We don’t see it coming, we only get two choices and both choices are completely unacceptable. What do we do?
We are handed a first-thing-tomorrow deadline, for instance. Because of expensive and once-in-a-lifetime plans for tonight, we say “no”. Left with no other choice, the boss issues an ultimatum, “… get it on my desk by 8:00 A.M.”
1) “cancel plans”
2) “leave career”
Both options – unsatisfactory.
And then it happens again…
Facing repeated “no-way-out” endings can affect health and wellbeing, reports the ADAA, and anxiety or depression can ensue. Statistics show that these two disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults. These “lesser of two evils” scenes don’t happen just at work; they can take place in our marriages, our families, and our communities.
In her article, Caught between a rock and a hard place, psychologist and author, Beth Fisher-Yoshida Ph.D., CCS, suggests hopeful strategies that engage both parties in creating a solution while promoting the wellbeing of all. In the situation above, for example, the manager might ask for solutions and offer his support to meet the corporate deadline. It’s a strategy that reminds me of the Golden Rule, simply stated: “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.
During my professional years, I learned that effective and timely resolutions meant nobody feeling belittled, martyred or compromised – myself included. Rarely, however, was there time for a group “think tank”. Instead, it meant dropping my solution and giving the team some time to think things through.
That is when I would turn to the proverb “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) This Scripture and the rule, “do it the way I’d want it done to me,” helped me be free of distrust, skepticism or subtle power-plays, and opened me up for new solutions.
Once free of my own concerns, the atmosphere was happier and more positive and the team often came to some great creative solutions.
Take a page from my “non-profit event-planning” days. We contracted a venue that was perfect in every way, but included significant costs that might land in the planning team’s pockets.The team asked me to back out of the deaI.
I explained my dilemma to the venue and ripped up the contract.
Sadly, there were no other “right” venues in the market, and despite the planning team’s best efforts, I knew we would now have to contract with the lesser of two unsatisfactory options.
Wracked with worry, I dreaded the consequences of:
- either contracting with the “least of the wrong” venues or
- cancelling the whole event
The rock-and-hard-place, felt more like a trash compactor.
Three weeks passed. The team wasn’t finding that creative solution.
That morning, I took my Bible with me to my volunteer post. Once there, it was peaceful, allowing me time to read and really let my heart listen to the Word. My head stopped swimming and I went from “how am I going to solve this?” to “calm down and yield to God’s plan.”
I began to see this as an opportunity to allow fresh inspiration to lead my team to previously unseen solutions. Buoyed with that favorite verse from Proverbs, I got a nudge to read a favorite article, “God’s law of adjustment”, which gave me a very real trust in God’s promise of tangible goodness, “the same yesterday, and today, and forever,” (see Hebrews 13:8).
Suddenly, I felt an inner calm. I knew there was an unrealized and excellent solution, that would involve no compromises.
That afternoon, the cancelled venue, unexpectedly called. They were happy and eager to accommodate all our needs and meet our cost criteria as well. Ultimately the event blessed all.
Although very nearly squashed in the trash compactor of fear, I did not have to live with the anxiety of a compromised choice nor did I have to pick the lesser-of-two-evils. My sleep returned to normal, my stomach settled, and my team-compatibility ratings improved.
Whether we are feeling that “rock and hard place” because of situations at work, in our family, among friends or in our community, it’s good to know there is an “out”. We don’t need to feel responsible, manipulated or victimized by unsatisfactory options.
A wise friend summed it up for me later. When life offers you just two options, it’s bluffing. Hold out for the inspired, third option; let God lead the way.