In the problem solving process a person’s objectivity is often based on their most recent experience. Don’t disregard all past experiences, for in doing so, we put an axe to the axiom experience is the best teacher. However, what worked in the past might not be workable for the present or the future. Past experiences could be elements of current problems.
Where is objectivity if one is facing something they have never faced before and their objectivity is based solely on past experiences?
Well-meaning people, and some counseling techniques, try to comfort the problem-laden telling them they must learn to cope with their situation. As a problem solving approach, cope is a four-letter word. The definition of the word is depressing and offers no certain hope of victory.
Cope: (Webster) To struggle especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success. This dictionary adds the following phrase to the definition: (usually followed by with). To me, this connotes coping is a continuing process not a concluding act.
Defining cope by using the word as an acrostic the true definition surfaces: Cover Over Problems Effectively. Not only is it not possible to cover over problems effectively this is not a biblical truism. We have seen in our study that for every problem God has provided a solution. John 8:32 promises, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
At New Hope Counseling Service our objectivity is always and only based on the Word of God. The tools we teach give the problem a name. A thorough topical Bible provides the biblical solution for the problem.
Finally, when a problem presents itself: Don’t Try To Make It Make Sense Right Now. If we had enough information to make it make sense, up front, we wouldn’t have a problem. As we work through the problem deal in facts only.
God taught me this vital tool during a painful experience our family had to endure. This is a most valuable lesson pertaining to problem solving and a difficult lesson to learn.
The telephone rang. It was 7:45 a.m., January 13, 1981. I asked myself out loud, “Who would be calling me when I am getting ready to leave for work?” (This was before I had caller I.D.)
Before I could speak I heard a hysterical voice screaming in my ear. It sounded as if someone was saying, “She’s dead! She’s dead!”
My thoughts raced. Was this my sister saying Mother had died? Mother was 75 and in great health, but 75 year olds die suddenly. I didn’t want to assume anything so I asked firmly, “Who is this? Who is dead?”
The voice quieted and said, “This is Terri, Deidra is dead.” Terri is my daughter. Deidra was my 10-week old granddaughter.
As I warmed the automobile and scrapped the windows, I was crying and asking through my tears, “God, why did this have to happen?” Yes, in times of extreme stress even ministers might ask this questions also.
Pulling into the rush hour traffic, I asked God, “What am I going to say when I get there? I’ve got to be a father, grandfather and minister. I don’t feel like being any of these. What am I going to say?”
In my mind’s voice God gave me the last portion of Job 1:21: “…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Again speaking out loud, I said, “Yes, Lord, but what am I going to say to them?”
In a voice different from my mind’s voice I heard, “Tell them, don’t try to make it make sense right now.”
As I received that message I was pulling into the apartment parking lot. It looked like a scene from a movie. The rescue squad vehicle was there with emergency lights flashing. Some equipment was on the side walk. I parked my automobile and walked through the open apartment door.
Rescue squad workers were huddled over the bassinet. I couldn’t see Diedra. Izzie, my son-in-law’s mother who is a registered nurse, was trying to revive Diedra. I didn’t see Dave, my son-in-law either. It flashed through my mind they had called Izzie before they called me.
Knowing there was nothing I could do to help them, I went to the kitchen where Terri and grandson, David, were. He was 18 months old.
As we embraced and cried in each other’s arms we heard muffled talking from the living room. A moment later their talking ceased. We both watched as a rescue squad member carried a small bundle out the door. As Izzie followed him she said, “I am going to order an autopsy.”
Dave suddenly appeared in the doorway vehemently scolding himself. “It is all my fault. I should have heard she was not breathing during the night when I got up. It is all my fault.”
Hearing that, I said firmly, but kindly, “Dave, stop it! It is not all your fault. You ran with the rescue squad for years. Your training would have alerted you if something was happening out of the ordinary. You guys instinctively sense when something is not right.”
I continued, “Don’t try to make it make sense right now. We don’t have enough information to make what has happened make sense. Wait and see what the autopsy reveals”
This is the essence of this tool. When a problem first presents itself we do not have enough information to make it make sense. Deal in facts not in feelings.
The autopsy showed Diedra was born with a very small hole in her heart, and as she grew the whole grew larger. Since this was undetected her death was inevitable. Dave was not to blame – nor was anyone else.
“That is what I mother always said,” a counselee remarked when I taught her this tool.
I asked, “Your Mother always said don’t try to make it make sense reight now?”
“No, she said, ‘You are always trying to make sense out of non-sense.’”
Next time: Attack the Problem and Not the Person.
Rev. Thomas (Tom) C. Lacy is Founder and Director, of New Hope Counseling Service and on the Board of Advisors of the Virginia Christian Alliance