The Problem with Rationalization and Shame

Unknown-1I sit in quite a few meetings. Many of those meetings are one on one. We’ll sit in the coffee shop usually and be discussing life, marriage, jobs, and family. We’ll be talking about faith, even if that’s not what we’re talking about. I try listen, but to be honest I love to talk. I like to give advice, even when I know I shouldn’t. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s decent and sometimes it’s just plain awful advice. And sometimes I do actually listen and care about the other person more than myself.

Other meetings are joint ones – session meetings, finance team meetings, presbytery meetings, committee meetings, Acts 29 meetings, policy meetings, CityGroup meetings, planned and impromptu, important and not-so-much-so. I don’t mind meetings too much. I don’t hate them. I call some. I attend many.

And I so often sit there and judge them – if I’m not talking. If I’m talking, then of course I’m saying something important and people should listen. But if someone else is talking, I don’t have to listen. I might listen, but it’s not required of me. I can look at my phone. I can check Facebook to see if I have any more likes or if someone has reported something important. I can send an online bill pay that I’d previously not gotten too. I can think of how I’d redo this whole meeting and it would be much better, much more productive.

At a recent meeting, I heard several confessions of sin and even some decisions given to these people. I thought about how they weren’t handled well. I thought about how I would have confessed differently. I thought about how I would have cared more or better. I thought about how the whole structure was off. I thought about how I wanted to eat more donuts. I thought about my next conversation, the important one I needed to have that day because I didn’t want my friend to know that his point was correct. But how I needed to present that in a way that made it seem like I didn’t care about winning the argument. So I needed to be much more non-chalant, so perhaps a good strategy would be to pretend to bump into him and then just happen to bring up my very important matter.

At another meeting, I didn’t think we should be having the meeting. So I had the dilemma of either not showing up or attending. I decided to attend, and then tried to register my complaint by body-language only. I told my friend next to me that he needed to keep me from talking and that he was to punch me if I raised my hand. That made me feel better, because that way I got credit for my self-restraint and I also was able to let someone know how displeased I was – at the same time!

I would never do it this way: I do it that way all the time but choose not to see those times.

I would handle this differently: And other people would hate that.

My opinion is amazing: perhaps, but it’s certainly held in a pretentious way. And it’s really not amazing at all.

I’m not interested in this topic: I have to be okay every single second and the world revolves around me.

I’ll listen: I’ll just wait until I get to talk next. Look at me patiently waiting!

I’ll care about what you care about: Because then I get to care about me even more since I logged that fake caring about you time.

I’ll be a sounding board for you: I’ll critique your criticism as a super-cool meta-critic and that will help.


Lord, help me to stop and to rest. I don’t know how. I think I want to care, but I’m not sure. I think I mostly want to fight and be right. But I know that’s wrong and I’m ashamed to admit it. Help me to listen. Help me to truly care, to really and truly care about someone anyone more than myself every single second of every single day. Give me your heart. Change mine.

Headshot 2 Nicole Hager