Difficult situations reveal who people really are. This fact became clear to me when my high-school senior class went backpacking in the mountains for a week. The weather turned foul midway through, making trails slick and conditions uncomfortable. I returned with respect for several people I’d never really known and with concerns about ones I thought I had. Crisis reveals character.
Reading a book by Israel Galindo, I was struck by his list of five kinds of people. We sort ourselves into these categories during seasons of challenge. Here’s my version:
The Guys in the Balcony
Two of my favorite Muppets were the old, bald patrons of the arts. They always had some “helpful” word of advice from the balcony about how to improve what was happening on stage. They’re not quite as funny in real life. And they may be unaware of what an energy drain they’ve become. Protect the people who are building from the ones who think a critique is a contribution. A good policy: no complaints about what’s broken without an idea and a will to fix it.
The Hand Wringers
During a challenge, some people hunker down and wait for the cavalry. They stand by anxiously and passively as if solutions only drop from the clouds. They have little encouragement for the cavalry in their midst.
His famous line, “Can’t we all just get along” has become the battle cry of wishful thinkers. There’s a profound difference between wishful peacekeeping and hopeful peacemaking. Peacekeepers view conflict as an acid bath. Peacemakers view conflict as the inevitable work of shepherding people towards a substantive, common goal.
Brave Sir Robin
Monte Python fans know this reference. Sir Robin is the knight who lost heart after one of his courtiers kept singing about the ways he might be slaughtered in battle. When faced with a season of difficulty, a number of people disappear. Some go quietly, just slipping out of the room. Others slam the door on the way out. The greater challenge is when they return once the difficulty has passed. Our temptation is to become prideful by comparison. Instead, be grateful to have gained insight about who is who. Take up the challenged to receive Sir Robin back with grace and truth.
These are the people who take the hits and carry the water. They weigh options and make choices. They do so while navigating their way through all the noise and distraction of the four people above.
“Be wise as a serpent, but innocent as a dove.” – Matthew 10:16
Who on this list is the hardest for you to handle?