Thursday, July 21, 2011

Digging for Reactions' Roots

The other day I read a number of challenging emails before breakfast. Bad idea. When I am still sleepy and haven't made any coffee yet, my guard is down. I'm vulnerable to taking things wrong. I think it's OK to reach for my iPod and check the RSS feeds - which tend to "feed" me rather than asking anything of me -  but maybe I should hold off on the emails? 

Two of them were asking me to recommend solutions to problems that remain mysteries to me - requests which elicited my distaste for not knowing the answer. I felt myself growing testy.  

I hate feeling ignorant. 

Another came from someone who wanted me to send some files and the email providers kept rejected them. Drat. What's the workaround? 

I hate feeling incompetent.  

A fourth email was asking me to retract or change something I'd published... Ugh. Reminding me of all the times it's happened in the past, especially when I gave authors, promoters, or ministry leaders the chance to see, in advance, what I'd written about something they'd created. "Leave out that part about the book's weaknesses, or how old the video is, or that the conference is really mostly for the 18-25-year-old set. That the curriculum a little too American, or written for Baptists." 

Don't they know my job is to serve the readers, to offer them information and discernment about whether the resource is worth their while - that it would be wrong for me to give my allegiance to the publishers and promoters? When I feel or anticipate pressure to recommend something that's not very good but that comes from someone who expects my "loyalty," well, that's hard. Then I really feel taken advantage of.  

I hate betraying my own integrity. 

In reflecting on it later in the day I realized my sensitivity about this last matter, especially, is probably linked not only to events of the relatively recent past, but that it pokes at a far older, unresolved sore point. Remember I wrote about that revelation from counseling that one of the big statements that echoes in my life is "you don't matter"? Or at least, that I don't matter as much as other people. That I'm supposed to keep the peace, not make trouble, toe the line, and stop telling other people what I think. Because what I think, what I want, or what I care most about, it just doesn't matter. 

Well, just recognizing the roots of my reactions to each of these emails really helped. The people who asked for help in addressing sticky ministry problems, well, I could come alongside them and we could pool our ignorance (or knowledge) and maybe come up with some good ideas. 

Eventually, I got the computer files to my friend in Asia. He was sympathetic to the challenge, and so grateful to be reunited with the tools he needed when they finally went through. 

And even when, at the end of the day, I went back and looked at the email asking me to change my resource review... It wasn't such a big deal after all. They weren't mad at me, or demanding, but actually pleased with most of what I'd said. They were just asking for a simple change and it was one I could say yes to. So I did. 


Maybe I'll never get to the point where my responses to other people are not affected by these kind of things, when I can stop making it "about me" and no longer react to challenges out of proportion when they seem to highlight my insecurities and inabilities. But it would be great to recognize these things more quickly and put them into perspective. 

Here's one thing I've found that seems to help: How to Change a Negative Character Trait (Donald Miller).

No comments: