Saturday, August 26, 2006

Something we can learn from the French

Americans generally think the French are rude. They don't speak to strangers. As a matter of fact, if you same hello to someone on the street they will often look at you as if you are strange. Most Americans would think that this is rude behavior. We consider saying hello to strangers polite. They consider it shallow. I guess we're both right. It is polite. But, in reality we probably don't mean it if we say "how are you" to a stranger.

As we plan to plant a church in France we have to understand not only how people act but why they act that way. They place a high value on being genuine. So they won't say something if they don't mean it and they would be offended if you say you will do something and don't follow through. For example, when we say, as we often do when parting company, "I will call this week" or "lets do coffee this week" they expect that we will follow through. Unfortunately our culture of politeness almost sends those words out of our mouths before we can think about them.

In the past six months I have really noticed the negative side of this phenomenon. I can't tell you how many times I have left messages with people who never called me back. In many cases, it was someone who said "call me", I left a message, and they never called back. In many cases I left multiple messages and in some cases sent emails. Most of these cases involve either Christian people or contractors that I want to pay. If, on our answering machine, we say "leave a message and I will call you back" and don't call back, then what does that say about us? I know that I do and have done this often. Having seen this so often recently, I am very really convicted about it.

I think the French are on to something here. "Say what you mean" and "do what you say." My wife and I have committed to changing this. And, I urge you, especially as Christian, to do what you say you will do and if you say, on your answering machine, you will call someone back if they leave a message, call them back if they leave a message. If you say you will call someone to get together for coffee, call them to get together for coffee. If you already make following up with people a priority, thank you.

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