Just a thought: Which bucket you are going to use?

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Imagine going through your day to day life carrying two buckets. One is full of fuel the other is full of water. Every day you are presented with potentially volatile situations and you have a choice which bucket you want to use in addressing what is before you.

On your shoulders is a pole that rests left to right behind your neck. On each end of the pole are ropes hanging down holding a bucket on each side. The bucket on your right is filled with clear fresh water and the bucket on your left has a highly flammable fluid. If the contents of either bucket are emptied, they automatically refill in order that there is a constant supply of both liquids.

I think each of us lives our lives this way. A step at a time we walk forward through our day. As we travel we come upon many fires along the pathway. The fires are all sizes from barely burning to large infernos. Some of the fires are in our home life, some are at work, and some are in other organizations we are involved with. We have to make a decision each time we come upon a burning fire. We can pour water on the fire, we can pour fuel on the fire, or we can just walk on by.

If we choose to pour water on the fire it will lessen the fire or it may even stop burning. If we put out the fire we continue on our journey with smoke rising behind us as the flames have been doused. If we choose to walk by the fire the fire continues to burn as it did when we came upon it.

If we choose to pour fuel on the fire it will ignite and burn stronger. We will continue on our journey leaving a larger blaze than the one we came upon. The fire will continue to burn brighter and longer waiting for the next person to come upon it. It may spread into other people’s paths. Others could well be burned by the blaze and we may even get burned ourselves.

It is funny how we are. We start our day with good intentions. As the day progresses we make good choices and poor choices. Good choices bring constructive results. Poor choices often hurt others without even thinking about it. Then we go to bed at night, look back on the day, and usually we can justify our poor behavior during the day we lived. In time we become numb to our unacceptable actions. That is just the way it is.

What if we were able to lighten our load and not carry the fuel filled bucket? What if all we carried was a bucket of water? If we got rid of the fuel filled bucket we would never leave a fire burning brighter than when we came upon it. We would have only two options, walk on by or reduce or eliminate the fire with water from our only bucket.

We live in a world of critical people. Critical people use their buckets of fuel regularly and then become numb to what they are doing. Critical people use words to destroy others. Words can be the worst fuel we can pour on a fire. Words can destroy another’s spirit. Words can destroy an organization’s spirit. Words are one way we convey our attitude to others.

Hurting people hurt people. Some people we just want to stay away from. People who have a fire burning in their own world are more apt to try and ignite others. Why not? Misery likes company, right?

Let me translate this concept into a real life example. You belong to a group of people. It may be your workplace, an organization you are involved with, or your home. One member says something extremely negative about another member in your group. There is the fire. You now get to choose how to respond. Without thinking you reach for the bucket on your left and pour fuel on the fire. You agree with the member and then add additional negative statements about the other person. You not only affirm the member’s negativism, you douse it with fuel and raise it to another level.

You don’t set out to hurt the other person, but the result of your action is increasing the fire that is already burning. You are not only hurting the person being talked about and justifying the attitude of the one you are visiting with, you are joining into the destructive atmosphere yourself. The fire burns brighter on the paths of all three individuals involved.

Now, let’s take the same situation. In response to the negativism being told to you, you suggest to the speaker the two of you sit down with the person being criticized and talk about what your thoughts are. You point out to the speaker the person being criticized may not even know the speaker feels this way. You explain to the speaker the difficulty the person being criticized is experiencing in his or her life.

The end result of your conversation is that you will schedule a meeting together with the speaker and the one criticized to talk about the speaker’s concerns. You have used your water bucket and the fire is now contained. I am not saying you can stop the critical speaker from spreading negativism outside your presence, but I am saying you can be sure you are not a part of spreading the fire and you have attempted to douse it the best you can.

I am also not saying that you avoid difficult issues. Whether it is at home or at work, there are usually difficult issues that need addressing. Difficult issues should be addressed. These could easily be considered fires along the path. These fires need to be handled with healthy and sometimes deep communication again, without the use of the fuel bucket.

My challenge to you today is to leave your bucket of fuel behind when you start your daily journey. It can do nothing but cause harm. Carry your bucket of water and use it regularly and liberally. It will always refill itself. Who knows what difference you will make in people’s lives by putting out negative fires that consume others? Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.

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