Reevaluating Our Reactions

On a recent Friday afternoon I arrived at the hotel where I would be staying for a few days as I preached and conducted leadership training sessions for a large Chattanooga-area church.  I knew I was arriving a bit prior to the official check-in time but hotels typically find a room and accommodate your needs, especially when you have status as a frequent traveler.

Walking from the car to the front door, I noticed the landscaping was fresh and the hotel was very clean.  All signs indicated it was well-managed, customer-friendly, and would provide a pleasant place to settle in for the weekend of ministry.  I was eager to get unpacked and prepare for the evening sessions.

After approaching the front desk and giving the young lady my name, she seemed a bit confused.  She quickly turned and spoke to someone in the office behind her, “Our first guest is here.”  A young man’s voice responded , “Check in is 3:00 p.m.” She turned to me to answer, “I’m sorry, you cannot check in until 3:00 p.m.”  It was 2:20 p.m.   Being the “travel snob” that I am, I reacted, “Well, I guess I will just sit here in your lobby and work until 3:00 p.m. ” I am not sure if my frustration was evident to her.  The young lady was matter-of-fact.  “OK, that’s fine,” she responded.

Annoyed, I found a table in the dining area of the lobby and unpacked my laptop and papers.  Over the next five minutes I replayed the conversation, becoming increasingly agitated by the lack of customer service and the “dead time” I was enduring because they were unwilling to check me in.  I decided that I would write a complaint letter to headquarters.  I had never registered an official complaint like this  but felt it was merited.  Admittedly, I was not in the Spirit.

Surprise and Embarrassment

Just as I opened my laptop to start my negative composition, the young lady, the young man in the office, and three more employees walked up to my table asking, “Are you Daniel Henderson?” Taken aback, I said, “Yes.”  An older gentleman in the group announced, “You are our very first customer and we have some gifts we want to give you.  I am the owner and if it is alright with you, we’d also like to take a picture with you.”  They shook my hand as they  delivered a box of cupcakes and a few gift certificates.  I was secretly embarrassed and very glad I had not written that complaint letter.

Of course, it suddenly made sense.  The well-manicured landscape was all new.  The young lady behind the desk had never checked in a customer.  The staff was scrambling to get ready for their first evening of business.  When I arrived early, they were simply unprepared and flustered.  

It turned out beautifully.  As their “first customer” they treated me very well the entire weekend, offering their best suite and lots of hospitality.  (Of course, it was wonderful to sleep in a new bed, walk on clean carpet, and initiate the shower, towels, and iron.)  From this potentially humiliating experience I was reminded that things are not always as they seem and I still have room for maturity in how I react to the little disappointments of life.

The ABCs of Reacting (My Lessons from Check –In)

Assess Before You Assume – We all enter relationships and situations with a set of pre-conceived expectations about how people should treat us and circumstances serve us.  These often-false expectations can cause us to “filter” a situation through a self-oriented  grid, leading to an emotional overreaction rather than a thoughtful response.

Let’s say a husband arrives home at 6:00 p.m. from work, expecting his wife to have a hot, delicious dinner on the table, ready for his immediate consumption.   The couple did not discuss this, or agree to this arrangement, but the husband is hungry and assumes his wife had nothing to do that day but think about his hunger pangs.  When he arrives, she is sitting on the sofa, talking to their son.  Dinner has not even been started.  He explodes with references to her laziness and lack of consideration.  What he did not realize is that she had just arrived back from the doctor after taking their five-year-old son to receive seven stitches in his head after being hit by a baseball bat.

Had I more carefully assessed the situation at the hotel, I would have noticed all kinds of indicators that the hotel staff was scrambling to finish some clean up, put away supplies, and complete the preparations for their grand opening.  My reaction in wanting to write a complaint letter would have been abated with just a bit more observation and understanding.

Believe Before You Belittle – It’s been said, “We judge ourselves by our intentions, others by their actions.”  We tend to find it easy to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt while we project on others our doubt of their benefit.  We all need the grace in the face of disappointments or confusing situations to believe the best about others rather than rushing to judgment in the heat of the moment.  I should have assumed the best about the hotel staff.  In fact, they proved to be very competent and hospitable during my stay.

Consider Before You Communicate – Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 29:11 warns, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.”  Once our reactions lead to critical, hurtful, and often-misguided communication we have damaged the relationship unnecessarily.

I have learned that when I am tempted to make a reactionary call or write a confrontational e-mail, it is wise to put that action on hold for 24 hours.  Most of the time,  this gives me time to cool down, reconsider my words, and prevent harm to the relationships involved.

How Do You React?

This week, probably this day, you will have the opportunity to react to disappointment or misunderstanding.  Before you allow angry emotions or unkind word to complicate the moment, say your “ABCs.”  Assess.  Believe.  Consider.  You will save yourself a lot of emotional depletion, build better relationships, and honor Christ in how you deal with the little speed bumps of life.

Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.