Rita's new book is full of easy to remember stories and analogies that help illustrate the sources and solutions to many difficult situations that we face frequently
One day Ken took his three-year-old son, Tommy, for a drive in the countryside. The green fields and bright blue sky made it a perfect day for a ride. Tommy was inquisitive by nature and he spotted something he wanted to see.
“Daddy, could we go over there? I see something far away in the field,” Tommy said.
Without hesitation Ken replied, “Sure, let’s go!”
Tommy had seen a cow and he and his daddy looked at it up close. Tommy asked a million questions.
When they got home, Tommy told his mommy about the ride, about seeing the trees, the sky, the clouds, and that he’d had so much fun with Daddy. Then he told about the cow. He said it had four big legs and ‘stuffs’ hanging down from its tummy.
“Daddy said the stuff hanging down is udders and that is where milk comes from,” he explained proudly.
Ken interrupted Tommy and in an irritated tone of voice said, “The cow also had a head, a tail, and a back.”
Tommy began to cry. “No!” he shouted. “The cow only had four legs and a stomach with udders!”
Is Tommy’s description right or wrong?
Both Ken and Tommy each described the cow correctly. Ken stood almost six feet tall, so he could see the cow in its entirety, whereas Tommy, who was about three feet tall, was only able to see the cow’s lower half. With that in mind, each description was correct – each according to his own perspective, that is.
When people disagree, they are often looking at the same situation from their own angle, or viewpoint, and often they both are right in their assessment. Battles ensue when people insist that theirs is the only way. Continuing along those lines, they could fall into a conflict that has no resolution.
And there they would stay, stuck in a lose/lose situation.
Everyone is entitled to believe what they chose to believe. Two people do not need to look at the same situation with the same perspective.
How do we begin resolving conflict? Well, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason: He wants us to listen more and talk less. So often people aren’t willing to completely hear another’s perspective completely before jumping in and adding their own two cents. By hearing a person through, you might find out that they are right and so are you.
Using this principle--
Jessica and John were on their way home from attending their friend’s funeral.
“It’s horrible that Tim died so young. I wonder what will happen to his wife and children. I feel so bad for them.”
John answered, “If he had taken better care of himself, this wouldn’t have happened. He didn’t eat right or exercise enough and he was overweight.”
Jessica lashed out, “Where is your compassion? This is why I have so much trouble with you. Why would you even say such a thing? Don’t you care about his family? This is why I hardly ever feel loved by you!”
“That’s ridiculous!” Tom retorted. “Why would you get upset at me for saying that? I’m just stating the facts. If he had taken better care of himself, he would have lived longer. There is nothing wrong with what I said.”
They argued back and forth, insisting they were each right and the other wrong. The battle lasted for several days and when they weren’t yelling at each other, they were giving the silent treatment.
In this situation, both Jessica and John were right. John was correct in his statements that Tom’s not caring for himself properly may have led to his demise, but he did not mean it to be critical. Rather he was coming from a rational, objective viewpoint. Like Jessica, he had also felt tremendous pain from the loss of his friend and great concern for what lie ahead for the family. Jessica, on the other hand, was focused on her feelings about the whole matter and was expressing them. She was not looking at the “why’s”; she was only considering the here and now.
If Jessica had not reacted so quickly to John’s statement, she may have understood that he was simply looking at the situation from another perspective. She knew he was a thinker and that he always looked at the facts, and she also knew that he did not necessarily express his emotions as readily as she.
In this situation, emotions were running high. John felt attacked by Jessica and quickly defended himself, which put Jessica on the offense. Instead of being logical during this emotionally-charged event, they both gave in to pride and chose to fight, defending their “right to be right.” Unfortunately this led to a dead end, with both parties losing the battle.
In the Family:
14 year-old Daren was preparing to heat up some dinner in the microwave. He had placed a slice of bread on top of the plate of food and covered it with a napkin before setting it inside. Right then his father objected, insisting that the bread should go in separately because the microwave would make it hard. Daren tried to explain that he was saving time by heating them together.
An argument ensued, with each declaring they were right and the other was wrong. The son was angry with his father for treating him like a child, and the father was angry that his son was disrespectful by not listening to him in the first place.
Who was right: the father or the son?
They both are right. The father was looking at the situation based on his negative experience of heating bread in a microwave while Daren was simply being efficient so everything would be hot at the same time. Had they listened to each other’s opinion, they would have discovered that both of their ways could work and may possibly even discover a third option.
In the Church:
At a faraway church in the dead of winter, a discussion took place at a monthly board meeting. The hot topic was regarding the proper disbursement of a rather large and unexpected donation. One member suggested dividing the money equally among the various ministries so everyone would benefit right away, while another member thought it would be wise to save the money for unexpected ministry needs. The two bickered back and forth, backing up his owned idea in an effort to persuade the others to their point of view. The discussion went on for an hour without resolution. The meeting adjourned in a stalemate with a date to reconvene in one week to hopefully resolve this issue.
What was happening was the same as in the other story examples. Each person was seeing the same thing from his own perspective, without regard to the other. They each had the same goal in mind: to make sure the extra money was available for all church ministries. If they had quieted their hearts, opened their minds and looked at each other’s perspective, they would have found the answer to be a little of both. They could have had a win/win by giving a portion of the money to each ministry right away, and saving the rest for future needs.
How many of us go through life trying desperately to persuade others to our way of thinking rather than trying to understand other people’s perspective? If we would be willing to hear the other person out, we might find that he or she is also right. If we would take a minute to relax and accept another’s opinion, we could possibly discover a third, and even better, option.
We are all different, and we all think differently, because God gifted us uniquely and He uses us in a variety of ways according to our backgrounds, personalities and talents. We need to humble ourselves by allowing others to be right sometimes. By accepting that we and others can all be right, we open the door for many win/win situations.
How much better we would all feel and be if we could all be winners!
Dr. Rita (PhD, PsyD, M.A., M.Ed.) is a qualified and compassionate Christian
therapist with 9 years of experience. She has worked at Dr. Paul Meier's
New Life clinic before working as the director of the counseling ministry
at Trinity Church in Lansing, Michigan. Her counseling expertise is now
available to the community. Her office is at Executive Office Park, 5020
Northwind Dr., Suite 101, East Lansing, 48823
Need an appointment?
Office Hours are by appointment only. Please e-mail us
or call (517).332-6300.
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