When you experience a broken relationship, do you long for the day when what is broken is made new? I do, even when I know that the chances of restoration and reconciliation are slight.
However, I’ve written a post over at our faculty blog suggesting that as good a goal as reconciliation is, it makes for a poor objective for us. Wonder why I think little of reconciliation as an objective? Click the link to find out and to consider some alternate objectives.
Picture this. You are a manager. One of your subordinates, John, accuses you of playing favorites–giving more opportunities for development and promotion to one person and intentionally ignoring the one making the accusation. You absolutely believe the accusation is baseless due to a misunderstanding of workflow and skill sets.
What would be your usual response? Explain? Pull the, “I’m the authority here, I do what I think is right” card? Silence and an eye roll? I imagine most of us choose the explain option. If feels right that we should clarify the misunderstanding.
Why is explaining wrong?
Let me clarify. Explaining isn’t necessarily a sin (though it could be). Surprisingly it rarely helps the situation when offered first. Why is this?
- Pointing out the facts as you see them almost always sounds like a defense
- Defenses (AKA explanations) rarely address the root concern of the other leaving them feeling unheard
A better way
Contrary to our natural tendency to defend against an attack, the best strategy is to validate the concerns of the other. If the employee is concerned they are getting passed over (and you can imagine they have been feeling this for a long while when they finally speak it to you), your explanation of the facts does NOTHING to address their concerns. A loving, Spirit-empowered response will take to heart their fears. “John, I bet you’ve been feeling this for some time. It is important to me that I hear and understand what you are feeling. I do not want you having the impression that you are not valued. I would be happy to explain why Lisa got the new position and how I see your future here. Can we set a time to talk about this tomorrow?”
One of the reasons we don’t validate others first is that we fear our own view of the facts will be swallowed up in the opinions of others. In addition we fear that validation will be heard as agreement. Be wary of these feelings. In fact, when you give the accuser the chance to state their concerns/case first (and do so in a way that they feel heard), your own views are much more likely to be heard.
Now, if only I could employ this technique with better success (on my part) with my teenaged boys! If you don’t know already, such a simple technique of validation requires a massive dose of humility and self-sacrificial love. You cannot do this in your own strength!
www.christianpsych.org, the on-line home for the Society for Christian Psychology has posted a recent post of my own on their site and newsletter. You can find it here. Check out the rest of their site to find great full-length articles and journals. The Society is a division of AACC.
In the last 2 weeks I’ve heard several stories of individuals getting into heated discussions with other christian friends about whether to vote for Obama or McCain. Each of these stories are told by someone considering Obama as their vote. Each one describes their friend as nearly or actually questioning their sanity or faith if they would vote for Obama. I have yet to hear someone saying that a vote for McCain has cost them a relationship in their church.
Seems to me there are a couple of key reasons some Christians get up in arms over Obama.
1. He is clearly pro-abortion rights. He has as much as said he will have a litmus test for Supreme Court Justice nominees. Thus, a vote for Obama is a vote for the continuation of abortion and probably a roll-back on restrictions that have been one in the last decade.
This argument has merit and I can see Christians having strong opinions and questions about the conscience of other Christians who are planning to vote for him. On the other hand, justice issues take many sizes and shapes. While you may disagree with the democratic plan for dealing with the poor, they are the ones more likely to talk about care. Justice and care for the widow and orphan (the poor) is considered to be one of the key facets of the Christian faith (Matt. 23:23). Should abortion trump all other justice issues. Do those who vote for McCain squirm over capitalistic idolatry and the false assumption that individuals will do enough to care for the poor? Do Republicans walk the walk about voluntary sacrifice (and so actually really give sacrificially to the poor) when they accuse Democrats of trying to force it via taxation?
2. Obama is a socialist and is for big government control and mandate into all aspects of life. Our faith rights will be restricted under his power.
Again, it is an interesting debate about the role of government. I think we should be discussing the size and influence of government. Do all Americans have a right to health-care? Should the government pick up the tab? Why? These are good questions. But, should a debate here lead to the questioning of one person’s faith? I don’t see that. Scripture doesn’t support a capitalistic or socialistic government, a small government or large one. We are commanded to submit to our leaders. We are commanded to care for the poor.
Let’s not divide the church and question each other’s faith when we have political differences. The issues are important and there will be real consequences when either candidate gets elected. Let’s debate those and not the faith commitments of our brothers and sisters.