Personal Vs. Private

Myths, Misconceptions, Misnomers and Mistakes

There are people who have mastered the art of using the wrong word. To some, this may be a mute point. (How’s that for an example?) While a wrong word here and there may seem harmless and unimportant, it has consequences. The words “personal” and “private” come to mind.

“I don’t like to share my personal life… it wouldn’t be personal if I shared it.” — George Clooney

Sorry George. One’s thoughts, words, and actions are always personal, whether or not they remain private. The concept of “personal” denotes the characteristic of ownership. People may feel violated when their privacy is breached, but they have not forfeited their lives regardless of whether or not they remain private.

“If there’s anything unsettling to the stomach, it’s watching actors on television talk about their personal lives.” — Marlon Brando

Again, we see confusion. Is Brando implying that everything personal should be private? Certainly not his career, which is personal and necessarily very public.

With this new perspective in mind, read and enjoy the following quotes.  Then reread them replacing the word “personal” with “private” and see if the meaning of the following quotations is changed, masked or distorted.

“A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.” — Winston Churchill

“All personal achievement starts in the mind of the individual. Your personal achievement starts in your mind. The first step is to know exactly what your problem, goal or desire is.” — W. Clement Stone

“Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask why me? Then a voice answers nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.” — Charles M. Schulz

“Success is the progressive realization of predetermined, worthwhile, personal goals.” — Paul J. Meyer

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility in the realm of faith and morals.” — Albert Schweitzer

“I dare not exercise personal liberty if it infringes on the liberty of others.” — Billy Sunday

“And obviously, from our own personal point of view, the principal challenge is a personal challenge.” — Richard Branson

“There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home.” — John Stuart Mill

The following quotation would seem to indicate that the late Jim Morrison recognized the difference between the two words:

“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.” — Jim Morrison

“Personal” and “private” have been used interchangeably for so long that we can usually understand the intended meaning from the context. However, the larger point is that “words mean things.” Using the right words is foundational to effective communication. Improving communication skills begins by adopting a belief that this is important. So, let’s explore the consequences of confusing a set of words? In most cases, it might be a minor and forgivable error. In others, it has noteworthy consequences.

Imprecise communication is a distraction. While someone is sorting through sloppy words and phrases, he can miss the important points or important ideas of a conversation.

Imprecise communication projects an image of ignorance. We judge people’s character by their words. Since we can’t get inside their minds to assess their thoughts and intentions, we are left with their words and deeds. When their words are confused and imprecise, we have even less to go on.

Imprecise communication can cause conflict. Using the wrong word can escalate the emotions present during a conversation and cause communication to break down.  Radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh claims he was misquoted when he said, “I am an expert on my own opinion.” Well, isn’t everyone an expert about their own opinions?  The conflict occurred when the reporter allegedly replaced the word “on” with “in” and changed the entire meaning of the quotation.

Imprecise communication distorts the language. One of the challenges we face is recognizing and applying context. Many, if not most English words have multiple meanings which we interpret from the context of the conversation. This can be challenging enough without unnecessarily adding to the confusion of poor word choices.

Just within my lifetime, I have seen a change in what is private. Consider how the WWI generation talked about pregnancy. “In a family way” and “with child” were common expressions describing pregnancy. Compare that with the language of today’s women, who frequently share in a very graphic way, in mixed company, the intimate details of their labor and delivery. Childbirth is always personal.  But to some, it’s not very private.

Religious beliefs fall into the category of personal. But, are they private? Some would say, “yes” and others “no.” In the case of Christianity, what does the Bible say?

“Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” — Bible, Psalm 96:2

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” — Bible, Matthew 28:19

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” — Bible, Mark 8:38

Apparently, Christian beliefs are not intended to remain private.

Some may consider these thoughts about personal and private as a peevish, nit-picking rant and an utter waste of time. I accept and acknowledge that personal opinion, while suggesting that it also remain private.

Daily Quotes 8/29

Some of the quotes I’ve selected recently have been quite long.  Length was not the objective. The message simply resonated with me. To make it up to those who like pithy phrases, this post is for you. Each phrase is meaningful and short ( ten words or less thanks in part to contractions and hyphenated words) making it highly quotable.   Try memorizing one or two of these. Then, see what happens when you cleverly slip one into your conversation, especially if it’s one of the Latin phrases.   😉

“Semper fidelis” — U.S. Marine Corp motto meaning “Always Faithful”

“Be prepared.” — Boy Scouts motto

“Jesus wept.” — Bible, John 11:35, shortest verse in the Bible

“Inches make champions.”
–- Vince Lombardi

“Underpromise and overachieve.” -– Tom Peters

“Never give up.” — Winston Churchill

“Action conquers fear.” — Pete Zarlenga

“Facta, non verba” — Deeds, not words

“Fear clogs; faith liberates.”
— Elbert Hubbard

“Facts are stubborn things.” — Ronald Reagan

“Lead from the front.” — Audie Murphy

“Gloria in excelsis Deo” — Phrase in Christian hymn meaning “Glory to God in the Highest”

“What gets measured gets done.”
-– Peter Drucker

“Your attitude determines your altitude!” –- Denis Waitley

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” — Milton Berle

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
— Colin Powell

“Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.” — Kahlil Gibran

“For fast-acting relief try slowing down.” — Lily Tomlin

“You may delay, but time will not.”
— Benjamin Franklin

“Do something wonderful; people may imitate it.” — Albert Schweitzer

“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.” — George Carlin

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
— Victor Borge

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” — John F. Kennedy

“On the one hand, we’ll never experience childbirth.” — Bruce Willis (On the difference between men and women)

“On the other hand, you have different fingers.” — Steven Wright

“‘No’ puts distance between you and the wrong influence.”
— Jim Rohn

“Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death.” — Ayn Rand

“There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress.” — Mark Twain

“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.”
— Charles F. Kettering

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped.” — Groucho Marx

God bless,

— CC

Service With a Soul

The ABC’s of Professionalism

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

— Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), English author, poet.

What is Service?

The types of service typical of a professional include basic kindness and courtesy, just simple acts that make people smile.  Beyond these, service also includes the sharing of valuables such as: money, goods, time, energy, attention, knowledge, wisdom and creativity.  In keeping with the theme of professionalism, it would be convenient to refer to service as “professional service.”  However, this pair of words has already been applied to favors that are transactional in nature.  You’ll see what I mean shortly.  The special type of service I wish to define for professionalism is one which comes from deep within the heart.  To eliminate any further confusion between this and “professional service,” let’s call it “service with a soul.”

“Service… Giving what you don’t have to give. Giving when you don’t need to give. Giving because you want to give.” — Damien Hess

“After the verb ‘To Love’ … ‘To Help’ is the most beautiful verb in the world.” — Bertha Von Suttner

Service with a soul presupposes two concepts known as responsibility and discernment.  Sharing with people what they need can differ significantly from irresponsibly giving them what they desire.  Giving a drink to a drunk comes to mind as an example of the latter.

“Philanthropic humility is necessary if a giver is to do more good than harm, but it is not sufficient – philanthropic prudence is also needed.” — Marvin Olasky

Who Shall Serve?  Whom Shall They Serve?

For purposes of efficiency, it is appropriate to dispense with the first question by simply answering, “Anyone who can must.”  Likewise, the second question could be answered, “Anyone who is in need.” But, this begs the question.  The following passage from the Good Book offers a deeper understanding of serving, one that explains the “who” and “whom” in service with a soul.

Jesus said, “‘… for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

— Bible, Matthew 25:35-40

The results of serving reach beyond the front-line participants.  From this Bible passage one can imagine a ripple effect that touches many others on its way back to God.  Imagine the far-reaching impact each of us has when we practice service with a soul.

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” — Flora Edwards

There are circumstances demanding that one be the server and different situations where it is necessary or appropriate for that same person to be served.  Professionalism applies to both.

“The simplest and shortest ethical precept is to be served by others as little as possible, and to serve others as much as possible.” — Leo Tolstoy

Anyone who can serve, must serve. Always serve with grace and be served with gratitude.

“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace; a soul generated by love.” — Martin Luther King, Jr

“Learn and grow all you can; serve and befriend all you can; enrich and inspire all you can.” — William Arthur Ward


“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

When Should We Serve?

Service with a soul is intended to be a lifelong endeavor, an everyday deal, and the appropriate response to needs whenever they appear.  It’s disheartening to hear an adult say, “I’ve paid my dues, let someone else take over.”  Other reasons for not serving are just as selfish and not befitting of a professional.

“Faithful servants never retire. You can retire from your career, but you will never retire from serving God.” — Rick Warren

“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us daily.” — Sally Koch

“How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?” — Vincent Van Gogh

Where Should We Serve?

It doesn’t take much thought to realize that the Dr. Seuss story “Green Eggs and Ham” is about the value of trying new things and how it leads to discovery and personal growth.  Discovering service with a soul could be your green eggs and ham.

I like to serve my fellow man!
I do! I like him, Sam-I-am!
And I would serve him in a boat.
And I would serve him on a goat…

And I will serve him in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a plane.
And in a car. And in a tree.
That would be good, so good, you see!

So I will serve him in the jail.
And I will serve him on a trail.
And I will serve him at a show.
And I will serve him in the snow.
And I will serve him here and there.
Say! I will serve him ANYWHERE!

— Clancy Cross, with sincere apologies to the late Dr. Seuss (i.e. Theodor Geisel).

Service with a soul has no geographical limitations.

Why Should We Serve?

To a professional, “why” and “how” are the most important aspects of serving because they are the purpose and methods behind who, what, when and where.  Service with a soul is not just an action.  First and foremost it is about the attitude behind the action.  Service with a soul is not only noble, it’s healthy and emotionally fulfilling.

“We shall serve for the joy of serving, prosperity shall flow to us and through us in unending streams of plenty.” — Charles Fillmore

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” — Albert Schweitzer

Serving helps create order, which is the rationality behind our duty to serve.  But at its core, serving is both emotional and spiritual, especially service with a soul.

“The only way you can serve God is by serving other people.” — Rick Warren

“Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” — Bible, Matthew 20:26-28

How Should We Serve?

Serving in a way that reflects our “why” has a couple of important trademarks.  Consider “favor,” which is another name for service.  If given with “strings attached,” favors resemble transactions more than services.  Whether or not a favor is returned, if the giver harbors any expectations, the favor becomes a transaction.  Business services as well as business favors are transactions.

“You can’t have a perfect day without doing something for someone who’ll never be able to repay you.” — John Wooden

Another type of service transaction is performing an act expecting praise for the act.  Like the previous example, whether or not the praise is forthcoming, the expectation of it makes it a transaction.

“He who confers a favor should at once forget it, if he is not to show a sordid ungenerous spirit. To remind a man of a kindness conferred and to talk of it, is little different from reproach.” — Demosthenes (384 BC – 322 BC)

Expecting third-party recognition for a good deed is also transactional in nature.  The way to keep the service from becoming so requires the act to be performed in secret. Work behind the scenes – don’t talk about what you did.  If the secret is inadvertently discovered, the professional will graciously accept the unexpected compliments or awards and humbly share the credit.

“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” — Bible, Matthew 6:3-4

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” — Bible, Matthew 6:5

There is no intent to demean transactional services nor is there any implication that such services are not based on noble intentions.  Simply that its reward is built into the transaction whereas the reward for service with a soul is nothing more than the good feeling that comes from doing the right thing.  Serving from the heart makes it easy to serve generously and with a smile.

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” — Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

“The fragrance always remains on the hand that gives the rose.” — Gandhi

On the receiving side of service, a professional expresses gratitude with words and deeds in such a way that it does not imply an “I owe you” mentality.  That would disrespect the giver and cheapen the favor.  Keeping a mental “favors balance sheet” (tit for tat) is a transactional mindset.  Simply remember and do something nice out of love and respect for the person.  There’s an even better option sometimes called “paying it forward.”

“If you can’t return a favor, pass it on” — Louise Brown

By now it must be obvious that service with a soul is extremely personal.  Still, consider the need to delegate certain matters while guarding against making this a cop-out.  Delegation can easily turn into abdication.   As previously noted, Truman called it “passing the buck.” Professionals keep it personal.

“Serving God is doing good to man, but praying is thought an easier service and therefore more generally chosen.” — Benjamin Franklin

Start with prayer, remembering that YOU may be God’s answer to someone else’s prayer.  If so, don’t hesitate.

“From now on, any definition of a successful life must include serving others.” — George H.W. Bush, 41st U.S. President.

God bless,

— CC

[ R=Responsibility | Index | T=Teach ]

© Copyright December 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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