Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tread carefully

Have you ever had a situation where you thought, “I’ve seen something, I’ve found something. Something that I have to tackle. I have to speak now”? A word of Advice. Take a second look, and tread carefully.

Recently, I had that experience. I deferred my taxes due to some of the things going on in our family’s life. As I was slogging through the paperwork, what I was finding was that the numbers were not adding up. I looked at them, I looked at them again, and as the night went on, I just kept staring at it, not sure what I was seeing, thinking it was bad.

I eventually gave up and went to bed frustrated and a little scared. I thought I had to speak to the church leadership and say that the churches 72 year old secretary and treasurer (whom I have come to love deeply) had made a major, potentially job costing mistake. No one wants to do that. After all those years of service, she should get the privilege of retiring gracefully. But it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. As I looked at it, it seemed that there was a difference of several thousand between the pay documents and my 1099.

The next morning, I kept studying the documents. Thinking, I must have missed something. Then it hit me. I was looking at the debit column, showing what came about and came to me, but there was also a credit column, where mistakes that had been made, were corrected. Money out, money back in. I looked, and looked again, started to breath, got out my calculator, and carefully tallied everything up. They all lined up. Hallelujah, thank you God, crisis averted. She had done her job right.

As I breathed easier, I started to thank God for his blessing. Can you imagine what would have happened if I had taken this to the board and accused and then been shown wrong? First, I would have looked like an idiot who couldn’t read a document. Second, I would have unwittingly slandered an innocent person. Third I would have damaged a relationship that I care deeply about. Fourth, I would have critically damaged my reputation as a leader and a trustworthy voice on anything. But finally, I would have critically wounded my church. Factions would have formed, sides would have formed, before the facts were looked at, and when they were, so many would have been hurt emotionally.

But I also started to ask, what can we learn from this? What can you and I learn from this. Tread carefully. Be slow to assume, examine and re-examine, and always think before you speak. When you think you see something, be completely sure. Analyze the facts carefully. What you see may not be the real situation. So often we think we see something and then we charge ahead. This is the basic approach of most of the news media, create a narrative, build hype, "Who cares about what really happened?" Go with the story. Whether you are a business leader, a church leader, someone who works in a factory, a teacher, whatever you are, before you speak, you need to really know the facts. You need to try to get the facts nailed down cold before you put your finger on something. Christians are called to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (Jam 1:19 NIV)”. But additionally, you have the responsibility to use wisdom and discernment, to be wise as serpents and innocents as doves, and part of that is carefully examining the facts, to seek the Lord’s leading, and only then, if the situation warrants it, speak. 

Along with this, there is a lesson on attributing motives that may or not be there. We have to assume the best intent, and then wait for the evidence to come down one way or the other. When we think we find something. We can’t fly off the hand. We can’t causelessly assume the worst and attribute ill motives. We can’t do that. It’s a failure to love. A failure to see people as ones made in the image of God and loved by God, and therefore, worthy of our respect. If we attribute ill motives, we will take ourselves into a pattern, and find that we are living in a place of constant mistrust. Assume the best in people. Give them every chance to succeed. If you do, they might surprise you. 

I’m thankful that I kept looking. I’m thankful that it turned out that the secretary and church treasurer did her job well. I’m thankful that I looked and analyzed the situation. But most of all, I’m thankful that God protected me. My hope and prayer is that we all have the wisdom to continually take the steps necessary, and tread carefully.

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