As you approach the training session, it’s clear that everyone already knows this material. At least they think they do. It’s a safety procedure that has been around forever, but people are still getting hurt. It’s the history of the company that gets reviewed at an annual retreat. Or, like tonight, it’s the Beatitudes.
Lots of people have heard of the Beatitudes, the beginning of the sermon on the mount, the words of Jesus in Matthew that start, “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” People who barely remember Sunday School, people who went to Mass occasionally, people who have memorized the whole Bible, these are people who think they know this text.
Tonight I will be talking with a small group of guys about these words. And I thought, “where do I start?” And then I remembered that I wrote a post about “8 ways to get invited back.” I listed 8 things that speakers can metaphorically give away. One of them is lens cleaner.
Think of the too-familiar subject matter as a pair of glasses. They give the group members a way to look at the world around them, to understand how the organization sees things. Sometimes glasses get smudged, we lose our ability to focus. We need to clean them off.
Here are 8 ways that help.
1. Have them take off the glasses so they (the glasses themselves) become the focus. You can’t really see smudges. They are too close to the eyes. You just aren’t able to see clearly. In order to see that there is a problem, you need to take your glasses off and look at them.
Tonight, we’ll read slowly through the Beatitudes. We’ll talk about the images. Rather than using them to look at how to live, we’ll look at them. That will help us see where they have gotten blurry for us.
2. Rub gently so you don’t make permanent scratches. It’s possible to rub so hard with the wrong kind of cloth that the glasses are ruined. You don’t use sandpaper. You don’t use acid.
I could get in their faces, complaining about everyone who has ever taught them before. I could, in the process, undermine the very idea of teaching. It won’t help. It will hurt.
3. Do a before and after vision test to find out what they really see. If I look at a light before I clean my glasses and then look at it after I clean them, the difference is evident. If I never looked ahead of time, however, I wouldn’t know that there was a problem. If I never looked afterward, I’d never believe there was a change.
We’ll start tonight by saying, “what do you remember of these, without reviewing?” We’ll start by saying, “what do you think it means to live by these?” After our conversation, we’ll say, “how does that help?”
4. Help them understand why the glasses get smudged. I grilled burgers last night. Today my glasses are smudged with grease spatter. It always happens. I always forget.
Tonight, we’ll talk about how we pile expectations on these words that Jesus likely never intended. As we bring agendas to the text (“Christ followers are supposed to be wimpy – see that ‘meek’?” “poor in spirit. That means that you can have as much money as you like as long as you stay spiritually humble.”) we end up in peculiar places, places Jesus never intended. By moving slowly, looking the words, we’ll see how to go back to the words.
5. Usually, the glasses themselves are fine. Most of the time, we don’t need a new set of glasses, we just need to clean them.
I will not walk in tonight and say, “Toss out those words, those ideas. We’re starting over. Blessed are the greedy.”
6. Teach them that they can clean their glasses themselves. You don’t have to go to the optical shop to have your glasses cleaned. You can learn to do it yourself. It may take practice, but you can learn.
This group has been meeting for awhile. I’m doing what I can to model this process of looking carefully, of being thoughtful, of taking your time to look at the things you usually look through.
7. Remind them that they can build cleaning their glasses into their schedule. I always forget. I end up squinting. I end up with headaches. I wouldn’t need to, if every morning when I put them on and started looking at the world around me, I spent a couple minutes cleaning my glasses.
8. Have them put their glasses back on. You have clean glasses. Very nice. They are useless for seeing unless you put them back on. You have to take the focus off the glasses and use them to focus on life. The goal of life is not clean glasses. The goal is to live, seeing clearly.
Tonight, we’ll close by talking about how things look now, how things can look tomorrow morning. We’ll practice looking through.
So that’s it. 8 ways to help an audience clean their glasses, renew their vision about your organization, project, group, goal. If it helps, let me know.
For a discussion of this text in Matthew, see “what counts as” and “dear friend” from my blog 300wordsaday.com.
For another in this series, see “8 ways to give an audience a kit.”