“Do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do.” 


At the end of a recent flight on SAFAIR, from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, the pilot announced over the loudspeaker, “If we have disappointed you in any way, please let us know, because we are the only ones who can do something about it.”


His words stuck with me. Seldom do you hear this kind of invitation, or this kind of self-responsibility expressed so well. It was very disarming; giving me time to reflect on whether or not I did actually have a legitimate complaint – and 9 times out of 10, I do not. On this flight I did not. And when I do, I most often am projecting on to others or am feeling self-entitled. When I know that someone is willing to consider me and my needs, as was this pilot it is amazing how few issues actually arise.

The pilot’s words made me pause to wonder what it would be like if every night a family sat together and each person said, “If I have disappointed you in any way, please let me know, because I am the only one who can do something about it.”

What if your employer said this to you once a week?

What if you said this to your employer every week?

What if it was the general attitude of the government, corporations and organizations?

What if self-responsibility was a value by which the whole society lived?

To truly live this invitation with everyone, means that you

  • have a willingness and capacity to hear the person with a complaint about you without reacting or being defensive

  • have the courage to potentially hear something about yourself that could evoke feelings of shame

  • have the capacity to feel shame with dignity and compassion for yourself, knowing the shame itself is a memory state haunting you

  • have the capacity to hear another’s disappointment in you, without seeing yourself as a disappointment: you don’t have to make it an identity issue of worthlessness

  • have the capacity to discern whether a legitimate need is not being met for the complainant, by yourself. If it is legitimate then you would see this as a wonderful opportunity for growth. If it is not a legitimate complaint, you would see this as a wonderful opportunity for practicing gracious limit setting.

Try it this week. When and where appropriate, ask the question, and pay close attention to the response of others, and yourself very closely.

© Lyndall Johnson, January 2019