Posted by: Leigh Reynolds | October 3, 2013

Positive Intent

I remember a time when as a general rule, we all assumed the best in people, in what they meant or intended. We assumed the best and then when the worst happened we were unpleasantly surprised, hurt or maybe even damaged in some way. But up until that time, we were good with people. Maybe a little more kind. Surely, in general, less stressed and more happy.

Today I am not so sure. I think far too often we assume the worst, see ulterior motives, react to half-truths and partial information, filling in the blanks as we see fit, largely to the negative. We ascribe some bit of evil to people – friends and leaders alike. Too many blog about half-formed opinions and false facts as though they were proven gospel truth. We post to Facebook forgetting that the person we just attacked or vilified is just that – a person.

We all have stuff: strengths, weaknesses, trials and celebrations. Everyone has some sort of load to carry and we all could stand to be better listeners and more informed speakers and writers. We could all stand to be a little more kind.

I am not suggesting we all fall into lock-step and agree. That would be so incredibly stifling and boring. Plus, the best solutions come from a healthy debate among differing viewpoints. But can we assume, in general,  good intentions? Can we work towards resolutions and a place where we can agree on some things rather than go all-in on the points we see differently? Do we have to go on the attack all the time? Where will that get us?

I am using the universal “we” here. I know it is a generalization. I know many kind, open, ready-to-listen, respectful dis-agree-ers. I strive to be one, and all too often fall short, because it is exceedingly difficult. Other times I just don’t enter the conversation because I don’t want to get attacked and then, in a reactionary moment, attack back. How can we have conversation of healthy debate, learn and grow from others when we are all afraid to enter the discussion? Talk about swimming upstream against a very heavy current…

In my home I have a teenager and a tween. I guess I don’t need to say too much about that. Everything is a battle. Eyes are rolling left and right. Doors are slammed and even my regular, calm voice is interpreted as a yell. I’m really, really working on calm discourse vs yelling in my “mom said so, that’s why!” voice. I am making a lot of progress, but I am far from “there” yet. When they see it on TV, in school, on Facebook, in the grocery store – so few people speaking calmly, kindly, respectfully, lovingly to each other… It makes it far too easy to fly off the handle at each other. Clearly communicating is such a challenge and all this ugliness and passive-aggressive posting makes it an even greater one.

At work, I deal in PR and communications issues all the time. I have for 20 years, but it is exceedingly more difficult today. Social media makes it near impossible to stay out in front of anything. I am all for open dialogue, stakeholder involvement, but when angry people get a blog and spew hatred and falsehood, sling mud and spew anger it is so hard some days to remember these are individual people with some really tough stuff they are dealing with. They aren’t mad at me, but so very angry with a disease that has robbed them of life and all too often of a healthcare system, family and friends that have not supported them. I try and hear their heart, but it is so buried in ugly that it’s hard.

All around me, people are angry and yelling. All too often, I am jumping into the fray with them. It is exhausting.

And in the middle of it all, there’s Wil. He is so sensitive to it. He picks up on tension, he feels anger and strife among others in a way that defies explanation. When he wants to escape it all, he makes silly noises, winks and test his peripheral vision with his hands, and giggles. He pushes the ugly out with a different view, a laugh and a smile, Oh, that we all had that gift.

I spend much of each day working with Wil to try and help him communicate. Helping him enter our conversation. But maybe he is on to something. Maybe there is a lot to be learned from where he is – where there is no space for anger or meanness or an angry tone. When it gets unpleasant, try looking at it differently and find a way to smile.

We can think differently, we can disagree, but we can do it kindly with some bit of respect. Can we take a collective breath and just try to hear each other’s heart? Someone who thinks differently than you may have good reasons for falling on that side of the discussion. Every once in a while we’ll all still run into a jerk, but let’s not assume that is the rule.

And just so I’m giving credit where credit is due… None of this is my idea. It was spoken about thousands of years ago and written down in the best instruction book for life that you’ll ever find. Jesus saw things differently. He heard people’s hearts louder than their words. When he was being accused of all kinds of falsities and lies, being slandered and abused, He still loved each and every one.

And He still does.

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

“Good judgement proves that you are wise, and if you speak kindly, you can teach others.” Proverbs 16:21

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” James1:19

“It is better to listen to the rebuke of the wise than to listen to the song of fools” Ecclesiastes 7:5

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  – Psalm 103:8

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34

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Responses

  1. Wow, Leigh this is so good! I wish our government officials could read it and take the wise advice you offer. Of course I need this advice as well and I will keep it handy to reread often! Thank you for sharing, Dene

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