issues

By Mark E. Smith

We’ve all been there. We’re cruising down the road in our car, and we suddenly hear an odd, consistent noise or feel a vibration or see the temperature gauge rise. Whatever the abnormality, what’s the first thought that crosses our minds? …Maybe it will go away!

But, it never does, right? It predictably gets worse, where we end up with a mechanic’s bill when the problem is so bad that it must be addressed. After all, how often have you seen a real problem fix itself or not get worse with a car? No, the longer we ignore an issue, the worse it gets.

Life is no different. From our relationships to our health to our finances to our careers, when issues arise, they almost never resolve themselves, but actually get worse – that is, until we address them or suffer ultimate consequences.

Yet, again, how often do we simply hope they’ll go away on their own? …We had a brutal argument where hurtful things were said, but it’s a new day, so everything is fine. …I’m having this health issue, but why go to the doctor when I’m sure it will get better. …If I don’t open that stack of bills, I won’t get stressed out about money. …My job is terrible, but a job is a job.

We’ve all dealt with one or more of these scenarios in these totally dysfunctional ways, and it feels reassuring in the moment. I know, I’m guilty as charged! However, what I’ve learned is that denial and complacency are the equivalent of a noose around our neck – the longer we wait, the worse issues get.

It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve gotten much better at not denying issues, but addressing them. What I’ve realized is that a lot of why we don’t address issues is fear. Yet, not addressing them actually sustains fear, whereas addressing issues alleviates it. How often do we have serious issues in our relationships and don’t address them out of not wanting to rock the boat or, worse yet, out of fear of abandonment? And, so we pretend as if all is great – till the issue comes up again and we think, “Why do I have to keep going through this?”

Well, we don’t need to. No matter the issue, the only way to resolve it is to address it – and that takes bravery because we don’t know the outcome. Addressing serious issues in a relationship can improve the dynamic or bring the relationship to an end. Going to the doctor for a health issue can deliver good news or bad. Opening a stack of bills can prove that you have more money or less. And, changing jobs can increase your satisfaction or decrease it. Yes, there are unknowns in addressing issues, but it’s guaranteed to bring resolution, as opposed to sustaining fear and anxiety.

For me, addressing issues isn’t about an ideal outcome, but about peace of mind and accountability. I don’t want issues in my life, and when they arise, I want them addressed, good news or bad, put to rest. My daughter’s car was recently acting up, and with a college tuition bill siting on the kitchen table, the last thing I needed was an auto repair bill. If only the car could fix itself! So, with great apprehension, we had it towed to the dealer, and I was presented a monster repair estimate for a blown engine. That car is now in the junkyard, and she has a shiny red sports coupe! The issue could have ruined our summer and finances, but we addressed the issues step-by-step and just took care of it. It wasn’t my ideal outcome – but maybe my daughter’s because she got a new car for college! – but all is resolved. And, it’s the resolution of issues that’s the ultimate goal.

Often, we’re so apprehensive toward addressing serious issues in our lives that we don’t just consciously avoid taking action to resolve them, but we’ll actually subconsciously block them out of our realm of possibilities. We’ve all been in situations where everyone sees the writing on the wall except for the one in the mess. What I’ve learned is that our friends and family are excellent gauges when it comes to recognizing issues that we may not see. When multiple people bring an issue to our attention, let’s not dismiss them as naysayers, but truly listen.

We all have issues in our lives, but how – or if! – we address them is the difference between health and dysfunction, success and failure, contentment and fear. Let us not turn away from issues, allowing them to worsen, but address them head-on, where the only problems in our lives are the ones we’re solving.

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