Lady Gaga & Oprah

So, I just watched a recent interview Oprah did with Lady Gaga on her new series Oprah’s Next Chapter.  I feel an urgent need to respond in some way and this blog was my first thought.  In the interview, Oprah, in typical fashion, is trying to get to the “real” Gaga and understand who she is and what she wants in life.  The truth is, Lady Gaga is as she appears; creative, strange, bizarre, famous, wealthy, and disturbed.  I am not a Lady Gaga fan for the simple fact that she is too vulgar for me.  However, I can respect her hard work and genuine talent and I do enjoy listening to a song or two.  However, my personal opinion of Lady Gaga is not important to this post.

What is important is what she, and Oprah, had to say about her new foundation, Born that Way.  The episode shows various clips from Gaga and Oprah’s launch of the foundation at Harvard University.  Obviously, the combination of these three platforms –- Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and Harvard University –- drew a huge crowd and media attention.  I have no doubt the message of the foundation will spread like wildfire.  When people with so much fame speak, people listen and minds are influenced.  The message of the foundation is one of anti-bullying, acceptance, and encouraging youth to embrace who they are with the understanding that they were “born that way” and they should love themselves, not caring about what anyone else thinks for the purpose of their happiness.

Sounds good, right?  I mean who in their right mind is pro-bullying or all for people hating themselves?  No one.

While listening to the interview, you certainly get the impression that Lady Gaga fully believes and embraces her message.  I could never label her as a hypocrite, she practices what she preaches.  There is nothing Gaga is not  willing to do or try or say if and when she feels like it.  It is clear that this message defines her; she is whoever she wants to be, with no limits and nothing holding her back.   Gaga and her mother attribute her worldwide fame and success to this creative freedom and share touching stories of cruel experiences Gaga had as a teen who was bullied.

However, everything we believe and live out has consequences.  It is a simple fact.  Gaga has lived fully in her belief and her extreme creativity has made her a superstar around the world.  But, there is always more than meets the eye.  When someone incredibly famous starts spreading a message that thousands are going to hear, I listen and consider the impact.  And I believe there is a fundamental flaw and a contradiction in her message that will lead many down a path of destruction.

Here is where I get confused, Gaga is quick to admit she is not perfect, in fact she says no one is perfect.  I agree.  But, think about what she is saying.

If we accept and believe that we are not perfect, then how do we spread the message that we are born perfectly fine and we should embrace who we are?  Which is it, Lady Gaga?  If you are not perfect, then can you please explain which part of you is wrong?  Is it the profanity, the half-nakedness, the sexually charged choreography, the alcohol binges, the days you refuse to make contact with family and worry them sick, or something else that makes you imperfect?  According to Gaga all of these things I just mentioned are the results of her creative process.  There is nothing “wrong” with any of it.  In fact, her own mother said the only thing she doesn’t like is when Stephanie curses in public.  But, she goes on to surrender to the fact that cursing is just a part of who Lady Gaga is, so it’s okay.  So, even her mother agrees, there is nothing actually wrong with anything.  Why then does Gaga think she is not perfect?  How does she define what is okay and what is not?  Call me crazy, but this makes no logical sense.

My fear is that if we teach youngsters that there is nothing wrong with them, then is anything they desire or any behavior actually wrong?  How do you even make a case for positive change or personal development?  How do we determine rules at school and enforce them?  How do we parent?  Should there even be rules or should we just let everyone do as they please, if and when and how they feel like it because it makes them happy?  Imagine.  This is the world Lady Gaga is trying to create.

You see, when we lose the ability to define right and wrong, we become very confused, messed up individuals.

The truth is no one is born perfect and, yes, we know it.   We are all born with natural tendencies to do wrong.  Think back to when your first-born child was six months old and decided to slap you in the face.  Babies are inclined to assert themselves when you refuse to give them what they want.  They are “born that way”.  My four-year old son is highly competitive and is inclined to run you over if he thinks you are going to win his race.  He would rather see you bleed than win.  He was “born that way”.   Many a man has been born with a temper or felt inclined to dominate every situation in his life, it makes him happy to control women and children in whatever way he sees fit.  Many a woman has been born with a desire to feel attractive and has obsessively destroyed her body trying to achieve her desired look.  She was “born that way”.

Being “born that way” does not make you right.  Unless, of course, there is no “right.”

Listen, I am all for being nice and respectful toward those who are different from us.   Different is not the same thing as wrong and I teach that concept in almost every presentation I give; different is not wrong.  But, I am careful to say, “but, wrong is wrong and there is right and wrong.”  Gaga’s attitude of total acceptance seems good on the surface, but I am warning you, if our culture continues to embrace this idea, then right and wrong are out the window.  Everything becomes relative, there are no lines to be drawn.  We need to ask ourselves, where will it end?  If Lady Gaga feels inclined to perform naked, who’s to stop her?  If young people want to behave in certain ways because it makes them happy, do you have the right to stop them and tell them what they are doing is wrong?  According to this theory, no.  There are no absolutes, except of course the statement, “there are no absolutes.”  That statement, I guess, is the exception.

My solution is this:  Surrender to the idea that there is a rule giver.  There is an almighty and perfect God who created the boundaries for our good and for His glory.  He IS right.  Here is my anti-bullying message, “Don’t be a jerk.  Treat other people the way you want to be treated.  Everyone is precious and valuable because they were made in the image of God and they deserve to be treated as such.  Bullying is wrong and if you do it, there will be consequences.”  See how easy that was?  When we submit to the authority of our creator, everything else falls into place.

When we try to design and develop our own rules, things get really screwed up.

Why?

Because as Lady Gaga put it, none of us are perfect.

 

Etiquette Matters to Me

I recently received certification as an expert in American Business Etiquette from the American Business Etiquette Trainers Association.  While I have practiced some etiquette techniques for years, I learned several new things through the hours of training in twenty different etiquette modules.  I am now more convinced that etiquette is the key element in growing your business.  The success of any business, large or small, hinges on relationships.   Etiquette opens the door by  helping you build rapport and immediate trust with others in business dealings.

However, to be perfectly honest, I am discovering that not all proper etiquette comes natural to me.  It is a skill I must consciously practice with the hope it will become habit.  What I love about the idea of etiquette and what continues to motivate me  is that it truly is about putting others first.  Studying the art of etiquette has given me appropriate tools for a professional environment to SHOW that I care.  It is true you know?  People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.

If you have a desire to help people and to make a positive difference through your business, hobbies or other passions, then I believe you cannot ignore your good manners skill set.  Good manners are tied to building good relationships and good relationships are tied to truly helping others grow and change.

“Let noting be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”  Philippians 2:3