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Responding to Evil: My Conversation With Charles Lee and Jonathan Merritt

In Doing Good, Interview by Chris MarlowLeave a Comment

Links to some of the things we discussed on today’s show:




A Response To Paris

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Like many of you, I was devastated to learn about the terrorist attacks in Paris, then to discover that the day before, there had been a terrible attack in Beirut.

My teenaged daughter sent me a text, asking “Hey dad, did you hear about Paris?”

I hated that text. I hate that she has to see evil.

What are we to do with all of this? How do we process it, deal with it, face it, navigate it? So many emotions, so many frustrations, so much anger.

Evil Is Real

As human beings, we all must come to grips deep down in our hearts that we live in a world that is filled with hate, anger, and confusion. It’s a sad moment, but one that has to be dealt with. In our desperation, we tend to question God’s love. We begin to pay attention to those whom we can trust. We also try to process the enemy, so we can be safe. Sadly, this can create all sorts of damage to the human soul as we attempt to define who is in and who is out.

Often, we begin to generalize:

  • All of those people must believe that same ideology, because they practice the same religion.
  • All of those people want to destroy my way of life.
  • All of those people are evil.

If fear leads the conversation, it will end in hatred, racism, and more violence. Borders will be closed, wars will be fought, and people groups will be ignored.

Please, tell me that there’s a better way.

The conversation that must be had is the WHY. Why do folks want to cause so much harm? Why do people see me/you/us as the enemy?

Should we drop more bombs, just like we did with Al Qaeda? This is an issue I wrestle with. I’m not a pacifist, but I’m also not a fan of violent conflict. If we really want to create long-term change, I think we have to go deeper than another act of war. We have to be committed to more acts of love–even though love is so hard, especially when someone has hurt you or your way of life.

“Love your enemies …” It’s easy to forget that Jesus told his people to do this. We Christians often fail. We hate those who are not like us, who believe differently than we do. Instead of serving them, we line up and picket. Instead of listening, we grab a megaphone and scream at the top of our lungs. We’re not screaming because we love; we’re screaming because we’re actually not different than the terrorists in Paris. Our hearts are filled with hatred, but we make excuses to justify it; heck, we even use the Bible to mask our own evil!

We tell ourselves that we’re standing up for truth, when in reality, we are like the Pharisees that irritated Jesus to no end.

Evil is real. It exists all over the world–including my heart (Romans 7:19) and yours as well. We need to own that truth, realizing that what we do with it determines the impact we make in this world.

For many of us in the West, Christianity has become comfortable. We have become so busy pursuing our dreams that we fail to embrace all of Scripture, like the part where we are called to be alert, because our enemy is seeking to destroy. (1st Pet 5:8)

Hope Is Real

Once we come to the conclusion that evil does in fact exist, we can build a life that is committed to pushing it away from our hearts and out of the world.

Romans 2:7 tells us that we bring hope to the world when we decide to live an “others-focused” life. It is not easy, but it’s the best decision we can ever make. An others-focused life is filled with grace, mercy, truth, and sacrifice. We put down the megaphone and lift up our neighbors who are hurting. We choose to show love, extend grace, and walk on the side of people who are broken.

Even if we disagree with them, or they disagree with us–even when they hurt us or hate us or even kill us–we choose to love instead. Love is the foundation that allows hope to flourish. Peter reminds us that love overcomes a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Love must always take a stand to the bully known as evil. It’s like a stare down. We are often given a choice–love or hate, forgiveness or bitterness, freedom or prison.

When we love, we’re not saying we’re okay with evil people that do evil acts. In fact, justice is making what is wrong, right. Love pursues justice and crushes injustice.

A friend of mine was recently in a brothel in southeast Asia, working to bring hope to that dark place. What he saw there was devastating. People that operate places like that need to go to prison. My friend is choosing to love by being part of an organization that is committed to bringing freedom to those who are trafficked.

You see–that’s the thing. We’re angry, and often that anger turns to hate. What if our anger turned to action? What if we choose to love harder and do something about the evil? For instance, we can pray, we can support organizations that are trying to solve the problems, and we can help people whose lives have been destroyed by evil.

Every time the enemy strikes, angry people pick up their megaphones and spew words of hate. We can counter that by showing love, doing good, and serving our friends, neighbors, and even our enemies.

Maybe that can change something. On Friday night, I asked myself this question: why did those bombers want to kill those innocent people?

I could only think of one answer–they hated those people enough to do something that cowardly. Is there anyway to show the bombers, the terrorists, that we don’t hate them? To show them that we actually want to love them and see them live a life that matters?

Your Life Matters. Be Committed To Doing Good.

We can all commit our lives to doing good. It’s not always easy, and it can get really messy. But so far, I have not found a better way forward. When I study the life of Jesus, it just seems that He would ask us to dig deeper, to set a new standard, to live a life that is committed to healing, restoration, and showing love.

This is how we stand up to evil. This is how we conquer hate. This is how we see change.

This morning, I stared out the window as David Crowder streamed through the speakers. I whispered a prayer and reminded myself that I’m more committed than ever to seek justice and see lives transformed. I’m committed to staring evil in the face and refusing to allow myself to become evil. I’m committed to do good, to see evil destroyed by love.

I hope you will stand with me for peace, reconciliation, love, and forgiveness. Remember what Paul says in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Essentialism: Silencing The Critic

In Do It Well by Chris MarlowLeave a Comment

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I’m doing a five-part series for nonprofit/social good leaders (but really for anyone!), based on the book Essentialism. Catch up with Part 1Part 2, and Part 3

Hopefully, you have ordered the book by now. You’ve begun to dismantle the yes bomb, which means you have more time and energy to do better work. You’re well on your way to becoming an true essentialist and you love it. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s only a matter of time before the monsters come crawling out of the closets, ready to beat you back down.

What Is A Critic? 

Some critics can be good, because they care more about you and less about their opinions. But, those are few and far between. A critic usually hates what you are doing–and they want to let you know about it. They come to tear you down. They hate to see you succeed; they’d prefer you to fail. Critics breathe fire on your dreams and then watch you burn.

Why Do They Do What They D0? 

Usually, a critic is not happy with their own life, so they don’t want you to be happy with yours. They use all kinds of excuses, and they rarely admit the truth–they want you to fail and they will laugh in your face or (most likely) behind your back. They will use your failure for their short-term happiness. When you begin to make positive changes, they will get angry. When you say no to a meeting, they will allow bitterness to grip their hearts. When you start succeeding, they will do what they can to not give you credit or work to destroy your success.

A critic is a cruel person, cloaked as a friend (or sometimes just a pure enemy), ready to heckle your every move. The thing with a critic is this: they don’t like themselves or their own lives, or they feel as if they’re not reaching their potential–so they don’t want you to reach yours. (tweet that)

An easy example is this: I’ve had a few friends unfollow me on social media. You know that feeling you get? It’s awkward. A critic will be furious and take it personally; a friend will think differently. My friends who unfollowed me are not mad or angry; they are making a choice in their lives that will better themselves. Maybe they’re trying to remove distraction and are only following the most important people. A friend will always give the benefit of the doubt, but a critic will always be running towards the fire with a can of gasoline. (tweet that)

What To Do With A Critic 

If you follow the path of essentialism, you will chose to live a more focused life. You will realize you can’t do it all or be there for everyone all the time. You may have to unfollow people on social media, say no to folks who want to meet with you, or choose not to collaborate or partner with those who you previously did. It’s hard to uproot what you’ve always done to choose a new path with less noise but greater impact. (tweet that)

The critics will do everything they can to help you go back to your old self, to embrace your old habits. But, you can’t give in, and with tact, grace and love, you have to learn how to deal with critics.

1) Be clear on the WHY. Do your best, either in personal social media or over a digital platform, to humbly communicate WHY you are making these decisions. Let the people around you know what you’re doing so they have an opportunity to embrace it.

2) IGNORE the critics who cannot deal with your new life. You can’t please them, change them, or argue with them. If you communicate your why, and they do not accept it…just forget it. Trust me; it will only be a matter of time until they begin to ignore what has become the “new you.”

Critics make the world worse. They don’t like this, and they will do what they can to make sure you follow their negative pathways. But, your calling in life–your dream–is too important to allow the critic to hold you back from becoming the best possible leader and person that you can become. (tweet that) You owe it to yourself to ignore them, to move on with your life. It will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

Essentialism: Making Decisions That Create Momentum

In Do It Well by Chris MarlowLeave a Comment

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I’m doing a five-part series for nonprofit/social good leaders (but the principles apply to anyone), based on the book Essentialism. Catch up with Part 1 and Part 2

Leaders make decisions.

It is hard, weighty work. Decisions can stop momentum dead in its tracks, or they can create momentum and push the vision forward.

Decision making is a daily grind. It can wear on your soul if you are forced to make too many decisions and yet, they are powerful forces that help build a positive culture and create the impact you dream about. 

So, how do we make decisions that create momentum for our organizations? Follow these three steps and I promise you will see great results. 

1) Focus On Less 

Decisions seems to come in three forms: good, bad, and ugly. If you want to succeed, you have to make good decisions over and over. (tweet that) Occasionally you will make a few bad decisions; that’s okay. It’s the nature of the beast. If you make an ugly decision, it can literally destroy the vision and cause tragic results or longterm pain. Often, ugly decisions are made when we burn out or have too much on our plate. 

A few years ago, I realized I had made a decision that was costing my organization dearly. I needed to make a swift decision to fix the issue. It was painful. But, if I waited longer, my bad decision might have become an ugly decision. 

This is why Essentialism is so vital. You cannot be too busy, too distracted, too stretched–especially with the most important decisions. If you don’t have the proper time, energy, and capacity, you can really cause damage to your organization. This is why great leaders understand that less = more. (tweet that) You have to trust the process, believe in your vision, have a clear line of sight, and work it over and over. And when the most crucial moments come around, you will have the ability to make good decisions that create powerful momentum. 

2) Less Equals More (Efficiency) 

You might know of (or be) “that”person. You know … running around in chaos mode, always trying to put out fires, or close deals, or raise money, or manage the madness, or reply to texts and emails. Every day you feel like you’re in the Hunger Games–just trying to survive until tomorrow. I used to be that person; now, I’m not. I’ve come to realize that I’m a much better leader when I’m making more important–but fewer–decisions. Often, we don’t have a framework or a philosophy to make decisions. 

We ask:
Should I meet with this person?
Should I speak at that event?
Should I take that trip?
Should I hire that person?
Should I invest in that technology?

Now that I have clarity, it’s much easier to think through each question and make the proper decision. This also means Help One Now can be a much more efficient organization. We’re focused on executing our strategic plan, not wasting unnecessary time and resources on activities that don’t matter. (tweet that)

3) Less Decisions Create More Energy To Do Better Work

If you can do work that matters everyday, your life will be a gift to the world. Imagine if each day, every team member in your organization was only doing the most important work. The possibilities are endless. The way to do good work is to be able to focus on fewer activities so you can produce the best possible results.

Less decisions will give you more mental and physical energy, which is vital if you want to produce good work over and over. Producing good work, over and over, is what drives an essentialist to dismantle the yes bomb, to focus on fewer details that drive greater results. When you clear your mind, you gain greater clarity–you think deeper and more strategically.

This is why my heart is so broken for nonprofit leaders. We have tremendous passion, we will sacrifice, but often, we lead our organizations into the ground, because we can’t figure out what to focus on. Scarcity drives our activities, not vision and strategy. Little by little, we run out of gas and we exhaust the people around us. 

If we focus more, we can create powerful outcomes, be able to lead efficient organizations, and have more energy to do better work each day. Of course, the goal is growth and margin; imagine having more cash to run the organization to do good and more margin to do work that matters. That is every leader’s dream, and if your organization creates discipline, you can achieve those goals as well!

Essentialism: Dismantling The Yes Bomb

In Do It Well by Chris Marlow1 Comment


I’m doing a five-part series for nonprofit/social good leaders (but the principles apply to anyone), based on the book Essentialism. Catch up with Part 1 here.

Are you tired of being tired? In last week’s newsletter, I shared a story about burnout, about how I almost went over the edge and crashed. A trip to the beach saved my soul.

As I look back to that moment, I realize why my life almost exploded. All the ingredients were in place and the timer was ticking. I had said “Yes” to too many things, saying “No” to healthy rhythms, pace, and outcomes in the process. I had yet to learn how to dismantle the yes bomb.

We are finite humans, and we have certain realities to live by. Eating well, sleeping well, exercising, playing and resting are essential to seeing our visions become real. Because of my lack of wisdom, my life had almost collapsed; the impact would have been a disaster. I allowed my passion to empower our leaders, care for our kids, and see our communities transformed to outrun all of my realities.

How To Change

I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of starting an organization; that is not fair. When I launched Help One Now, I knew I had to fight to survive; I had to hustle to create momentum and sustain the organization. My normal rhythm of work was to usually start around 6 or 7AM and go until 5:30pm. If I did not have an event or meeting, I would be present with my family until the kids went to bed, and then I would work a few more hours.

As Help One Now grew, we were able to hire more staff and do more good for the world. But guess what? Even though we were succeeding, we could not slow down. Instead, trying to keep up with the progress — we sped up! It was awesome, exhausting, and confusing.

I began to break. I could not sleep; I was on a treadmill and I could not get off. My body was telling me I needed to slow down, but that’s hard to do once you finally have momentum. Looking back, I realized that I said yes to too many average opportunities. They kept me busy, but they did not create the necessary impact to build an organization with a healthy culture. If I was going to get off the treadmill, I had to create a disciplined strategy; otherwise, I could destroy everything I was trying to build.

Guess what? You may also need to dismantle the yes bomb. If you don’t, you could pay a hefty price; there is a good chance that your dream will head to the graveyard.

So, how do we do this?

Healthy Souls

Great leaders understand that great organizations must have a foundation to survive the ups and downs of the market. Often, we think the foundation is cash-flow, or adding more team members, or creating better systems. These things are very, very good. But, they are not the foundation. Your soul–and the souls of your team members–are the foundation for success. (Tweet that) Human capital is our number one asset. When we destroy our souls, we erode the culture of the organization and begin a downward spiral.

I knew I had to focus on making sure my soul was healthy. That meant I had to take more time to:
• Connect with God.
• Sleep. I went from 4-6 hours to 7 hours a night.
• Rest and allow my mind and body to recover from the intensity of starting an organization.
• Spend time with family and friends.
• Play and enjoy all the little moments of life.

If my soul was not healthy, the organization that I was leading would not be healthy. If you want to dig deeper into this subject, I would recommend John Ortberb’s excellent book Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You.


I’m writing this post from my favorite coffee shop in Raleigh. It’s 7:30am. I’ve been here for roughly 15 minutes and I’ve heard the phrase “I’m crazy busy” at least 3 or 4 times. The rush is on; the treadmill is moving forward. We are a people who are always reaching into the future, trying to process what is NEXT on the calendar. If the calendar is empty, we feel less valuable.

Something is broken. Our identity is tied to success or failure. Why are we so scared to slow down? Have we forgotten that greatness is forged in decades of hard work? According to Jim Collins, Level 5 leaders build companies that are have “enduring greatness.” It’s okay to slow down and find a pace that will help you accomplish your longtime goals. (Tweet that) Great leaders who don’t want their organization to go to the graveyard learn how to dismantle the yes bomb, because if they don’t, they know that their pace will suffer–meaning they will be less effective in the long-run.

I no longer take pride in how busy I am; I now take pride in how effective I am. (Tweet that) No doubt, I have seasons of life that are really busy. But those seasons must have gaps where I can slow down, re-center my life, and make sure I’m focused on doing the most important work, doing that work well, and making sure my soul is healthy.

An Extremely Clear Vision

Leaders who lack a clear vision will be the most susceptible to the chronic yes bomb, because they haven’t established boundaries to guide them away from things that they should say “No” to.

For years, I did anything possible to create momentum. I wish I would have been more focused, believed in the concept that less is more, less is better. Even in the beginning days, I could have created a much greater impact if I had learned how to dismantle the yes bomb.  But, as your organization grows, you must constantly, radically prioritize what you say yes to and how you spend your time. You have to master the art of saying yes and deal with people who are upset when you say no (more on this in a future post). No bones about it–this is how you steward the call on your life well. This is what separates bad, good, and great leaders. Time can be your ally or your enemy. The good news? You get to choose.

What is your vision? What are the top three things you need to do in order to take the next big step to see your vision become real?  Spend 80% of your time on those three key activities and you will see amazing results. This is the heart of an essentialist. Learn to despise busy work, meetings that don’t matter, emails that never end, and distractions that cause us to create work that is less than the best.

Go Backwards To Go Forward

Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward. You must stop and consider how you can become a better leader by demanding from yourself something far more than you would have ever imagined. When you dismantle the yes bomb, you take the next step to becoming an effective leader. It’s hard; it takes discipline. People might be angry with you for turning down their requests, but what they don’t realize is that you’re focusing on doing work that matters in order to the impact that you desire.

Say “Yes” to the best and “No” to all distractions.