Have you met my friend, Righty McRighteous-son? You know, the guy who lives in my head and gives me all those snappy comebacks I could have used in conversations hours or days before? What a fun guy! He's charming and persuasive -- a player with heart. He's powerful. Always fired up for a fight. Always ready to take on a cause. He's like what Robert Downey Jr. might be if you added a little Angelina Jolie and Michael Fassbinder. (The dash of Michael Fassbinder is for the accent.)
Sounds amazing, right? He is. Righty McRighteous-son has been by my side for much of my life. We've been working together for so long, I don't know what I'd do without him.
Until I learned the hard way.
I am incredibly fortunate to be a part of a tremendous team of coaches. Together, we practice our skills with each other and grow as both coaches and people. Recently, one of our teammates began to have a breakdown and stopped communicating with the rest of us. After visiting him at home, I began to suspect that he has a psychological condition that might require therapeutic intervention.
Well, I freaked out. How could I hold on to this information? I have to share it with the rest of the team! But if I share it with the rest of the team, they will freak out! But I don't share it, it becomes a "thing" that blocks me from fully engaging with the team. It's not fair that I have should have to figure this out on my own. How can I be responsible to him, me, and our team? What the heck am I going to do?
Righty McRighteous-son jumped in. "You've already had reservations about this guy," he said. "The way he acted during your visit was no surprise -- it just confirmed what you suspected. Am I right or am I right? It's your duty to inform the team! It's your responsibility to be forthright! And honest!"
And yet... I struggled. I sensed that there was something else going on. Righty may be right (haha) about talking to the rest of my team, but I also sensed him waiting in the wings to tell me just how wrong I was if my team didn't believe me.
So, I asked myself, what is going on? What is this conversation really about? Fear of creating discord on the team? Fear for my personal safety? Judgment around psychological diagnosis and the need to get "real" help? Anger that I can't just walk away? Anger that I am in this situation to begin with? Anger that no one listened to me in the first place?
Oh. There. What's that there? Anger that no one listened to me? So, this situation is not really about my teammate or my team? It's about Righty's agenda: the need to be recognized as "right" regarding my teammate.
Okay, so what now? Well, I could do a couple of things, things I'd gotten very good at doing over the years. I could beat myself up -- or let Righty beat me up -- for not being perfect. I could move forward and show my teammates how I was right. And get all righteous in the process. I suppose we could convince them. Righty is very persuasive.
Or... I could practice awareness of who I'm being in these moments. I can give myself permission to experience all the things I perceive as weaknesses in my character and realize that what's happening right now is perfect. Because without the breakdown -- and the subsequent discomfort and icky feelings -- you can't have the breakthrough.
If needing to be right is my operating principal, then fear of all the judgments, opinions, and negative facts about being wrong come along with it. If I'm right, then the other person is wrong. If I'm wrong, then that sucks. Therefore, all my actions come from fear of avoiding a negative conclusion. But if I can give up needing to be "right," if I can say goodbye to my good friend Righty McRighteous-son, if my actions come from a place of honesty and essence, then it doesn't matter if I'm right, does it?
In the end, I gave up my need to "tell" my teammates about my experience. Through subsequent interactions, the rest of the team came to their own conclusions, and in the end, we discovered that our teammate is a whole and complete person -- with or without an official diagnosis. He is where he is in his life, and he continues to be a key member of our team. As for Righty McRighteous-son... he's still around, waiting for an opportunity to get back in the mix. But I've given him a mission: Get working on those snappy comebacks a little faster, son! Show me just how "right" you can be!
What if the problem you think you're addressing isn't really the problem at all? What might happen if you dug beneath the surface? Beneath the all-consuming emotion you are experiencing? What do you have to give up to break through? What treasures might you find?
I invite you to consider the possibilities.
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