“Oh no. What has she done now?” Jane and Belinda have been working side by side for almost six years. Belinda’s question was about Jane. It seemed, at least in Belinda’s mind, that Jane was always falling short, causing Belinda’s workload to grow. If she wasn’t falling behind, Belinda and her co-workers thought that Jane was always trying to get out of work. Always volunteering for meetings and running in office errands, suggesting that parts of her workload would be better suited on someone else’s desk.
Because of Belinda’s preconceived perceptions of Jane, when she (Belinda) walked into the office this morning and saw her supervisor standing at Jane’s desk, she thought the worst; “Oh no. What has she done now.” Belinda’s blood pressure jumped several notches and continued to climb as she crossed the room to her desk. I’m sure she’s complaining about her workload and I’ll end up with more to do. After all, I am faster and probably the best worker in this office. No one gets as much done as I do. Why wouldn’t they come to me to help those slower? I always get extra work.”
In the meantime, Belinda’s disdain for Jane grows. “Jane is a lazy, complaining, selfish, brownnoser.” In Belinda’s mind all the issues are Jane’s. The relationship is like one between a rebellious teenager and his/her parents. The parents believe the teen to be going through a rebellious phase – against whatever his parents say and believe. The teen believes his/her parents to be legalists, controlling, and judgmental. The more the parents react the more the teen acts out and pushes the envelope causing the parents to react stronger and draw stronger negative conclusions. It is a vicious escalating circle. There is a feeding off each other that escalates the bitterness and antagonism toward each other.
This is an infection that besets us all. This phenomenon is rooted in self-deception. In Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute says it begins with self-betrayal. We betray ourselves by recognizing those around us as objects, not people. Our self-betrayal leads to escalating false assessments of others while justifying our thoughts and actions, both the negative against others and the exaggerated bolstering of our own attributes. This self-deception builds in us and those we interact with as it always carries negative attitudes and connotations. Like a virus, this infection festers and grows in us and can compromise or ruin relationships at work, home, family, and all other areas of life.
Whether as a leader, family member, or friend, we must work to avoid allowing this infection to multiply its bacterial infest and destroy our relationships. The number one thing that you can do is ask yourself this question: Am I viewing the person/people in my relationships as objects or people like me? Do you view the people you work with as objects to get the job done or as people with families, trials, and hardships just as you and your family experience? Do you view your spouse as an object of your affection obligated to fulfill your thoughts and desires, or a loving person with a busy schedule, and a compassionate heart to provide through his/her role in the family?
What first steps can you take this week to turn your self-deception into an others-focused orientation?
George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.