“Just as I learned you shouldn’t walk over people metaphorically, you need to learn not to walk over people… literally.”
I never thought I would ever say those words.
I realized I had a big people problem when I was a sophomore in college. My sarcasm mixed with my task-oriented mentality meant that I was a wrecking ball of discouragement to all those around me. Sure, a few people would laugh, but it was truly at the expense of the masses.
You might get things done when you are task-oriented, but people won’t respect you for it.
I learned the hard way back then, and now here I was, trying to teach it to a squadron of “Adonis-type” teenagers at a church camp.
The average height of the guys on my “team” exceeded 6 feet. They were all athletic. They were all highly competitive. There were several (yes, several) instances where guys from my team were so focused on the game that they actually trampled over their own and the other team’s players.
It was a struggle, because we were winning by large margins, but people kept getting hurt. So I shared with them the little nugget I learned about being goal driven and not people driven. I shared about my past of metaphorically walking over people in my task-oriented vector to success. Using the illustration of “walking all over” people was easy to transfer to them, because they were literally walking over people.
There are three huge things that I’ve learned about people that I wish I’d known earlier. I thought I would share them with you, ya know, cause I’m a nice guy…
People Are Important:
This seems like an obvious one, but I think it is a concept that we know in our brains but fail to act on in our lives. We all know people are important, but we are so focused on ourselves, that we become selfish and forget about others. We are people of convenience. We “serve” when it doesn’t cost anything. We “pray” for people’s needs, but we fail to be their answer to prayer. If we truly love people, the first thing we must realize is that they are important: babies and bullies, priests and pagans.
People Have Feelings:
I thought all people were stonehearted like me. Guess I was wrong. I found that out when a friend asked me to check out their website for their growing business. Instead of sharing what I liked about it, I only shared what I thought could use work. And guess what??? Up came the waterworks! This person had confided in me their heart and soul, and I took it and told them it wasn’t good enough. And even though I really didn’t do anything wrong, I used the wrong vehicle to convey the message I wanted to get across.
Don’t forget that people have feelings. We have the power to make or break someone’s day. When we do something out of selfishness, we are simultaneously inconveniencing someone else and toting that their feelings and personhood don’t matter to us. It is possible for us to convey the truth in a vehicle that will subside the trauma of offense.
People Make Mistakes:
I guess we know this one already. But we only want others to be reminded of it when they are berating us about the mistakes we are personally making.
When I was thirteen I tried smoking for the first time. I only had one or two puffs of a cigar, but I did it knowing I was in the wrong. I remember being in the car when my dad called me out about it. The friend who talked me into trying the cigar got caught with drugs, and his parents made him sit down and tell them who all he had down illegal things with. So my dad knew that I had tried smoking.
What he said to me stuck with me: “Bobby, just know that whatever you have probably tried, I have tried too. Don’t be afraid to talk to me about these things.”
He wasn’t saying that I should go out and try every drug known to man. I knew that by context. What he was saying was that he has made these same mistakes in the past and had learned from them, and he wanted me to learn from him before I made the same mistakes. He was also saying that it was okay to make mistakes, because even he, my dad and my hero, did.
So don’t walk all over people. Learn to take time to remember that the garbage man, and mailman, and janitors of this world are people with first names and families. So is your barista! People of all walks of life at least have one opinion that is worth being heard. And people make mistakes. They mess up. If we took time to wrap our arms around those people, then maybe we can stop them from making future mistakes.
All it takes is one word of encouragement.
So know that I have made mistakes. I have put myself before others. And I am sorry. I love you. You are not alone. Your mistakes don’t define you. You are not a failure.
You are awesome, and you are important.