Friday, February 27, 2009

People focused vs task oriented.

I am learning new things about myself, that make me rather uncomfortable.

This last week I found myself asking forgiveness from those closest to me, quite frequently.

Almost daily I was going to one of my co-workers apologizing for my curt comment, my brevity, my not listening fully, my being distracted....the list goes on.  Usually I am a pretty kind and compassionate person, but these last two weeks I have been walking through a fog, and as I walked out of it I noticed that this was a trend.

It happens every time I visit a third world country.  I return to the USA and I go from my typically people focused self to a very driven, distracted, steamroller task-oriented being.  It is rather Jekyll and Hyde like and almost downright embarrassing.  First, the task oriented self is in part because of the need to catch up, but towards the end of the week I realized there was something else that caused me to lean into the task oriented realm.  It was safe.  It wouldn't hurt my heart any further.  It allowed me to feel like I was accomplishing a task, and I hated it.

It is hard for me to return to Cary, NC after spending a couple of weeks in Africa or Haiti.  I love where I live, but I L.O.V.E walking among the poor.  I know that I am where I am supposed to be, because now I get to teach and guide others as they venture in to walking beside the poor, but my favorite place any given day is the heart of a slum.  Weird I know.  When I am task focused, there becomes less risk for my heart to break, less risk of my soul being wounded, less danger. Because being people oriented is risky business.  It causes my heart to love, to embrace, to mourn and it is such a vulnerable place.  I am realizing that entering into task focused mode has become a way of coping with the ache I feel when I can process all that I see, hear, taste, experience when I return to the USA.

My heart simply doesn't know how to shift back to being in this place.  It doesn't know what to do with the vision of the malnourished 4 month old that I held two weeks ago, or the look of desperation on the mama's faces when they were so weary from survival mode.  I long to do more, and have a hard time returning to the grind.  And somewhere between take-off in Port au Prince and landing in Raleigh, in those few hours of transition, my heart shuts off.  Instead of aching, and wrestling, I am finding that I stop choosing people and start focusing on the task at hand.

Pretty nuts eh?  All this to say that I am still learning and growing, and even though I do this several times a year, it is still as hard as it was the first time to walk away from it.  I need someone to remind me when I land that it is ok to remain people focused, that I like that person much more than the steam-rolling task manager.  

4 comments:

Lisa P said...

I'm a friend of Jen T's and I read through your blog every now and then. I have the same battle going on in me a lot of the time. I want so badly to be a lover of people. To really care about their journey, their hurts, their heart. And I DO, but I am driven by the tasks at hand. I want to use my gifts, talents, and time to do what God wants me to do--which is a lot of task organizing and planning. But I have to remember that he gave me those abilities for PEOPLE. So when I start viewing those same people as interruptions or time-suckers from my tasks, it always sends up the red flags. I'm sorry that you have this struggle, and even though it's different reasons than mine, it was really good to read about your willingness to wrestle with it. Thanks.

Angie said...

Good stuff, sister. You continue to bless me with your honest assessments of re-entry and your own heart. I'll have to make a cup of just hot water with maybe an orange slice added and pray for you. Love, Ang

Jennie Kowaleski said...

Know that you being task-focused when needed makes others people-focused. Because of the focus you put forth with deep committment and unselfishness you make others want to walk through the slums and do more for our less fortunate brothers and sisters. Your desire to serve others pours from you and is contagious to others, the outcome is a whole lot of love for others.
A task is a means to an end, an outcome is the end itself. Understand that, and you will be able to flow with anything.
I do not think you could be as effective in your leadership without driving out the task rolling manager once in a while. Balance is the key and because you are able to notice when the weight has shifted to far is why you are so wonderful.
I am so blessed to have served in Haiti with you. You are an amazing women and I cannot think of any other leader I would have wanted to serve by more than you. You have a passion that is igniting and through your people oriented, and yes your task oriented nature, you make me want to do better.
You can make such a difference in a third world country alone, but with your desire to share this with others, so much more can be done.

Jennie Kowaleski said...

Know that you being task-focused when needed makes others people-focused. Because of the focus you put forth with deep committment and unselfishness you make others want to walk through the slums and do more for our less fortunate brothers and sisters. Your desire to serve others pours from you and is contagious to others, the outcome is a whole lot of love for others.
A task is a means to an end, an outcome is the end itself. Understand that, and you will be able to flow with anything.
I do not think you could be as effective in your leadership without driving out the task rolling manager once in a while. Balance is the key and because you are able to notice when the weight has shifted to far is why you are so wonderful.
I am so blessed to have served in Haiti with you. You are an amazing women and I cannot think of any other leader I would have wanted to serve by more than you. You have a passion that is igniting and through your people oriented, and yes your task oriented nature, you make me want to do better.
You can make such a difference in a third world country alone, but with your desire to share this with others, so much more can be done.