I had an Epiphany today; a light bulb moment, when I saw something as a metaphor for how we help (or hinder) people. Since it is the feast of Epiphany, this is rather appropriate.
For no other reason than that is how life works sometimes, I was remembering an event that happened some 20 years ago. The occasion in question was when I, along with 80 other people, spent the weekend with the Territorial Army. For fun. A once in a lifetime experience – i.e. I did it once and will never, ever again!
On the last morning we did an assault course. I got to the end and turning around, exhausted and jellied of knee, I looked back to the start, about 400 metres away. I took a moment to recover and contemplated the run back. This run back required two working legs and a pair of functioning lungs and I was fresh out of both! I heard a voice behind me saying “get a move on then!” and I felt a hand in the small of my back encouraging my forward motion. Unfortunately though my top half was more than willing to go on ahead my feet were still firmly attached to the ground beneath and physics took over. I hit the deck.
The voice said “oh sorry” and helped me up and I was then pretty much carried back to the starting line by two team mates. It was utterly humiliating. If I had just been given a moment I would have made it on my own but as it happened the fall and scramble back up had sapped any remaining reserves that I had, physical and mental.
So what did I learn:
- that sometimes you have to give people a moment to recover before pushing* them on
- pushing someone when they are not ready may just drain away their last reserves
- that if you push one bit of a structure and not the rest, don’t be surprised if it all falls over
Oh yes, and a very healthy respect for the members of our TA.
*for pushing you could read helping, urging, encouraging, leading, training, stretching