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Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
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March 15th, 2007
I'd tell you what I think, but would you respect me in the morning? Principle #1: Speak in the Active Voice
by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer

1. *I’d tell you what I think, but would you respect me in the morning?*

Principle: Speak in the Active Voice.

Zechariah 8:16 These are the things you are to do: speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts.

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we all members of one body.

SCENE #1 (Charlene, Kelvin and Roxanne enter a living room):

Charlene: They want to discuss Nicholas tonight. They think he’s been stealing the donuts.

Kelvin: I’ve never seen him steal any donuts.

Roxanne: Well, he does eat more donuts than the rest of us, but I don’t think he steals them. He eats them right in front of us.

Kelvin: Maybe that’s why he’s gaining weight. Well, maybe we shouldn’t have donuts at the meetings anymore.

Charlene: For heaven’s sake, that’s not the problem! Listen, Nicholas is going to be there, and they’re going to sit him down in the middle of the room and explain why he shouldn’t be stealing donuts anymore, and how stealing donuts has destroyed all faith and trust in him, and nobody wants to be in the group anymore because he’s a thief, and they don’t want to be associated with a thief. And, if he doesn’t publicly admit that he’s a donut thief, and submit to prayer, that it will destroy the whole group and it’ll be his fault.

Roxanne: I can’t believe they think that—how can they think that? What proof do they have that Nicholas is a donut thief?

Charlene: Nancy told Debbie who told Frank that she counted the donuts before the meeting and saw Nicholas hovering around the snack table after he’d already had several. When she came back into the room, they were all gone. She says he stuffs them in his pockets.

Kelvin: That’s not Nicholas, that’s Nancy’s dog. She brings her Great Dane to the meetings. I’ve watched him eat off the table with his great big head. That’s why I eat before I come to the meeting. Nobody else seems to notice the dog, either.

Roxanne: Why didn’t you say anything to Nancy?

Kelvin: I didn’t want to rock the boat…dog people, you know what they’re like. “Love me, love my dog.”

Charlene: Kelvin, you have to tell Nancy what you saw.

Kelvin: Me?

Charlene: Yes! You have to tell her that it’s her dog eating the donuts, not Nicholas.

Kelvin: Oh, is it that big a deal? What will they do if they don’t believe me?

Charlene: Yes, it’s a big deal! Nancy told me the rest of the group has discussed the situation, and they would all leave. They absolutely will not tolerate donut thievery. She even said that sometimes she feels tempted to steal donuts herself, and she just can’t allow that to continue. Bad company corrupts good character, she said.

Roxanne: But if it’s not true, she’s going to leave for nothing. And poor Nicholas! He’ll be heartbroken.

SCENE #2 (During the meeting, a confused Nicholas sits in the middle of an assembly of people encircling him):

Nancy: (In a businesslike but gentle manner) Nicholas, we ask you to admit to us that you have been the one stealing the donuts. You must admit it for your own good. We love you, you see, and we only want the best for you.

Nicholas: (swallows hard) Umm…I haven’t been stealing donuts. I–I only ate four at the last meeting. I’m-I’m sorry. I didn’t know there was a limit, I know I tend to overeat. I promise I’ll only have one next time!

Debbie: No, Nicholas. It’s no good to pretend. We know you’ve been stuffing them in your pockets to take home with you. It’s beginning to annoy everyone.

Frank: We just can’t tolerate that. What if someone outside our group saw you? They would think we were all donut thieves. Think about how your actions are affecting us!

Nicholas: Well…I did put one in my pocket, but I was just saving it for later! I didn’t think it was stealing.

Charlene: (Jumps up from her chair, looking at Roxanne and Kelvin, who were staring at the floor.) Stop it right now, all of you! Nancy, your dog has been eating the donuts, not Nicholas. Your great big Great Dane with the great big head, Nancy! Kelvin saw the dog eating all the donuts off the kitchen table while we were in the other room…didn’t you Kelvin? (She touches his shoulder to get his attention.) Right, Kelvin?

Kelvin: (swallows, lifting his head slowly from the floor while the whole group stares at him hard) Uh—well…

Roxanne: Tell them, Kelvin!

Nancy: (Stands up and walks toward Kelvin, seated in his chair, her face hard.) It is impossible that my dog would eat donuts. My dog only eats IAMS. I know my dog…he is a disciplined dog. Are you calling me a liar?

Kelvin: Uh, no, not really, but—

Nancy: (turns to Charlene and continues) As for you, I can’t believe you would bring such an accusation against my dog. It just reaffirms for me that I no longer belong in this group.

After many weeks of arguments in this sad tale, Kelvin finally was courageous enough to admit that he did see the dog eat the donuts, but it was too late to convince anyone. Nancy was first to leave and the other disillusioned members trickled out one by one, until Kelvin, Roxanne and Charlene were all alone. Nicholas was shattered by the false accusation and never ate donuts again.

Have you ever been in a situation with a group of people where your point of view would decide the outcome? Do you back away nauseated from conflict? Do you bury your head in the sand hoping the situation will go away, or do you calmly pray, and try to make an objective decision regardless of negative responses? And how is your heart in that situation… are you angry, are you worried, fearful, grief-stricken? Or do you strike first as a defensive measure… are you combative, defensive, arrogant? Do you gossip about situations, or are you prudent?

If you are calm and objective, well done you. But for my part, I have difficulty making decisions. It’s partly because I weigh and re-weigh the consequences of every action (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it annoys the quick decision-makers in my life). But it’s also because I don’t want to be responsible for failure. What if I get it wrong? What if I make a mistake? (a.k.a. Pride). I don’t want to lose people’s good will (a.k.a. The fear of rejection). Therefore it was my unconscious habit to get someone else to make the decision, or even worse, to align with braver people who felt the same way and were willing to speak up.

What a handicap! Instead of acknowledging my immaturity, I spent most of my life convinced that I was just a nice girl who liked to avoid conflict. This is a convenient, insidious contradiction…I may have certain convictions in a situation, but I share them only with the few who agree with me. I will not repeat this information to the larger group, lest I be responsible for creating bad feelings. Maybe someone else in the small group will speak for me and take the consequences?

So, I have been a liar and a coward, and acting contrary to the Scriptures. I was Kelvin, paralyzed by fear of conflict and the loss of relationship.

Some of us are the opposite. They are willing to risk relationship for what they believe to be the truth, even when their actions are damaging. They are confident in their discernment, confident that they are God’s servants bringing God’s warning. And with God in one’s corner, who wouldn’t be confident?

How do you tell the difference between what some consider spiritual “discernment” and your own opinion? It’s so easy to mistake your own opinion for God’s.

Without anger or malice, let’s all be willing to make decisions and live with the consequences. Let’s be better at predicting and accepting when consensus can be reached and when it can’t, and let’s not make decisions based on fear, but with God’s love, wisdom, and truth. People aren’t always going to agree. I can’t let the fear of rejection keep me from speaking the truth as I see it.

Next time:
Excuse Me, Sir, But I Can’t Help Noticing Your Faults

Principle #2: It’s not my job to fix you.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another…Proverbs 27:17 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…Romans 12:18

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