Tag Archives: social transformation



Originally published in Eternity On-LineTuesday 2 July 2013

Leadership issues have been front and centre in the media over the past week and in the furore of what’s been going on in Canberra you could be forgiven for missing a positive story about character and leadership and family.

An article in The Age last week demonstrated a father’s unconditional love for his son. It also highlighted several leadership characteristics based on some deep-seated values that Canberra would do well to emulate. I’m talking about Tim Watson and his love for his son, Jobe.

Tim Watson is the Channel 7 Sports anchor and is a past Captain of the AFL’s Essendon team. He is one of Essendon’s favourite ‘sons’. Tim’s son, Jobe is the current Captain of Essendon and the holder of the 2012 Brownlow medal as the best and fairest player last year. But Jobe is caught up in the so called ‘drugs scandal’ haunting the AFL (and in particular Essendon Football Club) and came out recently admitting that one of the drugs he was given last year—an anti-obesity drug—has been placed on the banned list and is not cleared for human consumption. Jobe’s confession was filled with the humility that we have come to expect of this exceptional sportsman.

Image: Flickr under a CC licence, Rich in Kensington:

Image: Flickr under a CC licence, Rich in Kensington:

Since then there have been cries to ban Jobe Watson from playing and even suggestions he should hand back his Brownlow Medal. Essendon’s response is that the story can’t be told while the investigation is continuing, though they are confident that when the whole story does come out, the Essendon players will be exonerated. As a one-eyed Essendon supporter, I hope that’s true!

So, that’s the background. Tim Watson was interviewed by his Channel 7 colleagues about his son’s confession. In the interview, he spoke of the possibility of the Brownlow being handed back. The Age reported it in the following words:

Watson appeared to be close to tears after he watched footage detailing the events of the week, that included his son being booed throughout Thursday night’s game between Essendon and West Coast in Perth.

“To me the Brownlow doesn’t define Jobe, and I’m talking as a father now,” said Watson. “We didn’t love him any more because he won the Brownlow and we wouldn’t love him any less if he lost the Brownlow.

“If that happens, we have two choices: he goes and wins another one, or Rob Harvey’s got two and I know where Rob lives and maybe we can take one of Rob’s.”

Take a moment to note the values that lie behind this father talking about his son. Here’s what I can see: Identity formation, unconditional love, moving on in life, and equality of distribution.

Identity formation: Watson points out that this is not about his son’s identity. Sport is sport and it must never become more than that. It especially must never be seen to define who I am as a person. When we mistake performance identity (how well I do at something) with personal identity (who I am as a person) we are setting ourselves up for some serious problems. There is an epidemic of this in Western society. The Judeo-Christian approach is that ‘personhood’ is discovered in the Bible. Our performance does not define us; instead we are defined by our nature as human beings and our character as individuals in relational community. Watson got it right: the Brownlow does not, and should not, define Jobe as a person.

Unconditional love: Watson says that the winning and the losing of a sports award has nothing to do with his love for his son. How many kids long to hear that from their dads? In a ‘former life’, I was involved in counselling people who were in our gaol system because of drug related crimes and I would often hear about their cries for unconditional love. They didn’t necessarily call it that but that’s what they were describing to me. Again, the Judeo-Christian ethic highlights the importance of such love. The Greek word Agape, used to describe God’s love for humans and the highest call of humans love in relationships, is a love that has no conditions imposed on it. Again, Watson got it right and I think Jobe is a lucky man to have a father like him.

Handling disappointment: When life kicks us hard, we have different choices before us. One of those choices is to pick ourselves up and move on, to get on with the job of life. This is what is being proposed by Tim Watson. If my son loses the medal it will be a great disappointment, no denying that, but the rest of his life is out there for the taking and he will get on with it instead of letting the disappointment define his future. This reminds me of the Bible’s teaching when it records James (one of Jesus’ brothers) as saying that hard times should be allowed to produce perseverance because that’s what character and maturity is built from (James 1:2-4).

Equal distribution of what we have: Robert Harvey (a past AFL star footballer) has two Brownlow medals. ‘He needs to learn to share’ is essentially what Watson is suggesting. Yes, what a great idea! OK, OK, I know I’m taking it too far and that Watson was only joking on this one…

In this interview we catch a glimpse of the home environment that Jobe Watson was privileged to grow up in. It’s refreshing and it’s also a challenge. All our kids and grandkids need to have that sort of home environment: they thrive in it. But these characteristics need to be applied to leadership in all sectors of society.

Imagine a world based on prizing people for who they are rather than how well they perform, and on unconditional love expressed as acceptance and respect no matter what they are like on the outside, and seeped in encouragement and support to persevere through the hardest of times. Now there’s a society to be proud of. Tim Watson for Prime Minister?

Food for thought.

Dr David Wilson is Director of Sophia Think Tank and an avid Essendon supporter.


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A construction company, a football club and why we should all just do the right thing

From Eternity Newspaper


Monday 24 June 2013

On ABC local radio recently a man was talking about a brick that fell on the roof of his car from a construction site as he was driving by. He stopped and went back to tell the construction workers about it. The reception he got at first seemed OK but when he followed their request to put it into writing the response was basically that they were not accepting responsibility and he would have to take the construction company to court if he wanted to go any further. All of that for about $1000 damage. I guess they knew the man wouldn’t bother to go through all the hassle of court for that amount of money. Radio host John Faine responded by asking why people don’t simply just do the right thing: they know what’s right, so why don’t they just do it?

Same week, same programme, and Anna Krien was interviewed. Krien is the author of the book Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport in which she writes particularly of the culture of the St Kilda AFL club. Interviewed about the recent rape charges laid against star player Stephen Milne, Krien said she didn’t think the club would “do the right thing”. She said football clubs are all about winning and not losing and that the club would find it hard to stand Milne down throughout the court process, given his prominence. In previous years they had stood another ‘lesser light’ player aside in similar circumstances but Krien predicted the club would keep Milne on this time (she has since been proven wrong as St Kilda has stood Milne aside in what turned out be a controversial decision). Faine’s response to her predictions was along the lines of “I don’t care who the player is or how important the player is to a side, people have to be treated equally”. He was basically calling for the club to do the right thing. What a novel idea.

Sophia Think Tank recently ran an Urban Conversation on ‘Crisis in Australian Democracy’. Jim Longley was the keynote speaker and he talked about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). As Chief Executive of the NSW Department of Aging, Disability and Home Care he certainly knows something of the subject. He said that one of the reasons the NDIS had caught Australian’s imagination is that it is a microcosm of what we want our nation to be. We know it is right to be inclusive of people with disability. Even at a personal financial cost, we know it is the right thing to do. The resultant conversation included questions about when we are going to do the right thing on behalf of our Indigenous people and on behalf of refugees.

Is the idea of ‘doing the right thing’ getting more air time in our consciousness as a nation? The phrase is certainly being thrown around a lot. It will be a good thing for the wellbeing of Australia if it becomes common practice to simply do the right thing.

The Bible talks a lot about doing the right thing. It’s often called “righteousness”, a word which many in our society would think sounds otherworldly and stuffily religious. But when understood properly it simply means justice or… choosing to do the right thing. Here’s a sample of what the Bible says about righteousness:

“Doing what is right exalts a nation” (Proverbs 13:34). A nation looks good– and is good–when it does what is right.

Moses applied the principle of doing the right thing to the poor, the vulnerable, and to refugees and he states that this will be seen as righteousness (Deuteronomy 24:13 in the context of 24:10-22). He links this to the Jews’ own history of being poor, vulnerable and refugees in exile in Egypt. “Remember” he exhorts, and then do the right thing, because in remembering what they went through they will be more inclined to treat others well.

Perhaps this is a part of our problem when we act out of self-interest: we haven’t experienced what the poor and vulnerable are going through and so we can’t (or, we choose not to) relate, and we don’t do what is right.

King David was seen as the greatest political leader Israel had in power. It is said of him that he was a king who did what right for all his people (2 Samuel 8:15). No favourites, no justice at a price, no cowering to the opinion polls. Everyone in the land benefitted from this man being in power because he was committed to doing what is right for everyone, for the wellbeing of society.

There are hundreds of references across the Judeo-Christian Scriptures that talk about doing the right thing. The three mentioned above are a very small sampling and yet the point gets across. We are called as citizens in a civil society to do what is right.

And so the call goes out to major construction companies, to Football clubs, to Federal politicians and to all of us to just do the right thing! We’ll be a better nation for it.

Food for thought.

David Wilson is Director of Sophia Think Tank


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The next Urban Conversations will be in Sydney this coming Sunday.  We will once again be looking at the topic of Crisis in Australian Democracy and Jim Longley will be the Keynote speaker.  The event in Melbourne was very good and we are expecting to buld on that conversation in Sydney this week.  Please come and be a part of that experience.  We would love to have your involvement.

All the details can be found here: Hope Talks Flier UC S  We can now announce that the Panel will be made up of Mike Hercock from Imagine, Andrew West from ABC Religion and Ethics, and Andre Van Eymeren from Partnering for Transformation.

It will be good to see you there.

David Wilson.


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Michael Schluter Video Parts 2 and 3

You can now view Parts 2 and 3 of the Urban Conversations with Michael Schluter on Relational Thinking.  Our apologies that the picture is lost in some places….. technical problems and all that!!  The sound continues all the way through and it is worth listening to.  Enjoy, be challenged, and blog with us…


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Thanks to Amy Van Eymeren, Part 1 of the video of the Michael Schluter Urban Conversations can be viewed at

Now’s the time to keep the conversation going.  If you were there on the night you will recall the healthy discussion we had.  If not, have a look at the video and start blogging….


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