I have gotten virtually no work done for the last two days.
I’ve been riveted by the United Airlines story that I’m sure you’ve all heard about–when the Aviation Security Guards in Chicago forcibly and violently dragged a 69-year-old male physician from a plane, all bloodied, because he didn’t want to give up his rightly paid for seat, where he had already been seated, so that United employees could fly to Louisville.
I’ve been reading all the memes (some of them are REALLY funny!); reading the commentary; scrutinizing the CEO’s statements.
And at first I thought that I was riveted because I identified so much with the doctor.
My family and I fly a lot; and we’ve been bumped. We’ve been seated in airplanes that had to be emptied out because they decided they needed it elsewhere. I’ve even taken that $400 or $800 voucher a few times.
And I’ve found that airline employees are some of the rudest people on earth. When your flight is cancelled because of the fault of the airline, do they apologize? Do they walk up and down the line of customers trying to keep you informed of what’s going on? Do they give you free food and a comfortable place to sit? Do they bring in more staff to help with the problem?
Nope. They make you stand in a tremendously long line with all of the other hundreds of people on your flight for several hours as the two people at the ticket counter shrug, saying, “It’s not my fault,” and work at the pace of molasses to rebook everyone.
I don’t take things like this very well. I get upset about the “principle of the thing” far too often, and I’ve actually led revolts of passengers on two separate plane trips–once in Minnesota with Air Canada when our flight was cancelled, but there was no one at the ticket counter doing anything, and hundreds of people standing around not knowing what was going on. I dragged out an employee, drilled him, and started making announcements to all the passengers myself. I became the spokesperson since Air Canada was saying nothing.
Then in Nairobi, Kenya, we were all at the gate when they announced that our plane would be eight hours late. That’s routine and acceptable, and wouldn’t be so bad, except that in Nairobi, once you’re in the gate there’s no access to washrooms or food or drink. So I made a huge stink and they brought us all some food and drink and every 15 minutes escorted anyone to the washroom who wanted to go.
So as I was watching the video of this poor man on United, I was texting my girls saying, “You know that would have been me. You know I would have refused to go just because of the principle of it.” And they both agreed.
But the more I think about it, the more I think that the real lesson here is that inside all of us there’s a little bit of United Airlines.
And that’s what I want to talk about today.
When we get focused on our agenda, we ruin relationships.
United Airlines had an agenda: get as much profit as possible. They needed those four flight crew in a different airport so that they could operate a plane; if they didn’t get there, a whole plane would have been disrupted. Better to disrupt four in Chicago than a whole plane load later.
All of us have agendas. Maybe it’s things we want our kids to do, or our boss, or even our husbands. We want things a certain way. And when we get focused on what we want, we often end up hurting those around us.
When we get focused on our agenda, we stop seeing the humanity in others.
Do you know why those four people (and especially that man) mattered more than the planeload of people at the other end? Because those four people are people, too. And people are not just numbers to use or numbers to crunch. They deserve respect.
Here’s what I’ve seen in marriage, though: when we get disappointed in our spouse, we stop seeing him as a person with needs and feelings and we start seeing him as an obstacle to our own happiness.
I’m thinking of one relationship I know where she is incensed that her husband works so much and often does double shifts and never helps with their kids (and they have a bunch under the age of 6). She’s super tired and really misses her old life when she could go out with friends and do fun things. So she’s constantly angry and on edge that everything is her responsibility. When he has to work on the weekend she complains to no end. And a few months ago, when he wanted to play golf on a Saturday, she almost had a conniption.
But what she’s not seeing is that he has needs, too. And the reason that he’s working so many double shifts is that she insisted she wanted to buy a bigger house, which they did, but that put them in debt. He didn’t think it was wise financially, but she really wanted it. He’s trying to keep her happy, but she doesn’t see it, because all she wants is time to herself. So every time he does something that takes him away–even if it’s for work–she gets angry. And that’s made him not want to be home.
She’s forgotten that he may have emotional needs, too. She doesn’t see how if she said “thank you” sometimes and asked how rough his day was and simply expressed how much she appreciates the house it could change the whole dynamic.
But she just doesn’t see it. She simply sees him as always wrong and a really bad father.
And the sad thing is that I know that women who do the same thing who are reading this article likely won’t even see themselves in this. When you are so focused on your agenda and you’re so sure you’re right you get an incredibly huge blind spot where you don’t see what you’re doing to other people.
That’s why Oscar Munoz (the CEO of United) committed that absolutely atrocious blunder in his original statement when he said, “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these passengers.” Re-accommodate?!? The internet’s having a field day with that. But Munoz didn’t even see how tone deaf that would seem because he’s caught up in his own agenda, and he’s incapable of viewing his passengers through any lens other than the profit one.
When you start seeing your husband only through the lens of what makes you happy, and not through what makes him tick, then you become the bad guy.
Do we really get this? Seriously, I have listened to a good friend of mine tell me everything that is wrong with her husband for years, but lately we had it out and I forced her to see that her husband was actually trying hard–she just wasn’t seeing it. And I think it finally hit her, that she’d been ungrateful for all of his efforts over the years to make her happy.
The reason they were in debt was not that he wasn’t good with money; it’s because she wanted a lot, and he couldn’t say no. And so she’s angry at him, when the fault was not his. And the longer this went on, the more sympathy I had for him. It’s not that he was perfect by any stretch of the imagination; but when you become completely oblivious to someone else’s feelings because you’re so sure you’re right, you often become a very hardened caricature of a person, exactly like Munoz. You may be great to everyone else, but not to him.
When we spend years focused on our agenda, we sometimes do terrible things we never dreamed we’d do
My son-in-law, after seeing that United video, made the comment, “why didn’t the outraged passengers just get in the aisle and block them from dragging off the guy?”
Here’s my theory: when you listen to the video, the passengers are shocked that this actually happened. Even though they had heard the crew try to get the man to leave the plane, and even though the security guards had boarded, no one actually believed that he would be dragged off like that.
Do you remember what happened with Flight 93 on September 11? (of course you do). The first three planeloads of people obeyed the hijackers, like they’d been told. But with Flight 93, the passengers and crew knew what had happened on the previous three planes, and it changed everything. So they decided to fight back.
I have a feeling that if ANY airline EVER called in security to remove a peaceful, law-abiding passenger again, the passengers would revolt. We’ve all seen what can happen now, so it’s become that possibility we never would have imagined before.
But it happened this time because physically dragging someone out of his seat was simply not contemplated by anyone. It’s too horrible to imagine.
When we become laser-like focused on our own agenda, though, we start to do things we could never have imagined ourselves doing. We become grumpy and surly. We become rude, and that’s just not who we are (I’ve heard spouses say such cutting things to each other that they would never dream of saying to anyone else. It’s not who they are; but their agenda has taken over, and they’ve become a different person with their spouse).
And I’ve seen people get into emotional and physical affairs, after never believing they’d be capable of that, because they’ve been so focused on how badly their spouse is treating them that they have no awareness of how badly they are treating their spouse.
The Bible calls it hardening your heart. Beware, because it can happen to anyone as soon as our agenda takes over. And if you fear that lately you’ve been hardening your heart towards your spouse, then that’s okay–because awareness is the first step to recovery. Pray that God will help you see clearly. Pray that you will be able to see your own shortcomings. Learn how to seek out the good in him and call it out. Become the kind of person you actually want to be again. And don’t let yourself become a caricature of the very thing you’re accusing your husband of being.
If you have trouble with this, my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage spends the first half on helping us do exactly that: get our own hearts right and make sure that we’re calling out the good in our spouse. It’s only when we’re doing that–when we’re honest with ourselves and when we’re treating him well, that we can even begin to address any other issues in the marriage well. And often when we start deliberately noticing the good, and deliberately thanking him, and deliberately taking responsibility for our own feelings, those other issues we thought we had fall by the wayside.
Don’t become United Airlines. Pick up 9 Thoughts and see how different your marriage can actually be!
Now, let me know in the comments: have you seen people absolutely oblivious to how bad they’re being in their marriage? Why do you think they were so oblivious? Let’s talk about it!