Transition ‘truths’: Three “I”s are better

In the previous post I reflected on our mistakes as opportunities for learning. But other’s mistakes also provide that potential as well. Obviously, we don’t learn from other’s mistakes in the same way as our own, but we can still learn. While it would be great to learn from other’s positive actions towards us, its often in people’s negative actions (of hurt or wronging) that provide fertile ground to reflect on ourselves, our personalities and culture.

Here’s an approach that I have found helpful and hope to use in Cambodia. As I reflect on another’s actions towards myself, I view it through Three “I”s and then ask, What do they do better? The first part of this approach contains three potential ways to summarise someone’s actions toward us. Sometimes (although, probably very rarely) people intend injury. Most of the time, their actions that hurt us come from either ignorance or incompetence.1 Generally, people don’t operate in the first “I”, but in the second two. What this reminds us to do is to lessen our reaction of injustice from “They’re out to get me,” to “They didn’t realise,” or “They couldn’t help it.” This is not to excuse their actions, but just to put them in perspective. It should also be said that ignorance and incompetence isn’t a full assessment of someone’s actions, but a catchy phrase to see wrong doings as unintentional rather than intentional. The second part of the approach is more positive. Everyone does things differently. Difference can be viewed as bad, but if we approach it as difference is a chance to see a better way, we may learn even in the process of being hurt or wronged. This should be obvious, but in the moment we easily forget.

These two approaches to other’s actions work well together. The first approach helps to take some of the heat out of our reactions towards what others do. With the heat reduced we may be able to take another look at what was done. The second reminds us that there are positives to the way someone else does something that we haven’t seen and that we can learn from. As we go to Cambodia, hopefully these two lenses will characterise our reflections as we process the different ways that people do things to us. Its often in the hard interactions that we learn about ourselves and others. Hopefully three “I”s are better will be the way we navigate our new culture.

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  1. This may seem like a harsh assessment, but the same is true for us, not just for others. The reality is that every single action that we do each day has elements of incompetence and ignorance in it. This is just our present reality as finite and fallen creatures. 

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