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Are you a Problem Solver or a Problem Causer?


Don't take it personally, but you have a reputation. You're known for being one or the other; a problem or a solution.

It might not be a lifelong condition. It may only be a recent development. But when your name and number pops up on the face of someone's phone, there is an instant expectation. There are assumptions. Like it or not, there is judgment.

Possibly, "Why would this person be calling me?" - sincere inquisitiveness and ignorance.

Maybe, "Alright! This should be good!" - eager anticipation, relief, or even excitement.

Or, "Oh no, here we go again. Do I really have to answer this call? What complaint or trouble is it going to be this time?" - dread, fear, anxiety, bewilderment.

And surely there are other possibilities.

I want to live my life in such a way that people WANT to hear from me.

Of course, the reaction you or I elicit CAN be more of a reflection of the person we are contacting than it is a commentary on our own character. Still, inasmuch as we can control things, we need to be asking (humbly, honestly, & constructively) what effect our presence has on others.

A lady in our church (Pat Murphy) has often commented to me that everyone is either a lifter or a leaner. One might call this being a burden or a blessing. Of course, the circumstances of life push each one of us into the condition of needing help from time to time, if not often. There should be no shame in this. But we should all ask ourselves if we tend to lift those around us, or if we tend to only lean. And if we are leaning, is it an unavoidable condition or a personal choice? What is your general demeanor, and mine?

Don't turn this into a self-righteous rant: "Oh yeah! You tell them, pastor! Rebuke those toxic people who interfere with my vibe and are inconvenient to me. I get tired of jerks who crimp my style and bump me out of my groove."

No. That's not what this is about.

In other words, let's not turn this into a self-affirming tool to use against someone else. Only ask yourself--as I am asking myself--am I striving to help others soar, or am I willingly and willfully sucking the life out of others.

Even when we need assistance, there are ways of going about it that lift people up. And, there are ways of going about it that drain everyone around us.

I've visited people in hospital beds--even on death beds--who clearly wanted to contribute to the happiness and holiness of everyone around them. I've gone in to encourage others and have ended up departing as the one who got the encouragement.

On the other hand, I've endured the "encouragement" of others; interactions that really made me want to just give up, quit, go away, hide, despair--or to be honest--die.

Some of this is nothing more or less than optimism or pessimism. Are we looking for the good in things, or always at the bad? It's the old glass-half-full or glass-half-empty illustration.

This isn't to suggest that we ignore reality. This is not a commendation for those who look at life naively through rose tented glasses. That kind of perspective only enables abusers and empowers tyrants. We are told to be harmless as doves AND wise as serpents. But I've reversed the order. Wise as a reptiles is listed first.

What I'm suggesting is that we all look for ways to provide solutions rather than only and always stockpiling dilemmas and drama.

Let's get really practical.

Let's say you need some advice. Who do you call and why?

Ok then, whatever noble qualities that person has that causes you to think of them as a great resource, start cultivating those traits in yourself. Are they cheerful, encouraging, educated, successful, diligent, caring, wise? Why couldn't you become those things for someone else?

Also, who would you never call? Who would only make matters worse? Who would add to the drama and push you further down? Who would blame you and run you into the ground? Ok, well then--don't be like that person. Ever.

If you encountered a situation that had 10 outstanding characteristics and 9 of them were positive. Would you fixate on the 1 negative? And if you had to focus on the 1 negative, are you the one who would find a way to improve that 1 thing or are you the type of a person who would dismiss the 9 good things because of the 1 bad thing?

If I come up on a situation that has 10 outstanding characteristics and 9 of them are negative. Am I even capable of smiling about the 1 positive thing?

If you've ever been to an elementary school band performance, you know exactly the kind of thing that I'm talking about. Because of the abundance of the proverbial thorns, weeds, and bumble bees, it can be really difficult to smell any roses there. But when the little boy on the drum asks you how you liked it, you need to be able to see the silver lining on that cloud. And it's important to be able to communicate clearly about that tiny glowing aura.

Maybe I've bitten off more than I can chew with my attempt to address this issue. But give it some thought anyway. Contemplate your own actions and conversations. What are your habits? Are you a problem solver, or a problem causer? Are you a lifter or a leaner? I'm not talking about aptitude either; I'm talking about attitude.

This isn't about competence or expertise. This isn't about skill or intelligence. This isn't even about maturity or strength. This really is just a challenge for some introspection concerning your feelings about life, and mine. And it's a quest for improving how we communicate constructively with the people within our own tiny sphere of influence.

Man, I don't want to leave a trail of collateral damage in my wake. I want to leave everything better than how I found it.

My mother used to tell us a tale about a smart girl and a lazy girl. Without rehearsing the whole story, as I recall it: during a journey this smart girl cleaned debris from a water branch, briars and dead branches from around an apple tree, and the ashes from a brick oven. She didn't have to do it. It wasn't required. Nobody even told her to do it. But she saw the opportunities to do good, and each time, she did it. In the closing moral of the story she was eating apples, enjoying warm fresh baked bread, and drinking cool clean water. In the story, the lazy girl got none of those benefits.

In every circumstance of life, be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Be the change that the world around you needs. Be like the smart girl in my mother's story.

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