The parable of the ugly chair – How to handle a sticky situation without offending anyone.

ugly chairOnce upon a time in a place far away there was a man who made a journey to see his friend in a distant city. The sojourner walked into the pastor’s office and could not help but see the chair off to one side. Behold, it was an ugly chair. It appeared to have suffered much at the hands of many for the upholstery had torn in many places and the seat had sagged in the middle. The arms were worn and apparently the soles of a thousand shoes had scuffed the finish right off the legs.

“Where did you get this treasure?” I asked my host.

“One of our parishioners brought it in and donated it to the church.”

“Some donation,” I suggested. A few more like that and you could have a low end thrift store. Why don’t you just throw it out?”

“I would,” he said. “But they are nice people and they mean well. If I immediately threw it out others would notice and they might not understand. Ugly chairs are worth more than they seem. The principle at play here is more than a chair. It has many layers. First, we must always be grateful for the contributions of others even if they might not be up to our standard or quite meet the needs of the moment. Second, others are watching to see how I handle this. I want to communicate to them that I appreciate everyone and welcome their investment in our organization. Third, everyone is important, even the givers of ugly chairs. Fourth, there is a way to deal with this without offending anyone.”

“And what, I pray you, would that be?”

The wise leader spoke. “First, I welcomed the gift and thanked the giver. Next I found a place of honor for the ugly chair right here in the main office. Indeed, after the passing of a short time, the chair found a new place to reside and it sits there now off to the side. While it had been front and center it is now part of the bigger picture and beginning to blend in by those who frequent this place. You saw it because you are not from here. Others who do frequent here have seen it so often they don’t see it anymore. In another short time the chair, having become part of the background, will find a new home in a less visited office. Then after the passing of more time it will decide it needs solitude and find refuge in a storage room. Eventually the chair will find a new home in another place entirely, perhaps take a journey to the great outdoors to reside. By then, no one will have noticed that the chair is not here. It will have served its purpose over time and we shall not be faulted for having been insensitive and ungrateful.”

“I think I see,” said the traveler. “not every issue, not every event, not every situation needs to be confronted directly nor dealt with immediately. Why create a crisis or an offence when no such crisis exists and an offence can be avoided.”

“Verily,” said the wise leader. “You have learned well.”

And so it was.

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