I recently had the fortune to take on a new management position, replacing a manager who had simply walked out. Within hours I had driven from New York back to Pennsylvania to be on the site and assess the situation. It took about five minutes to realize the former manager had done a thorough job at doing nothing. I quickly realized my biggest challenge was going to be a crew that was never held accountable to any standard. I had walked into a mess.
Over the next week we had discovered more and more disconcerting news. It was clear that the employees had no direction and needed a lot of hand-holding and retraining. One by one, these guys went through the following process:
1. Confusion - not knowing what the new boss was going to be like
2. Anger - learning that they were now going to be held to company standards
3. Dejection - feeling that they just couldn't live up to the new standards
4. Anger again - saying they weren't going to submit to the new standards
5. Grief - realizing they had no choice and were stuck having to submit to the new expectations
6. Acceptance - accepting the new standards
7. Performance - working hard to achieve new expectations
8. Joy - achieved new expectations and obtained reward for job well done
Having managed people for some time now it appears to me that most people go through this process when confronted with change. While I am not going to dig up some psychological study or codified process for this, I would like to just have us think about how we do this in learning new expectations in our life as men. What happens to us when we learn some new spiritual standard that we did not know existed?
Like most men, when I learned the truth of what was expected of me as a Christian man I went through a similar process to that listed above. At first I was simply confused. Is this really what the Church teaches? Is this really what is expected of me and my family? Then I got angry. First at the world, then the Church, then myself. How could this happen, how could I not know what a real man of God was supposed to be like?
The next part is the kicker. Most men, I fear, don't allow themselves to go beyond the feeling of dejection. They throw their hands up and say, "this isn't for me" and then they go through a process of justifying their unwillingness to accept God's call. "I am just not that kind of guy." "I don't know theology, I am just a simple guy." "I'll do my best, but I just can't give up_______!" Maybe you have even told another guy, "That's great for you...you are holy, you were brought up that way..." The excuses are endless. We are really good at making up lots of excuses but not any solutions.
The guys I have been working with were really good at making excuses. It was the previous boss's fault, the equipment wasn't working right, the other guys were slackers, the subcontractors weren't doing it right, the weather was causing them to have problems, etc. A peer of mine who was helping at the site had had enough and kept saying, "these guys have plenty of excuses but no solutions." Having heard this statement at least 50 times it got me thinking. Am I a guy that makes excuses or finds solutions?
In our process of dealing with change, our shortcomings, or difficulties, do we seek to find solutions or do we just rely on making excuses. The obvious purpose of making excuses is to remain in the status quo. This prevents growth and ultimately our own freedom. Stagnation is never a good thing. The challenge is to look at the current situation and accept this as a gift from Our Father in Heaven and accept the growth it is going to produce. Of course, in accepting the challenge, we accept the suffering and difficulties that are inevitable in changing and challenging situations. We may be hurt, we may suffer, we may even fail. However, in accepting it as a gift from the Almighty, we are accepting whatever outcome He may allow. This is where holiness begins, in abandoning all to Him Who creates all and sees all to their ultimate end.
So, the next time we face a new challenge, will we do the manly thing, the brave thing, and accept it or will we find an excuses to turn away from a gift from Our Father's hands?