Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Everbody needs a "Dutch Uncle"

In The Last Lecture, author Randy Pausch tells the story of a man he called his Dutch Uncle, the person who spoke truth into his life.  Pausch was a talented young college student at the time but one who's cockiness and lack of tact hampered his effectiveness in relationship with others. Recognizing this, a professor for whom Pausch served as a teaching assistant in college, took him for a walk and spoke frankly but tactfully to him.  He told Pausch that the fact that people perceive him as arrogant would limit what he would be able to accomplish in life.  It was a truth that he needed to hear and it became a turning point in his life.

We hear a lot of praise for the Barnabas characters in our lives, those people that encourage us and cheer us on.  They're important but if we surround ourselves with only those people who tell us what we want to hear and how great we are, something that is very good (healthy self-esteem) can become something very bad (narcissism).  It's important to also have a Dutch Uncle or two in our lives to speak truth frankly to us.  If the truth is sugar-coated, we can easily miss the point of it.  Speaking truth frankly does not equal speaking truth cruelly.  One can be frank and clear without being mean.  I think that's exactly what Pausch's mentor was doing when he framed the truth of Pausch's arrogance in the context of his future.  He recognized Pausch's gifts as well as his faults and knew that Pausch wanted to make a significant impact in his field.  By tying his behavior to his potential impact, he provided the motivation that Pausch would need to make the necessary changes. 

There are times that you and I will be called to be the Dutch Uncle (or Aunt, as the case may be) in someone's life.   We need to be sensitive both to the call to speak truth as well as to speaking it in a way that motivates change.  I can say without reservation that I relish having a Dutch Uncle but not necessarily being a Dutch Uncle.  I respect the courage that it takes to speak truth but have to summon the courage to do the same for another.  It's a fine line to walk.  I recognize that I am not the Holy Spirit in the lives of others.  He (the Holy Spirit) is the ultimate source of truth but sometimes He will use another to communicate truth verbally to me or someone else.  I need to step up when called to be the Dutch Uncle and I need to listen when my Dutch Uncle speaks to me.

In what ways do your thoughts on this echo mine or differ from mine?  Who have been the Dutch Uncles in your life?

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