Nestled into a cozy corner at a well-known family restaurant, we looked forward to a nice Sunday afternoon lunch. With our food and drink order completed, we began a long anticipated conversation. This is one of my favorite times; just Kathy and me talking. As we began, a conversation at the next table intrigued me. "You're doing it again, aren't you," Kathy gently accused. "What?" acting surprised, "Ah, no, um, I . . . I am listening, really I am." But, well, in fact, I was busted. Once again, my astute hearing enabled close attention to the conversation at the table of eight people just next to us. Trying to listen to two conversations at the same time is, I can tell you men, not wise! :-)
In a crowded room of more than thirty people, a man railed against his "ill treatment." Desiring to participate and lead in a local church in the area, he simply didn't know why he was left off the leadership team. Clearly he wanted to be up front in the limelight. After forcibly listening to his hour long, obnoxious rant, it was clear that his biggest problem was himself. A "himself" that he did not or could not clearly see; if see at all.
First & last names were called out again and again of people not present. Inflated accomplishments were touted. Personal victimization seemed his theme. Anger was apparent. Ultimatums were uttered, and intimidation was evident.
Upon leaving the cafe, a gentleman paying at the cashier uttered under his breath, "That guy wouldn't be in leadership at any level of my team." Several thoughts:
1. Learn Your True Self: An ancient proverb says, "Better are the wounds of a sincere friend than the kisses of an enemy." Why was he not part of the team? If he was not a part of the team, was it perhaps that he did not possess the levels of skills he thought? Psychologist David Dunning and his graduate student Justin Kruger developed the Dunning-Kruger effect in which Dunning summarized:
"What's curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge."
"...incompetent people do not recognize--scratch that, cannot recognize--just how incompetent they are."
2. Speak True to People as You Wish They Speak of You! Whether social media, verbal, and especially in public, never never never call out people by their names! Especially, if they're not present. Most companies looking for new hires will check perspective employee's Facebook pages and other media sources. Detrimental comments about work, coworkers, family, and friends, will damage if not end many opportunities.
Once, while in a hotel here in the United States, I said something about a group of people in the lobby. They were in my opinion quite obnoxious. Speaking to Kathy in the Zulu language, I spoke confidently. Who would know what I said besides the two of us? Just then, a white American man spoke Zulu back to me. Busted! What were the chances that a white person in the United States would be fluent in an African language? In today's age, nothing is private. And a good motto is, "If I said it, I only am to blame."
3. Discover Your Real You. It was so very obvious that this man was frustrated, hurt, disappointed, and rather desperate to be part of something. What were the real issues of his heart; significance, security, recognition, self-worth, or security? If he received everything he demanded at that table, would it make a difference?
4. Value Yourself and Make Yourself Valuable to Others. Only by becoming a personal asset is one highly valued on a team. Players that show up late, speak poorly of others in the locker room, under perform, and overvalue themselves don't make it; ON ANY TEAM!
5. Learn One Simple Secret! People like to share about themselves! They need someone to listen! Learn to ask people about their lives and journies. Learn to listen. Learn to value what's going on in their lives. Be an empathetic compassionate listener, and you'll be a part of many teams over your life! No one likes to hear a person talk only about themselves. Three thousand years ago a very wise king wrote, "Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth -- a stranger, not your own lips." Very Good Advice.
Just My Thoughts,
As the conversation progressed a very common theme emerged. There sitting, talking, was a professional. As he shared, his pain was evident. Serving in a company for nearly five years, he "closed" a chapter of his life.
His personal story of long work weeks, low pay, few benefits, ingratitude, unappreciative supervisors, and little positive input filled his sullied demeanor. Hired to lead an team of nearly two hundred people in a organization which nearly failed in bankruptcy, the task was daunting. This task did not disturb him. He loved a challenge. And, there were many successes.
Listening past the words, and hearing his heart, a very clear picture emerged. Incompetence existed not in this person, but in the team around him. Long seated individuals in the organization pushed back after restructuring; a restructure that turned everything around! The verbal emotional attacks were well planned and continual. After months of personal attacks by emotional detonators, he was done.
During one of our conversations I asked, "How long ago did this take place?" The answer, "Four months ago." For four long months, almost every minute of every day, painful events rehearsed themselves continually in his mind!
Nearly 3500 years ago, a whole nation of several million people struggled with a similar issue. These people insured a nation's success and prosperity. Yet, they lived as slaves for more than 400 years suffering extreme hardships and abuse. Fed up with all they could take, they embraced a new opportunity, and headed out for the desert. Most know the story of Israel leaving Egypt heading towards a new promised land. Their leader, Moses, encouraged, "This is a day to remember forever -- the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery.(Exodus 13:3)
Letting Go of Egypt
Israel left Egypt, but not really; not a first. More than 40 years after their departure from Egypt, they still looked back. They still remember their hardships. They still held grudges. They still coddled their hurts and injuries. Their captors, the Egyptians, still ruled their thoughts and feelings though absent for four decades.
Moses urged them, "Do not hate those Egyptians, for we were strangers in their land." (Deuteronomy 23:7) Apparently, there were family problems too! He urges the small fledgling nation, "Do not hate the Edomites for they are your brothers." His instruction, "You've got to leave all that hurt, pain, anger, and hate behind or you can never move forward."
Letting Go of Your Egypt
Can you imagine hanging onto bitterness, hate, or hurt for over forty years? In fact, I can. Done that with my dad. Done that with church members in a church I pastored. Done that with someone who wronged me. Done that, been there, and still continue to do that at times; unfortunately.
Here's the thing. Until you can leave your Egypt behind it's really difficult to move forward into your own promised land! My thoughts on how to let go of your Egypt:
1. Egypt Teaches Lessons Learned No Other Way. One of my sons who suffers from an autoimmune disease has suffered much over his thirty plus years. Watching him near death several times during his life, he's learned to squeeze happiness out every moment of life. His suffering reminds us that life is precious, it is temporary, and it changes without notice. His Egypt taught us to grab each moment!
2. Egypt Forces Necessary Changes. Truth is that adversity is a wonderful teacher! Did you know that Bill Gates first business failed? Albert Einstein didn't speak until he was four years old. Jim Carrey used to be homeless. Richard Branson has dyslexia. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. Charlize Theron witness her mother kill her father. And, Nelson Mandela was prisoner before he became president.
Egypt forces us to make necessary-difficult changes! Changes never contemplated apart from the hardships of your Egypt!
3. Leaving Egypt Means New Never Before Thought of Opportunities. Henry David Thoreau said, "All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune." One beautiful story of this is shared on American Express Open Forum. Lee Rhodes while suffering with a rare form of lung cancer left her Egypt. After getting to know many other cancer patients she started the company Glassybaby. Glassybaby produces amazing hand blown glassware. Glassybaby gives a 10% of its profits to to charities helping cancer patients. Without Egypt, no Glassybaby.
4. Leaving Egypt Often Requires Forgiveness. It was after forty-four years of his life before my father and I could enjoy some sense of relationship. It was not perfect or particularly fulfilling at times. However, apart from forgiveness there was no hope of any relationship at all.
Leaving Egypt requires rebounding from wrongs. It means learning from the hard life-stuff experiences. It requires letting go of negative draining emotions. And, it often means a release of hatred towards agents of pain, and a attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude? Yes, gratitude. For agents of pain direct me to agents of gain. How about you? It really is a choice. And, the choice is only up to you.
Just My Thoughts,
Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.