Many problems can’t best be solved by attacking them directly. Sometimes a more a roundabout way is more effective. Frequently we imagine that if we take a problem head on we will deal with it more quickly. But that approach often just causes us more problems.
My mom told me about a problem she had to deal with. She always had a beautiful flower bed, filled with a wide variety of flowers. But it was right next to the sidewalk. And occasionally children would walk by and pick bouquets. One day she caught a couple of children in the act.
She could have yelled at them and told them to get away from her flowers. But she had the wisdom to know that such an approach probably would just cause them to be resentful and lead to future trouble. So what she did was to she come out talk to the children. She asked them what they were doing. “We’re picking bouquets for our moms,” they answered.
My mom said to them, “Please don’t pick my flowers. You might accidentally pull them out by the roots and then no more flowers would grow. But I’ll tell you what I can do. I’ll cut a bouquet for each of you to give to your moms. Would you like that?” Naturally they were thrilled. They walked away with bouquets that would surely please their moms. And they never picked flowers out of my mom’s flower bed again.
An ancient story tells of Jesus facing a much more significant problem. Some rabidly “law and order” leaders were getting ready to kill a woman who had been caught committing adultery. “Now the law of Moses commanded us to stone such women,” they declared (John 8:5). They stood with stones in their hands and the woman crumpled at their feet, looked at Jesus and said, “What do you have to say about this?”
Jesus wasn’t inclined to agree with their harsh approach. I suppose Jesus could have taken the direct route to save the woman. He could have called his followers to pick up pick up stones of their own to hurl at those who were about to kill the woman, fight them off to save her life. Instead, he just bent down, scratched around on the ground. Then he stood up and said, “Whoever is without sin cast the first stone” (8:7). He bent back down, and without looking at them, began scratching around on the ground again. The stones dropped from the hands of the would-be executioners and they walked away. The woman was safe.
The indirect approach to problem solving is the one that is unexpected. It is less confrontational. It is less likely to lead to still more conflict. Precisely because it is unexpected, it can be disarming and lead to a more positive outcome. There are no near formulas for indirect problem solving. The things that are required are patience, faith, and above all, wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
Grace & Peace,