Thursday, February 12, 2015

Performance Is Better Than Promises

By Allen White

 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.  Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

 “Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first. Matthew 21:28-31

I used to be an usher at Saddleback Church. The challenge with bringing a family to church and serving as an usher was that you could only check the kids in 15 minutes before the service started. More often than not, I couldn’t get to the auditorium until immediately before or sometimes after the service started. I let my usher captain know up front that I would help, but I didn’t know how much help I could be.

My usher captain, Paul, was the primo, got-it-under-control guy. He was an engineer with Fluor in Irvine. I seriously had my doubts about how well my participation would work.

Every week when I found Paul to see if I was needed, regardless of whether I was slightly early or slightly late, he always gave me the same response – He would smile at me and say “I’m so glad you’re here.” I was frazzled. Paul was friendly. I was frustrated with myself, but why wasn’t he frustrated with me?

In my heart, I wanted to commit to be the most dedicated usher in the history of Saddleback Church or any church for that matter. Reality was that even arriving 30 minutes early to park, then “divide and conquer” by my wife and I each taking a boy to his preschool class, I still couldn’t get to my ushering assignment on-time. It’s a big campus. I wanted to be that uber-committed volunteer, but I just couldn’t.

Paul didn’t mind. He was always glad that I was there.

What feels better – when someone commits and doesn’t show or if someone doesn’t commit and shows? Most of us would agree it’s the second one. How does that apply to us?

First, we have to avoid making grandiose claims. What is it that calls us to want to be bigger than who we really are? If you asked your friends how reliable they think you are, what would they say?

Secondly, performance beats promises every time. Rather than telling my kids the night before that we’re going to get up early and go downtown to the Touch A Truck, I keep it under wraps. I don’t want them to get their hopes up, then someone gets sick or something wrecks it. Instead, I’ve learned to announce to them at 7 am that we’re leaving in one hour to go. There’s great excitement. What a surprise! Then, we actually go – no disappointment. I never want to starve my kids on empty promises.

Does this mean that we should never commit to anything? Not necessarily. But, if you are prone to over-promising and under-delivering, you should stop committing for a while. Chances are you just want someone else to think well of you for having made a big commitment. The truth is that they will think far worse of you when you don’t follow through.

Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No” be no. Don’t even let your “No” be “Bless your heart.”

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