Thursday, August 3, 2017

Correcting the Wrong to Do the Right

I have never worn contact lenses.  Never.  Ever.  There is something about sticking a foreign object into my eye that I find completely objectionable and revolting.

So, I have absolutely no experience what-so-ever when it comes to popping those things in and taking them out.

This background is important given that my oldest daughter has now started trying to wear contact lenses.  She wants to play volleyball, and it's easier to have her in contacts than to buy a pair of sports glasses.

This morning, I walked in on her trying to put those things in.  And she was crying.  She was having great difficulty getting the lenses to stick to her eye.  I could see the frustration on her face.  She had been trying for about half an hour.

I hugged her and told her to walk away for a few minutes.  She got up and sat on the couch and watched television.  I sat down beside her and said, "Sometimes, when you are getting too frustrated, you've got to walk away and come back in a little bit."  She calmed down.

I looked up on my phone "contact lenses not sticking" and discovered that your finger needs to be dry because those things stick to wet surfaces and not dry ones.  I informed my daughter of this, and we went back to try again.

I thought we were in for a quick success story because she got the first one in in only three attempts.

But then came the second one.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.  Seven.  Eight tries.  All unsuccessful.  She was working on the eye opposite of me, so I moved around to watch what was going on.  Immediately, I saw the problem.  She was blinking just before getting the lens to her eyeball.

"You are blinking right before you get the lens in," I said.  "You've got to concentrate on holding your eye open."

"YOU'RE NOT HELPING!!"  She retorted.

"You've got to know what you are doing wrong so that you can correct it," I replied.  "Concentrate on keeping your eye open.  Stop crying.  Settle down.  You can do it."

First try.  Unsuccessful.

"You can do it.  Just concentrate."

Second try.  Bingo!

"I told you you could do it."

"Thank you, Daddy."

Several things occurred to me as I thought about this little event in my life this morning.

First, you have to know what you are doing wrong, and sometimes you cannot see it.  Blinking is like breathing.  It's involuntary, and you don't even think about it when you are doing it.  My daughter couldn't see it when she was blinking right before that lens hit her eye.  She needed to be told what she was doing wrong.

Second, no one really likes being told what they are doing wrong.  My daughter's reaction was typical.  It's the way I react as well.  I don't like being told that I am doing something wrong.  Most of the time I think the same thing my daughter said, "You're not being helpful."

Third, if you take the response personally, you will make the situation worse.  Yelling at my daughter after her response would have been counter-productive.  There would have been no movement forward.  She would have been more tense.  I would have been more tense.  It would have taken forever to get those lenses in.  Calmness but firmness was required.   "You've got to know what you are doing wrong so that you can do it right."  Explanation.  Compassion.  Deep breath.  Move forward. 

Fourth, if you are going to get someone to change, you can't just tell someone they are wrong.  You've got to be supportive and encourage them as they try to do right.  I could have kept telling my daughter to keep her eye open.  Don't blink.  That would have made her even more tense.  It would have made her more anxious and upset.  I did tell her to do that, but at the very same moment, I offered her words of encouragement.  Love.  Relaxation.  She knew what she needed to do, but having me continue to point the finger without giving her space would not have been helpful.  In theological terms, she needed Law and Gospel.

Fifth, thankfulness comes.  You are not going to get any thanks right away for trying to correct the wrong.  You will most likely get push back to begin with.  But sticking to your position; offering support and encouragement even in the face of initial reaction; just staying until there is success; and then offering congratulations, will bring about joyful thanksgiving.

I think there is a theological lesson here somewhere about God's work to correct our wrong by showing us firmness, compassion, and love.  And I think there is a lesson about our response as well.

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