I heard it said at a writer’s conference once, “We need to stop looking at people as wrong, but rather look at people as lost!”
I read a small article this week from someone who seems quite frustrated with his audience. He called the people who did not measure to his level of knowledge “stupid.” I don’t know what this person is trying to achieve.
I am a teacher so whereas I think that knowledge is great, I also think that it can have a tendency to develop into a sort of pompous social elitism where everyone is wrong but you. It reminds me of a statement from a Puritan man who one time said to his wife, “Dear, I sometimes think that the whole world's gone mad but me and thee, and sometimes I even wonder about thee!” That is why in the Bible, Paul says that knowledge “puffs up!”
As a teacher I often go by the philosophy that when the student is not learning it is somehow my fault. This causes me to change my teaching style or perhaps my attitude towards the student.
When we think of people as wrong we become arrogant, but when we think of people as lost or not understanding, we become leading teachers. I think we have enough puffed-up arrogant teachers in the world but not enough leading teachers. As we learn to look at people as lost may we in our life chose to be the latter. After all, aren’t we all on a learning curve?
My wife likes to watch “America's Got Talent.” As she watches the show, she sometimes gleans amazing performances that she thinks I might be interested in. One of those was the time when Susan Boyle made her first appearance.
I remember that show. This woman came on stage looking like something that from a suburb London pub to try out for the local karaoke. “What is your goal?” She was asked. “I want to be a professional singer!” She answered. The judges at the panel smirked in an air cynical incredulity that seemed to fill the whole audience, that is, until Susan opened her mouth and started to sing. First came the shocked silence, then the screams of adulation. Susan attained her dream. She is now renowned worldwide as a professional singer.
There is a sad reality to that story. If Susan would have been a beautiful young adult in her mid twenties with her hair all done up flowing down her shoulders; if she would have been a perfect size and wearing a beautiful shiny gown people would have expected no less. What made that performance so amazing was that people never expected such a beautiful crystalline voice, indeed such a beautiful spirit, to come out of what they were seeing.
Many a talent is wasted because as strange as it is, our first reaction is often to judge people by outward appearance and demeanor, or even our first impression. They may have the most beautiful spirit in the world but no matter how we try, we cannot help but judge a book by its cover.
“It pays to worry; most of the things you worry about never happen!”
This statement I heard one day may sound sarcastic, but when we take stock of the things we worry about, we realize that it is true. Most of the time, the things we worry about do not happen. Why do we worry then?
The ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) says that of 18% of Americans over 18 suffer from worry and anxiety so it you are a worry wart, you are not alone.
One of the problems is that people who worry like the company of other “worri-ers”. It makes them feel understood when actually, those people who make mountains out of molehills need the company of those who know how to make molehills out of mountains.
A renowned psychologist whose books are part of my reading diet and copious library one day used the a story from the Bible and said, “Patience decreases worry.” He came to that conclusion as he read about some of the first problems the Children of Israel had to face as they left Egypt. After leaving Egypt in such a hurry that they didn't even have the time to finish preparing bread for the journey, the first source of water the 3,000.000 + people came to was bitter. By the way, test that moment to tell a mother with a hot, sweaty, fussy, hungry, and thirsty 2-year-old in her arms that she needs to trust God!
As they arrived at the springs of March, they of course did what any other people would do.They turned against their leader. The leader had a solution in mind but they only stayed one day in that place. Then, they left for the springs of Eilim where they had an abundance of sweet water. They stayed there awhile to recoup from everything that had happened over the past few days. In a sense, they worried that they were all going to die but it never happened. So as I quoted before, “It pays to worry; most of the things you worry about never happen!”
We are often quick to worry and fret when things don't go right, but worrying has bad effects for us. It is like ingesting poison in our system. I have found out that time is the greatest healer of bad situation. Not in every case, but most of the time things work themselves out so as my psychologist friend says, “Patience decreases worry.”
I recently facilitated a leadership class for first-responders using as a platform SEAL Jocko Willink’s book, Dichotomy of Leadership. The title of Chapter 4 is, “When to Mentor, When to Fire.”
The chapter explains how a SEAL team leader had invested much time and training in a team member who just didn’t seem to have it in him to meet the SEAL standards. The substandard SEAL was starting to negatively affect the missions and the other team members felt that their team leader spent an inordinate amount of time with one person at the cost of team training. A decision had to be made about either continuing to invest in that one member or admit that he would not make it.
Any responsible leader wants to see each member of his team make it. A true leader will always feel a sense of failure when a trainee does not make the cut. There is a time though when we need to cut our losses and move on. After all, SEAL philosophy holds that the needs of the team trump the needs of the individual.
That point about the other team members feeling neglected at the cost of one member made me think about a family I know. They have several children and as with all big families, you get all sorts. Some of the children were easy to deal with while others were more difficult. This family had one in particular that could not flow with anything. There was always trouble. For this reason, the parents spent what seemed to the other children an inordinate amount of time with that one.
The parents never knew it but recently as both parents and children, now grown adults, reminisced on old times, the children mentioned that they had been jealous of that one brother of theirs. They equated the extra time spent, albeit on disciplinary issues, as a preferential status. Of course, as opposed to SEAL team leaders, parents do not have the option of sending the problem child away, but the situation is not all that unsimilar.
There is one thing though that is very similar in all ages. It is not an abundance of things or gifts, but time and personal attention that we equate with love.
At the volunteer meeting this week we talked about decision-making. We talked about making data driven calculated rational decisions beneficial to the mission, without sacrificing the emotional elements wherein lies the passion for the mission. A corporation, or an association are by definition called “bodies,” and bodies are made of biological and spiritual matter both working together.
As human beings, for example, we have our visible physical nature which I will call here the “body,” but we also have an emotional unseen side which I will call here the “spirit.” The needs of our body are rational. If we don't take care of it the right way we may become sick, disabled, or even die. The physical defines success rationally by achieved goals, financial prosperity, … but the spirit doesn't measure success in the same way, so the things our spirit may lead us to do are often irrational, outright dangerous, and even financially ruinous. That is a problem. How do we get both to work together?
Without a spirit to animate us, we are nothing more than lifeless biological elements. Also, without a physical body to act out its desires, the spirit cannot accomplish anything. It is when the two are joined together that we are alive. That causes our existence to be run by a dichotomy.
But dichotomies are good. Dichotomies are good because they push two extremes towards the just and fair middle of the road where wisdom is found. As long as the two sides keep pushing against each other, there is hope of a wiser outcome, but the two must continue wise-ing the other up as when the spirit alone leads the body suffers, and when the body alone leads, what a cold calculated road it travels. It is therefore better that they keep working together by pushing against each other.
It takes time to make well balanced decisions. It takes time to come to the right solution, which frustrates those of an impatient nature, but the alternative can be devastating to the mission. Let's hope that the “body” doesn't “shut-down” by lack of reaching the decision that balances the dichotomy!
If you appreciate these articles, support their upcoming publication in a book called, "REFLECTIONS OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN"