I have a weakness. Several in fact, but this one in particular. I love books. When two people I respect say I need to read a certain book, I will read it. That book is titled Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute.
“It’ll mess you up,” they said.
I’m a glutton for punishment, so I checked it out of the library. It didn’t rip me apart like Emotional Vampires did; however, I did see some personal failings highlighted. It deals with relationships and the two principles that tied it together surprised me. Keep reading if you are having problems with others, you will be better for it.
After reading that section, I walked quietly through the plant I work at. As my eyes fell on the individual people, I had to answer that question myself. Person, or problem?
I wrote a post awhile back stating that one of the biggest problems in the world is that we dehumanize people. This question calls you on it.
Depending on what category you place them in, you’ll also ascribe different motives for the same behavior. One person’s mistake will be maliciousness on the other’s part.
Then we start rationalizing and justifying our decisions in a self-feeding cycle. The other person picks up on it and boom…conflict.
You notice the dishes are dirty, and think to yourself, “I should take care of those.” Your spouse is tired from working long hours, so they hadn’t gotten to them. Instead of doing them, you go to the refrigerator for a drink, and go sit down.
Now, why didn’t you do the dishes?
What’s Going On Under the Surface
The rationalization starts. What reasons do you have for it? Do the reasons see your spouse as a problem, an object in need of fixing, or a person?
You’ve deceived yourself. It happens when we don’t do what our good-intentioned impulse said we should. Now a battle ignites inside your head.
Emotions are contagious. The other person will pick up on them, and your body language. A chill will develop between you.
In ConCom terms, you’ve ‘othered’ that person—making them less than human or lower status—which gives you “justification” to attack. The internal argument from trying to rationalize it, I know all to well as my internal scripts.
I would have an argument in my head with the person. Not a real argument, the other was unaware of it, and I would get so angry over something that didn’t happen. You ever do that, or am I just crazy?
When this becomes a pattern, the environment becomes hostile. Coworkers can’t get anything done. Arguments at home with the family. Relationships with friends or your significant other are torn apart. It’s dysfunctional.
When I finished the book, I realized the solutions they presented have their foundation in two Biblical principles.
Person, Problem, or Object?
The fix is found in the second greatest commandment. To love your neighbor (others) as yourself by seeing their humanity rather than an object or problem. Problem behavior does arise, and should be addressed reasonably, and by seeing them as a person, you can fix it.
How To Avoid Betraying Myself
‘Do for them as I would have them do for me.’ Look familiar?
The self-deception comes when we resist doing what we ought to do. Paul wrote about it to the Roman church in the book of Romans (Romans 7:18-20). Except, we’re usually blind to it. The solution to that is in Romans 7:24-8:2.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
The next time you find yourself in a conflict, ask yourself this, “What would I do if I liked this person?” Preemptively, you can ask yourself ‘person or problem’. Sometimes I catch it, sometimes I don’t, but we can shift out of it. Go check out the book, it’s a really easy read in story form.