An Outsider's Perspective

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

~ James 1:2-8, The Message

If we want different results after all our attempts have failed to produce it, we must look outside ourselves for the truth.

In recovery...“You get this theme of responsibility which is saying if you don’t assume 100% responsibility for this condition, you are probably not going to get better. You can’t change the past, you can’t change other people, you can only change your own life.”

~ Quote from NACR video By the Book: Click here to view.

Turning into what you despise

One night over dinner we had an interesting discussion about power dynamics. My youngest, who is working as a barista, was lamenting the many ways he has seen customers treat baristas and other service providers over the years. He also expressed some feelings about how managers or owners of the small shops where he has worked either create a environment of safety or not, based on their capacity to lead.

Our daughter, who is a bit further up the food chain in her job, shared her perspective as it related to being a manager. Oftentimes a manager has to implement a decision that they vehemently disagreed with behind closed doors with others in higher authority. A decent manager, in her opinion, throws herself in front of the slings and arrows of the outrageous misfortune of having to present an unpopular idea to a team. She believes you protect your superiors, which means that sometimes team members blame their supervisor for decisions the supervisor doesn’t agree with. She says she learned this from her best bosses over the years. Ahhhh, perspective.

Whether we are the boss or the employee, we all have an instinct about power dynamics. It’s human nature. The less power we perceive we have, the more likely we are to distrust authority. Our son, who perceives he has no power, wants the people with power to learn how to do better. Our daughter, with a teeny tiny bit more authority, ALSO feels sympathy for the authority figures who have tough calls to make.

This led to a discussion about what that looks like. I pushed my son, asking what he would do differently if he were the owner or boss. To which he said, “You know, the thing that concerns me is that I am worried I might turn into my worst boss rather than live up to the quality of my best ones. It just seems to me that power can be very corrosive; sometimes we become the person we once judged.”

Wow. Yes. As we grow and have more responsibility, maybe even a bit more authority, we might want to consider how we have automatically adopted some of the practices we hated when we had no power. Or, we can use our authority to be the boss we wanted, not necessarily the boss we were given over the years. This can be applied to parenting, in a marriage, or of course, at work.

Who are you imitating? How can you live out the way you want to be treated rather than repeat the mistakes that you criticize in others?

Exhaustion breeds criticism

Ever notice how tensed up we get when we are tired and cranky? It happens. In recovery, we talk about HALT - do not get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired - for that is a slippery slope.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

~ Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Jesus is not a fan of exhaustion. He is not looking for an army of codependent Christians who do not practice self-care.

Jesus said - rest.

How can you add rest to your day? Remember - this is not exhausted slumber or power naps. This is rest for the soul. How might you find a way to rest?

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#17 - Contribute!

It’s not enough to squash our tendency to criticize - if we want to grow and change. We need to learn how to be a helper. Here is what a helper can do:

* Effective helpers do not criticize.

* Effective helpers learn how to offer feedback, when asked, with clarity, kindness and support.

* Effective helpers are those who do not talk about a problem without being willing to labor over a possible solution.

* Effective helpers are careful; they do not assume that their position is correct. They are curious, asking tons of questions before diving in and pointing out a problem. Oftentimes, when we hear another’s perspective, we realize that the problem is more complicated than our imagined solution can handle or maybe the solution is better than we realized.

* Effective helpers do not try to solve problems that aren’t theirs to solve. They save their helping energy for issues that they have earned the right to speak into, they have sweat equity in the solution, and they have earned the seal of trustworthiness.

Are you as effective as you’d like to be? If not, what do you need to find support and skills to help change and grow?

Other people's inventories

Criticism is a sure fire way to slow progress. I’m not talking about feedback, or brainstorming, or even making an honesty inventory of our strengths and weaknesses. Criticism is never helpful. Let’s be clear - there may be times when we think we are being helpful. But if there is a hint of criticism, your best efforts at helpfulness are blown before you even start. There are times when our fears or insecurities are handled using the misdirection of criticism. This will not make us less afraid or more secure.

Signs that you might be a critic: People do not respond well to your feedback, you say things like, “I am just being honest,” you might be told you are negative or your standards are unattainable. Sometimes we sneak criticism in sideways. “You may not know this but SOME PEOPLE think/feel that You….” Not EVER helpful. It’s the equivalent of Christian saying “Somebody is going up the stairs.” It’s a LOT cuter on a two year old than an adult.

Are you concerned about an issue or for a person? That’s kind of you. Do other people’s problems make you nervous or freak you out? Beware. You might be moving into codependency territory.

Criticism, at its heart, is a way to distract ourselves or others from our own shortcomings, insecurities, and fears. There’s just no useful place for it. We do not need to criticize ourselves and we certainly do not need to criticize others.

There are very few relationships that rise to the level of accountability that make us the people responsible for criticizing another person.

How do we set aside criticism and learn how to be helpful when there is an issue that needs addressing? We’ll deal with that tomorrow. For today, notice if you are distracted from taking your own moral inventory by finding what you perceive is “missing” in others.

More and more curious

Carrying on from yesterday...if you need to get caught up, there is a link at the bottom of the email (for those of you who read via email).  If you're reading directly on the web, check out the post from September 4, 2018.

After the story was told to me, I had some curious questions of my own.  I asked my adult child about the reaction of the other party and I was pleasantly surprised to hear this:


“Well, it was interesting.  Here’s what happened.  When I didn’t get sucked into a discussion about my personality, it allowed me to stay on point with the real purpose of the conversation - which was to provide feedback to this person.  My boss had asked me to handle the problem of this person’s under performance.  The whole conversation started with me having to do the hard thing of explaining why this person’s service contract with us was on the verge of cancellation.  Instead of getting sidetracked with a conversation about me, I was able to return to the original point of discussion:  her need to improve her performance.  Which, by the way, could be done with or without me having a personality at all, either good or bad.”


No one likes negative job feedback.  Right?  But consider the alternative.  What if the vendor had been able to distract the conversation.  In the moment, she could have avoided hearing about her work issues BUT she would have forfeited her opportunity to respond to the feedback and improve her performance.  Which, by the way, she actually was able to accomplish and resulted in her keeping the contract.


Using the “strong back” “soft front” language of Brene’ Brown, the capacity to not chase after the approval of others in that moment enabled my child to provide a kindness to another.  At my ripe old age, I am not sure I would have had the wisdom to do the same.  Tomorrow, I will share what I learned when I asked my adulting child how this decision was made because I believe it holds some practical wisdom for those of us who are trying to rise above our defensive and resentful postures to a more hopeful and courageous way of living.

Self-evaluation

Anyone ever swore to themselves that when they grew up they would not be “like them”?  How are you doing with that promise to yourself?


Sometimes we are unconscious of how much we imitate early role models for relationships.  Sarcasm.  Passive-aggressive comments. Abuse in various forms.  These various forms of disrespect may be carried over into our own lives without us noticing.


Suppose we grow up in a family with a history of physical abuse.  We vow to never, ever perpetuate that cycle onto our children.  We follow through.  We imagine that our children are so grateful that we didn’t beat them with a stick or withhold food as punishment.


But what if we tend to shame them with demands for better performance?  What if we are withdrawn and not available for them on a daily basis?  What if we are so needy and insecure that we ask them to think more about our own emotional nurturance than we ever think about theirs?


From our lens, we have improved the model; from their frame of reference, they are still not getting what they need to thrive.


Self-evaluation is tricky; let’s seek help by getting feedback from others (particularly folks who have some wisdom and distance from our family system so they can be both detached and objective).