Avoiding the trappings of ‘Us against Them’ mentality

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Admit it, you’ve done this too haven’t you?  Something doesn’t go according to plan or a report becomes very late and you had no knowledge of it until you received the biting e-mail reminder.  We sit in our offices or in front of our computer screens and we automatically see the lines in the sands which separates US from THEM.  Logically we know it isn’t true and yet somewhere in the back of our minds we visualize somewhere at the other end of the computer terminal the ‘dark side’ plotting against us.

Some of you conspiracy theorists out there believe it’s true.  For most of us we at some point come to the realization that we are all accountable to someone.  Reports, and statistics that are tedious…monkey work.  Yet they all culminate for good or for bad and gauge successes and/or failures.

It is easy to do.  Our perceptions become tainted by snarky e-mails, or abrupt phone calls from our headquarters.  Automatically our defenses go up.  ‘They don’t understand‘ we whisper under our breaths.  And once again we find ourselves in imaginary foxholes pitted against an army of pencil pushers and bean counters of the evil kind.  But is this really the truth?  Are we really being oppressed and placed ‘under the thumb’?  Or are we just encasing ourselves in self-made prisons of conflict and oppression?

It really is an unhealthy way to live is it not?  We ought not find ourselves tossing and turning in our beds at night because we feel persecuted and alone in our ministries.  Keeping these frustrations and stresses building up in us will eventually lead to medical issues and even depression.

So how do we change our perspective on things beyond our control?                      How do we overcome this ‘Us against Them’ mentality?

Here’s 4 prescriptions to reverse this perspective:

1.  We’re all human.

Recognize that each person is playing a role.  Whether it’s a hierarchy system or office ‘chain of command’.  Each person is a human being and we ought to treat each other as equals.  We all put our pants on, so to speak, on one leg at a time.  Ideally we are also working towards the same goals.  Find the common ground, commonality in humanity, and begin to change your perspectives.

2. Communicate Clearly.

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Most conflicts which arise and begin to create this ‘Us against Them’ mentality are simple mis-communications or lack of initial communication.  Sometimes we get carried away with our planning or in starting something new in our ministries and forget to include the appropriate team and/or leadership support.  Failure to include these parties in our planning at the onset might create conflict that could have been avoided had proper communication taken place first.

Secondly on this communication topic, don’t read too much into e-mails written by individuals.  It is too hard to interpret the tone of someone’s letter at times and so the simplest solution is to pick up the phone or better yet have a face to face meeting to further understand that person’s perspective.   We at times get so bent out of shape because an e-mail seems to be written harshly or we interpret the tone to be confrontational.  Be careful  not to just idly zip off a rebuttal e-mail without first considering an actual conversation to clarify.  Think rationally and take the time to respond appropriately.

3.  Exchange shoes

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You’ve heard the expression ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’?  It reminds us that we may not fully understand another person’s perspective unless we understood their lives and/or their respective responsibilities.  Do we understand the pressures they have to work under?  Do we know what sort of reports they have to submit?  Can we ease their stress by just getting it done?  It would be foolhardy of us to think that we are the only ones living under restraints and/or a chain of command structure.  Others too are facing timely reporting issues and stresses in the workplace.  If we can take a selfless jaunt in the shoes of one we have deemed as ‘Them’ then we might begin to change our perspective on things.

This isn’t some sort of placating move either.  If we have a valid issue don’t play possum and roll over, fight for it.  But nine times out of ten the people we have viewed as ‘opposition’ are in fact on our side and living under different authorities.

4.  Make peace with Authority. 

I would venture a guess that most, if not all of us, do not like those disciplinary meetings with one who is authority over us.  It certainly is not how I would want to spend my day!  None of us want to be told we are coming up short or needing to improve in our work performance.  In truth those meetings totally and undeniably suck!  I hate em, and I’m sure you do too.  And yet we have to realize that where ever we work or live we are always subjugated to authority in one shape or another.   We can’t avoid this human structure.  Sometimes it does suck.  Other times we truly appreciate this system.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” -Hebrews 13:17.

There I’ve included a passage of scripture that is hard to swallow at times.  Who here enjoys submitting to authority?  I struggle with this.  I question authority a lot.  But at the end of the day will I obey or will I disobey?  Truth be told it all depends on the situation.  But honestly if we obey as Paul tells us to, which I believe is inspired scripture from God, then we live better lives because of it.  We may not always agree with authority.  We may sometimes have to say no.  But make sure you have a valid reason for doing so, not just because you didn’t feel like it at the time.

Secondly, authority figures that we work under are hopefully there to support you.  Recognize that we are all human and we all make mistakes at times.  Forgive often and pray for your leaders.  We may not understand the pressures they are working under either.  Also consider this: how will you lead if/when you find yourself in their place?  This may be an inevitability.  And if you one day find yourself in that position, perhaps a measure of wisdom and humility will come with your authority too.

Finally recognize that you aren’t a victim!

Circumstance and issues will arise, this is for certain!  How we react to these sometimes will allow for proper communication and healthier perspectives.  If after these four prescriptions you still find yourself at odds and are battling within this ‘Us against Them’ war, find support!  There are undoubtedly people and leaders who can help you.  We cannot sustain any measure of success working under such limits and perspectives.

Get out of this trap while you can,if anything for your health and well being.

-Just a thought.

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