Fighting for My Life

Credit Hugh MacLeod

I am in a fight for my life.  We all are actually, but some take a more phlegmatic approach – and some of us are obsessed.  It’s a curse – either way, it’s a curse.

If you coast through life, you may find that you don’t finish well.  However, if you take an active, obsessive approach, you may find yourself anxious, depressed, and isolated.  Our society values fun over values, and people who think too much tend to get ostracized and rejected.  I know.

Let me share with you my fight…

I have the kind of mind that connects invisible dots.  It’s a typical trait of an INTP.  I find it fun actually – and can have fun putting song lyrics, funny lines, twisted puns, and smart comments to everyday life.  On the otherhand, I can hardly pay attention to the news without tying it in to the history of civilization as we know it, biblical prophecy, work, church, family, and interpersonal dynamics.

For instance, I can remember reading a news story about how Toyota is reinventing it’s management structure and thinking about how this applies to my work, my church, and my own personal life.  Interestingly, I’ll post the article on Facebook, with a comment to that effect, and it will attract zero attention.  To me, though abstract, it is real and right there plain as day.

This leaves me feeling alone – often.  I long to connect with people, anyone, who could delve into this and discuss it more deeply.  It doesn’t have to be a long conversation – but if someone would just say, “Hey, I get that!”  It would fill my soul.  Sometimes when I read a book, I get this connection feeling, othertimes, listening to a podcast, or a live speaker.  It is awesome!

Recently I attended a lecture on Crew Resource Management presented by my long-time friend Paul LeSage.  Though it was focused on emergency services operations, it was as if everything I had been reading and studying over the past 15 years came together in one place.  Leadership, triage, efficiency, safety, and interpersonal dynamics – all in one neat package.  When I got home, I told my Wonderful Wife it felt like I had been drinking deeply from a torrential fresh water spring!

The same thing happened when I began reading Brian McClaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy. It was like finally connecting with the community I’ve been looking for.

I know I don’t play well with others.  I suppose I value my principles too much.  I can’t stand the inconsistencies.  When my Church advocates the Commandments – then we should do more than talk the talk, we should walk the walk too.  We can’t love God, without loving our neighbor – and vice versa.  When my employer says they are committed to “caring for people in need,” but don’t – it upsets me.

So, I move through life, connecting invisible dots, seeing connections and patterns others may not see, and I’m not afraid to ask questions, point out inconsistencies, or poke hypocrites.  But as Newton said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It gets exhausting and lonely sometimes.

I really don’t want to argue, but I would like to be understood.  For instance, I’ve been looking for someone who would understand my termination two and a half years ago.  I know the “official” reason.  I also know the mistakes I made.  But there is likely another explanation – one that I keep trying to explore.  It has deeper meanings and nuances, and great ramifications for the future of the Church.

When I seek to discuss this third dialog, I’m not trying to diminish the mistakes I’ve made.  I’m not trying to further blame my previous employer, but I am trying to expose what is in my heart and the calling I’ve answered.

It seems however that whenever this little boy tries to speak his observations, as in the naked emperor, people do not receive it well.   We all want the easy walk, the comfortable life, and the pleasurable experience.  The rough road and the difficult choices are not only avoided, but feared.  I don’t understand this.

As a paramedic, I will often see things that could be improved upon.  I’m not the only one – many of my coworkers are bright, creative people.  Sometimes little changes could make big improvements to the care we provide our patients.  But here is what I’ve observed:

  • First, these seemingly low-cost changes do have a cost that I’m not often aware of.  Management is stressed and busy.  They work long hours and have more issues on their desktop than they have time to deal with.  Some of this is of their own making, due to micromanagement, poor time management, and equally bad systems that stymie their abilities to manage well.  But for the most part, they work hard trying to do the right thing.  They just don’t have time to implement every idea that comes across their desk.
  • In addition to this, my fellow employees are set in their ways, stressed with their own lives, and trying hard just to survive.  Little changes in the way we do things are often resisted for very practical reasons – it is easier to do it the way we’ve always done it.
  • The second reason these seemingly small ideas are hard to implement is due to poor communication systems.  Either I’m unable to fully explain how something could improve care, or the person I’m speaking with is so disconnected from what I do, that they are unable to understand my concerns.  Or, people are just busy and don’t get together often enough to have conversations about the truly important things we do.

So, often what appears to be a low financial cost item, actually has great time costs.  My belief is that if organizations would take spend the time resources to invest in ideas, creativity, and system improvement, there would be greater efficiencies in time, attitude, and patient care down the road.  Indeed, it would prevent political backlash and corporate survival issues that seem to sneak up on organizations.

The same can be said for the Church.  The pastors in the field, and the members at large often see things that the corporate leadership does not.  Without good, or even great communication channels, these ideas may never see the light of day.  For two years prior to my firing, I regularly sent reports to my overseers detailing my struggles, challenges, and successes.  I never received a response from any of them.  I also sought them out, personally, on a couple of key issues that I knew had great potential to blow up.  Again, I never got any solid help.  The communication was one way.

This issue is not isolated to the Church and EMS.  Marriages, friendships, and families all suffer from communication break down.  Wives beg their husbands to go to counseling, but the husbands don’t hear the message (eg; “we’re in trouble“) until their spouse moves out.  Friends stop calling, even though there is a long history of love and companionship.  Why?  Because they aren’t feeling heard, so they move on to other friendships.  Families disintegrate, employees are fired, and leaders are ignored.

At the end of my last job, I met with my overseers three times.  At the first meeting, I thought we were there to resolve the conflict that had arisen in my church.  I was wrong.  We were there for them to tell me what I was doing wrong.  Up until that point, I had been given no direction, no counsel, and no directives.  Suddenly, everything needed to change.  My attempts to explain our personal and professional challenges went unheard.  Subsequent conversations went downhill from there and their attempts to “motivate” me did more harm then good.  It would have been so easy to turn this situation around – but it probably would have taken some time to understand the issues.

We live in a society of expediency.  Why would anyone care to have a long, drawn out, overly analytical conversation with me – when they could watch a half-hour of Two and a Half Men?  Why spend a few hours with some creative paramedics, when you’d have to put aside the report your corporate overseers demand?  Why seek to understand why your employee missed a deadline, when you have thirteen other employees to discipline today?  Why would anyone want to talk to me about some of the issues I see in the Church, when it hurts to talk about those things?

“Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.;” ~ Luke 18

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