The Elephant in the Room

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow morning and went into your living room and there, in the middle of the room, was an elephant? Elephants can grow up to fourteen feet tall and weigh up to 15,000 pounds. Well, I think that you would be surprised, and probably shocked. And then, you would probably call someone to tell them and to get some help to remove it.

A lot of self-help groups talk about the elephant in the room. What they mean by that is that there is a problem that everyone can see, but that no one wants to talk about. Sometimes we are afraid of the problem and what will happen if we acknowledge it. Everyone tries to ignore it and pretend that it doesn’t exist. They see a huge elephant in the middle of the room and just walk around it as though it is not there. The idea is that if they just ignore it, or walk around it, or pretend that it doesn’t exist, then maybe it will just go way.

But I have learned from personal experience that ignoring the elephant in the room will not make it go away. Most of our problems, if we ignore them, will not go away. They will only continue to get bigger and bigger like a growing baby elephant in your living room. And pretty soon, you won’t even be able to walk around it because there will no longer be enough room to even do that.

Jesus did not want us to ignore the elephant in the room, although he didn’t exactly talk about elephants. Jesus said that if someone does something to us that makes us angry or hurts our feelings, we should not just ignore it. He also said that we shouldn’t go and tell someone else about it. Jesus said that we should go directly to the person who hurt us and say something like, “You know that thing that you did or that thing that you said, hurt my feelings and upset me.”

Jesus said that we should do this in a kind way, not in anger. When we approach someone in a loving and compassionate manner, we can restore a relationship that might otherwise be broken. And by doing this the way that Jesus suggests, we can understand what Paul said to the Ephesians, ‘But, speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ’ (Ephesians 4:15).

A friend of mine just gave me a wonderful book entitled, Dealing with the Elephant in the Room, Moving from Tough Conversations to Healthy Communication. Author, Mike Bechtle says that we can’t have real relationships without honest, real communication, face to face, not texted or emailed. We need to learn some tools for healthy conversation and then practice the skills for healthy communication. It is not easy.

Do you have an elephant in your room? I suspect that you do. Aren’t you tired of him being there? I suggest that you begin with prayer. Ask Jesus to help you get a clear head about what happened or what needs to be addressed. Ask for guidance on what words to use. Ask that you be given grace so that you can speak the truth in love and make that elephant find a new home!

The Rev. Bonnie M. Orth is the Pastor of the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church and the Pastoral Care Coordinator at Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

By Kerry Minor

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