get the work done regardless of who is harmed, bullied, traumatized or burnt out along the way.  It is a leader’s heart to be the one coaching the community (staff) to their best possible selves. Stepping through and purging the gremlin-saboteurs; guiding to the right places that facilitate healing.

The goal is to aid in the holistic growth to make the community, team, and person better.


Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.

-Epistle of Titus 3: 15 (English Standard Version)

Join the pilgrimage to wholeness.

Aid others to discover the path.

Be who you truly are, not what the world makes you believe you can never be.

You are.

Ah just Titus remaining on this journey. If you have a suggestion for an Epistle for reflection please leave it in the comments.

(Saint) Titus was the first Bishop of Crete. He was a disciple of Pauline Christianity. If you hold to a Paul authorship then they were written in the mid-60’s CE; but most scholars hold to a Pseudo-Paul authorship like 1 & 2 Timothy and place the writing around the mid-Second century. It is part of the Pastoral Epistles, letters written from the voice of Paul, to young leaders, both Timothy and Titus were mentioned in the journeys of the Acts of the Apostles. Crete is the largest island in Greece, and a hub for religious mosaic and commerce. It is a cosmopolitan centre, where much of what afflicted early followers of the Way had flourished, most notably religious exclusion due to their unknown Monotheism in the divine being of Jesus; and economic persecution via no one doing business with them as they would not swear oaths, and rumours abounded of their gluttony, cannibalism, etc.

Ah the Pseudo-Paul voice within these words is attempting balance, a move away from the character of Elders shown in 1 Timothy. He touches upon two challenges facing the gathering for survival:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,[d] and his children are believers[e] and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer,[f] as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound[g] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.[h] 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans,[i] a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”[j] 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

-Epistle of Titus 1: 5-16 (English Standard Version)

Did you catch it?

  1. Circumcision Party.
  2. Cretens

Okay first off, Circumcision Party can be as painful as it sounds. It is not a circle and snip though. What it is, is the fundamentalists of the gathering. These are the ones that still want to be part of the origin religion of Judaism, and as such are holding the gathering to the 613 laws, plus commentary, plus ethical add ons by religious authority including and not limited to circumcision to be a member and be within the chosen. Obviously, if you trace original Paul, and back further to Brother Jesus’ teaching in his own journey, it was the fulfillment of the laws, prophets and rituals that made them not necessary. For the essence they were being moved towards as a people to change the world is what as needed. Yet, change is scary. Badly handled change can do harm. In the Reformation it created wars. In organizations today it can create mental and emotional distress and trauma in staff and leadership. The CP was attempting to maintain control, and saw a new-young leader as the way to do it.

The second part was the power and glory front. The no matter the means, just get to the glory, esteem, power and money for yourselves. This stereotype of Crete is where the anglicized term “cretin” came from. It was not only in the marketplace and Empire government, but existed as the other fundamentalist end. Yes, extremism is not just on one end of the spectrum. It exists in any system, and it is what is needed to be avoided, for within the extremes one can easily slip into corruption for it becomes about proving oneself right in their beliefs not about making one better or their community.

These were the cautions being brought to Titus. To know himself, but also not to succumb to populist movements that in the end supplant life giving love with hate. For it no longer is about divinity within. It is about the pursuit of power. Titus being new to a leadership role is being cautioned. It is a caution leaders, and people within any institution can and should here.

What cautions for extremism would you write to yourself that exist in your community?

Write a Pseudo-Paul letter to yourself.