Getting Our Facts Straight

Have you ever learned of a situation and reacted to it without exploring it further, only to find out that you would have been better served had you taken a moment to get your facts straight first?  Yeah, me too!  In fact, that happened to me just last weekend.

It’s so easy to get a partial story and immediately complete the rest of the story in our heads.  And it happens surprisingly fast too!  However, it usually doesn’t take that long to validate whether the story we’re telling ourselves is actually true. 

What I learned from last weekend was that I need to slow down and realize when I’m filling in my own details to a partial story I’ve been given.  Once I realize that I’m making assumptions, I need to do the work to determine whether they are true or not.

It’s a waste of time to react to a something that may not even be accurate.  Let’s commit to not wasting any more time reacting to our own assumptions, but instead make sure our facts are straight before we chart a course of action.  We’ll be better positioned to respond appropriately when we have a clear understanding of the scenario we’re dealing with.

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Different Lives

As part of my kick off to the shorter days and darker nights of the fall season, I’ve begun reading a couple hours in the evening before bed most weeknights. The last 2 books I’ve read have been autobiographies, and from them, I’ve been reminded (of the obvious) that people have different backgrounds and experiences than I have.

The first book I read was from a man whose father was Nigerian and whose mother was from Kansas.  The focus of the book was on the influences of the 7 “fathers” this man had in his life that shaped and mentored him into the person he is today. 

The second book (that I’m actually still reading) is about the bass player for the band Guns N Roses, and his journey through music, drugs, addition, and recovery.  Let’s just say that this guy had a wild ride!

What I appreciate about both of these books is that they gave me a glimpse into another person’s life.  From that, I see how their experiences, fears, and desires influenced their thought process, and, ultimately, the choices they made, both when they were younger, and now that they’re older.

When I learn about the experiences, challenges, and struggles other people have faced, whether directly from them, or reading about it in a book, I find that it causes me to be less judgmental, especially when I don’t know their story.  It’s easy to cast judgement through the filter of my own experiences.  Occasionally, those judgements are correct.  More often though, I realize that things aren’t usually as black and white as my experience would say that they are.  I find that my initial snap judgements are often unwarranted, due to my lack of understanding and consideration of their experiences.

I’m grateful for opportunities to learn more about peoples’ lives, either through books or in person.     

Slowing Down

I’ve been noticing the past couple of weeks that I have a habit of reading through email and texts rather quickly.  As a result, I’ve also noticed that I often miss keep points or specific words within the messages.  Sometimes, this causes me to have a different interpretation of the message than what the sender intended. 

We all get a lot of email, texts, notifications, and other forms of media vying for our attention, and we need a way to get through them quickly.  However, what I’m starting to work on is slowing down a little when I get messages from those closest to me.  I want to make sure that I’m understanding what they’re communicating to me, versus getting it wrong because I was in a hurry. 

If someone is important to me, and they took the time to send me a text or email, I need to honor them by making sure I understand what they’re telling me.    

A Quick Thought On Getting Along

Lately, I’ve been reminded of the obvious truth that the success and happiness we experience in life is largely due to do with how well we are able to get along with other people.

This truth reminds me that how I treat people and interact with them matters.  If I want assistance, kindness, or grace from others, then I need to offer these things to those around me. 

It seems to me, from my experience on both the giving and receiving end, that life is much better when I’m getting along with fellow-Earthly-travelers, than when I lead with demanding my own way, or thinking that the world revolves around me.  It has been proven multiple times, that the world, indeed, does NOT revolve around me, or any other single person.

Getting along with others doesn’t mean that I default to capitulating what I want or need, simply for the sake of getting along.  Rather, I see it as being considerate of the needs of others, in addition to my own needs.

Isn’t that what we all want: for others to be considerate of us?  If that’s the case, let’s make sure we’re doing likewise for others.

Reconnecting

On June 11th, I wrote a post titled, “Simply Reconnecting”.  At the end of the post, I mentioned that I was going to reconnect with my friend Dave.  Well, a couple of days ago, we got together for a visit.  We met at 3:30 in the afternoon and we didn’t say “good bye”, until just before 10:00 PM.  The time flew by. 

I hadn’t seen Dave for 6 years, but as soon as we sat down, we picked up right where we left off.  It was so much fun to reconnect and catch up on what we’ve each been up to.  At one point, Dave was talking about how much he enjoys observing someone who is excellent at what they do, regardless of their occupation.  At that point, I thought to myself, “That’s why I like Dave.  He’s my kind of person”.

If you have a friend you’ve been meaning to get in touch with, I’d recommend you do that immediately.  While there’s nothing to be gained by waiting, there is tremendous blessing in connecting today.

On Apologizes

This week, I had an interaction with someone where I could have behaved better than I did. What I knew I needed to do was offer an apology. Here’s the thing, when we know we need to make an apology: we can come up with all sorts of reasons not to.

It’s no different for me either. In fact, I was running through several reasons why I didn’t need to make the apology. My lame excused ranged from, “They probably don’t even remember the incident” to “I’ve got other things I need to be doing” to every other excuse in between. I told you they were lame.

In the end, I made the apology before my workday started. I decided it was, indeed, important and needed to be done. The person who I apologized to was gracious and said that they appreciated it.

All that to say, if you owe someone an apology, make it. Don’t wait, or put it off, or think of reasons to keep from doing it, because the person you owe the apology to deserves it.

Knowing and Doing

One of my favorite books in the Bible is James.  What I love most about it is that it is filled with hard-hitting, non-sugar-coated truth.  My favorite verse in this book is   1:22 where the author states, “Don’t merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says”.  This is a verse I often read as if James was speaking these words directly to me.

It’s easy to gain knowledge about how we SHOULD be behaving.  It’s quite another thing to take the knowledge we gain, and parlay it into action.  What good does it do to gain a bunch of knowledge that is beneficial to us, yet fail to put that knowledge into action?  If we spend a significant period of time (months, years, decades, a lifetime) we’ll wind up being nothing more than a bunch of over-educated under-achievers. 

Here’s a good question for all of us:  Is there some knowledge that I have that I need to put into action in order to see positive results?  If the answer is, “Yes” (which I’m sure it is for most of us), then take a small step today to begin putting that knowledge into action.  Because there’s a big difference between knowing and doing.  Knowing = knowledge.  Doing = results.

There’s A Story There

It’s easy to look at a situation and think we have all the facts necessary to make a snap judgement.  Whether it’s a homeless person on the street with a sign asking for money, or certain behavior or opinion we don’t agree with, it amazes me how quickly we can go from observation to judgement, without realizing that there’s a story there.

No matter who you’re looking at, there is a story behind the person that brought them to where they are at that moment.  This story could have been written over years or decades, or maybe even over a few minutes.  These stories can be tragic or triumphant.  They can be unbelievable or even quite ordinary.  Peoples’ stories are as unique and varied as the people they are about.

The thing to remember, especially when we start feeling judgmental, is that we usually don’t know the whole story that shape the people we see.  We think we do, but in reality, we are often just mentally filling in the blanks.  That said, it reminds me that perhaps in place of judgement toward others, we would do better to offer grace and remember that we likely don’t know the whole story.

Leaving Room

I have been teaching an adult Sunday School class at our church for about 15 years, and each class is a highlight of my week.  One of my favorite attributes of the class is the participation by the attendees.  It’s less of a lecture/lesson format than it is a guided discussion.  I really enjoy this format because it leaves room for the unexpected to occur.

By the “unexpected”, I mean that our discussion and study has options as to where it goes.  As I prepare each week, I look at the section of Scripture we’ll be studying, and I put together a flow of some interesting points for us to discuss.  I do this instead of writing out a word-for-word lecture/lesson, because a written-out lesson would make it hard pursue people’s questions or thoughts they have in the moment that are relevant to our discussion.  If I have a written out word-for-word lecture that I feel I must follow, then I take out any room to explore a thought that’s not in my lesson. 

That would be a shame, because very often in class, someone has a thought or question that takes us in a direction that I had not planned to go, but that deepens our understanding of the Scripture we were looking at.  If I was insistent on tightly defining every lesson, we would have missed out on so many rich and meaningful discussions that have deepened our understanding of Scripture.

Are there areas in your life that could use a little less control in order to leave some room for unexpected pleasant surprises to occur?  Consider that question the next time you’re planning an event or having a conversation with someone. 

It’s good to have a plan, but it’s also good to leave room along the way for the unexpected.

Simply Reconnecting

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had some really nice encounters with friends I haven’t seen in a few years.  It reminds me how quick time goes and how easy it is to lose touch with someone.  It also reminds me that it’s also easy to reconnect.

My friend Bob, that I used to work with several years ago, reached out via email earlier this week to see if my email address was still good and what I was up to.  Per Bob’s suggestion, we’ll be meeting up for lunch next week to reconnect and catch up.  I really admire Bob’s initiative to simply send an email suggest going to lunch.  I’m so grateful that he did, and I can’t wait to see him.

Bob’s initiative got me thinking who I should reach out to and reconnect.  Perhaps his initiative has you thinking about a friend you’ve lost touch with that you can reconnect with too.  I encourage you to do like Bob did and simply send an email or make a phone call and reconnect.

I’ll be following Bob’s lead and texting my friend Dave after I submit this post.  It will be good to reconnect with him too.