“I’m not saying I can follow this advice I’m about to give you,” I said to my friend last year. She had gotten frustrated with some personality differences she had with a colleague. The thing is, she couldn’t just pretend as if her colleague wasn’t there. They were on a team together; they had to work together. And, that colleague got on her nerves so bad, that most of our conversations were consumed with how to “handle her” from one conflict to the next.
So, I told her, “What I try to do is deal with the part of the person you admire most.” I guess that’s another way of saying, find the good and just deal with that part. Folks, I don’t know why I told her that, because this isn’t something I’ve mastered in my professional or even ministry relationships.
When it comes to my family, it’s easy to find and cater to the good. That’s family. I live with them. I love them, so I’m willing to do the work of considering the diamond encased in the coal. When we’re talking about ministry teams, colleagues, or co-workers, it’s not always that easy. You’re not (well, at least I’m not) as inclined to put in the extra work.
The thing is, your co-workers, church members, ministry team members, all of these folks are people, too. They have hearts, souls, and purposes which are probably grander than… (gulp) your feelings. Don’t they deserve the same consideration? I would argue they do, and here’s why. I want folks (and I mean every folk in the universe) to consider me, even when I’m being less than considerable. I take what I can take from the person who is the thorn of the day (because it’s not always the same person), because I know I’d want them to grant me the same grace.
What that means is, when I’m tempted to pop-off on someone because her unseemly side is showing, I have to talk to myself about what makes that person special, unique, a real contributor to the cause. What special skills and abilities does the person have that I don’t? What makes them a good fit in that particular ministry? What made them the best candidate for that particular job? Dig up the good stuff and engage with that side of the person. Bring conversations, interactions, collaborations to the part of the person’s admirable God-gifted qualities.
It’s funny, though. You will likely find the very thing that is a shining quality of the person who causes you frustrations is the very thing that makes them hard to deal with. It’s the perversion of their gift. It’s what happens when carnality is allowed to sneak into the pure gift that God has given each of us. And guess what? When you see your “thorn” doing the most with the least, you are getting to see what it looks like when your gift is tainted by your flesh. It’s not a good look.
I believe you have the power to redirect a perverted gift to a place of purity by interacting with the pure side of the gift. Look for a compliment to give your nemesis on things s/he does well. When you see the gift becoming mottled, try to redirect by reminding the person of a time when her/his gift worked well. And finally, you can just walk away for a minute.
If you walk away, be prepared to address the question of “Why’d you leave?” You need to be honest with that person if they ask. You need to help him by letting him know that “what you did right there was not cool. It was not the best use of your gift, talent, expertise. And it’s really hard to work with you when you diminish the value of your _____ by doing ________.” That’s going to catch your person off guard; it may even tick them off, but later, if your person is mature enough, they may appreciate your honesty and try day by day to do better.
They may respect your candor. They may not. And if they don’t, it’s okay. You did your part. That person may isolate themselves from you for a little minute, and if nothing else, you’ll get a break from them while you re-up for your next encounter.
Think about it. Wouldn’t you prefer for someone to deal with your tantrums, mistakes, annoyances that way? Wouldn’t you prefer for someone to tell you when you’re out of whack? Wouldn’t you like it better if folks didn’t leave you hanging out there looking a mess? Wouldn’t you prefer for someone who catches you in a fault come to you and restore you to your former gifted self? If you would, do unto others. Help others help themselves, and everyone will be better for it.
Catching Faults, Restoring Folks