Tuesday, September 11, 2007

UPR - Unconditional Positive Regard - Shepherd

I learned the phrase unconditional positive regard at an executive leadership course, yet I have seen and experienced it my whole life.

As a little girl in Sunday School, I saw the flannel graph figures of a greedy little man, climbing up into a sycamore tree, as Jesus and his friends walked past. Jesus stopped underneath the tree and saw good in this scoundrel who stole money from people to live luxuriously. Looking at him with unconditional positive regard, Jesus expressed a desire to join him for coffee at his house. The story does not tell of us of Jesus accusing him or railing at him. It only tells of the love and acceptance that created room for Zachaeus to discover new possibilities for generosity within himself. In response to this unconditional positive regard, the miserly taxman declares his intention to return to his clients four times what he had taken from them. What a powerful tool for change!

I saw evidence of unconditional positive regard in Mrs. Dunsmore, my grade six teacher. As she read my feeble efforts to express thoughts and ideas that were burning within me in my weekly essays she responded with enough encouragement and enthusiasm to make me believe that I really could become a writer. She did not focus on where I fell short but rather on my potential. While for many years the hope she planted in me remained dormant, it finally awakened and I began to write.

I saw the miracle of unconditional positive regard transform the life of an urbane woman who I learned about as a young adult. She encountered Jesus beside a well in Samaria. She found herself blushing with shame as his penetrating questions reminded her of her moral failure. Yet Jesus gently spoke to her with unconditional positive regard and commended her for her honesty. She became a new woman, strengthened by unconditional positive regard to reach out to those whom she had formerly shunned.

I saw unconditional positive regard in the Sunday morning congregation who patiently listened as I tried to unravel all the mysteries of human suffering in the twenty-five intense minutes of my first sermon. Without their unconditional positive regard I would have likely run away when I realized how foolish I was.

I experience it constantly in watching my friend who seems to ooze unconditional positive regard. The moment she hears someone’s name mentioned she will speak up about what they do well, even when all who are present know that recently this person has not been showing positive attributes.

Unconditional positive regard may be contagious. I suspect it is. I know that when I am the recipient of unconditional positive regard, it changes my attitude.

Last Thursday was more than a bad hair day. I faced what I felt was unfair criticism before breakfast was even finished. Traffic was snarled as I drove to the office, and the fuel indicator began to ping, just after we passed the last gas station on the route. Spilling coffee on a clean, white shirt in the elevator, by the time I arrived in the office, I was finding it increasingly more difficult to hold myself in unconditional positive regard. Unable to find an essential file for a one time meeting did not help. Frustration increased as I realized my assistant was away from the office that day.

However, the sun broke through the clouds as my colleague stuck her head in my office, just for a minute to tell me how much she appreciated me and to thank me for my help with a situation she had been handling. Her unconditional positive regard breathed new life into my ruffled spirit. She gave me courage to take a deep breathe, put back my shoulders and prepare to face the challenges of the day.

The power of unconditional positive regard is incredible. It is the hallmark of God’s Spirit.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Amen, sistah! It's so true that all it takes is one smile or well-placed word or encounter along our way to change an entire, otherwise negative, dark day. Isn't it beautiful that we have it in us to be transformed in a positive way by something so seemingly insignificant as a smile?

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