God has allowed me to share life with people as a pastor for almost 7 years now and this is perhaps the biggest lesson I've learned and biggest change in my heart.
Here are some lessons that I have learned as a result:
1) When you see strength, look for the weakness.
- There are so many times I run forward thinking that I see nothing but green grass ahead, only to be surprised by the amount of mud I encounter. You see a person, full of great qualities and you think, "This is perfect! We'll conquer the world together in no time!" Whatever those qualities are-- charismatic leadership, boldness, courage, stunning good looks, intelligence--they almost lure you to forget that people are human. But things that are seen as strengths often stand out because they are out of balance. As they say, a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. Accordingly, the masterful strengths carry with them a corresponding weakness (e.g. my ability to talk and teach brings with it a tendency to talk too much, listen too little, and teach where it hasn't been invited). Learn to expect it...not to be cynical, but to be prepared with understanding when the weaknesses present themselves.
- It's amazing to me how many conversations I have had with people about their weaknesses, only to have them describe to me the very things I love about them! My wife Robin, for example, often mourns her inability to take charge in a group or speak out publicly, but her behind-the-scenes meekness and humility is exactly what makes her approachable and drives her empathy for others on the fringe. Similarly, I often find myself complaining about a quality in someone, where I benefit from that quality in other contexts. For instance, I know someone who is a bit too close at times--they make me nervous. They often show passion and zeal that I really don't know how to handle. However, that passion for others, including me, also plays out in the form of fierce loyalty and intense support that I appreciate so much it times of trial.
3) When it seems like a people problem...it's often a preparation problem.
- I love the Fundamental Attribution Error. It explains that when problems occur in our lives we attribute it to our circumstances, though when they occur in others we attribute them to that person's poor internal character (he brought it on himself)...and it's called an "error" for a reason. I have learned that most of the problems I see in people take place not because people are bad or stupid, but because they are unprepared to deal with the situation they are in. Instead of criticizing, and looking around for new people, help prepare those around you for the circumstances they face!
4) ...the other times, it's usually a communication problem.
- serving as a mediator, as my position often entails, it's strange hearing two sides of the story in separate settings. Almost without fail, each side misrepresents the other and I find myself thinking, "really? you think that's the problem?!" There are so many ways misunderstanding creeps in. Words mean different things to different people, people place varying values on certain priorities--the expectations we envision likely look different for the same goal. The point is, when it looks like someone just doesn't get it, good ongoing communication can usually right the ship.
All in all, I've learned that life is much more complicated than it ever seems at first. So take a deep breath, withhold judgment, get the bigger picture, and understand that everything is a process.
I guess this is why my grandpa listens so well.