WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Trying Something Different

By Liz James

On a workbench scattered with tools, a person uses a screwdriver.

“Old ways won't open new doors.”

Screwdrivers are my nemesis. I don’t know why on earth we need a zillion types of screws, but those little exchangeable screwdriver heads are the bane of my existence. They seem to migrate out of the tool box and into the couch cushions and under the furniture and I never have the right one when I need it.

So I employ a creative strategy, which is to pick one that is kind of close to right, and then to

Listen to Liz read her reflection.

press really hard. Sometimes this works. Sometimes, though, it goes KAJUNK KAJUNK KAJUNK and the bit spins and the screwdriver doesn’t move and if I don’t stop immediately, Bad Things Occur. The screw and the bit can get stripped, changing shape into a groove that leaves everything stuck.

I think about this sometimes in meetings. I’m good in meetings... usually. Over the years, I’ve built up an impressive array of tools: I-statements, being assertive, and all of that stuff. What I could improve on, though, is knowing when to switch tools: noticing the interpersonal KAJUNK KAJUNK KAJUNK faster and responding not by pressing harder but rather with, This strategy isn’t working. I need to try something different.

I remind myself to pause and test out bits—the old faithfuls like, “Maybe I’m not hearing what you're trying to say; let me say it back to check,” and “You have an unmet need here; can we figure out what it is?” Because it never works to respond with the “There’s an app for that” bit when the “Tell me how you feel about this” bit is called for. (Even when there is an app for that.)

Spiritually, I'm also learning to hear and respond to the KAJUNK KAJUNK KAJUNK. I have a list of simple bits to try (go for a walk, get a good night’s sleep, journal…) that are deceptively simple, but remarkably effective. The older I get, the more I understand that the goal isn’t having the most or best screwdriver bits; it’s learning to hear the KAJUNK KAJUNK KAJUNK, to take a deep breath, and to switch strategies.


God, grant me the attention to hear when something changes, the perceptiveness to know when things aren’t working, and the wisdom to try something different.

About the Author

Liz James

Liz James is a member of the Saskatoon Unitarians, on the Canadian prairie. She runs Mirth and Dignity, an organization dedicated to UU humour, which can be found at lizjameswrites.com.


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