Question: What mistakes have you made and what/how have you learned from them? Any advice to help me avoid making the same mistakes?
I think we all have a tendency to “fill in the blanks” and make assumptions based on a snapshot. I’ve done it to others, and it’s been done to me. It’s particularly easy to do when someone’s actions don’t match up to what I’m familiar with in my own life.
"Have you ever noticed how we judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions?" The Noticer
I’m thankful for the hard lessons I’ve learned in this area, because I’m less likely to jump to conclusions these days. I’ve learned (and am still learning) that the actions don’t tell the whole story. I get the opportunity to dig deeper to discover the story behind the behavior —behind the person. I’m better because of this and would miss out on SO MUCH that’s great in this world if I spent my days running away from, or fighting against, everything new and unknown.
The real boot camp experience for me came when my daughter hit turbulent times in adolescence. I’m convinced those times would have been a lot less turbulent if I hadn’t feared some of the new subcultures resonating with her. I reacted without taking the time to learn about them first. I read an article about Shepard Fairey, founder of OBEY Clothing. In it, he talks about his alternative journey and the assumptions that people made about his methods. The insights were helpful.
My attitude was never ‘I want to be an isolated person and do my own thing in direct opposition to the mainstream’; it was more like ‘I need to be doing what I’m doing, and I need to figure out how to keep doing it by any means necessary.’ A lot of people think if you are into some sort of subculture or alternative culture that means you are anti-mainstream. My idea was always ‘Well, mainstream is kinda sucky a lot of times, but does it have to be?’ It would be cool to educate people about the stuff that I’m into. Sort of, enlighten the mainstream—raise the bar all across the board rather than having to feel like an outsider forever.
Geez, Louise. Is he right, or what? Too often, I have assumed the wrong motives in people. I defaulted to “if they don’t think like us, they must be anti-us.” I think the big takeaway here is to let people color outside the lines. Every time I apply that principle I learn something new.
A lot of church people struggle with this believing whole-heartedly it’s their holy responsibility to live “separate from the world” and fix the sin of anybody they come in contact with. But, here’s the thing … we’re responsible to people, not for them. This applies in every area of our life - in every relationship.
I read something in Mark Waltz’s Lasting Impressions that talks about the difference between being responsible to people versus being responsible for them. It’s been very helpful to me and I refer to it often. When I remember to apply this, it affects how I shape both my personal and corporate communication.
- When I’m responsible to people, I understand they have a choice. When I’m responsible for people, I think I should decide for them.
- When I’m responsible to people, I know they must figure out their next step. When I’m responsible for people, I try to tell them what their next step is.
- When I’m responsible to people, I allow them to bear the brunt of the consequences for their own chosen actions. When I’m responsible for people, I assume the guilt, or worse the shame, for them.
- When I’m responsible to people, I engage in their journey, offering encouragement and teaching. When I’m responsible for people I try to direct their journey, never allowing them to wrestle, mess up or make a wrong turn.
- When I’m responsible to people, I talk to God on their behalf. When I’m responsible for people, I talk to people a lot on God’s behalf.