Here’s a question for you: do you ever connect two or more thoughts or events that are completely unrelated? When we do that we make false conclusions which frustrate us and the people around us.
Andy had a rough day last week. His boss scolded him for a project that was behind schedule. Worst of all, it wasn’t completely his fault. The next day he was assigned a corner desk without a window. He connected that to the scolding and concluded that the move was a punishment. That created ill will towards his boss and envy for the employee who got the window.
Actually, Andy had a choice. He could either believe the two incidents were unrelated, or make a wrong connection. He chose to assume that the reprimand and the move were connected. He came to work everyday with a cloud over his head, ready to add one more false assumption to the chain.
The truth is that there was no connection between the reprimand and the move. Had he bothered to ask he would have discovered that they moved him to another desk to make room for an employee who had been in an accident and was on crutches. It was only temporary.
You’re in the Jailhouse Now
Mark comes home from work. He’s tired, so he doesn’t greet his wife, Sally, with much enthusiasm. That morning she awoke late, causing more tension than usual in their morning routine. Sally makes a connection between those two separate incidents. Let’s visit Sally’s brain on that day.
“Mark was irritated because I woke up late this morning. Mark doesn’t look happy now. He must still be mad about this morning. In fact, he’s probably still mad about that time last week with his mother.
“Who is he to be mad? He’s not perfect! He makes mistakes, but I guess I make the biggest ones. In fact, I’m always the problem. Why did wonderful Mark have to ruin his life by marrying stupid me? He thinks I’m stupid! I’ll fix him. And his mother. She’s the one who makes me look bad. She has never thought I am good enough for her darling boy . . .”
On it goes. Turn after turn, Sally winds her way into a labyrinth of confused feelings. A stone cold silence grips her.
The truth is, Mark had forgotten all about that morning. He wasn’t mad at Sally. In fact, he was a little mad at himself for being so grumpy when he came home. Now they have a problem. Sally’s chained in the dungeon and blames Mark for putting her there. Mark is upset because she blames him. There’s a long cold night ahead for these two lovebirds unless they can find a way to break the chain of wrong connections.
Catch a bird and put it in a cage. Now try to reach in and take the bird out. That bird will resist, fight, peck, bounce off the wires— anything but let you remove it from the cage. So, if Mark attempts to reason with Sally she might get even madder.
Or, he could ignore her. “She put herself in the dungeon, so she can get herself out!”he might think. And what about Sally? She’s pouting in her cold, dark dungeon cell. She’s waiting for Mark to make a move, to attempt to rescue her. Yet she’s still mad at him. Is there any way for Sally to get out of jail free?
Has Anybody Seen My Key?
It’s better to not make the wrong connection in the first place, but what do you do if you already have? At the core of every wrong connection is a false assumption. Sally could have asked Mark if something was troubling him, or she could have assumed everything was fine. Either one would have kept her out of jail. Now the only way out is to admit what she has done, forgive herself, and ask Mark to forgive her. Doesn’t seem too hard, does it?
The strange thing about dungeons like Sally’s is that they aren’t really locked. The key is on the inside, with the prisoner. But if making wrong connections gets us into jail, pride keeps us there. We feel foolish for causing so much trouble over nothing. We don’t like feeling foolish, so we never reach for the key.
What is the key? Humility. Such an archaic sounding word in this age of self-assertion. When was the last time you saw an article on the values of humility in any secular magazine? But until we humble ourselves we remain prisoners of our own faulty connections. A whole world of love and joy is waiting for us outside. All we have to do is open the door and walk out.
Think, Act, Pray
1. In addition to chaining unrelated events together, Sally complicated the problem in other ways. Look at the paragraph where I recorded her thoughts. See if you can find at least one statement she made for each of the following:
- Shifting The Blame
- Low self-esteem
- Expanding the sphere of the conflict
2. Think of a question Sally could have asked her husband that would have kept her out of jail.