Online behaviors can reveal obsessive tendencies


 I sometimes  come across commenters and bloggers on the internet and my training is psychology causes little alarm bells to go off. With commenters people can just “trolls,” but other times there is something else going on. Such is the case with someone who goes by the username “A-Thought.” He joined an Apple news and enthusiasts site about 18 months ago and constantly promotes his Microsoft Surface Pro while criticizing Apple iPads. He has posted hundreds of times, and many of his posts are quite lengthy.

“A-Thought” would insist that his behavior is intellectually based, that he is just serving as a counter-point of information. In reality, most counselors and psychologists would quickly label this behavior “obsessive.” It is obvious he obsessively checks the Apple-centric site and quickly posts derogatory comments about Apple iPads while pointing out the virtues of his Surface Pro 4. He is often the first commenter on news stories that are posted about the Apple iPad.

When someone is dealing with obsessions and compulsions, or both (OCD), it is not a pleasant life. Psychologists describe this disorder as the mind that won’t quit. Activities such as excessively monitoring web sites and posting essentially the same information over and over again help relieve the anxiety that a person experiences. The time and attention given to these obsessions and compulsions usually interfere with the person’s life and relationships.

There are online resources that can help people like “A-thought.” The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is one place to start:

Doctors from Hell

Doctors from Hell is a fascinating account of the second round of the Nuremberg Trials which focused on medical personnel. These people, most of whom were MD’s, performed a wide range of often horrific experiments on concentration camp prisoners. The book is written by Vivien Spitz, who was a young court reporter at the time. She describes her life in war-torn Nuremberg and her struggle of coming to grips with the horror she heard about and saw evidence of day after day.

The book also discusses the idea of “subhumans” that became part of the underlying philosophy of those who committed these crimes. The defense seemed to rest on the idea of “we were doing this for the state.”

Why Some Staff and Volunteers in Non-Profit Organizations Start to Obsess over Money

Most people who work or volunteer in non-profit organizations do so because of their interest or commitment to the mission or cause. Some of these people shift their focus to fretting and obsessing over money, talking very little about mission, values or vision. If they do in fact mention these words, it is really as a method to get more money for their chosen organization. Sometimes this shift affects entire organizations and they get into an endless loop of the majority of staff and volunteers chasing after donations. If they stumble upon moving the mission forward, they view it in terms of something they can share with donors to help raise more funds.

How does this happen?

1. A real financial crisis. The organization loses a major donor, membership drops, or the economy goes into recession. People start to wonder if their favorite non-profit will still be around five years from now. You hear phrases like “no money, no mission,” which is actually the opposite of what skilled leaders should be saying. Panic can set in and bad decisions begin to be made. Mission and vision get locked away in the back room, only to be pulled out and shown to donors from time to time.

2. Perceived financial crisis. Professionals who are coming from large companies or organizations are often stunned at the lack of infrastructure and shoestring budgets they see when they get into the non-profit world. They may immediately feel like it has to be “fixed,” that the organization cannot continue to live paycheck to paycheck.

3. Nothing else to measure. Non-profits often struggle to quantify what they do and how they help people. Budget performance is measurable. You can specify net profit or loss, or percentage of growth or decline. Some people naturally gravitate to numbers, so they focus almost entirely on budget. Obviously the need is to develop other methods for measuring impact and effectiveness and insist that these are viewed in the same serious light as the budget statistics.

What’s the downside?

Non-profit organizations have limited people resources with which to accomplish their mission. While the annual report may show 10 or 20% of the organization’s funds going toward fundraising, the reality may be much different. 60 or 70% of staff or volunteer time may be consumed by fundraising tasks such as managing or supporting major events, staying in touch with current and potential donors, etc. These people are often reported as “program staff,” when the reality of their jobs is much different.

If you are on the inside, and wish to stay there, then push internally for metrics that demonstrate mission impact. Listen to what senior leaders are saying and watch out for phrases such as “no money, no mission,” or “that’s nice, but it doesn’t help us meet payroll or pay the rent.” When asked what kind of year they had as an organization, listen to see if the first words have to do with money.

Robert Egger has two great quotes on this issue in his book “Begging for Change:”

“If you chase money, you’ll be on an endless loop. If you chase results, the money will come.”

“The most effective nonprofits find the connection between purpose and effort by identifying the priorities of those they’re serving.”

Disability Must be Part of Diversity Initiatives

If you work for a college, government agency, or large corporation, it is likely there is some type of diversity initiative or program. In my own experience, I have seen very little mention of disabilities as a diversity issue. This is a serious oversight.

It is important for those of us who are informed about disability issues either personally or professionally to take steps to correct this. Sometimes we wait for some distant advocacy group to do this, or some professional who manages diversity efforts. Neither of these will be effective in changing things where you work.

So, we all need to take two steps. First of all, you should write an email to your supervisor and politely express how important it is to you to have disabilities represented in diversity initiatives. Secondly, find out who leads the diversity efforts where you work and ask them to include disabilities as part of the diversity program.

In my opinion, this is the best way to raise awareness of disabilities, and ensure it continues to be part of the conversation. Diversity outreach, training and hiring efforts receive a lot of attention and support, all of which could benefit people with disabilities and their families.


It is an old cliche, but one I have thought about recently: “Problems will make you bitter, or make you better.” Some of the people I have been most impressed by in my life have been people who have gone through unimaginable hardship and yet seem to be an inspiration to people around them. This is not to say they do not have bad days, have not cried out to God in the middle of the night, or have not wished that they did not have to deal with significant difficulties in their lives.

One person who comes to mind is a young woman I knew who had a stroke when she was 21. The woman was a bright college student, taught children’s Sunday School, and was a model of doing things the right way. If anyone had a reason to ask “why me,” it was her. The stroke left her partially paralyzed with a speech impediment and difficulties in walking. I was brought in as a consultant to help design a tutoring program to help her learn to read again. One of her happiest days was when she had her reading to a level where she could teach children’s Sunday School again. The children did not seem to mind her various disabilities. She was a shining example of grace and encouragement to everyone who knew her.

Another gentleman I knew was injured as a college student. One night he and some friends went out on the athletic fields to see if they could make it over the high jump. He landed wrong, broke his neck, and would spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair. He was a quiet man, who went on to get his master’s degree and worked helping other people with disabilities find meaningful jobs.

Contrast these two with those who get “stuck” with the same kinds of questions over and over. “Why me,” “What is wrong that this happened,” and “I lived such a good life.” It is not wrong to think all of these things, it is just not a good place to live day after day.

In the end, some people decide to come out of tough problems and terrible situations with a glow about them. They get not just better, but bigger in the eyes of other people. Others get stuck in bitterness, and they begin to shrink, smaller and smaller into their homes filled with haunted isolation.

When friendship and leadership collide


I have been saddened to see the continued support from prominent leaders for a protestant pastor who failed to protect children who were sexully abused. His failure to lead by reporting this predator (and maybe others) to authorities led to more children being sexually abused in other parts of the country. His actions and inactions have destroyed many lives.

Yet, his well respected friends in leadership positions say he is being maligned and falsely accused. With court testimony and written testimony from dozens of witnesses you would think they couldn’t really be saying this, but they are. This is leadership malpractice.

I have wondered why they are doing this, themselves failing to do the right thing. I think it comes down to this: he seems like a nice guy and he’s their friend. They’ll make sure he has a position and that his books get published. “We’re here for you buddy.” I feel physically ill as I think about this. I have written to the publisher, but don’t expect a reply.

You can be someone’s friend who has screwed up. You can listen, encourage them to make it right, etc. When a friend has destroyed lives, though, you can’t make those consequences go away be trying to cover-up the cover-up. When someone has disqualified themselves for leadership and ministry, you should not yourself commit leadership malpractice by propping them up. This leads to bitterness, distrust and cynicism by the very people you have a duty to protect and serve. It needs to stop.

Never assume your presentation tech is going to work


I watched painfully a few weeks ago as a workshop presenter struggled with getting her laptop to connect with the conference hotel’s projector. For whatever reason, it never connected despite two different tech support people helping her. As about 50 people in the audience watched, she opened up her college email, emailed the presentation to herself, shut down her computer, opened up the loaner laptop brought in by tech support, signed into her email, downloaded the presentation, and opened it in PowerPoint. Half of the workshop was over and the presenter was very flustered to say the least.

While I felt sorry for the presenter, in some ways I did not. Despite giving a presentation on technology (I’m not joking here), she forgot one of the first rules of technology and presentations: the technology might not work. The presenter was not someone doing her first workshop, she was a veteran. She should have known better.

You should always assume your technology will not work when you are scheduled to do a presentation. How can you be prepared for this? I like to have my presentation in three locations: on my laptop, on a USB drive, and in the cloud. Since my laptop is a Macbook Pro and I use Keynote, the file I have on the USB drive is a PowerPoint copy. My cloud copy is on Microsoft Office online or Google Drive. If all this fails, I am mentally prepared to move ahead quickly using just my notes.

Wanting to show video clips is always great, but has the potential for even more issues. I prefer to have the video downloaded into my laptop and embedded in the presentation, but follow the same scheme as with the presentation. Personally, I have found Google Drive to be the best place to keep the backup copies of my video clips.

If all of this seems like overkill, perhaps you have not had the experience of struggling to get your tech to work while 50 or 100 people staring at you. If you have had that experience, you know it is one you want to avoid repeating for any reason.