Sankofa #4

Sankofa #4

Last Saturday the Church Council, with some members of the Portfolios and committees met to reflect on how to renew leadership within MUC. I am a big believer in getting people together for conversations. There was also a lot of time spent in listening, clarifying, and challenging of certain assumptions.

We all make assumptions. We make them all the time. It can be about anyone and anything. If we are not careful in assuming, then we may get badly trapped in them. Most of the time assumptions make our lives easier but at the same time they can act as barriers in our knowledge. 

The problem with making assumptions, and we all do it, is that more often we are wrong. We assume that a person had a specific motivation for their actions or that an event took place for a specific reason. Then we start to see these incorrect assumptions as the truth. A lot of damage can be done by confusing our assumptions with the truth. I was surprised that there was an assumption that the Church Council is trying to get rid of people by wanting to renew leadership.

In her book Rising Strong, author and researcher Brené Brown defines generosity as the ability to “extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.” While this sounds simple, it is one of the most challenging tasks of being in relationship with people – friends, family, colleagues and even strangers.

How different would things look if we were able to make the most generous assumption? When that car cuts you off in the morning rush hour traffic – would it feel different to assume they were rushing to an appointment with their oncologist?  What if we assumed that our family member’s snide remark came from a place of feeling left out and isolated?  Maybe your colleague isn’t out to get you; but simply feels overwhelmed and helpless in their own life. Regardless of the situation, having a generous assumption or compassionate response is something each of us has a choice about and requires mindfulness.

To be generous and compassionate, we must be mindful of the present moment, including how we may feel and think about a particular situation.  Each of us is unique, has a different perspective and therefore each of us has a different reality.  Even though we lived in the same house with the same family, my second sister had a different experience growing up than I did.  Mindfulness encourages us to remember that each one of us is faced with unique circumstances.  It is up to us to be mindful of our shenpa, the urge or hook to react or shut down.  When we step back or take a balcony view and resist the urge to react, we are practicing mindfulness.  When we are mindful, we can make the generous assumption.

This week, see if you can make a conscious effort to get on the balcony.  When you feel pulled, negative, and reactive, see if you can take a step back and look at the situation from afar – the balcony.

Consciously, make the generous assumption.  What could be some alternative thoughts?  There is no harm if you are “wrong” or “right.”  With a generous assumption you are simply letting go of your own shenpa[1] or hook.  Take a breath, ask yourself if there is another alternative and remember that we are all doing our best. 

We all make assumptions. But let’s be mindful and interrogate our assumptions. We might be wrong. Let go of our shenpa with generous assumption. Please!

This coming Tuesday, 19th July the Ministry Team will be spending time together for team building. The issue we will be exploring together: ‘Boundaries at Work’. 

… in the meantime, blessed be.

Rev Swee Ann Koh

[1] Pema Chödrön on shenpa, or the urge, the hook, that triggers our habitual tendency to close down. We get hooked in that moment of tightening when we reach for relief. To get unhooked, we begin by recognizing that moment of unease and learn to relax in that moment.