Scenario A: Think about a time when you were in an argument with someone … and you thought you knew what you two were arguing about.  At least you know what you were arguing about.   As the two of you launched salvo after salvo, gradually it dawned on you that you were either arguing with a completely crazy person—or, whatever it is your adversary was angry about, it wasn’t what you thought it was.

Scenario B: You made a blunder that by all accounts was relatively benign.  But, the reaction it triggered in someone else was orders of magnitude greater than you expected.  Once again, you’re tempted to conclude that the offended party is institutionally insane.  What else could account for the over-the-top reaction?

Scenario C: A friend asks you about one facet of an issue you both know you’ve been struggling with.  You intend to give a focused, factual answer and before you know it, your emotions are so powerfully engaged that the two of you are stunned. While you try to collect yourself, an awkwardness permeates the mood.  Now you’re wondering if you are the crazy one…

questions 11Principle #7- What’s it really about??

This principle will invite you to interrupt your natural press to resolve your conflicts hastily, or to simply shrug your shoulders and assume you’ve wandered into the psychiatric ward of the local community health clinic.

When you encounter a response that seems inappropriate in its intensity, I invite you to ask: what could this really be about?

Stay curious enough, long enough to find out what is really in play.

If you fail to do this, you will miss your friend and you will miss the opportunity to bring Christ’s ministry of reconciliation to this situation, as well.  As rational human beings, we all do some pretty irrational-seeming things.

One of them is this:

We attach meaning to things, to words, and to events that transcend the things themselves.

Think about it.

Let’s say that as a child you heard over and over that you were a poor student, slower than your siblings intellectually.  Maybe the words “stupid” or “dumb” were used in reference to you.

Decades later, you are an accomplished sales executive, and you’re in one of those 360° performance appraisals.  A peer points out that you were slow in adopting a new reporting procedure… and you flush, become agitated, and a smoldering fury begins to blaze in your bosom.  You’re only vaguely aware of what incited the reaction, but your reaction seems both valid and surprising at the same time.

What’s up?

As a human, you’ve attached meaning to your intellectual prowess, borne in your childhood experiences, that transcends your true intellectual attributes.

When you heard the word “slow” it represented something other than the speed with which you implemented the new reporting procedure.

Subconsciously, you applied “slow” to you. 

And, since you interpreted the feedback as an indictment on your intelligence, you went nuts… in a professional way.

We’ll expand on this next time.