Article Reflection: Asking Supportive Questions

good intentions

More than a handful of times, I’ve had this conversation:

“Are you married?”

I respond, “No, I’m not.”

They respond, “Oh, don’t worry. You will be.”

And I’m left standing there, awkward and somewhat speechless.
All of a sudden feeling insecure about my life choices.

The backhanded compliment.

How do I respond to that? … Thanks?

 

Sometimes, I think, people ask questions with good intentions. But sometimes I wish they would think through their “intentions” a bit more to how they make the other person feel.

Maybe they didn’t intend to patronize my life choices, but I can’t deny, it’s how it made me feel.

This article, by Amanda Bast, was shared with me by a friend. I think many of you can likely relate to her thoughts.

And, it’s not just about our relationship status.

Recently, a good friend of mine wrote a letter to some of her church leaders, expressing similar sentiments but on an entirely different topic.

She wrote about how their young adult group had been facing a great deal of conflict and resistance to their efforts to engage in the church community. Not because their efforts were bad or seen as negative. But they were new and different. And didn’t fit into the current structure or ways of doing things.

They would try new models and programs, new ways of being communities of joy, hope, love and peace. They met weekly to discuss how to best address conflicts in their community, how to approach situations to compassionately help people deal with change in the church and get on board with a vision they felt passionate about. They would raise issues and identify inconsistencies that the structure of a worldwide church organization sometimes presents, asking for dialogue, and the opportunity to work together to create more inclusive communities that reflected the values of their members.

Their efforts were often met with more challenges and questioning. Policies and procedures that were meant to be enforced – but really didn’t represent the needs of the current population.

She wrote:

Following these experiences was our natural assumption that we were being targeted and disempowered, intentionally. What deepened these emotions was our sense of confusion. Why are we being met with such negativity, such dishonourment? Why are we being told what we can’t do instead of being asked, “how can we help or how can we facilitate”? We were nervous to make any decisions, to ignite any creativity-a gift that is at the core of who we are. Even as I write these words I am extremely nervous and hesitant to share.

The good intentions of some felt like backhanded compliments to the others. It left this group of passionate young adults feeling emotionally drained, unmotivated, and unsupported by their church community.

Maybe that wasn’t how it was intended, but I don’t think any of them would deny, it’s how it made them feel.

There are times that dealing with the structure of organizations, even a church, can be challenging. Both sides of the table having good intentions. Both sides wanting to do what is right. What is best.

Many of us (even, all of us) are on different paths. We each have different way of doing things. Neither necessarily wrong. Just different ways of seeing the world based on our past and our individual life experiences. Different ideas of what “should” happen. It’s just who we are and where we are.

So in reflection on these issues:
How can we ALL better encourage and support others (young adults or not), rather than patronizing or demeaning the passions, choices or situations of others? How can we address faulty systems stemming from structures put in place in different times?

Addressing differences of opinions, approaches, and perspectives in a loving and respectful manner is vital to our ability to survive as a community and to truly exemplify unity in our diversity.

We find ourselves at a challenging crossroads. An intersection of tradition and innovation. Old and new paths. But all within the blessings and confines of community.

How can we best uphold and support those who believe in, and find truth in, new ideas and visions? New ways of being and living? Even when they don’t fit into the current structure or social expectations we have created for ourselves?

How can we best uphold and support those that believe in, and find truth in, the current structure and social expectations we have created for ourselves?

We’re all hurting. We’re all trying to figure this out. We’ve all experienced those painful, prodding questions. We’re all looking for someone to validate what we’re experiencing. If these past few days have taught me anything, it is this:

I am not alone, and neither are you.
Amanda Bast

 Photo from: mentoringleaders.com

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