I remember where we were standing that day. Was it 1987 or 1988? A long time ago.
I was new to the community and truly longed for inclusion and a place where I could offer assistance and receive personal fulfillment. The committee meeting had just ended through a door not ten feet away from the spot where we stood. The meeting was my first with this group. The discussion was interesting. And when I was asked my opinion, I gave it.
That’s when he spoke up. “You’re just clearly wrong,” he said. “That method won’t work. We’ve tried it.” Then to the rest of the group, “I’m telling you, it just can’t be done.”
The ink on my law degree was not quite dry at the time. I looked around the room and saw the other committee members looking away from him, hoping not to draw his ire. I decided to disagree with him. And as I recall it, I dissected his argument and persuaded the group to move forward.
On that spot outside the door, I pulled him aside and tried to establish a middle ground. He had made it obvious that he thought little of me and my ideas. I saw him as an intelligent person and someone worthy of getting to know.
“What was that all about,” I asked. “Why so much venom? Have I done something to offend you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” My mental picture of that moment insists that he leered at me. However, I’m not sure what a leer would look like, so who knows? “You just had a stupid idea and I’m a realist. I just had to point out how stupid it is.”
I don’t remember what I said to that. I do remember my stupid idea worked. And I realized that he was not a realist — he was a negativist. No “negativist” isn’t a real word. But that’s what he was.
I’ve never forgotten that day. Nor have I ever seen him since as anything but a negativist. I’ve heard he has some socially redeeming qualities. I’ve even had some pleasant conversations with him through the years. But most often, I go back to that spot in the hallway where I decided to judge him.
Twenty years later, I’m still dealing with that decision. And my feelings toward him continue to drain my energy whenever I see him. That’s why I decided last Sunday that I’ve got to go talk to him. I know that we have disagreements over some things. Yet, I know that I can’t discuss those things with him until I stop and listen to him.
I’ve also discovered that two decades of pronounced judgment have built expectations that I’m having trouble overcoming. I expect the conversation to go badly. I expect him to treat me with disdain. And, honestly, if I enter that time with him with those expectations, all will be as terrible as I have forecast.
So over the next few days, I’ll take my own medicine as a doctor of dispute.
In this Day One, I will begin to pray for his well-being and for a dose of humility for me.