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Earlier today my mind took me back to a meeting from many months ago. A budget meeting. A budget meeting that ended very badly.

Let me back up.

The Scene:
A church elders meeting. Late at night, after a long day. A meeting set for the express purpose of finally creating a new budget for our growing little church. 

Budgets. Money. They say one of the things married couples fight the most over is money. Different people, different bents, different methods, ONE budget… a recipe for conflict. Is is no different with a team.

It’s 10:45pm. We had made it most of the way through the budget -though rent and bills and personnel and all that type of thing- when we reached the last couple items. Suddenly we realized that there was minimal money left, and a couple of very cherished categories had yet to be funded. The Sr. Elder (and my dear friend) expressed opinions about the importance of a particular category…. and I expressed some opinions about the importance of another category. And then shit hit the fan. Seriously.

What happened over the next half hour or so was a blur partly because of tiredness… and partly because fight or flight emotion doesn’t lend itself to rationality and  memory retention. It was not really a fight about the numbers. I think we all would have agreed that balance would be key and all that. For me, the fight quickly became about identity, value, and judgement .. and my failure to ask questions before assuming the worst about other people’s opinions. It was a first class example of why not to ass-u-me. The meeting ended with some numbers in the budget and little to no relational resolution.

Luckily for me, my dear friend and I have one of those relationships where you really never fear for the future of the friendship. You just have confidence you will resolve it because neither of you are the type to push it under the rug. We worked it out, apologized to each other (not that the friend needed to apologize, but she is a good leader and quick to take responsibility, so she did), got on the same page, apologized to the rest of the team (who was very gracious), and moved on.

But still, when I think of that day, I have regret. So earlier, while remembering that day, I feel like the fool I had acted like that night. Then it occurred to me that I could probably get something constructive out of the experience. I started to ask myself what I could learn from that miserable meeting so it wouldn’t be for nothing.

First, let me tell you a lesson I am NOT taking from that day:
‘This is why women shouldn’t lead.’ I could hear the fundamentalist saying it in my brain when I typed the word ’emotion’ up above- ‘This is a prime example of why women shouldn’t be in such positions… they are too emotional.’ Probably deserves a post of it’s own, but let me just call that what is: BS. If you honestly believe that women have the monopoly on unhealthy emotion and that men escape the trouble of ‘relational’ issues, please, consider what you are saying. Consider that men and women tend to struggle with DIFFERENT emotional and relational issues, but that both struggle and both have strengths. So on our team we chose to have men and women in hope of receiving the balance, callings, and perspective of both sexes.

Ok. Moving on.

Here are the lessons I got from the miserable budget meeting:
1. Stop and ask yourself what YOU are getting so worked up about. I would have asked myself: ‘Why do I feel so upset? Do I feel like I’m being heard? Do I feel attacked? Why? Am I getting my identity from whether other people agree with me? Am I getting my identity from needing to be right?’ If I would have answered these questions it would have caused me to slow down and realize that my frustration was not about the ‘issue’ or even what others were saying- it was about how I was receiving the conversation. It was about something deeper.

2. As a Christian, I also need to stop and remind myself that if I am getting my identity from being ‘right’ or being approved of, that is WRONG. I need to get all my life and identity from Jesus. When I am doing this, being disagreed with and even being wrong doesn’t shake me nearly so much.

3. Stop and ask questions of the other person. ‘It sounds like you are saying X, is that what you mean to say, or am I misunderstanding? Why is such and such meaningful to you? Do you feel like you are being heard?’

Honestly, it’s mostly about UNDERSTANDING. Understanding yourself, understanding the need to be rooted in Jesus, and understanding the other person/people. These things can help us resolve conflicts in a healthy ways. They can help us not turn mole hills into mountains and disagreements into wounds.

Maybe they can even help us make church budgets at 10:45 pm without needing a referee there to break up the cage fight. 🙂

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