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…
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.
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.
I’m offering one of the most helpful perspectives on human behavior I’ve ever learned. It impacts my coaching with pastors all the time. Called the “Universal Human Paradigm”, it was explained to me this way:
1) Human beings are “resistance machines”.
2) When life looks the way we prefer, we engage it.
3) And, when life doesn‘t look the way we prefer, we resist it.
4) The universal way that human beings resist life is by withholding their participation from it.
Think about it…
Pick a topic: your dating situation, your finances, weight, investments, bowling average, church attendance, or blood pressure.
If you consider your situation to be “good”, you’re all about it, active, enthused, engaged, participating…
Maybe a while ago you were a ‘gold bug’.
Encouraged by the prospects of growing financial insecurity, a wobbling economy, and our government’s mindless pursuit of dollar-devastating “quantitative easing”, you pulled your savings and plowed into gold.
As prices rose, you followed it like a hawk. On the internet. In newsletters. Tracked commodity prices. Joined a gold investors club. But with gold falling almost 30% since 2011…you’ve barely looked at it.
For thirty years I’ve run hot and cold on my weight.
Broken by a half-dozen steep downdrafts, my weight has pretty much continued an inexorable incline over my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s— reaching an excruciating summit a couple years ago.
Those downdrafts were not accidental.
I started some formal weight loss regimen and, as weight came off, I focused on it more. And, as more came off I invested more of my energy and attention to it. I became more devoted, determined, disciplined. And it worked.
Then, after enjoying the benefits for a while, my weight began to creep up.
Discouraged, I paid less attention to it. The more I took my eye off my weight, the more I indulged my preference for weight-inducing foods. And, the more weight I’d gain. As I did, I ignored it all the more; checking my weight less often and exercising more infrequently.
So, you have this incorrigible elder who—in a number of religious-sounding ways— intimidates all who disagree with him. You’ve tried befriending him, encouraging him, reasoning with him, appealing to scripture… all without effect.
This guy is not looking the way you prefer!
So you resist. How?
By avoiding him. By pretending that the havoc he causes is less than it is. By looking the other way when he unloads his religious judgments on people.
And the terrorism continues…
Coaching distinctions #65.doc
#6: A Culture of Cowardice (part two)
Last time, I introduced what I believe to be a pervasive cultural condition in so many churches that it has become characteristic of the Church in America. I call it A Culture of Cowardice. While there are many wonderful exceptions, compared to the whole, these exceptions are so exceptional that the moniker deserves our attention—particularly when our topic is leadership courage.
Edwin Friedman, in A Failure of Nerve diagnoses American society as chronically anxious. As he describes the features of systems under the condition of chronic anxiety—the Church in North America even more than American society seems to fit the description.
One feature of such systems is that they are toxic to courageous, well-differentiated leadership. So acute is the culture’s abhorrence of discomfort that it “knee-jerks” its way from one perceived threat to another, clamoring for almost instantaneous relief from her ministers, who are pulled in all directions at once. While a pastor may have begun with a clear sense of mission, in short order the mission is overwhelmed by the demand that the “crisis du jour” be averted with all haste. Ministers then, instead of challenging the congregation to mature and leading them to take important new ground, become consumed with smoothing out the never-ending ruffled feathers of the flock.
Caretaking is not leadership. A constituency that is so developmentally-regressed requires that a clergyperson do little more than immerse one’s finger in the mouth, stick it up in the wind, and move in the path of least resistance which, according to Friedman, will be to accommodate the low frustration tolerance of the most immature. And, to do this, all they need to do is answer the phone!
Ministry, for many, resembles the role of a caregiver in an overcrowded orphanage, wearily scurrying to soothe the baby screaming most loudly before she can comfort the next infant to let loose. The priorities of one’s ministry are based more on responding to the immediate needs of church members than in steadfast obedience to the Audience of One.
A leader who remains resolute in pursuit of a cause greater than the good feelings of the congregation (for example, the maturation of the disciples and the mobilization of the membership for ministry to those outside the church) is seen as heartless, unresponsive, deaf to the cries of the downtrodden, and out-of-touch with “real people” within. Emotionally and spiritually emaciated church members have no stomach for a real leader…like Christ.
So, what if Jesus were a member of the typical American church today
To a member of a beleaguered minority he declared: “You have no idea what you’re worshipping!” [Jn 4:22] Embarrassed by Jesus’ insensitivity, the Church might howl: “How cruel, abusive, and bigoted! Our all-loving heavenly Father is nothing like that!”
In the aftermath of freeing the Gadarene [Mt 8:32], imagine the uproar from the typical church today at the brutality shown the pigs. P.E.T.A. members throughout the Church would be calling to have Jesus locked up. “Better that one mentally-disabled person remains as he is than that innocent wildlife be so maliciously mistreated!”
To a fellow Jesus invites to follow him, he says: “Let the dead bury their dead” when they guy asks to first attend the funeral of his father. [Lk 9:60] To this, the church would smugly declare: “How unfeeling, cold, and heartless! A merciful God would never say that!
When Jesus comes upon the merchants in the temple, he goes nuts: vandalizing their property, abusing the animals (again!), and misappropriating their funds. [Jn 2:15] Surely, the church would get a restraining order against Jesus—after his 5150 had expired. “God is a God of order—not chaos”, they might say.
Jesus is revealed in scripture as clear, decisive, and disruptive. You might think Him a study in contrasts: compassionate to the adulteress and hair-triggered to undermine the misguided religious leaders of his day. He would be branded a troublemaker in most US churches today. Jesus was resolute in His commitment to model, bring, and defend the Kingdom of His Father.
I was honored to be interviewed by Dane Sanders on his live webcast a few weeks ago. His website, www.AskDane.com resources professional photographers to build and strengthen their businesses.
As Dane’s business coach, I was asked to do a show with him about working with difficult client situations– perspectives that are transferrable to most any occupation or calling. Plus, you can see how goofy I look on camera!!
Let me know how you find this helpful: www.ustream.tv/recorded/5144738