I keep running into this same problem at work, and I honestly don’t know how to deal with it.
It goes right along the river where people don’t take responsibilities for their actions, don’t acknowledge their behavior and its effects on others, and don’t allow themselves to walk in self-control and self-denial.
It’s sugar-coating our wrong doings, thoughts, and actions. It’s layering them over and under with excuses and exceptions and reasons why it’s OK. It’s trying to soft-peddle and undersell our wrongdoing.
It’s making ourselves feel right by making others feel small, insignificant, and unimportant. It’s calling ourselves queens (or kings) and the rest of the world peasants. It’s declaring ourselves most important by belittling others. It’s feeling superior by purposefully pointing out everyone’s inferiority.
All to make ourselves feel better. All to justify our behavior. All to excuse the inexcusable things we do.
What a big problem! I believe there is a simple solution, or at least a place to start.
We have to call a spade a spade. According to Wikipedia, “To ‘call a spade a spade’ is a figure of speech which explicitly calls out something as it is, by its right name. The implication is not to lie about what something is and instead to speak honestly and directly about a topic, specifically topics that others may avoid speaking about due to their sensitivity or the unpleasant or embarrassing nature of the subject.”
What does this mean?
We have to be honest about our mistakes.
We have to be forthcoming about our wrongdoings.
We have to be transparent in our weaknesses.
We have to be up front about our sin.
Because we don’t help ourselves at all when we won’t call our sin what it is. And the beginning of being better, healing, and progress is being honest by calling our sin what it is – sin.
But boy does it hurt!
So what’s my problem at work? I talked to a customer yesterday about the invoice he received in the mail and made notes of that conversation. One of the issues was that we did not have an email address on the account to email that invoice, and so I noted that I “let him know we mailed a copy for his records because we failed to obtain an email address at the time of the call”. It was a failure. Plain and simple. We didn’t ask. Was it an epic failure? No, by no means. But was is it a failure? Yes. A mistake, a simple mistake. Yet there were consequences. The consequences included us spending money on a stamp to mail the invoice and time on the phone explaining why the customer received a paper invoice.
Was my wording meant to point a finger or assign blame? Not intentionally. Yet you would have thought I had threatened to shoot someone today with the up-in-arms response I received and the chastisement to “soften” my language.
Yes, maybe I could have phrased it a little better. But in that moment that is what I was thinking, so that is what I wrote. From all the evidence I saw during that phone conversation, the conclusion was obvious: we failed. Minorly, not majorly. Nothing newsworthy. But we still failed. Because we didn’t put our details in order.
And why was one person upset over such a minor note? Because she obviously made the mistake. She did not come out and admit that she made the mistake, but she made it very clear that she felt the backlash of the slap of that word “failed”. She took it very personally. When there was nothing personal about it all.
But now she made it personal. Because she slapped back. Because she didn’t stop and ask any questions. Because she assumed intent and responded in form. It didn’t help the situation. And it definitely didn’t help her cause, because she created more offense in responding out of her offense.
So I wonder, as I usually do – how are we ever going to grow and mature as a company and an office if we can’t say we failed? How are we supposed to be better all-around if we refuse to own our mistakes?
So I’m pondering all this today and wondering what it all means. And I honestly don’t know. I’m mad and frustrated. Because I want to desperately to lash out in response (hello, human side that proves how far from perfect I am) and defend myself. But I don’t. Because will it help the situation? Will it make anything better? Will it even be heard? Probably not (and that part makes me very sad). It will just be me, making a vain and futile attempt to “defend” myself against my accusers.
And then the palm of the hand hits the forehead with a gentle “thwap”. Did Jesus feel the need to defend Himself? No. In the face of Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate and all His accusers, He remained silent (Matthew 26:63 – But Jesus remained silent; Matthew 27:14 – But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge). He did not defend Himself or make excuses or try to explain Himself. He did not try to talk anyone out of the abuse and brutality heaped upon Him that afternoon. It didn’t matter to Him if the crowd was on His side, because He had a mission to finish. He had a destiny to fulfill. He had a world to save.
And yet again as I ponder life God makes a point. A valid, straight to the heart point. Hello conviction. My name is Marie, and we’ll be walking together for a bit while I work this out. I’m very grateful that you are conviction, since you will guide me toward Him and the path of righteousness. Your nemesis, condemnation, is an unholy friend that only leads to misery and shame and blame.
Yes, it is hard, sometimes even painful, to say we were wrong. But it is so healthy and so freeing. No more weight of shame or guilt. No more self-criticism and self-reproach.
I make a point to admit my wrongs with my electricians. When I forget to call them back, I answer the phone with a more bashful tone and immediately say “I suck. I’m sorry.” Which I think immediately releases them from being (or staying) mad at me. We actually get to laugh about it and talk about our lack of perfection all around. It’s great. It creates a better relationship. It makes me more approachable. It takes some pressure off of them.
But I struggle with the same thing with other people. Especially people who are judgmental and hypersensitive and never admit their wrongdoings. People who accuse quickly and apologize rarely. People who use broad, general expressions (always, never) to describe behavior and characterize personality.
And today was another great reminder of how far I still have to go. How much I need to let things go. And that I still struggle with calling my sin what it is – sin.
Because I don’t want to be that girl who holds grudges, ascribes blame freely and without guilt, and cannot get along with difficult people. I want to be better. I want to be loving. I want to be humble.
Please, Lord, help me to be less of judgmental type of person and more of the silent Savior, who loved His accusers and even asked You to forgive them as He hung dying on the cross. Help me, Lord, to be quick to forgive and slow to respond. Help me, Lord, to untie my tongue when it stubbornly refuses to say “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong”. Father, I absolutely can not do this without You, Lord, because my flesh is weak and my emotions want to take control. I am believing that every experience is a lesson in learning to love and an opportunity to be Your hands. I am also believing that You will redeem all my experiences for my good and Your glory. Thank You for Your grace which is new each day and Your faith in me that I can do better. In Jesus’ Almighty Name I pray and believe, AMEN!
Marie Fremin, 7/1/15