Travel seems to be a part of our lives these days. Suitcases and airports can be overrated in my book… but at this point, I try to just embrace the adventure.
During a recent flight to the West Coast, I reached the point where I’d consumed enough water after a pre-flight chai tea latte that I needed to visit the dreaded airplane lavatory. (Not sure why airlines stick with the fancy name, except to try to overcome how gross they normally are!)
If you know me, you know I’m a rule follower… so when it comes to flying, I tend to be acutely aware of the seat belt signs and the flight attendants’ instructions. At the particular moment I needed to get up, the “fasten seat belt” sign was on. But there were several people up and about, so I asked the flight attendant if I could go to the restroom. He smiled as he winked and said, “I can’t tell you that you can get up, but I won’t tackle you if you need to go to the bathroom.”
Everything about his response indicated that I was fine to go to the bathroom, so I headed that way. About three rows from the “vacant” sign I was aiming for, another flight attendant looked at me sternly and barked, “Get back to your seat!”
Now, the rule follower in me was embarrassed. I wanted to explain that I do follow rules and that her fellow attendant had given me the okay. However, I kept my mouth shut and returned to my seat. As I sat down, I realized that in life I can often be the second flight attendant. Sometimes, I can get so bent on following every rule to the letter of the law that I come across as cold and unreasonable. As a card-carrying rule follower, I’m bucking against my own sense of justice and linear way of life… but I have to say that’s not how I want to be known.
The whole encounter reminded me of two timeless principles that I want to highlight:
1. Approach trumps content.
There are times when there are certain guidelines, rules, or processes that need to be followed. As a boss, a wife, or a mom, we often have to disappoint those who come to us by responding to their requests with a “no.” But consider this: The problem may not be what you say, but how you’re saying it. Is your approach relational and kind, or cold and harsh? How you say something is often more important than what you’re actually saying.
This is also very true when it comes to biblical values. As Christians, we should hold to our convictions, but we should always have a tone and words that are winsome and full of grace, not condescending or rude.
2. Sometimes, it’s more important to be right relationally than to be right.
There are times when we make our preferences a rule. (Yes… I went there!) We make our way of doing things the only way. There are times when – out of fatigue or control – we refuse to be flexible. It’s easy to see in parenting. We can whip out a quick “No!” before the question is even completed. Likewise, with spouses and co-workers, we can insist on having the last word or proving our point at a very high price.
What about you?
- Is there a situation this holiday weekend where you need to be more intentional in how you say something?
- Is there a situation where you could be more flexible instead of insisting on your way?