He was big – actually – bigger than big. Goliath big.
And like Goliath, he was blustery, arrogant and angry!
Unlike the shepherd boy, I hadn’t thought to bring a slingshot. Why would I? No one told me to expect a giant.
It was probably a good thing. With nerves on overdrive, I likely would have hurled any projectile into my foot.
And one thing was certain – I needed these puppies in perfect running order in the event that best efforts failed.
But I had been stupid allowing myself to be positioned between an escape route and him. I knew better.
The amazing thing was, I planned this encounter.
This wasn’t a testosterone dispute over a coveted parking spot or a ‘wrong time, wrong place’ interruption of a drug deal.
No – I had asked him to meet.
I do things like this. In my work, I often deal with people who are angry. I assess the situation and do my best to create a course of action that gets people back on a track toward resolution.
In this case, Goliath was here because his young son thought emulating dad was a good thing. Not yet into his teens, he had assaulted someone just because he was in the mood to do so.
The boy’s victim was unknown to him. He had no possessions the assailant wanted. He hadn’t cast a contemptuous glance or spoken inflammatory words.
He was just there – a face the aggressor felt was suitable to use as a punching bag.
And now here I stood, sincerely hoping that his father wouldn’t soon have the same overpowering need to re-arrange my facial features.
If I felt any need to correct God’s design or replant what had been deforested, I would accomplish that with botox and scalpel rather than fist and knuckles. I’m funny that way.
Looking at him, it was obvious that God had gifted this man from the neck down. One bulging muscle lay upon another. My question was whether God had been so generous with areas north?
Wisely, I kept those thoughts to myself as I motioned for him to sit.
Undeterred by the obvious mismatch, I launched in, outlining the consequences for his son’s actions.
It didn’t taken long to discover that his northern regions were significantly less developed than the biceps and triceps flexing below.
He was in fact, a very weak man – packaged in a larger than life body. For me that was both good and dangerous. I had to be careful to read the signs and not move rashly.
The truth was that he and his family were on a path to serious trouble and opportunities to change directions were getting less. They lived and breathed in a world of conflict and aggression. If I got careless and forgot that, my body would be scrunched into shapes even a pretzel couldn’t imagine.
My goal was to move him from aggression to agreement. But as nice as that sounds, getting there wasn’t going to be easy.
Have you ever asked an angry person to, “Calm down?” Amazing wasn’t it! As soon as those words hit his ears, angels sang, lights blazed, trumpets sounded, and everyone was enveloped with heavenly peace. Right?
I digress, but it’s important to be aware of some research that explains how this works. It is especially useful for Y chromosome individuals who have a tendency to give quick solutions.
So here it is – saying, “Calm down” actually doesn’t work! Who knew?
And the reason for that is? – rational words and rational arguments are powerless to speak into emotional situations. Again – Who Knew?
When I counseled years back, I discovered that the first 15-20 minutes in a session usually dealt with matters tangential to the reason the person came. Given that his wife pushed him into the room, that should have been obvious. But if, as a counselor, your bent is to give advice, it is very difficult to not respond to what you just heard. After all, your solutions are SO good, it would be a waste not to share your wisdom!
Let the wisdom of Solomon help, “The one who speaks before he listens – it is a folly and shame to him.”
He knew that until you really listen, you never get to the more important matters. Though quick advice may seem to work and can accomplish short-term gains, it comes with high costs of fractured trust and damaged relationships.
There is one more observation to be made. Despite what we think, We Are Blind to Much of What is Going On
Anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, beneath anger is almost always hurt. Anger is what is seen but it is a symptom not a cause. This is critically important if people want to understand and resolve conflict. All too often, people escalate conflict by responding to what is seen while failing to discover the underlying feelings of hurt and devalue.
It’s like treating an emotional wound with rational, well-reasoned logic while disregarding the bleed that continues to flow.
With this in mind, I knew that in this Giant package in front of me, lived a ton of hurt. Time had taught him that he didn’t have any other way to orchestrate his world than to loom large over those around him. If I wanted this to end well, I needed to introduce a new paradigm. As I worked, emotion slowly defused and together we found points of agreement as I steered him to help.
Had any outsiders been watching, they would have seen me as someone who was calm but uncompromising.
Like some majestic swan, I was the perfect picture of serenity – controlled and in command. Underneath, I paddled like mad.
How could they know that my calm audible voice was almost drowned out by a second voice – heard only by me?
It began when Goliath and I first met – face to navel. My inner speak got up to speed quickly, ‘Rob, you are in trouble’.
Man, is he big. Boy, am I small! Man, is he chiseled. Boy, I’m about to be chiseled. Man, he’ll look impressive flexing biceps in prison orange. Boy, I’ll look pathetic exposing my fanny in hospital whites.
Later I became much more controlled – my inner voice taking on a more reasoned, self-protective tone:
“As soon as he lunges at me – hit hard just beneath his ribs, then drive upwards.”
All the while, my surface presence was swan like, smiling and calm.
Thankfully, I never had to institute my concussion-awaiting, tackling plan. Actually, we found some common ground and shook hands as we parted.
Some years have passed since this encounter but the truths it taught me have not left.
Goliath encounters come to all of us.
Most hit us when we are completely unprepared. An illness comes. A relationship turns. An employer demeans.
During those times no one calls a timeout to give us time to gather our weaponry.
No advance signals are sent preparing us for what is ahead. No substitutions or reinforcements can be called in.
At that time Giants bluster and storm, commanding us to believe that they dictate how life is to be lived. But you know what? They don’t have that power unless we grant it to them.
I was wrong in believing that I was unequipped just because I couldn’t put my hands on a slingshot and stones.
God had already told me that He would be my slingshot sufficient to slay any giant. My task was to take up and use the smooth stones He had already given me – the skills, training, and experiences He had equipped me with.
Before I could do so, I first needed to slay those mental giants who tried their best to convince me I was unarmed and unprepared. That I was too small. Too unskilled. Too unlearned.
With those gone, I am better able to resize my physical giants so they can be seen as they are, not how they have appeared to be.
Seen face to face and eye to eye, they don’t look so big. Especially when my Slingshot is with me.
by Rob Inrig
Copyright © 2012 www.RobInrig.com. All Rights Reserved.
I welcome your feedback as well as your ‘giant stories’, their impact, and the lessons you took from these. Submissions are made with the understanding that they may be freely and without obligation be used in any future publications by Rob Inrig.