“I was dreading meeting you today but I am so glad I did.” This was the farewell I received after a fantastic meeting yesterday morning.
Rewind one month: December 28th. I’d completed the first semester of my MBA and was enjoying much needed holiday rest. Our MBA class is organized into teams of 5 and you spend an entire semester working on every single class, project, homework, etc with your team. My spiritually enriching Christmas was interrupted by an e-mail requesting a detailed anonymous critique of my teammates.
I tried to do it. I really did. But I couldn’t. And the reason was not because I had a stellar team and couldn’t think of a single complaint. On the contrary, I can and I have complained about them. Putting my complaints on paper seemed to reveal how un-Christ-like they were. My lack of compassion became uncomfortably apparent. How could I write, “he’s condescending, selfish, and rude,” when I am not guilt free and hadn’t had the kindness to consider his circumstances?
Anyways, around that time, I heard a sermon on “not being conformed to the patterns of this world…” (Romans 12:2). We are free from the confines of this world if staying within those confines does not align with God’s will for us. Phew! I didn’t have to write the reviews, I thought. I wrote 1 sentence reviews and clicked submit, feeling great.
Fast forward to arriving back at school, I was handed the reviews my teammates had written about me and informed that we’d all have a one-on-one meeting with a ‘coach’ but that we first needed to read the reviews about ourselves and write a reflection.
I read mine. Some were good, some were bad. However, I used the reflection piece of the project to voice my reasons for not condoning anonymous written judgments of my peers.
A few minutes into my ‘coaching session’, the coach, a middle-aged executive in the oil and gas industry, seemed puzzled. We’d been having a fantastic and lively discussion when he suddenly looked down at the paper in front of him (it was my reflection) and said, “You know what, I need you to read this out loud.”
So I did. This is what I wrote:
To be frank, I don’t care about a thing that was said in these peer reviews and I dislike the practice of written peer reviews. I read these reviews briefly and I’ve seen enough so I got rid of them.
I am sure that everyone has a reason for the responses they gave. As for me, I struggle personally everyday to avoid judging others and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Overall, I feel I am winning this daily struggle. It is something God and I work together on and is partially why writing out anonymous reviews was so uncomfortable for me. Anything that needed saying or that might have helped one of my team members to grow constructively, rest assured I’ve already said it to their face.
I laughed as I read my words out loud and so did my coach. The negativity poured off the page and the condescending tone that I hadn’t wanted to accuse others of seemed to have taken hold in me.
You see, we DON’T have to conform to the patterns of this world. My coach wholeheartedly agreed with condemning the practice of anonymous written judging of other’s weaknesses. But the way we present our objections matters. We are representatives of Christ in all things but especially when we are taking a stand. We need to be mindful of the way we communicate His message and do it as he would have: with love.
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to set the record straight that I wasn’t the negative person that my coach thought he was going to meet but we might not always have that opportunity so let us consider our communication style ahead of time and ensure that it glorifies God.