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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: Grasshopper or Giant?

We even saw giants there . . . Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that's what they thought, too! - Numbers 13:33 (NIV)

Perspective colors our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. Which perspective we choose to consider and follow will greatly impact how we develop our character and how we find opportunities to succeed. Consider the scripture verse above. This quotation arises from the biblical story of when Moses sent 12 men to spy out the Promised Land and bring back a report of the inhabitants and the land's fruitfulness. Two of the men returned with an encouraging report and enthusiastically urged the Israelites to move forward and enter into the Promised Land. The other ten men returned with a discouraging report and the quotation above. Let us take a closer look at the ingredients of this quotation. What is a grasshopper or giant perspective? Is one preferable over the other?

Someone with a grasshopper perspective is a person who views him- or herself as smaller than others. A person with thoughts the size of grasshopper is a person who may be fearful and insecure. This person may lack vision to rise above the status quo and in fact may find comfort with the familiar and routine. Lacking confidence in abilities, a grasshopper is likely to shy away from risks and new challenges.

A giant perspective is a person with a belief that he or she is larger than others. The danger in these thoughts is that the person may stray off the path of community and head down the independent road that leads to self importance, arrogance, and aloneness. The giant may not spend much time thinking about offering service to others, and instead may be a stranger to compassion. Because the giant has a large belief in him- or herself, the giant may become lazy and prone to sloth. The giant may even lack a willingness to try new things. Why bother? Who can touch me?

Interesting, yes? Both perspectives yield possible deficits of character and accomplishment. I have referred to the "grasshopper theory" for years, because I witness so many people falling prey to their own negative thoughts and predictions. When I first thought about this post. I intended to focus on the grasshopper perspective as the negative example, and I assumed that the better perspective would be to think as a giant would. However, as I delved into my material, I realized that there was a negative side to giant thinking too.

Black/white thinking is so easy. We humans do it all the time: yes/no, right/wrong, up/down, good/bad. The hardest part about my legal education was training myself to think of more than three answers to a problem. I frequently pushed myself to think of three, and many times strived for four or five, because the mental exercise stimulated my creative juices and freed up any tendency I had to settle for less. As a teacher I frequently encourage students to think of at least three possible solutions to any challenge.

So to take my own advice, I will suggest that there are other perspectives to consider besides the grasshopper and giant. There may be elements of each that when combined will form a new perspective that combines the best of both. There may be a perspective that avoids all the negative  traits of each.

I suggest that we take this week to consider the type of perspective with which we view our lives and work. Are we thinking like grasshoppers or giants?

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