Larry Banman – The ‘stuff’ really is never ‘the stuff’
Kremmling, CO Colorado
A former associate of mine was fond of saying, “The stuff is never the stuff.”
He dealt a lot with human relationships and he had a lot of discussions with people that were about things gone wrong. My associate’s point was that the initial stages of those discussions were never about the real issues.
The pain the person was feeling was real, it just wasn’t the root problem. To borrow a medical phrase, the perceived issue was the symptom, while the real cause of that symptom was buried, and often protected, somewhere beneath the surface. That layer of protection could be any number of things. It could be something like history, pride, shame or guilt. Temporary relief could be brought by treating the symptom but, unless the root problem was addressed, the symptoms would likely return.
I think of that axiom often. When I experience emotional or mental pain, I try to look beyond what I perceive to be causing that pain. For example, if somebody says something that bothers me on a personal level, I try to consider what it is about me that allowed that statement to be painful. If I focus on the statement or the person who made the statement, all I do is develop negative feelings toward that person. Nothing is solved.
If I discover why I was sensitive about that particular statement, I deal with that issue. If it gets cleaned up, I don’t get hurt again and I may actually be grateful to the person who came into my life to expose that issue. I find it a much cleaner way to navigate through life. For me, it also eliminates some of the judgmental attitude that we as human beings seem to find as a default position. It also puts me in a position of improving the one person over whom I have the most control – me.
I have spent a lot of time over the past 15-20 years observing people who are in the public eye. For better or worse, I have also been in that position of public scrutiny for a good portion of that time. Over and over and over, I have watched people deal with the “stuff” that really isn’t the “stuff.”
For example, we all love to gripe about public services like snowplowing, emergency services, education, utilities, roads, libraries, prisons and recreation. The list of gripes is endless and includes sentiments like: There is never enough, they aren’t provided quickly enough and somebody else is getting more than their share. The most natural thing to do is to blame the first individual who appears to be associated with that particular service. I suppose it is the easiest course of action. In my opinion, it certainly is the least productive.
That is why I have an enormous amount of respect for people who serve as volunteers to work toward productive solutions for some of those services that the rest of us enjoy. These are the people who are willing to look beyond the surface “stuff” and find the real “stuff.” Most of us don’t always appreciate the sacrifices that those people are making so that you and I have something like fresh and clean water every time we turn the tap in our house, the chance to get on the Internet at the library or expect a fire engine to arrive quickly after we dial three numbers on our phone.
A friend of mine from another town is involved with a volunteer board of directors for a service that is provided in northwest Colorado. He has not missed a meeting on this particular board for eight and one-half years. This week his son is playing in the state basketball tournament in Pueblo and he will miss a bi-monthly meeting. He told me he was battling feelings of guilt for missing that meeting.
I believe the best progress is made when individuals and groups are able to get past the surface “stuff.” When that happens, we focus less on personalities and individuals and we see more solutions. We always talk about seeing the big picture. Looking beyond the surface “stuff” is where the big picture is found.
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