How do I survive the outcomes of what I say and do? I have stood at the pulpit (I usually use a music stand and move around when I speak but you get the picture) presenting message after message. I have interacted with people in need of pastoral advice and helped friends looking for someone to open up to about life’s trials and triumphs. I’ve tried to be a good husband and father, speaking into the lives of my family, supporting and loving them. Sometimes I have spoken with wisdom other times it would have been best if I had not spoken at all. I have fought for what I believed to be right only to find out it was wrong and I have taken actions I thought to be Godly only to discover there was a better way. I have acted in good faith and seen my kindness turned against me. I have pointed out the right way to go, only to have it rejected and my character questioned. I survive the outcome of my choices by remembering:
Outcome is not a good way to judge my words or actions but rather an indicator of my need to reflect on my part in the interaction.
- Ask yourself, what was behind my words or actions? It is important to figure out your motivation. Sometimes we do the right thing for the wrong reason and sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reason. Sometimes we do the wrong thing for the wrong reason and still feel justified.
- Ask yourself, is it possible I was misunderstood? This one is easy to mess up. There is a difference between a misunderstanding and the belief that if someone does not agree with you they do not understand. It is best to ask the other person questions based around how they feel about what happened – telling them that they must have misunderstood what you said is neither helpful nor is it a question!
- Ask yourself, was the person’s response predictable based on past behaviour? There are always those who react negatively and those who react positively in almost all interactions. Both the positive and negative person may not be listening to everything you say, they may just be reacting like they always do. Some people are people pleasers and some are not easy to please; history is the best indicator of current and future behaviour.
- Ask yourself, was one of us having a bad day? If the other person was having a bad day their response may have nothing to do with you. Checking in with the person later on may reveal the answer to the bad day question without having to bring up the previous interaction. On the other hand maybe you were having a bad day. We can easily read into situations based on our own mood.
- Ask yourself, did I say or do something wrong? I know it seems arrogant to ask this question last, it makes it appear that in your opinion you rarely make mistakes. There are three reasons I like asking this one last:
- If it went badly you may automatically assume you said or did something wrong. With this approach you will most likely find something that you did wrong even if no one else noticed.
- If you did say or do something wrong, it may not be the only thing involved in the outcome of the interaction. One or more of the following could also be at play: the person may have misunderstood what was said or done and/or the person always acts that way bringing a positive or negative attitude to every interaction and/or one of you or both of you could be having a bad day.
- If you did do something wrong, saying you are sorry is not as simple as saying you are sorry. Your motives dictate the way you make it right. You may be apologising for an intentional act or an unintentional blunder. You may be asking for forgiveness because you did a good thing for your own personal gain rather than the person you were supposedly helping. An apology that is not fully thought out is doing the wrong thing for the right reason. You are not trying to make the situation go away, you are trying to address it.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
If you think you can do this on your own, you are most likely right. If you think you can do this on your own believing that you will end up seeing it the way God sees it/taking the action God would have you take, then the outcome of your choices will be difficult to survive.
You can do everything right and still have a bad outcome. You can do everything wrong and end up with a good outcome. You can do everything on your own but you will never have a Godly outcome.
I love this article Dave. I have often done things for people which I thought were extremely Godly on my part, humble, generous, thoughtless only to have a response that was indifferent, misinterpreted or even hostile. How was I ever going to be sainted if people didn’t understand and appreciate how wonderful I was being?
It is so important to check our motives as you so rightly point out and I wholly agree when you say outcome is not a good way to judge my words or actions. This is vital to remember when you do things for the right reasons but don’t receive the expected response.
Thanks for this my friend.
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