Hanging Out With the Wrong Crowd

When I was a kid, my mother used to warn me about “hanging out with the wrong crowd” (isn’t that a universal mother-ism?). She needn’t have worried – the “wrong crowd” wouldn’t have anything to do with a geek like me. But her point – that we are influenced for good or for ill by those around us – was still valid.

When he first ran for President in 2000, I thought George W. Bush was a good man with good intentions. Eight years later, I still think he’s a good person. But he surrounded himself with a bunch of folks who were most definitely not good people: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, etc. And because it’s not his nature to question his own beliefs, when they told him what he wanted to hear he took that as confirmation and ignored anyone who told him differently (i.e. – Colin Powell). The results speak for themselves.

There are two lessons in this story. The first is that I’m anxious to see who Barack Obama selects for his cabinet and advisors. Like Bush, Obama is a good person… though he is far smarter and wiser. What I don’t know yet is whether he’s smart enough and wise enough to surround himself with people who are also good, smart and wise. And I don’t know if he’ll listen to people who tell him things he needs to know but doesn’t want to hear.

The second lesson is that all of us have our own advisors: friends, family, ministers, mentors… Do we surround ourselves with good people? Do we listen to them when they tell us something we find challenging or uncomfortable?

Or do we do like George W. Bush and only listen to people who tell us what we want to hear???

My hope and my prayer is that my friends – particularly those who share my spiritual path – will give me the feedback I need, both positive and negative.

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