Assume that People Do Their Best? Is that Possible?
Some thoughts from Mark Landry’s (not so) completely. miserable. blog. His latest post, titled Some (painful-for-me) Thoughts on Letting People Off the Hook, began like this –
I’ve learned something recently, something that I know will change my life if I can get my head around it, something I wish I would have realized 20 years ago, but nobody was talking about things like this when I was 30. If I could fax my younger self I’d say without hesitation – master this.
Brene Brown, in one of her recent books “Rising Strong,” relates some powerful advise from a friend:
Steve said, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” His answer felt like truth to me. Not an easy truth, but truth.
This sounded great, so I tried it. Massive fail. I don’t have it in me. I’ve built an entire world around judging others, comparing myself to others, using the “laziness” of others to make myself feel good, labeling people based on what they have or haven’t accomplished in their lives.
It feels good to tear someone down. It makes us feel valuable, ironically, when we take someone’s value away. But ultimately I have to put myself under the same microscope, which is especially hard these days. I”m a washed up, has-been pastor, now a stay at home dad. Not much in my life to tout. All the judgments, all the “can you believe that guy” thoughts that I’ve used to create my little accomplishment-based caste system have come back to haunt me. In spades. Over and again I come up just as short as everyone else.
“It makes us feel valuable, ironically, when we take someone’s value away.”
Along with Mark Landry, I have been thinking a lot recently about the damage of criticism. Glasser rated criticism as the most damaging of the Deadly Habits, the most disconnecting of the “disconnectors.” Passages I am reading in a little book called Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing has reinforced Glasser’s concern regarding the effects of criticism. The people of Jesus’ day, the little book points out, “reflected the spirit of their religious leaders as they intruded on the conscience of others and judged each other in matters that are between the soul and God.”
It was in reference to this spirit and practice that Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1), and which the little book further explains –
That is, do not make your opinions, your views of duty, your interpretations of Scripture, a criterion for others and in your heart condemn them if they do not come up to your ideal. Do not criticize others, conjecturing as to their motives and passing judgment upon them.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 178
Once again, I am reminded of the similar emphasis of these two disparate authors – Ellen White and William Glasser – the first a spiritual author at the turn of the 20th century and the second a secular author at the turn of the 21st century. Glasser would have resonated with Ellen’s statement, for instance, that –
“The sin that leads to the most unhappy results is a cold, critical, unforgiving spirit.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 181
It is especially interesting to me just how far the damage of a critical spirit can reach, and how powerful that damage can be. Our personal relationships are hurt when criticism is present, often deeply, but we also need to remember how the spirit of criticism can affect an organization’s atmosphere, and in particular a leader’s strategy within that organization. Religious leaders and churches do not draw a pass here. In fact, it is just the opposite. In the passage that follows, Ellen White describes how criticism morphs into control, and how laws and persecution are the sure result. She writes –
When men indulge this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother. If milder means fail of making him do what they think ought to be done, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power they will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done ever since whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.
Christ does not drive but draws men unto Him. The only compulsion which He employs is the constraint of love. When the church begins to seek for the support of secular power, it is evident that she is devoid of the power of Christ–the constraint of divine love. Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 182
Christ does not drive but draws men unto Him.
The only compulsion which He employs is the constraint of love.
Love is the answer, and always has been. Yet how strong the pull is to coerce loved ones into complying with our ideas of what is right. Whether organizationally or individually, though, whenever the spirit of criticism rules the results are disastrous. May we keep from criticizing, judging, blaming, and forcing others to accept our ideas, especially if we are in any way associated with religion.
I have been receiving a lot of positive feedback on the last post, Desks as Cars. Check it for a great idea about teaching Choice Theory to children.
If you have read Glasser’s biography, Champion of Choice, would you take a moment and write a review that I can share as part of The Better Plan blog? Sales of the book have been slow in the U.S. Let’s do what we can to let others know of Glasser’s life and ideas.