Sunday, September 27, 2015

Death by Pouting: The Poison of Passive Aggressive Behavior

I have a confession to make.  I love old thriller movies where the villain slowly poisons some unsuspecting victim.  And of course in movies of yesteryear, the villain always gets discovered.  The victim is saved from certain death right at the last minute by the movie’s hero.  Such heroes were often played by actors like Cary Grant or Gregory Peck.

A slow and deliberate process of poisoning someone in real life is anything but entertaining. And it can actually take on multiple forms…It occurs to me that a person that acts in a passive aggressive manner in actuality is poisoning their most important relationships slowly but surely.

Passive aggressive behavior is just that…it’s passive.  It takes on such forms as pouting, ignoring, refusing to speak when spoken to, procrastinating on a task, subtle verbal jabs, and disguising criticism with praise. When you ask a person drawn to passive aggressive behavior what is wrong, the standard answer is…”nothing.”  And of course the response is commonly expressed in a calm, but self-righteous tone.

If your aggressive behavior surfaces in the form of a physical assault, you can be charged with a criminal offense.  If your aggressive behavior takes on one of many passive forms, it’s unlikely that a crime has occurred.  However, you passive choice is the equivalent of pouring arsenic poison on the relationship. 
Marriages are negatively affected. Friendships are destroyed. Relationships in an extended family context are harmed beyond repair.  Such damage is a result of the corrosive impact of being passive aggressive.

I am guessing there is some morbid satisfaction that’s gleaned from ignoring someone’s overture at communication.  “I won’t respond to his email”.  “I will delete her text message without replying.”  “I will show him!”  “That will get her!”  “I won’t invite her to the family gathering.”  “I will  fail to call him about the hunting trip.”  Such gestures are supposed to make you feel better about yourself, but they end up being poisonous for you and the person you are targeting.

I recall a man in church that used to get his jabs in on the leaders by making comments in a public prayer that could be taken several ways, but everyone knew what he likely meant. It was terribly destructive in particular for his own life of faith. He slowly poisoned his heart.

I learned from the old movies that poisoning someone often takes time.  It’s a slow and tedious process. But if you are consistent, you will get the job done eventually. The results will  ultimately be fatal.  If you are choosing to be passively aggressive today, you will eventually get the job done. You will destroy that relationship.  Oh and by the way…you will most certainly poison your own heart in the process.  Think twice before you pout and ignore and jab…It’s may not be a crime, but  nevertheless it is terribly hurtful. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pretending to Care...

Earlier this week I delivered two lectures at Abilene Christian University regarding the role of a law enforcement chaplain in times of crisis.  During the course of conversation a dear friend shared one of those quotes that has a way of staying with you. She said: “You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.”  Two days later I was reminded that this statement is indeed true…

A friend is caring for his mother in Arizona. She is dealing with serious health issues right now, so he simply needs to be there.  He is employed by a major airline, so his job takes him all over the world. And his schedule is erratic at best.  But when the work calls, it is time to go.  This week he sought out colleagues to cover an assignment, so he could stay with his mother.  He even offered to pay someone over and beyond their normal salary as incentive to substitute for him on a particular series of flights.

Enter Kristen.  Kristen eagerly volunteered to cover his duties during such a time as this…And no…she will not take the extra funds he offered to pay out of his pocket. She simply wants to help.  I have never met Kristen, but I like her.  You can’t help but like people who take care of your friends. 

Kristen’s actions serve as a reminder that…you can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.  She is going to show up in uniform for a flight going somewhere…The passengers on that flight will have no inkling that she is covering for a man who needs to be with his mother right now.  Kristen can’t hide the fact that she cares. She showed up when she was desperately needed…And I have a sneaking feeling that her choice is going to inspire at least one man in Texas who needed a reminder that showing up is really important.  Thank you Kristen. Your actions have inspired me to do better. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Back the Blue

To our Granbury and Hood County First Responders:

We know….all too well….that many of you feel like a target right now. You sense that there are people with evil intent targeting you.  And at the same time, you also feel invisible, because so few appear to notice the good you are doing.

Today, we are here to say: You are visible indeed.  Your actions have not gone unnoticed.
And today, we want you to know you are a target for sure.  You have been targeted by us…for love, respect, and value.

To our GPD officers, you are visible on 377.  We see you working accidents during 5:00 traffic when it’s pouring down rain and when its 20 degrees outside.

To our HCSO deputies, don’t think we have failed to notice that you are sometimes first on scene to do CPR as you await the arrival of medics.

Which reminds us that we are blessed by Texas EMS and Pecan EMS. We count on your medical expertise and on your compassion.  And we know all too well that you often leave Garcia’s well before the chile relleno was finished.

And when you work a priority one call, you can be confident that Air Evac or Care Flight are on stand-by, ready to fly a patient to Ft. Worth in a moment’s notice. They land on highways, pastures, and middle school parking lots. Whatever it takes to get a patient flown as quickly and safely as possible.

Don’t think we have forgotten our volunteer fire fighters serving at stations here in the city and all over the county.  Key word is volunteer….these men and women get up in the middle of the night or leave their child’s soccer practice to serve their neighbors. You too are visible to us.

The fire Marshal’s office is working with them.  We don’t think about the Fire Marshal or his deputies until there is a disaster and we are looking for leadership during times of major community disaster or when it’s our home that has been affected by a fire.

Sometimes we think all that our DPS troopers do is run traffic. But that is far from the truth.  When all of the deputies and city officers are tied up, they too make disturbance calls.  We call on them and our Texas Rangers when the worst of the worst has occurred.  And we know they are spending time serving at the Texas border on a weekly basis right now.

And what about BRA Lake Rangers.  They patrol the lake and serve in the parks.  But they also have grievous task of serving drowning victims and their families.

And then in the background, our constables are quietly serving.  Their work is not always visible to us.  But they are doing their part. They are by no means invisible.

There are investigators working for the district attorney or for the county attorney.  We don’t see them as much, but they are not invisible to us. They are serving crime victims of all ages.

We are fortunate to have outstanding dispatchers. They are often the first to hear news of a crisis event and the last ones to know the outcome.  They keep us all going where we need to go.

I have had the opportunity to hang out with our medics more the past two years.  I am learning new vocabulary words from them.  (When I first started as a law enforcement chaplain, I learned some new vocabulary from them too, but I won’t repeat any of those words today.)
One of the phrases I learned is: level 0.  Level 0 means they are depleted.  Every truck is tied up. Every medic is occupied.

I think in recent days our first responders have been at level 0. Depleted emotionally.  Morale depleted. A feeling that there is little, if anything left to give.

I hope today you have been filled as we remind you that you are visible to us. 
And please know…we have targeted you for love, respect, and value. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Do You House the Bums in our Community?

Serving the community has been the theme of my sermons for this quarter.  I am using “community” in a geographical manner.  I am urging the church to serve the people that comprise our town.  We are what one writer calls a “rurban” town.  We are not rural but we are not urban either.  But we are fairly eclectic group of people.  In that line of thought, a comment from a friend reminded me that I overlooked a key lesson that needs to be conveyed during this series of sermons.

My friend directs a shelter for the homeless in her community.  Under her capable direction, the shelter is doing some innovative things for the homeless population they serve. It’s not an easy job. There are no simple answers to homelessness.  There are layers upon layers of concerns to address.
Earlier this week she received a call from a man that lives in their community.  During the course of the interchange he repeatedly made reference to the “bums in their community.”  His comment was striking to me on two levels. 

First of all, it’s easy to refer to various groups of people in a derogatory way if you have never interacted with them. If you choose to live your life in a small world, one of the consequences is that you will have a skewed and inaccurate view of all kinds of people.  I have spent a fair amount of time with homeless people over the years in a number of different contexts.  Each of their stories are unique.  I always walk away from those encounters reminded that every single one of those people were created in God’s image.  The consequence of that is fact is: they are deserving of the same respect I would demonstrate to any other person.

Secondly, I failed to share with the church during this sermon series that they will encounter people that don’t want serve the most vulnerable in our community. There are people that don’t care if some of the children attending our public schools go hungry over the weekends. (That is an area that our church has committed to help with.)  And there are people living in the community we are trying to serve that don’t care if an elderly lady gets her electricity turned off. Sometimes we are able to help such individuals on an emergency basis. There are people who see the effort to provide an annual summer camp for abused and neglected children as a total waste of time and resources. And there are people that view those that are homeless as “bums.”
The man’s comment was a reality check.  There are people out there that just don’t care. There are individuals that don’t respond well to reason. And there are the ignorant among us that paint entire groups of people with the same brush.  

How did my friend deal with the guy that inquired about the “bums” that the shelter she directs serve?  She finally had to end their conversation.  He was beyond reason.  I suspect the conversation went longer than I would have allowed it to go. And I know for a fact she was nicer than I would have been. A warning for those that choose to serve their community: there are unreasonable, selfish, and bigoted people out there.  You will encounter them. There is no doubt about that.   Be reminded: you are serving people that have been created in God’s image.  That’s their primary designation.  It really doesn’t matter what anyone else calls them.