Thinking Out Loud

May 16, 2017

Letting the Other Person Win

In my younger days I attended a College-and-Career Bible study where the topic for the evening was deferring to others. Note I did not say preferring others. I’ve heard that sermon many times. Holding the door open for the other person. Letting the person cut in front of you in line at the bank. That sort of thing.

No, this was about deferring to others. Surrendering whatever authority you could possibly leverage in the situation in order to allow the other person to have their way. Letting the less experienced or less qualified person have power and control. Even when you know you have a better way.

The best example I can come up with is this: You’re playing chess with a child and you allow the child to win. You’re the better player. You watch them make mistakes and lose pieces. You see them miss an opportunity to put you in check. But eventually you allow them to get your queen cornered and you say, “Wow! You beat me!”

This happens in families. It happens in neighborhoods. It happens over and over again in workplaces. And it can happen in church life, particularly if you oversee a board or a ministry committee. Sometimes, just because the other person has been at the church longer, or their grandparents paid for the Christian Education wing, the people in charge are not necessarily the best chess players. You have experience from how another church did this, or a particular talent or gift you could bring to bear on a given situation, but your suggestions are not appreciated, much less likely to be acted upon.

At that point you have to shrug your shoulders and default to the existing paradigm.

Here’s a consideration: Everybody knows that from a technical standpoint, Beta was a better videotape format than VHS. But VHS won. Some places still sell the videos. But in church life, should we not aim for excellence? Should we not want to present to the community at large, and before God himself, our best?

Yes and no. Jesus never prayed for us to come up with the most attractive programs, or serve the tastiest coffee to visitors, or have the most amazing worship team played through a state-of-the-art sound system. He prayed for unity in the body. (See yesterday’s C201.) Part of the way we achieve that unity is to relinquish control; to let the other person win. In Philippians 2, we read that although he was God, he did not see his divinity as something to be leveraged. That’s my paraphrase. I might have said, something to be leveraged every five minutes.

It’s really hard when you’re facing a situation in church, neighborhood, workplace or family life where two very strong wills collide head-to-head, but the higher calling is to take the lower position.

If the other person, idea or methodology fails, perhaps then you might invoke an ‘I told you so.’ But if things turn out not bad or reasonably well, you can sleep better knowing you took the high road. If it makes you feel better, you can think of it as, ‘I am deferring to you, not because I think you are right, or have the better concept, but because you are my brother or sister.’

Image: WebMD


April 10, 2016

The Opposite of Caring

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:51 pm

A woman was looking for a gift to give to the nursing staff who had cared for her mother-in-law in her final days. “I want to give them something,” she said, “because they really cared for her.”

We talked a bit how in certain institutions, you get to know when staff really care for the people in their …care… and when they don’t. You see people who don’t care all the time. At the bank. In retail environments. Getting your car serviced.

What’s the opposite of caring? Apathy. Indifference. Selfishness. Do other words come to mind?

Oddly enough though, none of these ranks among the Seven Deadly Sins. Granted, sloth may prevent someone doing a job, and pride may make someone indifferent to the needs of others.

On the positive side, we have the Fruit of the Spirit. There we find kindness and goodness. If your translation lists meekness among the nine fruit, it’s hard to be self-centered and be meek at the same time. Meekness is sometimes associated with humility — the thing Philippians 2 tells us should be our core attitude — which is the opposite of self-centered pride.

A tougher issue to face is: How do we respond when encountering someone who doesn’t care? Who doesn’t put any thought, energy, passion or conviction into their work? Who doesn’t give 110%, but gives about 10%?

Our response can be just as important as their terrible work habits. If we respond unlovingly in anger or rebuke we may be, overall, just as guilty as they.

On the other hand, if your work consists of simply doing the absolute minimum needed to get by, maybe it’s time to consider another vocation.

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