Every jump to a false conclusion? People are often prone to forming opinions before having all the facts. In our instant gratification society, I think impatience has a lot to do with this often destructive tendency. Further, most people tend to view the world with their own narrow perspective which can often backfire on them.
“Condemnation without investigation is the highest form of ignorance.”
One day I had a few meetings in North Dallas and pulled into a Quik Trip for a pit stop. It was close to lunch and the parking lot and gas pumps were fairly busy. There was one car just stopped in the middle of the flow of traffic…just sitting there. My first thought was to be patient, but after a moment of them not moving, I “gently” encouraged them with a couple of honks from my horn.
The driver did not respond and then I noticed the “other” car’s break lights as it was starting to back out of one of the few handicap spaces. The car that was “holding me up” was waiting on that one space to open up and yes, they did have a handicap sticker as well. My Grandfather Perkins used to use the term “jackass” and that would pretty much sum up how I felt at that moment.
Here I was all fired up about having to wait a few extra seconds for someone who’s handicapped…maybe for life. I felt so bad that I slunk in and out of the store trying not to make eye contact with the driver. Needless to say my attitude and perspective changed dramatically once I had “all the facts”.
One of my best friends from college has never been really quick to commit to anything and can sometimes be a little slow to respond to voice mail or email. We’ve known each other now since 1990 and he’s never changed. It’s not a big deal as we all have our unique personality quirks and that’s just Mark. Besides, I love him like a brother as we’ve been there for each other both in the good and bad times of life.
A few years ago, I sent an important email that should have prompted a quick reply.
The initial lack of response was nothing out of the ordinary and I thought little of it. A week turned into two weeks and then a month and then clearly something was wrong. Let me also say he lives in Colorado and I’m in Dallas so it’s not like we see each other on a regular basis.
In this case, I built up some negative thoughts in my mind towards him and allowed them to “fester” for a period of time before finally picking up the phone. When Mark answered, he acted as if nothing was wrong and was excited to hear from me. When I asked about the email, he said, “Oh, I recently changed internet providers and thus my email address and apparently forgot to give you the heads up.”
While my first thought was to blame him for not keeping me in the loop, my dominate thought was more along the lines of the Quik Trip experience above with my Grandfather’s “term” clearing echoing in my mind. Mark is married to Rhonda with two young girls, Allison & Haley, and has TONS more on his plate of responsibilities than me.
While I clearly failed in this instance, I do believe in taking 100% responsibility for every area of my life. If I would have lived up to this principle, I would have made that phone call much sooner rather than going through the emotional roller coaster ride of negativity due to his apparent lack of response.
Sean is one of my nephews living in East Texas some five hours away from Dallas. We correspond by phone, text, email, and Facebook. You would think I would have learned my lesson after the experience with Mark above, but apparently I needed another dose of humility compliments of my nephew.
This actually just happened this year where I sent another important email back around the holidays and he never responded. I’ve heard it said that life will continue to offer you the same opportunities to learn over and over until you “get it”. I’ve also heard that the lessons get harder if you happen to be a “slow learner”.
If my experience with Mark made me feel like a “jackass”, then the outcome with Sean made me feel like a “jerk”. You see, Sean is only a teenager and didn’t change his email address. His Mom is now single and he also has a younger brother name Dylan. He lost the use of his phone due to a lack of finances as their little family sometimes struggles to make ends meet. I had no idea what was going on and why he hadn’t responded until he finally did with the following apology:
Hello uncle Kelly, I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond. We just recently turned on my phone and I’m only now reading your email. School is going great. I have had a couple of rough grades but I’m retesting and bringing them back up. Football is going great. I was on varsity for the last 3 games but this week I may be on JV.
Lesson learned. When in doubt, pick up the phone. Even if his phone had been turned off, his Mom’s was working fine. I should have acted like an adult and reached out to him rather than getting all bent out of shape over what turned out to be really nothing.
He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.
Losing a Father & Friend
Lauren Smith is one of my best clients who is usually quick to respond to my phone calls or emails. I sent a request to schedule a presentation to her group and thought it odd when she didn’t reply after the first week. Technology can be wonky at times so I sent a follow up message just to be sure and still nothing.
My first thought was that something may be going on with her health. She had a procedure over the holidays to remove a small and benign growth however everything went great and she received a clean bill of health from her doctor. In fact I had seen her a couple of times after returning to work, so her silence was definitely a concern based on the strength of our relationship.
After another week, I reached out to her supervisor who I also have a great relationship with. She was receptive to my presentation and asked that I schedule with Lauren. Now really puzzled, I sent another request and the next thing you know, I received a meeting invite for approximately four weeks away. Finally, success, but why the delay?
Now with the assurance that she was working, and from learning from my later email experiences, I called her direct. After thanking her for booking our meeting, and catching up on basic small talk, I asked as sincerely as possible if she had received my original messages. Now unlike the situation with Mark and Sean, I had not developed any negative feelings towards Lauren. I was just confused with the unusual lack of response.
Her answer absolutely floored me. She apologized for the delay and said she had generally been running behind due to the loss of her father and best friend both within a matter of weeks. Losing my Grandmother back in early 2012 was the hardest day of my life bar none and yet its still not the same as losing a parent. And then for Lauren’s loss of her father to be compounded by the passing of her life long best friend, there are no appropriate words to describe the pain she must have felt.
I tried to encourage as best as I could and yet I felt that my words were feeble considering the magnitude of the circumstances. I promised to keep her in my prayers for healing that only God can give and then we said our goodbyes.
Batting for Life
Michelle Jones is one of my best business partners. We had been working together on a project when our client reached out to us both via email asking for a product quote. As a manufacturer rep supporting Michelle, I would need to send my quote to her and then she would add her margin and send on to the client.
I did my part right away and forwarded the quote to Michelle. Normally this action would have generated some sort of confirmation and thank you for my efforts. This time…nothing. After a few days I sent a follow up message just to confirm that she received my quote okay. I also called her cell and left a message and after several more days still nothing.
My next step was to reach back out to our client who surprisingly had not received anything from Michelle either. Now I was really concerned. Unfortunately my schedule took me out of town two weeks in a row and I mentally sort of pushed the situation to the back burner of my mind at least for the short run.
Then I received the phone call. When my caller ID showed Michelle Jones, my heart seemed to skip a beat with the anticipation of finding out where she had been. I was not prepared for her answer and was again floored. She was calling from her company’s Houston office where she was temporarily working while receiving treatments at MD Anderson for cancer in her cervix.
Wow! Michelle is a young lady in her mid 30’s and is for all practical purposes in good health. To be battling such a serious and life threatening disease at her age was shocking.
Her spirits were high and she was committed to her treatments expecting only the best outcome. I assured her that she would be in my prayers and that I would support her 100% throughout this difficult season in her life.
Battling for Life II
Julie Jones is one of my newer clients and yet we have developed a strong relationship rather quickly. She shared with me last fall before the holidays about on ongoing struggle with Gastrointestinal Cancer. She said is was not curable but that with regular treatments, she was able to maintain a fairly high quality of life.
We saw each other in person for the last time right after New Years and have further corresponded numerous times by phone and email. We had been working on a little project and I was seeking feedback as to our next steps. Normally she would respond immediately but in this case…silence.
After my recent experiences with Lauren and Michelle, my radar for serious trouble was on high alert. Oddly enough, she had a work anniversary as noted through LinkedIn and I sent her a quick congratulations along with my standard offer to help. She replied back thanking me for my well wishes and then explained that her health had taken a turn for the worse.
The treatment she had been following was not working any more and she had been undergoing tests to seek other alternatives. Through this process, we stayed in touch so I was prepared for the group message that she recently sent out announcing her leave of absence due to an upcoming surgery. She was positive enough and asked for all the love and prayers we could collectively send her way.
The outcome of the surgery was essentially that they didn’t do the procedure. The doctor went in and determined that surgery was not an option. Apparently the risk was too great and they are seeking to treat by chemo or other similar methods. Julie is still in good spirits and I am humbled at her strength and reliance on her faith while truly battling for her life.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
The first two stories above were examples of me jumping the gun and getting all worked up over silly situations. The stupid thoughts I allowed to build up in my mind were so far from the truth that its still embarrassing to share the experiences with you.
My first closing thought is to do your homework and get all the facts before making a decision. The more important the decision or conclusion you’re considering, the more critical it is to take the needed time and to potentially seek the counsel of others with more wisdom than you.
“A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” Prov 1:5
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Prov 11:14
My second thought is on the idea of giving people the benefit of the doubt. Do you give people the benefit of the doubt? I have worked hard to make this a life principle to live by because you never know what is really going on inside someone’s heart and in their life.
Until they give me reason not to do so, I will continue in the practice. Can this sometimes get you burned? Yes! However I have been blessed beyond measure as a result of treating people this way when there was some serious struggle going on that I only learned about after the fact.
If I would have failed in this practice and treated them improperly up front, I might have never learned about the underlying challenge in their life. This has allowed me to take relationships to a whole new level and offer encouragement and support where I might have never had the opportunity otherwise.
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7