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Q-Tip It
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By Dan Martella
 
Back in the 1920’s Leo Gertenzang, a Polish-American entrepreneur, attached some wads of cotton to the ends of a tooth pick and used it to clean his baby’s ears. Today Gertenzang’s Q-Tips (the Q stands for “Quality”) are ubiquitous – they are used for personal hygiene, first aid, the application of cosmetics, cleaning, and arts and crafts.
 
In a recent stress management seminar I attended, the presenter suggested a new use for Q-Tips – An empowering acronym for our mental health and relationships – to Quit Taking It Personally when obnoxious people and situations threaten to rile us up.
 
In the rough and tumble of life and ministry, stuff happens. People say and do things that are offensive and hurtful. Sometimes they snipe at us from the shadows. Sometimes they stomp on our hot buttons. Sometimes they go ballistic over stupid things that really don’t matter. Sometimes they walk right past us without even acknowledging our presence. Sometimes they misjudge us. What’s a pastor to do? Q-Tip it – Quit taking it personally.
 
Recently I got a chance to try it out. At the end of the Sabbath worship service I stood at the door to greet the people. All of a sudden I was face-to-face with Fred – a very likeable guy who is also big, loud, opinionated, and a bit rough around the edges. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I don’t agree with anything you had to say today!”
 
The whole thing threaten to topple my vulnerable post-preaching pegs. Over the next few days I turned the matter over in my mind, trying to figure out what to do with it. Suddenly I realized the best thing would be to Q-Tip it. Fred’s comment probably had little to nothing to do with me. And what’s more, Fred, like everyone else, is certainly entitled to his own opinions.
 
A few weeks later I had an opportunity to visit Fred in his home. I reminded him of our recent conversation at the door and told him that I was ok with what he had said. That he was entitled to his opinion, but that he might want to time things better next time. He got the point, chuckled a bit, and we are still great friends.
 
In your life and ministry, refuse to take it personally when
  • Your kids think your sermons are way too long.
  • Someone disagrees with your proposal to the church board.
  • A church elder is critical of the Bible version you use in the pulpit.
  • The church secretary gets grumpy.
  • The praise team doesn’t use the song you suggested.
  • The church patriarch or matriarch sees the issues of gender inclusive ordination, worship music, Sabbath dress and decorum, and church policies differently than you do.
  • The biggest giver to the church budget writes you a critical letter and cc’s it to the conference president.
 
Life and ministry is all about dealing with people. Hurting people who have a knack for hurting other people. People who have a lot on their minds and get a bit pre-occupied. People who have limited relational skills. People who see things differently than you do.
 
When cross words are spoken, you feel ignored, or political maneuvers are employed against you, Q-Tip it. The whole thing probably has nothing or little to do with you – it is often driven by deep points of pain in the other person’s life. Refuse to let them bring you down to their level. Always take the high road. Be kind to them. Pray for them. And get on with your life and ministry.
 
Dan Martella is managing editor for Best Practices for Adventist Ministry and administrative pastor for the Paradise, California church