By Rev. Everette Chapman
There is a certain type of person of whom I am very wary and whom I try to avoid. I am not a little afraid of that person who loudly proclaims, “You’ll never have to worry about what I think; I’ll tell you!” The primary reason I shy away from persons like that is that over the years I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. These painfully-honest and brutally-straightforward persons seem to think only negative and hurtful things, never positive, helpful, or uplifting ones. Most “shoot-from-the-hip” individuals tend to be abrasive, frequently-insulting, and terribly insensitive to the feelings and opinions of others.
They don’t mind telling you that what you are wearing doesn’t match or is out of style, that your opinions are stupid, and that you have just used the wrong word. In a meeting, they are the ones who ask questions in an accusing way, take a totally opposite and sometimes obstinate view, and question the intelligence, if not the integrity, of the leadership.
We could probably handle this kind of “honest” person with more grace and forbearance if there were some kind of balance exhibited in the things she says or the approach he takes. Unfortunately, no such balance normally characterizes their words or attitude. The person who “tells you what he thinks” never seems to “think” anything helpful or positive or complimentary. Surely somewhere back in that person’s mind there abides an appreciation of others, a subtle compliment to be spoken, or encouraging words to be said. If so, these things never seem to come out.
At the same time, if this person is wrong to say only disruptive or hurtful things when they “say what they think,” there are thousands of other persons who are derelict in not “saying what they think.” These are persons who do have helpful, hopeful, and encouraging thoughts, who do notice commendable things about other people, and who are sensitive to the hurts of others. They can think of uplifting things to say to friends, loved ones, or strangers; they just never say them.
Have you ever noticed that when someone says, “I need to level with you about something, we cringe and a little cloud of self-doubt darkens our personal horizon? Why should it have to be that way? Why can we not level with each other in regard to the positive feelings we have for each other or the commendatory things we see in each other?
For some time, I have been trying a new approach to “leveling” with others. For example, I recently said to a nurse at our wonderful community hospital in Rutherfordton, “I need to level with you about something.”
She recoiled, of course, and asked, “What have I done?”
I responded, “What you have done is to give such remarkable service to the patient in room 257 that he is praising you to the skies.” The resulting smile was priceless.
I have used the same routine hundreds of times to lead into paying someone a sincere compliment on his appearance, her job performance, her radiant smile, his firm handshake. The response is always the same – positive and grateful. When I say, “I need to level,” the person draws back. When I say uplifting words, he smiles and thanks me.
So back to the issue of “saying what we think?” Do you do that? Is there a wonderful balance to it? Do you “think” as many praiseworthy things about people as criticisms? Do you try to be helpful? Do we always have to “tell the truth” when to keep it to ourselves would be more helpful? Or do you fail to “say what you think” by holding inside such compliments, encouraging words, or helpful comments as would lighten another’s load, quicken her step, or make him glad he encountered you on his way? Let’s begin today to “level” with each other, but only when it spreads good will and lightens another’s load.