Enjoy this monthly post by Reverend Patrick Riecke, director, Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services.
For a long time, I believed I was smart. In meetings, I would think to myself that I might have been smarter than the other people around the room. I was somewhat educated, and my mind was still young and limber.
But, things don’t stay the same way for very long.
As I continued to progress into new roles, I felt like a bright high school student entering their first advanced course. I started to notice that the gap between my intellect and others’ was not as great as it once was—or as I had believed it to be.
Then, one day, I sat down to lead a new powerful team. In the previous few years, I had become an on-call chaplain at Parkview, an amazing non-profit health care system. I found myself swimming in a pool that was both deep and wide. With thousands of co-workers and all sorts of new things to learn, my bravado about my intellect faded quickly.
Next, I began serving the health system as a Supervisor of Chaplains and Volunteers. Leadership and new territory tested me again and I daily realized how much I had to learn.
Another year went by and I became the director for the department.
One of the new responsibilities included in my new role was to be the chairperson for the ethics committee. I would be leading a team of co-workers and others to provide consultation for the most complicated situations in our large health care system.
That was the powerful team.
As I sat down to lead our first meeting, my blood pressure rose. I started to sweat.
I think I tried to make a joke that wasn’t funny.
Two and half dozen of the smartest people in the county sat around the catered lunch. Physicians and medical directors, nursing leaders, lawyers, hospital administrators, VPs and Chief Officers.
In my mind, here was little ‘ol Chaplain Patrick trying to call this meeting to order.
I was over my head in the comparison game.
“What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. “Sure, I have a couple degrees, but I am not a doctor, lawyer, or someone with a long and decorated career like those around me. I don’t have the word ‘chief’ in my title. Who am I to even call this meeting to order?”
I could no longer view myself as the smartest person in the room. Quite the contrary, I was fighting a voice in my head that was telling me I didn’t really deserve to be there.
Only a few of you were in places of power, and not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of this world. He chose the weak things of this world. I Corinthians 1:26
I cannot always be the best, but I can do my best.
The comparison game can sometimes lead us to give in, quit or drop out.
In this passage, Paul explains that in God’s way of looking at things, it’s not about how powerful, smart or influential you are. It’s not if you can outsmart everyone else or if you have more of something than the person next to you.
God didn’t choose you because you were the best. He chose you to simply be--you.
I love Paul’s gentle reminder. “Not many of you were [the best] when God chose you … but God chose the foolish people, the weak people of this world.”
But, if I can’t be the best, should I just stop trying?
Of course not!
Colossians 3:23 (NIV) "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart."
I cannot always be the best, I can do my best.
Back to my meetings with the ethics committee.
My weakness as the leader of that team did two things for me: First, it helped me realize that I did indeed need medical consultation for my blood pressure (that’s not a joke). Second, I began to be honest about my weakness while working on ethics consults. I would start to raise my hand when complicated situations were being discussed, and I would say, “Non-clinical person here! Can you explain to me what we are talking about?”
At first, I felt stupid, needing these things explained to me. But, something interesting has happened every time I have raised my hand like this. I watch these brilliant people begin to find the essence of the dilemma we are discussing. After 20 minutes of talking about medications, diagnoses, prognoses and treatments, I raise my hand, and I ask my questions.
Often the response is something like, “Well, the real concern here is that the family and the care team are having a hard time agreeing.” Or, “We are just afraid there is really nothing more we can do for this patient, but we’re having a hard time being completely forthright about that.”
So, my ignorance leads me to ask questions. And those questions help these brilliant people to boil the issue down to what is really essential. Often, what is essential is only somewhat related to the medical situation of the patient, but it’s always what must be understood before the dilemma can be resolved.
If it weren’t for my ignorance and questioning, it would actually be harder to resolve some of these situations.
I’ve learned one basic truth from this: My information isn’t the best way I can help this team. My questions are the best way I can help this team.
I cannot be the best, I can do my best.
I’ll never be six feet tall like my brother. And if I just keep comparing myself to him, it will steal my joy.
If you are down about not measuring up—stop measuring! Just be the best YOU you can be.
And remember, BSA:
Select and say the truth: I cannot always be the best; I can do my best.
Allow the truth to reshaped your reactions and thoughts.
Questions for reflection:
- Comparison can be like a quiet heat that burns in your chest. Do you feel the burn of comparison in any area? Why?
- With whom do are you comparing yourself? Does that person even know you are comparing yourself? Do you really want what they have?
- Look carefully at any comparison that lives inside of you and consider—what does it reveal? Where does it come from? What will I do if I do actually become better than that person or those people?