Archive for May 2010
I am not sure how it became so or who I learned it from, but my mouth has a devastating history. My parents don’t speak with a foul tongue EVER, so I think I got it from the influences of Philly suburbs. My mouth is just another example of God changing something from bad and using it for good.
I am serious when I say I used to have a mouth. I don’t think my intentions were ever malicious, more just to get a laugh. BUT none the less, I remember after high school people telling me how much I hurt them, one girl told me she used to cross the street and walk the other way when she saw me, cause she was scared. Ugh. How awful. I also remember putting my parents through dramatic difficulties with my tongue. The Bible is pretty clear how powerful a weapon the mouth can be and I used it to cut others badly. It is the number one thing we all have that can be used for such great evil.
I won’t pretend my mouth is anywhere near perfect now. I still get a little low when trying to get a laugh. One thing I am better at is using my mouth to build others up instead of tear down. With that said, I am happy to report that in the last month God used my mouth for good. Some colleagues and I have struggled through an interpersonal conflict. It was very hard on everyone involved, even though everyone involved had a great heart. It really was all about the mouth. I saw the whole issue as a communication gap and a relatively normal, unfortunate situation in the world we live in. I was able to step in with what was sometimes brutal honesty but “soft” words and somehow it worked. It calmed things down enough to where nothing fell apart. Then another person got involved and we are just about all better now.
It amazes me how important communication is and then how impossible it seems at times. The slight change in the way we say something can turn a dagger into a rose, or vice versa. God blessed me with a great mentor. This guy knew how to shape his words so that they never were attacking, or creating defense mechanisms. I swear he could tell me the worst news I have ever heard and I would be happy about it. That’s how good he is. I used to try to talk like him, with all that “ use I messages and not you messages” stuff. Ugh, I failed so much and it was frustrating! But through this conflict I found myself pulling on lessons learned from him and actually applying them well! I really didn’t do much to help, but I can see how in helping framing words and messages with a couple people it lead to a “softer” conflict.
I also want to praise God for turning another awful experience into a blessing. At Aetna I had one of the worst working interpersonal conflicts ever. I’ll just say I was kicked(seriously?) by a coworker in the office then obviously H.R. upper management and many more got involved. It was demoralizing. I felt like such a failure. All the good I had stored up for four years was completely lost. My career was in jeopardy, my self esteem was devastated, and my faith was challenged. It lasted for a very long time, about a year. I can say I never truly recovered. BUT, that conflict totally gave me confidence and some learning lessons I could apply to the one we all just experienced. It was AWESOME! I felt so thankful that God made it so clear how he used that awful time to get my through a much more important and potentially devastating issue. I really enjoyed that I could take some of the “craziness” in stride without wavering. It felt manly and courageous.
I really hang onto the verses that tell us tough times build our character(James, Philippians, Romans). They are my favorite. I am so eager to see the lessons learned by all of us from the conflict recently averted. I am so thankful to have a God that turns our worst times and problems into blessings and successes. I am also thankful that God has allowed me to realize and even enjoy the problems of the mouth and how to avoid them. It amazes me when people don’t put much emphasis on how they frame their words and don’t realize how damaging they can be. If we all had our own “Ralphs” this world would be a better place. I am also thankful to have a personality that wants to attack conflict. Though this has wreaked havoc on some of my dating relationships, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I embrace conflict with confidence because I know my God will make me stronger through it.
For anyone who has taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, the above letters should look familiar. Per a book on different personalities, the above letters make me a “Provider”. Providers are those who “ seem eager to serve others, making sure they feel well-supplied with provisions and are a part of the group”. Yeah that sounds right.
It is intriguing, to say the least, to study the different personalities, add my faith to it, and then add the new culture which surrounds me. I am a huge fan of any type of test/theory that allows us to become more self-aware and aware of others. I believe it is a required key for unity and justice. I have also learned through my 6 years at Aetna and short time in Ethiopia, that ignoring our differences creates a mess centered in poor communication.
The way Myers Briggs lumps personalities together brings into question God’s design for me. It makes me wonder about destiny and his creation. Is my destiny a product of my personality, or my personality a product of my destiny? Did God use a cookie cutter to make us with slight modifications? These are questions I would leave for my friend and theorist Andrew! After much thought, it is obvious to me that God’s power and glory is most visible through each extremely unique human being. Our differences are ironically the greatest source of relational miracles and relational catastrophes. They also show the unfathomable power of our creator.
As an American, my tenancy is to exert my personality onto others. I actually think this is a human trait, just intensified by me. When we see difference in someone we lean towards wanting to fix them, or wonder what’s wrong with them. Ugh, what a disastrous mistake. Wanting to change someone is the first step to creating an un-unified body. It is when we humble ourselves and honor our differences that we can come together and achieve greatness as a whole. The Bible never suggests that love is only for the similarities between us. Love is a blanket statement and action. Love is for all, our friends, enemies, family, those like us and those opposite.
As you may know or imagine, personality differences are not a part of the equation in Ethiopia. Psychology here is nothing compared to America. Culturally, Ethiopia works in a group mentality which means there is little emphasis put on individuals and therefore personalities. Everyone works towards the group’s goal, whether it fits their “style” or not. Well, I am challenged to find a balance. I believe it is God honoring to appreciate each individual’s differences, but I do appreciate the way Ethiopians work together for the betterment of the whole. By no means do I want to exert my Americanisms on Ethiopia, but I do hope I can be a part of introducing a new technique to relationships.
Another aspect of personality differences that excites me here, is just watching our boys. I am so challenged to find ways to allow each unique young man flourish within his own ambitions, abilities, interest, and traits. WOW, what a challenge to not “control” but what a reward to be a part of it and be able to watch them grow!
My friend and colleague Muleken and I, spent last Saturday night with our 28 boys. Saturday night is prime time in the area where the boys live, play and work. It was an eye opening and disheartening experience.
The Bole area in which our boys reside is an upscale area. It consists of many restaurants, bars and general stores. The night time provides the boys with their best chance to generate income. Some boys try to sell cigarettes and gum out of a held box thing called a “jeblo”. Other boys try to watch cars, or do misc. errands for patrons of the local bars and restaurants. A few of them simply beg. A lot of the time is spent trying to entertain themselves with some form of futball.
Of course their behavior was curbed due to our presence. I tried to disguise my white skin and broad shoulders as much as possible but I stand out. I think after a couple hours the boys sank into comfortable routines forgetting we were there. Some tried purchasing some naughty things, until they realized we were in their midst. That got a good laugh from all of us.
A couple of our boys impressed us with their ability to sell and market their cigarettes and gum. One boy stood out as knowing everyone, or at least seeming too. He is generally the most successful in terms of sales.
Our night consisted mostly of walking around and sitting. The boys were scattered a couple times by the local police who do not like them congregating in any one area. We watched one of our boys flee security guards from across the street, knowing he was doing something he knew not to. One of the policemen who approached them with force(“dula” or night sticky ready) was shocked when I pulled my hoody down and gave him the “ I dare you look”. That was fun.
The most disheartening part was seeing the atmosphere these boys are subjected to every day. The amount of stumbling drunks, drug and tobacco use, verbal abuse, sexual indecency, fights, and physical abuse is mind numbing. What can we expect to happen when young teenagers are exposed to this? DUH? How can this be? How can our world allow this? What are our excuses to ignore, not care, and stand idly by?
I recently wondered is my mind opened or corrupted? I will never be able to enter my old comfortable bubble again. I will never be able to cheer for a sports team, go on a date, buy something I want, take a vacation, do anything without the reality of our world and my boys lives close at hand. So is it poor me? Or thank God? I am sure the opinions on that front would vary, but obviously I am so thankful. My life and mind are changed forever, may they be committed to raising awareness and playing a positive role during my short time left on earth! Oh and trust me, this sounds WAY more noble then I really am. See last blog, I am a slacker! HA.