Candid Counsel to a Young Worker

From the editor of the Ministry

L.E. Froom is editor of the Ministry

My dear young ministerial friend: 

This is just a little heart-to-heart chat with you today, in response to your questions ex­pressing puzzlement as to why things do not seem to go too well with you in your working relations with others. I shall respond with frankness, because I am interested in you, and sincerely wish you to succeed. I shall tell you candidly of some things that others feel are proving a handicap to you. But of these, I gather, you are not aware.

First of all, you are distressingly free to crit­icize everybody and everything. Perhaps every­thing is awry, but you can scarcely hope to cor­rect things when you arouse antagonism by the know-it-all attitude in your observations. You mean well, but you lack tact. Perhaps your way is better. But instead of saying, "That is all wrong; don't do it that way!' why not try something like this: "You are surely working hard to make a success of that, Sister Blank. It takes a lot out of 'you. Did you ever try to do it this way? Perhaps it would be easier, and just as effective?"

You see the point, don't you? Your motive and your objective are good, but your method of achievement leaves much to be desired. What you really want is to see matters bettered, not to get folks to confess that they were wrong, and you were right. That is beside the point, and better not brought in.

Then there is another factor to your prob­lems. You are a fond admirer of Elder Blank —and he is worthy of your emulation. But you are scarcely in a position to emulate him suc­cessfully. You have copied his mannerisms and imitated some of his ways. But you have not developed that compensatingly wide experience and knowledge, that innate friendliness and kindness of heart, that ability to yield grace­fully and go on sweetly with the majority view of the brethren, that he possesses to a com­mendable degree.

Really, it is his possession of these qualities (lacking in you) that makes his associates smile and overlook some of his caustic criti­cisms and strong expressions of opinion, which you so much admire. Nevertheless, the former overshadow the latter. You are simply emulat­ing some of his recognized weaknesses without having his redeeming strength. As a result you are wanting in certain indispensables, and this gets you into constant trouble.

You say you admire Elder Blank's strong and independent opinions, and this ability fear­lessly to express them. But his opinions are based on wide experience and extended study. His contributions deal with some side of a ques­tion under study that needs to be weighed. That is what committees are for—to discuss all sides of a problem, and then in the light of all-around consideration to come to a common conviction, thus to present a united front in their report.

After you have expressed your honest and dissenting opinion, if the brethren do not see it or believe it sound, then you should go along with them and seek to make a success of the plan adopted. If it fails, it will be time enough to bring up your suggestion again. But do it tactfully, not gloatingly. That will win friends and not leave scars, as has been the case here­tofore.

Unfortunately, you need more of the ability to yield gracefully. If your way does not carry, you become obviously peeved and sulky. You are not a good loser. And if others' plans do not work out as well as anticipated, you are forward and cutting in bringing it all out in a way that is favorable to you and your good judgment. But that attitude does not win friends or make for smooth and effective work­ing relations, as you have found. This is a principle worth studying most earnestly.

You repeat that you are fond of Elder Blank's strong opinions and his frank vigorous expres­sion of them. You attempt to emulate this characteristic. The difference lies in the fact that he has something substantial back of his opinions, while yours are still chiefly opinions. Your friends feel that you are very sure of your own ideas, and hope that time and hard knocks will modify and mellow that cockiness that seems to characterize you just now. Why not surprise your friends by taking yourself in hand now, and saving time and heartache by avoiding some of those hard knocks ? Do your own dis­ciplining and mellowing, and watch yourself 0-row in favor with God and man. It would be worth while.

You have many fine qualities. You should make a leader someday—if you will only re­strain your often immature opinions and not force them on others. This is the time for you to be hard at work, growing and building, rather than around talking your opinions. Have something to say before you say it. And hay

ing said it, then let it rest. The right will ulti­mately prevail. We can afford to wait for that happy day. Infinitely better is a poor plan worked unitedly than a better plan that has been pressed upon the brethren, and over which there is divided opinion and action.

You say that folks always seem to be against you, and are always picking at you. Could you but realize it, you are the chief one that is against yourself. You create your own diffi­culties. Whenever the whole world seems out of step, better examine your own step. When you spring back into step again, all will be well. That is what we need—to get into step. There is strength, inspiration, exhilaration, and power in keeping in step in the forward march. (No, this is not the lock step of the regimented ball­and-chain gang, but the buoyant tread of free men marching together.)

You think others have strange notions, and wonder why they cannot see your better ways. The simple fact is that you are very set in your opinions. The clearest reasoning that actually overthrows your arguments makes no impression upon you. "Yes, but___ " is your standard comeback. You apparently have not even heard or' considered the counterargument. All you have been waiting for is the chance to re­peat your own argument, because you know it to be right. You have not considered or an­swered the telling points made against it, and you have not yielded a fraction of an inch to an invulnerable argument. You may feel your at­titude to be that of "unwavering steadfastness" and "maintenance of principle." But others look upon it as pure stubbornness—your deter­mination to win the argument whether or no, right or wrong—and to prove that you are right.

There is no mystery over the reason for your constant clashes. Why not adopt an entirely new tactic and attitude? Try for once to see the other side of the question. Admit that you might be mistaken. Recognize your own limi­tations. Try to adopt an open-minded attitude that will consider the reasons for others' view­points. It is not half as important to sustain your own viewpoint, as to find the right posi­tion. Pride of opinion is just as odious as any other kind of pride. And it sometimes afflicts young preachers as well as other people. Here is a challenging chance for growth and develop­ment. It will surprise you how much easier it will be to work along with others, if you will only try it.

This may not be as pleasant a letter as would be one filled with flattery. But it will be better for you, if you will only receive it in the same sincere way in which it is written. It may hurt a bit—like the surgeon's knife on an inflamed boil. But faithful are the wounds of counsel from a genuine friend.

Your sincere well-wisher,


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L.E. Froom is editor of the Ministry

February 1947

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