Interesting analogies

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SWOT analysis and the Confession

What is SWOT analysis? For those who don’t know, the explanations below will clarify things, and for those who know, the explanations will be a reminder of the achieved knowledge. SWOT analysis represents one of the most important management tools used in “X-raying” a commercial society or an organization and it consists in realizing an internal analysis, in order to see the strengths and the weaknesses, followed by an external analysis, that focuses on the most relevant opportunities and risks of the studied society or organization.

SWOT represents the acronym for the words “Strengths”, “Weaknesses”, “Opportunities” and “Threats”. The first two regard the company and they reflect its situation, and the next two refer to the external environment and reflect its impact on the activity of the company.

(S) The strengths of the company are distinctive characteristics it possesses at a superior level, compared to other companies, meaning activities that the firm realizes better than its competitors or resources that it has and that are better than those of other companies. The strengths of a society can be: superior products (qualitatively speaking) that it possesses, prices that would ensure a decent income, powerful systems of promoting its own image and others.

(W) The weaknesses of the company are those characteristics that determine lower performances than those of its competitors. They represent activities that the company doesn’t achieve at the level of other companies or resources that it needs but doesn’t possess them. These kinds of weak points can be given by the insufficiently trained staff or the poor technical equipment of the company.

(O) Opportunities represent external positive factors for the company, or chances given to the company, in order to establish a new strategy or to reconsider the existent strategy with the purpose of profitably exploiting the opportunities that appear. For example, an opportunity can be a new market that the society hasn’t entered yet and the request for the commercialized products appears to be quite big after prospecting the market.

(T) Threats are external negative factors for the company, or situations or events that can disadvantage the capacity of the firm to fully accomplish the established objectives, determining the decrease of its economic and financial performances. A threat can be, for example, the instable legislative conditions, an aggressive fiscal politic of the state or other external factors.

Now, knowing what SWOT analysis means, we can ask the question that we have from the beginning of the subject: what is the connection between SWOT analysis and the Confession, which would give us a real benefit?

It really exists, but, because most of the times we don’t try to enter the deepness of the Confession, we lose the bigger perspective of things. The Confession, the renewal and the sanctification of the human being, comprises all the benefits of SWOT analysis, but in a spiritual plan, of course. Most of the times, when we perform a self-evaluation before going to confess, we only accentuate the weaknesses and the threats, neglecting almost completely the self-evaluation of the strengths and the value of the opportunities. All the sins that we make and all the sufferance represent our weaknesses (W) and the temptations that we confront daily are actually the threats (T) to the possibility of saving our souls. With these two coordinates in our mind we go to the priest, we confess, we repent for our inabilities and we leave relieved that we got the forgiveness for our sins.

However, not after a long time from the confession, we begin to give in, step by step, to the same sins, until we get to the same frequency of committing them, thus without bringing an improvement to our sinful being. That is why, in time, we begin to repeat the confession in a routine and without the hope of making spiritual progresses and being the same humans caught in our inabilities. Why do all these happen? Why we seem to be in the same spot? Because we only do a half-job. We accentuate only the weaknesses and temptations and never on our strengths and the surrounding opportunities. It happens to be on the same spot because we don’t have perspectives and future plans regarding our spiritual live. We don’t establish a goal (a target) to reach together with God. We don’t establish a plan to escape a sufferance or to develop a virtue.

And we don’t do these things because we don’t do a complete self-evaluation and we don’t value our good points, our virtues. It is important to find out what real virtues we have and we can do this only without being tempted to over-evaluate ourselves in a demonic pride. And if we know what virtues we have, then with humility and a just judgment we will be able to multiply them in order to develop even more our love to God and the others near us.

Whoever knows that is merciful with the poor should increase the mercifulness, who is patient with the defects of the other should increase the patience, who is gentle in speaking should comfort and give hope to those hopeless in order to increase his/her gentleness. Any virtue (strength) that we have, we shouldn’t let it to dry and be lost, but to enlarge it even more so that after that our heart would enlarge too and comprise more virtues that will complete our love.

Then, it should be known that we don’t have perspectives in our spiritual life because we don’t analyze the opportunity to spiritually enrich ourselves. We look at almost everything in terms of “weaknesses” and “threats”, without looking also in terms of “strengths” and “opportunities”. But if we analyze better the social, psychological and economical environment that we live in, we will realize that we have a multitude of opportunities to clean our souls and to be spiritually fruitful. A parent, a spouse or a brother with whom I don’t get along christianly represents an opportunity to learn to be forgiving and loving. A stressful job, with a tense working atmosphere, is an opportunity to learn gentleness and patience. A hard material situation is an opportunity to increase my faith and hope in God’s help. All these opportunities are our daily chance to be merciful as the widow in the Gospel and strong in faith as the Canaan woman. All these opportunities and strengths help us to improve spiritually, to not stagnate, to get closer to God and to our brothers’ hearts, but for this we first need to be aware of them and then to put them into practice, supported by God and our priest’s guidance.

The spiritual “management” that we receive from our priest during the confession is essential for not having a “bankrupted” soul. There are many that thought they can travel through this life without advice and spiritual guidance, but later they entered with their souls in debts (the sufferance after the sin) making then the biggest mistake: to take the balance of the soul from minus to plus, from sufferance to accomplishment, sealing the deal with soul collectors, meaning the devils, losing then even what they thought they still have. This is why we have to always have a plan and a future perspective for saving our souls, as God left it in this world.

Therefore, the confession in front of our priest is not only accentuating the factors of sufferance and temptation, but also accentuating the increasing of the existent virtues and valuing the opportunities to grow spiritually, having as a permanent milestone overcoming the old person in us. The Confession, just like SWOT analysis in economics, is a complete X-ray of the existent situation, meant to show in the light of the conscience the real state of the soul, in order to know what we have to correct and develop until the accomplishment.

We should be more often aware that the Mysteries of the Church comprise all the mysteries of this world, whether we encounter them in economics, psychology, mathematics, arts or in other sciences, and not only this, but much more. Because the Mysteries of the Church are not only for this world, but they are a bridge between the earth that we temporarily live on and the heaven in which we want to live forever.

(Razvan)

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God’s grace and the electrical current

Ever since I’m going to Church, I often hear that God is in us, or that He is our life. Long time I did not understand what does this mean. Our Savior explains us in His Gospel:

 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing ”   (John 15, 5)

 St. Paul reinforces this truth by saying: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.”  (Philippians 2, 13)

What seems hard to understand is how Christ may live in me, how can God be in my body and soul? Here’s how St. Paul explains this: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. (Galatians 2, 20) The Scripture says it very clear: God is within us and without Him we cannot do anything.

St. Gregory Palama said we carry in our soul Gods uncreated energies, and that these energies cannot be separated from Him; therefore God is there, where the energies that come from Him are. The Orthodox Dogmatic Theology tells us the same thing: God is in us and we do everything through Him.
In theory I understand this, but practically, much too little.

Let’s think about how electricity works! Today in the super-tech society we live in, everything needs electricity. Big cities consume huge amounts of energy. Factories, offices, shops, stores and our homes are all built to be able to make use of electric power. Today we drink bottled water, produced with the help of electricity, just like food, the heat in our homes, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the hospitals; everything is produced by industrial machines powered by electricity.

Think about it: Any electrical device has everything it needs to operate, all the physical components are present; it’s not missing any parts, everything is in its place, yet without being connected to a power source, it does not work. But when electrical current passes through the device, then, suddenly, it starts working. Something not visible to the human eye must bring the “visible” parts in this device to move.

An external energy is required in order for any electrical device to function properly. Even though it’s the same electrical current, which passes through all kinds of devices, the effects are quite different: when passing through a light bulb, it creates electricity, when passing through a monitor, it displays an image, when passing through an electric heater, it provides heat, when passing through an electric car, it sets the car in motion, etc. It’s the same power, but with totally different results.

Electricity is converted into heat, light, motion, etc. Each electrical device gives the electric current, by the way it was built, a new form. The device absorbs the energy and transforms it into a specific and unique result.

God’s grace works in a similar way in us. We have all the organs to be able to live, we are not lacking anything, but still, a man without his spirit (his soul), when he dies, he is “disconnected” from the power source and stops “functioning”.

We all receive the same grace from God, we all receive the same energy, but the result of our actions is unique, is different from man to man. Each of us is different and, through God’s grace, shows his love differently, lives differently.

God is in us and works within us, not without our will, not automatically but just like electricity that passes through a device. The result depends only on the characteristics of the device and how it handles that current.

God is in us through His grace and gives us life, but the result of our actions depends only on our will, on how we live our life, on the way we co-operate with His grace.

Whether we realize it or not, God is in us, He is our life.

The devices that function with electricity are called electrical devices; they were built to use this kind of energy and only by using it, they will achieve the purpose for which they were created.

The same goes for us, we were created in the image and likeness of God, because we live only by His grace and only through Him we will fulfill the purpose for which we were created: deification.

(Claudiu)

Icons and advertising banners

You all noticed that, in every store that you enter, you see on the walls all kinds of posters, paintings, banners, one prettier than the other, more colorful, more vivid, all having as purpose to send a message, to change an opinion, to promote a brand. Besides, the banners in the hypermarkets, in the salons, in shopping malls or in different stores, we see them also at the TV, on the streets or in the newspapers. Their aim is to create in us the idea of familiarity, to enter in our consciousness as a brand that actually belongs to the entire community. The commercial that we see for “Dodo” pate that we see on TV every night makes us believe, or have the feeling, that a lot of people eat “Dodo” pate and that it is a good product.

The finality in promoting a product is that the brand of the product will find a place in your mind. Thus, when you first get to the supermarket and see 10 types of pate from 10 brands, among them you will discover amazed the “Dodo” pate, that you think you heard of, and you will think it is better than the others and you will buy it. The advertisement fulfilled its duty.

Advertising images are meant to enter the consciousness of the community, to make a certain product familiar to everybody, even if the product has a low quality or if it is expensive or less necessary.

The same is in churches, there are icons everywhere, paintings of Saints, with their lives, with Jesus Christ’s activity when He was on Earth, with the miracles, with His life, His death and His resurrection. Icons do the same thing, they promote in people’s consciousness the heaven, the relationship with God and the Saints, the kingdom of God, hell, good, evil etc.

Exactly how the images with those pretty girls from the posters hanging in the salons have as aim to induce to the girls and women the idea that they can look as good as the models on the walls, so the saints’ faces in icons, on the walls of the churches have as aim to make us want the eternal life and the joy that we cannot even imagine.

The problem is that icons have a great disadvantage: they are not advertised in the society. We don’t see icons on TV, we don’t see icons in big banners on buildings or in supermarkets, we don’t see icons in magazines etc. This being considered, think of what would have happened if the “Dodo” pate had been advertised only in the supermarket and not also on TV or in the media: it would have remained anonymous, “Dodo” wouldn’t have been as interesting and the consumer wouldn’t have been attracted to buy it.

The same is with icons, they are publicized only in church and rarely in museums and nowhere else. This is why the lack of interest towards the Church and God is very big. The image of the church inside doesn’t have an echo in society anymore.

How would it be if tomorrow appeared in the media advertisements like: “Would you like to be as Saint John Chrysostom, would you like to be as one of the greatest orators of the world? Then sign up at the History, Theology and Philosophy Faculty at Bucharest University…” and in the clip would appear icons with St. John, paintings from churches with his life, his icon among the 2 other great theologians of the world and so on. If that happened, then those who watch TV could immediately connect with what they saw in the church, they would understand that church is not just a non-profit organization, where everybody comes and volunteers, but they would see the Church as a great family of the world, and all of us as God’s children.

We Christians should be the advertising clips that promote the Church and the love that God gives to people, we should be the “walking” banners, showing God’s existence from our actions.

More aggressive advertising images invade our brain and consciousness and they eliminate, step by step, the image of the Saints, God’s and Virgin Mary’s face from our heads. That’s why a lot of people say that the Church is outdated, that it doesn’t adapt to the society. The Church is not promoted in the society, the Church does not have a place in the consciousness of today’s modern society. And modern doesn’t necessarily mean good, but just de-sanctified, lacking the sacred character, only physical, without soul.

I remembered that walking on the corridors of the Paris metro I saw a poster that promoted an exhibition of Byzantine icons at a certain museum. That poster was everywhere, I saw it several times, it had on it the face of an angel, I think Archangel Gabriel. Every time that I saw the ad I had a great joy, I was calming and I actually started praying immediately after seeing it.

If icons would be promoted in the same way as products or services then churches would be too small for the people. The Orthodox Church doesn’t advertise, doesn’t look for adepts, but waits as a kind and patient mother for her children in order to show them the love and affection of the Father. But just like Cristi Chivu* is the image for Bergenbier, Razvan Lucescu* for Audi, Gheorghe Hagi* for Mercedes and Andreea Marin* for UNICEF, the same we are the image of the Church everyday, through all that we do, in front of everyone.

(Claudiu)

*Note: they are famous people in Romania, advertising for big brands.

The eagle and the rooster

An eagle was flying in the hight and he was delighted with the beauty of the world, so he was thinking to himself : „ I’m passing by vast distances: over the mountains and valleys, sees and rivers, over the fields and forests; I see many wild beasts and birds; I see towns and villages and how people live.

But the country rooster doesn’t know anything of all this except the people and the animals from the farm. I will fly to him and tell him about life. And the eagle made a halt on the roof of the farm and he saw how happily and haughtily was the rooster walking between his hens and he thought: „ That means the rooster is contented with his fate, nevertheless I will tell him all I know.”

And the eagle started to tell about all the beauty and wonders of the world. Firstly, the rooster listened carefully to him, but he didn’t understand anything. Because of this, the eagle grew sad and it was hard for him to continue to speak. On his turn, the rooster got bored and it was hard for him to listen to. So, both remained contented with his own fate. Such things happen when a cultivated man speakes with an unlearnd one, even more when a spiritual man speaks with an irreligious one. The first resembles with an eagle and the last with a rooster. Continue reading

The puzzled hairdresser

A christian entered in a hairdressing to cut his hair and his beard. While the barber was serving the customer, between them starded an interesting conversation.They talked about many things and discussed various subjects. Finally, they began to speak about God. On this topic, the barber said:

  • I believe that God does not exist.
  • Why do you say that? asked the customer .
  • Just get outside and you will realize that God does not exist. Tell me, if God existed, would be there so many sick people? Would be there so many abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can not imagine a loving God who allows to happen this.

The customer thought for a moment, but he didn’t answer because he didn’t want to start a quarrel. The barber finished his job and the customer left the barber’s shop. When he left the barber shop, our Christian saw a man on the street with big, sloppy hair with a tangled, dirty beard. He was dingy and poky.

The client returned to the hairdressing and said to the barber:

  • You know what? Barbers does not exist.
  • How can you say that? asked the barber very surprised. Here I am, I am a hairdresser and I have just trimmed you up.
  • No! exclaimed the customer. Barbers do not exist. If they existed, there would not be men with dirty, long hair and with uncut beard, like the man outside the window.
  • Oh! But barbers exist! That happens when people do not come to me.
  • Exactly! said the client. That’s it! And God exists! But the troubles and suffering happen when people do not come to Him and seek Him for help. That’s why is so much suffering and pain in the world.