January 11, 2017
As I wind down my Wednesday Meditations I wanted to pass on to you other options for mid-week reflections. Last week our Conference Minister, Rev. Diane Weible share a New Year’s message I thought would be helpful for this Foothills to think about in the coming Interim year. Go to ncncucc.org to access the weekly message. – Matt Broadbent
Let’s Talk: About a New Year’s Resolution?
Diane Weible, NCNC Confererence Minster
A colleague sent me a copy of a December 29 New York Times article entitled, “The Pitfalls of Trying to Read a Co-Worker’s Mind.” He commented in his email that not only is it a great article about relationships with people with disabilities but it is an important statement about ALL relationships. I agree.
As I read the article I thought about how often I just don’t get it. I think I know what another person is thinking or feeling or experiencing. I base my reaction on what I think I know rather than what the reality is. Often what I think I know is more about what my experience has been and what my reality is and has little to do with the other person’s experience or reality. And, that is when I make mistakes and I make assumptions and I risk hurting or offending the other person by my reaction or response.
And, yet, the way to avoid this kind of pitfall is so simple. Ask. Ask questions or even just ask one simple question: “What is it that you need?” or “How can I be most helpful?” or “This is what I see? Is this what you see?” Sometimes those questions can be hard to ask because we are afraid of the answers, especially when it comes to the last question. We are afraid that someone is going to tell us the truth-that our behavior was offensive or that it hurts them when we say or do something in a particular way. It takes courage to be able to tell another person how we perceive their actions or how their behavior affects us. It also takes courage to ask the question in the first place, knowing the answer may not be what we want to hear.
But, the reality is that none of this is possible without first building relationships of trust. We need to listen to our co-workers or friends or colleagues, even family members who we think we know well, and take time to learn about them and what is important to them. We need to show interest in their lives and a willingness to understand how they perceive the world around them. Once we do that, trust begins to form. Relationships grow stronger and when someone assumes that your stepping in to make coffee is a sign that you think the person is not capable of making their own coffee, that person will have the courage to ask you about it. And you will trust that person enough to explain what you were thinking.
And, once we can have those conversations at the coffee machine, just imagine the kinds of conversations we can have about privilege and prejudice and gun violence and poverty. There is no end to the work we can do together when we first trust one another enough to learn how to talk to one another. I hope that you will also commit yourself to building those relationships in your own communities this coming year and then engaging in these important conversations.
I hesitate to call it a New Year’s Resolution because New Year’s Resolutions have such a bad reputation for being broken so I will say, instead, that my prayer for 2017 is that our Conference also begin some focused work on building these relationships and beginning these tough conversations. The conversations will make us stronger and as a strong community of faith there is no end to the good that we can offer the world.