The difference between an issue and non-issue person is one thing. What is the objective? The issue person always makes themselves the objective. The non-issue person remains focused on the true objective.
There’s a sight I’ve seen occur numerous times that always intrigued me and it turned into a very big lesson for me. If you ever walk down a street in Manhattan, one of the busier streets near Times Square or somewhere like that, where, in the middle of a typical day there are literally throngs and throngs of people, masses of people walking down the sidewalk and you literally have to avoid bumping into people almost every single moment. So I’ve seen times where two people are walking in the opposite direction and they just come face‑to‑face with each other. And someone has got to move in order for both of them to go. And sometimes you have an obstinate person who just stays in their place, they are not moving; you need to get out of my way, I don’t need to get out of your way.
And I observe this ‑‑ I always found it interesting and I tried to understand, well, who is right over here? Who is the right ‑‑ who is the one that should have to move out of the way?
And, yes, it would be nice to be the one to move out of the way, but you know what, maybe they should be nice, why do I always have to be nice? Do you ever ask yourself that question? What gives, as they say, or who moves? And this is a fascinating occurrence that has always struck me.
One person will say, you must have self‑respect, self-dignity. You don’t just move every time someone is in your way and is expecting something from you. You have to show them you’re somebody, too. Only the weak‑hearted move. Those who just can’t stand up to an obstacle or to the opposition are the ones who move. And so, therefore, certain people, out of principle of holding their self-dignity, will not move because moving shows weakness.
Imagine you extend an offer to someone. You reach out to a friend and you extend an offer to help them. And you don’t hear back from them. So what do you do? Do you call them up again or do you say, hey, look, I extended myself, I know they need help with this, I extended myself and I’m not going to call them again and ask them; if they want the help, then they’ll have to call me. Or do we say, hey, I didn’t hear back from them, let me call them again, I’m not sure why they didn’t get back to me and let me offer this to them again? What is the right thing to do?
Often we say, defend your self‑respect. How many times are you going to call the guy and beg him to help him? You are making a mockery of yourself by calling the person again and repeatedly. You didn’t hear back from them, it’s their turn to return the call. If they can’t return the call, they don’t deserve the favor from you.
Recently I had a very interesting experience and it wasn’t the first time I had this experience so now I was able to have more perspective on it. I spent a weekend at a family event and there were many people who gave speeches at this weekend, and I was asked before the weekend, being one of the Rabbis in the family, if I can ‑‑ if I would be able to share some words. And I said, sure.
And the weekend came and the speeches were going on and on and it reached a point where I felt, as much as the hosts felt, that we maximized the number of speeches there should be at the event. So the host came over to me and started to say, you know, I don’t know ‑‑ and I knew where they were going and so I said, don’t worry about it, there are way too many speeches already and it’s totally fine. However, there was a little nagging feeling I had in me. And that was, why did they choose me to call off? Why not any of the other speakers?
And because I’ve had this similar experience in the past, I sort of felt like I was, like, the easy pushover. I’m the easy pushover. And I just had this thought in my mind, which I’m very happy I was conscious of because being conscious of it gave me a tremendous insight, which I feel was very important for me to realize, and that is the point I’m getting to here. The point that what should determine when to hold our ground and when to give? What should we turn to be that determining factor?
And this clarity can truly help us in knowing if we should pick up the phone and call the other person again, if we should move and let the other person go, if we should step aside and say, no, I’m happy ‑‑ I will be very happy not to speak. And the determining factor is one thing, the objective of what we are doing.
When we’re walking down the street, why are we walking down the street? Typically, it’s to get from point A to point B. And, therefore, if someone is in my way, I will happily move to the side and step around them because that will get me to my destination much quicker. When my objective is to let the world know how strong I am, how great I am, how much self‑respect I have, how no one will get me to move, then I don’t move. If my true objective is getting from point A to point B, I will happily move to the side. No, that’s not a pushover, that’s a person who is clear on their objective.
If I extend an offer to you, I call you up and I extend myself very generously and I don’t hear back from you, should I call you up again and say, I haven’t heard back from you but I would really love to do this for you? Should I do that or am I demonstrating weakness? It all depends on what my objective really is. If my objective is to make sure that you get the help you need, I will call you again; if my objective is to be a nice guy and to want you to believe that I’m a nice guy, then extending myself again is doing more than being a nice guy, it’s actually caring about you being helped, which was not my objective. So we have to ask ourselves, what is my true objective? If your true objective is to look like a nice guy, do not call again, that will not meet your objective. If your objective is to truly help the other person, call a second time and call a third time until that person knows that you really truly want to help them.
What is the purpose of me speaking at a family event? If it is to enhance the event, if for any reason circumstances have it that my speaking will no longer enhance the event, then I am enhancing the event by not speaking. And, therefore, I happily step to the side and I happily know that my family knows I’m the easiest one to go to to ask to step aside because I’m clear about the objective. And that’s why I hope this repeats itself as many times as it needs to when the objective needs to be met in such a manner. And I know how hard it is to go to someone who you asked to prepare a speech and ask them not to give it and how beautiful it is to be the one to be there and say, it’s not a problem at all. But if my objective about speaking is so that everyone should hear my brilliance, then I will have a very hard time stepping aside when the circumstances call for no more speeches because my speech was never about the circumstances, my speech was about me.
See, when we are clear about the true objective, we can easily be the one to call again, easily be the one to step aside. When we are clear that we are the objective, oh, it’s very hard to step aside. We have all the justifications. You should never have asked me. You should not be standing there, I need to get to my place as quickly as possible, you need to step out of the way. Don’t you know who I am? It wouldn’t look right to the people around me if I stepped to the side. We have all the justifications. But it all boils down to one thing, am I focused on the objective or on myself?
This is the subtlety of our ego that we often don’t notice. When what we do is about us at the end of the day, when we are the objective, the test is when we have to compromise our glory to achieve the objective. That is the gift God gives us to say, hey, why are you really into this? Why do you really want to do it? When we have to compromise our glory, we begin to see how much of this is about us, how much of this is about the objective and where we stand at that moment tells us how focused we are on the objective.
We need to aspire to be the non‑issue in situations. Not the issue. You know and I know certain people are always the issue. We have to dance around them very delicately. Oh, boy, there are certain people we will never cancel because we know that will be a family issue for years to come. Do I want to be that issue person or do I want to be the non‑issue person? It may take us years to become the non‑issue person, but that’s the person everyone truly appreciates.