Have you spent much time in the ER lately? Unless you are a medical professional in that field, probably not, but if we took the time to hang out there and observe what goes on we would gain a broad perspective of the many different ways that people handle crises. No need to go to the ER to find it though, you have probably experienced a real crisis yourself or at least been closely associated with someone who has.
One of two lightbulbs flicks on in our heads in a moment of crisis: SURVIVAL or OPPORTUNITY.
“Survival” is always focused on the protection and comfort of self and “opportunity” is always focused on the welfare of everyone involved and the outcome. In other words, our reaction to crisis depends on our mindset. For the Christian it is a mindset plus the faith that God is in control of all things, and because we have the life of Christ in us we have an ever flowing supply of His power that gives us the strength to keep in mind that every crisis is an opportunity.
Other than our relationship with God, and whether we are a Christian or not there are some practical things we can all do to help maintain an “opportunity” mindset. If it is at all possible to prepare the mind for the unexpected, from a practical standpoint, it would be summed up in this word: Practice.
Think about the number of minor crises we have each day. If we ever hope to have an “opportunity” mindset when a real crisis comes, guess what! We are given plenty of practice time on a daily basis.
So when we’re wondering why we can’t seem to get through a single day without our child having a meltdown, the dog chewing up our favorite leather shoe, or Johnny’s spilled milk on our newest “Rooms to Go” purchase, our lessons in Crisis 101 abound.
Are we reacting with the most natural animal instinct “survival” mindset or are we seeing it as an “opportunity” for ourselves and everyone around us to grow and learn.
You may be thinking, “OK, this is completely unrealistic. I am done with this blog”. It may seem unrealistic, but remember your only other mindset option is “Survival”, and that’s how animals think. I am certain that we can muster up the fortitude to do better than that!
So a typical crisis in the life of Mom and Johnny might look something like this:
Mom goes into the quiet of her bedroom to nurse Johnny’s baby sister, Jody. Johnny and his younger sister Julie, are busy making mom happy by finishing their list of chores. Maybe mom was a little too confident in her child’s abilities when she added “Clean the fish tank” to the list of chores, but of course, Johnny and Julie are more than confident and decide to take this one on while mom is not around to help.
Johnny and Julie together lift the ten gallon tank off the stand and slowly inch their way to the kitchen, water sloshing, fish confused. Under the weight of the tank Johnny and Julie decide to rest the glass bottom tank on an open cabinet door. Glass breaks, ten gallons of water flood the kitchen floor and five fish are desperately trying to swim in it! Mom rushes to the scene. In stunned silence and shock riveting her body she stands there speechless for at least 5 seconds unable to move. (I can’t help but laugh when I get to this part of the story. This really did happen at the Riordans! But I can assure you I was not laughing in the moment!)
This is a critical moment of choice for mom. If she lives in “survival” mode her reaction may sound something like this:
Oh my goooooooooooooshsh!!!!! What in the world are you thinking!!! You stupid, careless, clumsy little brats!!!!! Johnny and Julie, horrified and hurt by moms words are thinking “But we were just trying to make you happy by doing our chores, and thought you would be so proud that we did the hardest one all by ourselves.” Mom, for the duration of cleaning up the mess, continues to rant and finally sends the kids outside to “get out of my hair so I can have some piece and quiet!”. Not only did mom miss an opportunity for herself and her kids to grow and learn but she also hurled a crushing blow to the spirits and self worth of her children.
If Mom lives in “opportunity” mode her reaction may look something like this:
In those few seconds of stunned silence and shock mom is putting aside how she feels about what has just happened and wisely decides to put off asking “What happened?” for later. She quickly analyzes the situation and collects a few thoughts about what is truth. “Yes, this is a mess, but not irreparable; I did put “clean the fish tank” on the list and that was a mistake; Johnny and Julie were being obedient; and there is something here for all of us to learn.”
Because mom is in the habit of this kind of thinking these thoughts come easily. Mom promptly instructs the kids giving them specific jobs to do to help with cleaning up the mess. All done! Everyone involved is better than they were before the crisis. Johnny and Julie have grown in their respect for Mom; Mom learns to be specific about chores; they all learn that cleaning up a big mess is a cinch with everyone working together; they all got some crisis practice, and the icing on the cake, the floor is cleaner!
Fifteen minutes after the accident the kids have a memory to hold on to for the rest of their lives. Mom held it together in a moment of crisis.
You may be wondering, “Sandra, have you always held it together like that?”. My answer: definitely not. I wish I could say that I have. I also wish that I would have had someone helping me think through issues like the ones I write about in my blogs. I have learned so much over the years and it brings me a great deal of joy to share it with you! Thank you for reading!
Here’s a simple suggestion: With a marker and construction paper hang the word “Opportunity” all over your house. Take the time to talk with your kids about seeing every crisis as an opportunity.