Posts that find “grace at the end of disgrace”.

Do you hear what I hear?

by Larry Hehn on June 15, 2014

grandfather clockMy sister-in-law and her family own a grandfather clock. Its Westminster chimes sound each quarter hour. The soothing tones echo through the spacious foyer and fill the house.

But without my hearing aid, I can’t hear them.

There are certain frequencies I simply cannot, and do not, hear without the aid of technology.

Before I was equipped with a hearing aid, you would have been hard pressed to convince me chimes were coming from that clock every fifteen minutes.

No matter how well you described them or related your experience of hearing them to me, I would swear you were nuts. Clearly, from my perspective, the only sound coming from the clock was a steady tick, tock, tick, tock.

Which one of us would be “right”?

After all these years I’ve finally started to figure out – that’s the wrong question.

Empathy has never been my strong suit. I have trouble seeing and hearing things through a set of eyes and ears other than my own.

But I’m learning.

I’ve always placed high value on being right. It’s just how I’m wired. After reading Integrity by Henry Cloud (a highly recommended read, by the way), and not hearing the Westminster chimes one night, it dawned on me that I and those around me could benefit from me dialing that down.

As Cloud describes it, “Being right is not [an empathetic person’s] highest value. Understanding and connecting with others is.”

Let me tell you, I’d much rather have my tombstone read “He understood and connected with others” than “He always had to be right”. The former sure is a lot more Christ-like.

So, do you hear what I hear?

“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.” – C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

“To empathize and validate what someone is experiencing does not mean that you always agree or even think the other person is right. It just means that you see it as valid in that it is really their experience, and true for that person, and you show them that you understand what they are thinking and feeling.” – Dr. Henry Cloud, Integrity


Don’t Be an Armchair Quarterback

by Larry Hehn on June 5, 2013

armchair quarterbackChappy and I used to play hockey together. He was our team’s top center. I was the goalie.

As an excellent hockey player and team captain, Chappy had earned permission to chew out any of the guys on the team who weren’t pulling their weight. Anyone he admonished knew the feedback was warranted and for their own good.

It was given to them directly, not grumbled behind their back. Discussion was open and honest, and dealt with then and there. He was also open to receiving feedback in return.

After one disastrous game, in which I couldn’t get my act together no matter how hard I tried, Chappy gave me a well-deserved tongue lashing. I was just as frustrated with myself for letting in some soft goals and not being able to get comfortable in net.

He must have sensed that frustration, since he then did something I never expected. He suggested that we swap positions at our next practice.

That Monday afternoon, Chappy donned my pads. I moved up to center. For an hour and a half we got a taste of what it was like to be in the other’s skates.

Exhausted, drenched in sweat, and completely humbled at our inability to cover the other’s position, we dragged ourselves back to the dressing room and slumped onto the benches across from each other.

Chappy’s eyes met mine. Slowly, he shook his head and said, “I will never yell at you again.”

Still panting, I gasped, “And I’ll never yell at you either.”

Chappy was no armchair quarterback. If he was going to criticize somebody for something, he wanted to know exactly what it was like to be in their skates…er, shoes. He gave the benefit of the doubt. He spoke with hopes of building the other person up, not tearing them down.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when someone who has never played hockey watches the extra-slow-motion replay of a backhand from inside the slot bulging the twine, then announces, “Aw, the goalie should have had that!”

Yes, maybe he should have. That’s why they pay him the big bucks. But, having played that position before, I don’t fault him for missing it. It’s amazing how easy something looks until you try it yourself.

That’s why I like shows like Pros vs Joes and Undercover Boss. The cocky amateur jock gets schooled about what it really takes to be a professional athlete. The corporate CEO gains an appreciation for the many hands that support the vision he/she is casting for his/her company.

Armchair quarterbacks aren’t necessarily couch potatoes. They’re just people who expect more from others than they do from themselves.

So if you find yourself thinking that someone you know really needs to hear this…


Relieve Stress in One Easy Step

by Larry Hehn on May 30, 2013

road rageI dropped my son off at school early this morning. I don’t usually drive him, but today he had to be there for 6 am. On my drive home along two eastbound lanes, I sought to move from the left lane to the right, since I had to turn south at the next block.

After putting my turn indicator on, checking my mirrors, and doing the standard head-turn check for my blind spot, I determined that I had plenty of room to move over.

However, the guy who was several car lengths behind me in the right lane had other ideas.

As soon as I indicated my desire to get into his lane, he mashed the accelerator to close the gap between himself and the car in front. I’m not sure what possessed him to try to squeeze me out, but he obviously didn’t want me to be in front of him, even though I already was.

Though I saw him start to accelerate, I still had plenty of room to make the shift. As I eased into the right hand lane, I could see him fuming in my rear view mirror.

He was yelling, waving his right hand around, and having an all around hissy fit. Even as I turned right and he continued straight, I could see him glare at me as he went through the intersection.

“Dude,” I thought out loud, “Do you realize that my pulling in front of you didn’t add a single second to your trip, or pose any sort of threat to your drive? It’s 6:01 am. I sure hope the rest of your day gets better.”

Of course, that’s completely up to him.

It’s something I’ve learned firsthand over the last little while. My wife and I just wrapped up a few weeks with a counsellor. One of the biggest lessons I gleaned from our time there is that I am responsible for my own attitude. Whether or not something stresses me out or offends me, is completely up to me.

It’s amazing how much stress melts away when I simply choose not to be offended by stuff.

If you are looking for reasons to be offended, you are sure to find them. Heck, you may have already decided that you are offended by this post. Ultimately it’s a choice. My driving buddy could have just as easily let me change lanes without incident. I’m sure his day would have been better as a result.

I’m thankful to be more aware now of just how liberating the right attitude can be. It seems so simple in hindsight, but this was a revelation that really only came to light through some great conversations mediated by a helpful counsellor.

And it’s definitely something worth sharing.

Want to relieve stress in one easy step? Choose not to be easily offended.

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung