29th February 2012

A Quiet Word

“The day is coming when the world is going to stand before a jury made up of followers of Jesus. If someday you are going to rule on the world’s fate, wouldn’t it be a good idea to practice on some of these smaller cases?”
1 Corinthians 6:2-3 (MSG)

One of the things I have learnt over the years, from a number of different walks of life, is that a quiet word can make a lot of difference.  Why do I say this?

Well.  I have noticed through various relationships that all too often we fail to appreciate the difference between the objective and subjective.  In other words we substitute our opinions or feelings (which are subjective) with the Standard, Rule, Guideline or Command (which is objective).  We feel that our interpretation or practice is synonymous with the rule, and far too often the only way!  It has an added complication when the person holding the opposing view is your boss, employer, other authority figure or a fellow Christian.

Rules are rigid.  They need to be interpreted in such a way that they are meaningful, applicable and enforceable.  The purpose of rules is that everyone knows where they stand, giving a common framework for all.

Now the problem comes when you and I read the same rule and have a genuine difference in regard to its meaning and subsequent practice.  That difference is based on experience, culture, age, gender, etc.  So how do we resolve matters in such cases?  Obviously, we are not talking about serious bad practice, imminent danger or law-breaking.

I would respectfully like to offer a few guidelines:
1)  Don’t assume the worse.  It is not about making the other person look bad and you good, but trying to understand why they think, or have done, such and such. Sometimes it is simply a different way of doing it.
2)  Resolve at the lowest possible level.  In many instances the first port of call is the person involved in this situation.  There could be a perfectly good reason or a gap in their understanding.  Give the person a fair hearing  Rather than running to the Supervisor or Pastor in the first instance, try talking with the person.
3)  Seek good advice.  Speak to another person who has the relevant knowledge that will help.  Then go, hopefully together, to a neutral respected person who can try to reconcile the parties.  Escalate only as required to address the substantive issue/s.

I am not saying it will resolve all matters, but as mature people and children of God we should be able to work together to make our relationships a little smoother.  It is about mutual respect.  Even when there are differences, problems or other issues, we should allow the other person to maintain their dignity (under fire).

It is said of the Church that it is the only institution that shoots its wounded!  As Christians, let us strive to lift each other up and allow them to shine in the best light, doing the best job possible in very difficult circumstances and with many complex factors. So next time something comes up, say to yourself that perhaps I will have a quiet word with them first.

Dear Father, Once again thank you for calling us into an awesome relationship with you and our many neighbours. Help us day by day to bring compassion and empathy into the world. In Jesus name.

Study by David Gibbs

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