The new girl, Mary, walked briskly into the office carrying a stack of file folders. She was smiling cheerfully and wearing a bright yellow dress with a vibrant floral pattern. Martha looked up from her desk. “What in the world are you wearing? That dress is not appropriate business attire for this office –besides, it’s way too tight.”
Mary dropped the folders on an empty desk and rushed from the room.
“Where do we find these people?” muttered Martha.
“Well, what do you think?” Mary asked her new supervisor, Martha. Smiling, she spun around lightly in her new sun dress. Although a pretty outfit, to Martha it looked to be painfully tight on her. And much too casual for this type of office.
“Mary, you look beautiful!” she said. Mary gave her a quick hug and dashed back to her cubicle, excited to start a new work week. Martha made a mental note to invite Mary out to lunch and have a tactful conversation about the office dress code.
Please bear with me – I do have a point, somewhere….let me see….
Lately we’ve had some heated discussions on this site, over such issues as the doctrine of hell and the nature of evangelism. Rarely does one side seem to get the other to see it their way, including those times in which they actually are in close agreement.
I realize now that we’ve been arguing about the wrong thing. It’s not the message, but the messenger (as I suggested in an earlier post: https://sharpiron.wordpress.com/2007/07/09/shoot-the-messengers-why-fire-and-brimstone-preaching-is-evil/#comment-1788) More precisely, it’s how we put the message across that seems to really be the issue. I don’t think that it is always the truth of Christian doctrine that may repulse so many people (although that is often what we have been told) but more likely it is our delivery that needs to change. Of course we need to choose the right words but it is also important to take into consideration who we address and when we address them.
To criticize or rebuke someone we do not know well, someone who has yet to garner our trust, is often an exercise in futility. We must first take the time and effort necessary to convince someone that we really do care about them, in ways that are meaningful to them, and not necessarily to us. Telling an unfamiliar person that their actions or beliefs will result in damnation is akin to lobbing a personal insult at them. Marching in rallies with placards and signs (or calling radio shows or commenting on blogs) condemning perfect strangers rarely wins converts. How many times do we respond favorably when we are the targets of such criticism? I think it is unreasonable of us to expect a more open minded response than we would give ourselves. In many cases our opinions are unsolicited and unwelcome, no matter how well reasoned and thoughtful they may be.
When someone does ask for our opinion it might be best to ease it into the conversation gradually, finding out first who this person is, what burdens they might carry, what wounds they may still suffer from. To quickly respond with brutal honesty, no matter how convinced we are of the correctness of the answer, is not a good way to build honest relationships. The fear of being judged will discourage many people from opening their hearts. It may also deter them from asking our advice again.
This reminds me of the best set of management books that I have ever read. There are literally thousands of dry, boring, ponderous tomes on how to effectively manage people and in my opinion they make excellent substitutes for firewood. But one tiny little book, “The One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard made my job so much more enjoyable as well as productive. Throughout the series that he co-authored with Spenser Johnson there is a consistent theme. Their philosophy in a nutshell is this:
No one wants to be ‘told’ what to do. People respond to praise much more readily than reprimands, so we need to find something that they are doing right before we try to redirect them. If we can’t get people to ‘buy into’ what our goals for them are then we will fail miserably. In order for them to ‘buy into’ our goals they must believe that we care for their well being even more than our agendas. This is only possible if it is the truth.
Think about it; if we don’t like it when people harangue us why should we expect them to respond favorably when we do it? If we expect others to respect our point of view, then we should treat their views with equal if not more respect.
My brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted, too. Gal 6:1
You should forgive him and encourage him, in order to keep him from becoming so sad as to give up completely. And so I beg you to let him know that you really do love him. 2Co 2:7-7