The Problem is Not Cremation…

March 15, 2012
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Article By: Alan Creedy, FuneralHomeConsulting.org

…The problem is cowardice!!

There, it’s been said. Plain and simple:  We have been unwilling to stand up for what we believe and now we are not sure we believe it any more. After all how long can you get beat up and still try to stand?  So, instead of taking a stand we assume the “Bunny Rabbit” Position: we blame them.  Society is going downhill.  It’s not our fault.  If they just understood… We are victims of society’s decline.  And there it is… in a nutshell…we have come to see ourselves as victims.

Why do funeral professionals spend so much time fighting among themselves and never fighting for themselves? Why is so much time spent on fence building only to find ourselves fenced out instead of in? Why is so much emotional energy spent on not-losing-a-call and nonespent on getting 5 more calls? Why so much antipathy among funeral directors and cemeterians? Why, so much anger toward the public “who doesn’t understand us” and no attempt to stand up for ourselves?  Why obsess about the handful of families who don’t appreciate us like we would like while we ignore the dozens of families who sincerely appreciate how we have helped them?  We have become “approval junkies!”

Everywhere I go I find funeral directors burned out, frustrated and in emotional pain.  But I don’t find many who are willing to take responsibility and take a stand.  We are confused and belittled by the growing rejection we feel when people “opt out”.  But, I have come to believe that we are only telling stories to ourselves that we have never verified.  Stories that help us explain what is happening to us.  Stories that position us as victims and explain away our responsibility to fight for ourselves.  These made-up stories, unfortunately, are self destructive and, worse yet, self fulfilling.   We wonder why society seems to be rejecting, more and more, what we believe in and what we do for a living. Yet, who are we allowing to tell our story?  We are so addicted to our “Mr. Nice Guy” image and so afraid of offending just one person that we allow people like Jessica Mitford and Lisa Carlson and a plethora of ill informed journalists to tell our story for us.  In fact, I have come to believe we no longer know what our story is.   Adding insult to injury, our behavior suggests that we agree with the stories our enemies (YES, they are enemies) are promoting and we must, in fact, be the type of people they say we are.

For more than thirty years funeral directors have told me that they are uncomfortable telling strangers what they do for a living so they “euphamize” their responses to hide their vocation.  “it gets awkward,”they say.  Or, “people don’t like to talk about it.”  I have come to believe it is they who are awkward about it.  I am personally proud to be associated with this profession.  I believe we make a real contribution to society.  So, when people ask me what I do I don’t tell them I am a CPA or I am a Funeral Home Consultant.  I tell them I am in the funeral industry.  In all these years that disclosure has never once resulted in awkwardness or discomfort. Many of my local friends have no idea what my true background is.  They assume I am a funeral director.  You know what?  That’s OK with me.  In fact, in almost every instance the individual who asks me what I do engages conversationally with questions or stories and frequently those close by get involved.  My conclusion: PEOPLE HAVE QUESTIONS, THEY WANT TO KNOW MORE.

In the Christian World there is something called “Apologetics”.  I have often thought that an unfortunate word.  It connotes that we are apologizing for the faith.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A Christian Apologist is someone who DEFENDS THE FAITH.  They stand strong and they stand up.  If you want a debate they will take you on.  Where are the Funeral Apologists?

Many years ago I was exposed to a statement that literally changed my life:

“You are where you are…because that is where you want to be!”

What that means to me is that we, alone, are responsible for impacting our lives.  No one can afford to be a victim.  Yes, I recognize there is comfort in a victim mentality.  But there sure isn’t any hope in it.  If you look closely at our critics you will find they are either opportunists or they are bullies and frequently both.   You can tell this because the support they offer for their opinions (and they are rarely more than opinions) is too often anecdotal.  More important, they almost exclusively focus on attacking character.  It is well known among debating circles that when an opponent attacks your character it means they have no substantive support for their position.

The average sale in our profession has been in steady decline in terms of real dollars since 1997.  Today’s profit margins are literally half what they were 30 years ago and if we calculated profits over time in terms of “real” dollars it would be fractional.  WAKE UP! If you think people will like you because you are their doormat (which they don’t) they will like you a whole lot less when you are a public failure.  Your livelihood is in jeopardy.  Your wife and your family’s livelihood is in jeopardy.  What do you want?  Platitudes? Website pictures of your overbuilt facility?  A new hearse?  The false comfort of a victim mentality?  Or…. would you rather see the sales curve stop going down and start going up?

Call to Action: Let’s stop fighting among ourselves and start fighting for ourselves.

Next Week: Some steps that will take us there.  I become a Funeral Apologist

Alan Creedy

In addition to the weekly Creedy Commentary, I frequently contribute to industry trade journals and speak at trade conventions.Among my affiliations outside the DeathCare industry are The Center For Creative Leadership, The Performance Institute and Human Synergistics.
I believe in giving back and so was recently honored to serve as Chairman of the Funeral Service Foundation.
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