Ain’t nothing original about original sin! I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that one-liner, but I’ll bet you’ve witnessed it. Just when I think there’s nothing new under the sun, wham! With unsuspecting naivete I’m hit with something new, unexpected, unanticipated – a new tear in the fabric of civility, even among Christians. Good grief, we don’t handle it well either. After my momentary shock at this new appearance of original sin, I usually stumble through searching for some easy balm to try a quick patch on the opening wound.
And that usually NEVER works! Rabbi Edwin Freidman’s book, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, says it all! Quick fixes don’t usually work because it has taken a lot longer than we think for the junk to float to the surface anyway. So maybe this is why we need Roberts’ Rules of Order and an unbiased, objective leader presiding in tense situations. Roberts’ Rules actually help defuse anxiety, except for those who don’t know anything more than yelling, “Point of Order!” Okay, I’m a parliamentarian, been elected one for nearly 2 decades now, so I’m prejudiced. I do like Roberts’ Rules, and I don’t care for everyone bashing them. Truth be told, I think they do help contentious bodies of people have a little breathing room so they can think through an issue rather than get into a shouting match. But, indeed, because so few people know the process, they sometimes just add to a sense that the know-it-all’s are controlling things so we the ignorant masses are purposefully left in the dark.
Ah, this is where leadership can help by reframing a person’s comments in an assembly into a suitable motion; i.e., the person’s suggestion that the previous motion to do something potentially divisive should be put off and decided by more people can be reframed by the presiding officer as “I seem to hear you saying that this should be postponed to a later date with a larger gathering. Therefore, it seems to me that you’re making a motion to postpone to a definite time when more people can be present at a duly called meeting. Is this your motion?” If it isn’t their motion, then you’re in deep trouble, but hopefully you’ve restated their intent well enough to give a little breathing room for the issue to defuse itself or give ideas to clearer heads to think in new ways.
What’s this got to do with everyday life when we’re not in a situation where you use Roberts’ Rules? For me, it’s about leadership and emotional process. Original sin’s perpetual lack of originality makes people react, blow up, and blast others. Blame-shifting has been going on since the Garden of Eden. In everyday life I have to remember that the issues at hand are not as much about facts as they are about personalities.
Therefore, information over-kill isn’t as important as understanding the emotional process we use in dealing with the so-called facts. In Roberts’ Rules fashion we need to track what emotional forces are at work, restate them, stand our ground in a responsive rather than reactive way, and try to air everything out in a neutral environment.
This is hard as heck to do when people are showing their fangs, and you are tempted to show yours,too. That doesn’t help anyone. Find a calm place within from which to speak. Don’t wimp out and say nothing. That just gives ammo to the lions and bears. Do what St. Paul said, “Speak the truth in love.” Leadership risks saying what people want to say but don’t feel like they can, and restates it in such a way that everybody walks away a winner. They don’t walk away “winner-take-all,” because that’s not reality. In our non-original sin-filled world, the best we can do is win-win-lose-lose; i.e. everybody gets something and loses something. Hey, I’ve been married 35 years and that’s as good as it gets from my experience. Going nuclear and winning is still losing.
Chill out, lead with calm authority, and give peace a chance.