YELLED AT (at the dentist part 1)

I see my dentist twice a year and brush and floss every day.   My cleanings have been a breeze, and I’ve only had a handful of cavities during my lifetime.  I have been accustomed to hearing compliments such as, “You have awesome teeth!” and, “You’re doing a great job.” That is, until my last visit.

Six months ago, the hygienist seemed to labor to get my teeth clean and spent far too long scraping and digging at the outside of my lower left molar.  It was painful.  The young lady then asked me if anything has changed because I had more tartar than usual.  “No,”  I answered, only to be asked, “Have you been flossing every day?”  Beginning to feel insulted, I assured her that I have.  She proceeded to explain the proper way to floss and asked if I floss beyond the last tooth.  Feeling a little like a scolded child, I admitted that I usually don’t (isn’t floss for between teeth?), but would start.  The dentist came in, took a look, and said “Everything looks good.”

I went home with a sore mouth and my nose out of joint.  It made more sense to me now that my husband calls a hygienist from his past Attila the Hun.  I understood why my mom dreads going to the dentist.  They’re used to getting yelled at in the office.  Yelled at? Well, I wasn’t exactly yelled at .  In fact, the young lady was politely informing me that I should work a little harder at keeping my mouth healthy. I couldn’t deny that she found tartar, and I have been diligent since then to reach all the way back with the floss and to brush that area more carefully. Thinking back, I may have been more embarrassed than insulted.

A bit of introspection reveals that by saying I was yelled at, I’ve managed to shift the blame to her. We consider yelling to be a negative behavior.  I wonder how many times a student has claimed that a teacher yelled at him when the interaction was calm, but critical. Most of us don’t like to be corrected, whether we’re children or adults.  Sometimes, rather than admitting there’s room for improvement, we accuse the other person of yelling or judging.

One of the Winners Walk Tall lessons that I take to First Graders is called, “Try to Compliment, Not to Criticize.” When I presented it this year, I used my dentist’s office experience to make a point.  We first explored the positive action of complimenting.  We discussed being kind and keeping negative opinions about others to ourselves. Importance was placed on considering the other person’s feelings when we speak.  I then related being chewed out about my teeth and told them that it made me feel bad.   Had the hygienist been wrong in pointing out my flaw? They quickly shook their heads and said, “No, because she was trying to help you.” Lesson understood.

My hope is that these young students can take instruction and critique well, enabling them to improve skills, increase knowledge, and have respect for their advisors.  And yet, my own pride sometimes threatens my ability to accept helpful advice without feeling a bit defensive. Considering the source helps.  When the correction comes from someone I’m paying to help me be healthy, turning a deaf ear wouldn’t be wise.  Should someone who loves me point out a concern about my behavior or attitude, humility will enable me to resist taking offense and to carefully examine my life.

 Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Proverbs 19:20

I have three more “at the dentist” experiences to write about.  My next visit is coming up in a couple of weeks. If there is criticism, I’m expecting it to be about abrasion from brushing too hard. The series could be extended…




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4 Questions to Help With Decisions

Last week, I made a decision and acted on something that has been weighing on me.  Such a sense of relief followed that I began to consider writing about decision-making.  I don’t feel especially qualified to do that, since I often struggle to decide.  It’s not that I make bad decisions; it’s just that it can be a long and stressful ordeal.

Interestingly, it is often the pretty insignificant choices that can trip me up, things like what to order at Panera Bread or which sweeper to buy.  Perhaps the culture we live in presents far too many options, when a simpler  life would do.  When a new department store opened in our mall, I was struck by the visual overload of SO MUCH STUFF.  It takes determination for me to approach that sea of clothing and make a selection!  But the problem isn’t temptation to buy more things.   I just want to find one perfect thing.

A few years back, I found myself in need of a new vacuum cleaner.  Despite the fact that most of our floors are bare, I was determined to find one that was powerful, durable and lightweight.  So, I entered and nearly got lost in the world of on-line reviews.  I spent more hours agonizing over that decision by reading the pros and cons of various makes and models than I want to tally.   Probably more than it has taken me to pick a car or a house!  Of course, having my husband’s wisdom and leadership in those larger purchases confirms the old adage, “Two heads are better than one.”  In the decision that I acted on last week, one that was not regarding a purchase, his insight and willingness to discuss the issue with me were key.

In addition to my husband’s wise counsel, I have appreciated decision-making advice from Ben Carson’s book, “Take The Risk“.  Dr. Carson advises a Best/Worst Analysis comprised or four questions.

  1. What is the best that could happen if I do it?
  2. What is the worst that could happen if I do it?
  3. What is the best that could happen if I don’t do it?
  4. What is the worst that could happen if I don’t do it?

The hopeful perspective of the best that could happen if I act often lessens my attraction to stay in my comfort zone (the best that could happen if I don’t do it).  Taking the risk of GOING is what the Lord is calling me to do, after all.  He is my greatest source of wisdom and leads me, like a shepherd, to the best decisions.  When I ask his will in prayer, God sometimes answers with a quick yes or no.  But, in his desire to mature and strengthen me, he often seems slow to answer, letting me choose to seek his will through his word, the Bible.

Our pastor shared a great “rule of thumb” for decision-making with my husband and I as we struggled with the best way to help a friend in need.  He quoted the apostle Paul, saying, “Let the peace of Christ rule.”  “If you don’t have peace about something, even if it seems good”, he said, “don’t do it.”  With that advice and more prayer, we were able to realize that there was a middle ground between  agreeing to the friend’s request and a flat refusal.

Frankly, I do not enjoy the tension of indecision, but life’s years include many large decision, and its days are full of countless small ones.  I try to make healthy choices, be pretty content with what I have, and follow the Bible’s commands.  Those decisions bring peace.  Sometimes there is risk involved.  Sometimes we make mistakes.  But, for me, having the freedom to choose and having a loving, all-wise Creator who wants to show me the way makes life good.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. 

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may

love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  Genesis 30:19-20

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