Have you heard about the “48 Hour Challenge?” The headlines stirred memories of a similar challenge that was popular when my wife and I were teenagers. That challenge involved fasting for a couple of days and donating the money saved toward famine relief in a particular country. However, as I read the article, I soon discovered that this “48 Hour Challenge” was totally unlike anything that we had experienced; that it was describing a new trend among teens that involves disappearing for 48 hours. So, what is behind this rather absurd idea? It seems to me that it is another way that young people are trying to answer the question, “Do I really matter to my parents? Will my disappearance scare my parents, create a media buzz or get my picture in the paper?”
Let’s face it, the “48 Hour Challenge” happens in many homes in a variety of different ways. Many wives complain about husbands who are physically there but emotionally AWOL. The fact is, many are screaming inside, “Does anyone care? Do I really matter?”
If I asked 100 parents if they really care about their children, 98 would probably say, “Of course I care” and list the benefits they bring to the children that reinforce their statement. After they finished giving the list, I would add one simple question: “Do you give them things or yourself?”
Several years ago, a group of companies bought into an experiment that was designed by a group of motivational psychologists. They went in and did a refurb of the space used by the office workers. Production improved significantly. Owners and management were impressed. About a year later they went back in and changed things back to the original. Again, production increased. The owners and managers were perplexed. When the office workers were questioned on their response to the changes, there was one over whelming remark: “This company cares about its workers.”
Let me come back to the original question: “Do you give things or yourself?” Things buy the favor of the recipient. Giving yourself affirms their value. Buying favor involves an ongoing deposit of things. Affirming value involves an ongoing declaration of worth.
What are some ways in which I can give of myself ?
1. Be intentional in allocating time. If you are a supervisor, manager, or owner, schedule personal time with all those in your circle of responsibility. Ask about their families, their life interests and their emotional, physical well-being. TAKE A PERSONAL INTEREST IN THEIR WORLD! As a parent, schedule outings with each individual child and use the opportunity to discover their world. Find out about their interests without passing judgement on whether you think they are good or bad.
2. Learn to listen to the heart not the head. Why a person says something is more important than the words used to convey the thought. A child or employee comes up with some “hair-brain” idea. Our natural response is to tell them how stupid or unreasonable it is. Of course, we would use choice words to communicate our superior intelligence/ wisdom to theirs. Wouldn’t it be better to respond with something like: “I can see that you have given some thought to this idea. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts: Would you tell me more?”
3. Use their words to lead you to their values. The parent/employer wears the label, “Critical fault-finder.” If there is a wrong, they will be there to point it out. We are quick to point out how damaging their negative attitude is. And, of course it is damaging. But, wouldn’t it be better to highlight their deep sense of justice and ask them to bring back suggestions as to how the problem could be remedied? The entrepreneur sees unlimited possibilities; the governmental man, structures that increase efficiency; the teacher, training that will expand ability; the visionary, strategies for expansion; the motivator, will find ways to stimulate lethargy, and the caregiver will help bring cohesion to the whole. If we focus on the negative side of each of these qualities, we are in danger of greatly limiting the potential of our organization, business or family.
Seven years into our marriage my wife said to me, “Duane, you don’t love me!” That was a bombshell. I wanted to defend myself and prove that I loved her. Instead, we agreed that I would take the next day to get alone and reflect on her words. I went to a provincial park that was close to where we lived. As I sat by the lake, the thought came to my mind: “Write down what your life is about.” I proceeded to write down all the activities that engaged my time. Several radio programs, newspaper articles, editor of a quarterly paper, speaking at conferences, counseling for a medical clinic, pastoring a Church, playing hockey and a few more. By the time I had finished the list the problem was obvious — I was in love with myself and my success. My wife and children got the crumbs of my life. Sitting there by the lake, I asked God for a miracle – change my heart so that I can give myself not just tidbits of time. I invite you to join me in the “Change of Life” challenge.