by dave jacobs
Etymologists tell us that the word ‘minimize’ first appeared in literature in 1802 in the writings of British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Mr. Bentham before but he is regarded as the founder of ‘utilitarianism.’ Utilitarianism is the doctrine that says actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority. At first read this doesn’t sound too bad but I’m sure if you think about it more Utilitarianism seems like a scary foundation to build a society on.
Not only does Utilitarianism scare me, my ability to minimize things that shouldn’t be minimized scares me. Often times our failures with plans and people can be traced back to something we minimized.
If something isn’t important to us we tend to minimize it. If something doesn’t directly affect us we tend to minimize it. If something doesn’t make sense to us we tend to minimize it. If we don’t agree with something we tend to minimize it. This is how we get into trouble. This is how we hurt people. When we make something small that is big to someone else we become small in their eyes.
It’s not always our fault when we minimize.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to read someone else’s mind. Something could be a big deal to a person and we’re completely unaware of it. This is especially true when a relationship is new and you are still getting to know each other. Think of it as unintentional minimization. The best response at a time like this is to simply apologize.
Another reason why we can minimize and it not really be our fault is that it is impossible to predict the future. If you are a leader or a pastor you are constantly planning and preparing for something. When ideas fail, many times it’s because we minimized something or underestimated how important something was to the overall process but didn’t see this until it was too late. This is inevitable. We’d all make better decisions if we had better information and were able to discern correctly those aspects of the plan which were truly important and those that were not.
So we’ve seen that sometimes it’s our fault when we minimize and sometimes it’s not. Regardless, when we minimize things that should not be minimized we get into trouble and hurt others.
Here are some questions that might help minimize minimizing.
In any planning process, whether it be just you or with a group, before you announce or implement your plan ask:
- If there were any components to this plan that we might be minimizing what would they be?
- Who will this be a ‘big deal’ to?
- Do we know anyone who might be more objective and able to help us see things we might be minimizing?
- In our personal relationships we might ask, assuming we are smart enough to think before we speak:
- In what ways might I be minimizing this?
- Can I recognize any self-serving reasons I might have for conscientiously or unconscientiously minimizing this?
Never underestimate you’re ability to minimize.