Carmen Rundle (not her real name) writes, "I can't help but feel guilty about resigning from a charity organization helping the poor. My sister, friend, and I have been working with them over a year organizing fund-raising projects. One of our recent projects was baking and selling cakes and cookies to the members of our church. My sister and I personally baked them and they sold very well.
"But an important member of the organization named Hal, without informing us, brought in a new vendor selling the same things and donating them to the same charity. The only mistake I made was to ask our priest about it. This started a barrage of angry emails from Hal. We in turn sent some emails to refute his claims.
"No one in the committee came to our support or even wanted to hear what we had to say. This upset us, and we felt that our previous efforts were not appreciated and team support was lacking, so we quit. It was a very hard decision for me to make and after deliberating for two days I decided to resign. Furthermore, Hal is very ill, so we felt that our presence in the organization may not help him at all.
"We were not out for any name or credit just doing our small bit to help. In the last e-mail he sent, he stated 'Why are the most productive committee members taking things so personal?' In your opinion, were we wrong in quitting? If not, why do I feel guilty when topics about helping others come up? Am I being sensitive?"
My Answer: You feel guilty because you failed to live up to your potential and did the very things that annoy you. For example, you were displeased because Hal brought in a new vendor without informing you; yet, you spoke to the priest without informing Hal. You felt team support was lacking; yet you didn't support Hal and the new vendor. You felt your efforts were not appreciated; yet you did not appreciate the efforts of the new vendor. Finally, you say you were not out for any credit, yet you feel hurt because you believe your efforts were not appreciated (that is, no credit was given to you).
You ask if you are being sensitive. Well, Carmen, like the priest, Hal, and the new vendor, you are being HUMAN. We are imperfect and make mistakes. People react and relate to us the way we do to them. How did you react to Hal's decision and the new vendor? You felt threatened and unappreciated.
How did Hal feel when you spoke about him to the priest? He felt threatened and unappreciated!
Also, you probably have regrets because of lost opportunities. For instance, by running away from discomfort, you lost an opportunity to live courageously. What about a lost spiritual opportunity? Although you are a spiritual person, in moments of stress you forget it. Who is it that put the priest, Hal, and the new vendor in your life? Wasn't it your Creator? Do you really want to reject the opportunities to grow stronger and wiser that He places in your life? And how close are you to your Creator? Well, the distance that separates you from those you cannot get along with is the distance that separates you from God.
There are other lost opportunities. For one, you could have welcomed the new vendor to the team and learned from him or her. You also could have become a team player by encouraging Hal, who despite his illness is trying to contribute to the lives of others. Also, when he asked you why the most productive members in the committee were taking things so personal, you could have extended your hand as he reached out to you with his.
Are you feeling depressed now? Well, you shouldn't be because your behavior is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of your humanity. It's actually a time to rejoice because you can learn from the past and become more than you are today. If my bluntness made you cringe, that too is a good sign because pain is good. You see, the principal catalyst for change is pain. For it is only when things are too painful to bear any longer, that we finally decide to change.
This is also a good time to consider the following general ideas that relate to the issue you raised:
1. Treasure your relationships. After all, people are the source of our power. Every relationship we nurture empowers us, and every relationship we sever weakens us. So, the more we get along with people the greater our power.
2. We learn from others. EVERYONE has something to teach us. Look for it.
Find it. Recognize it. And act on it.
3. The people we work with act as our allies. When you joined the church committee, you had the opportunity to multiply your power and service to others.
4. Our relationships can provide a source of comfort, strength, and inspiration.
5. The faults of those we interact with remind us of our own, and provide us with opportunities to practice patience, understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness.
6. Our relationships serve as a practice ground where can develop our character. Where else can we learn the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable?
7. When we serve others, we serve ourselves. For example, when you help others, they hold you in esteem. And it is the esteem of others that develops your self-esteem.
8. When you get along with others you end stress, share in laughter, and gain peace of mind.
9. Most people are decent, and conflicts are generally caused by misunderstandings. Those who are unkind are usually insecure, feel threatened, are afraid, and lack confidence. Instead of a cold shoulder, they need a shoulder to cry on. Instead of a punch in the face, they need a pat on the back.
10. Remember that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
11. Here's a useful tip from. Dag Hammarskjold (1905 ~ 1961), "An apology is a friendship preserver, is often a debt of honor, is never a sign of weakness, is an antidote for hatred, costs nothing but one's pride, always saves more than it costs, is a device needed in every home."
12. View everyone you meet as an opportunity to experience God. Do this by experiencing His Love and freely and unconditionally offer it to all.
13. Don't let pride destroy a relationship, for as Reuel Howe wrote, "Indeed, this need of individuals to be right is so great that they are willing to sacrifice themselves, their relationships, and even love for it."
Since we can't get ahead without getting along, isn't it time to think about mending damaged relationships?
© Chuck Gallozzi
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