A few months ago, my daughter passed her driving test. First time. A proud Dad moment.
One of the basic rules for any driver is mirror, signal, manoeuvre – or MSM. And yet, if we give the benefit of the doubt on the first, it often seems that many don’t bother with the second… either that or there are an enormous number of vehicles whose indicators don’t work.
It strikes me that the MSM principle is one that can be applied to many situations – not least perhaps in workplaces and churches but also in our everyday home and social lives. Indeed, it wasn’t really until the last 15 or so years of my working career that I learnt how to ‘use the mirror’ properly in my job: to look around and take in to account how my proposed actions might impact others and who else needed to be considered.
Often I would go straight to the manoeuvre – to take a decision and do something (or say something) without telling or considering other people – and I admit I still do at times. As with driving, if one makes the manoeuvre without using the mirror or signalling our intentions, there will be consequences and often very damaging ones at that. Paying attention to such things is common courtesy (and diplomatic!), of course – but such considerations often fall in to the blind spot…
It also strikes me that the mirrors in a vehicle are one of the very few ones we use that are not about looking at ourselves – and that too is perhaps a useful principle to live by. Using them to consider the position of others and what their manoeuvres are and how they might be signalling them. Enabling us to take into account other people’s views (literally and metaphorically) and to weigh up the consequences.
You probably know what it’s like when someone else makes a decision, makes a manoeuvre, without due reference to others, without looking in their mirror. Over and over again we are impacted, swept aside as if unimportant by the signalling and manoeuvring of other people.
So having looked in the mirror, taking that time to consider others, we can then take our time to signal our intention: in other words, to communicate it.
There again, of course, there are difficulties. As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
Like the indicator on a vehicle, our communication can be non-existent or at best intermittent – let alone being affected by that very human attribute: misinterpretation. ‘A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest,’ as Paul Simon wrote. (For example, some may decide this post is about driving a car with the illustration distracting from the points being made.) It’s easy to ‘miss the point’ isn’t it… We think we have signalled clearly but it may not be seen or heard or received as such.
So, as in driving, manoeuvring in life, at work, church or at home is sometimes complex. Yet how we enact such actions is all part of how we show love and respect for others.
How each of us, as the Bible puts it far more simply, loves our neighbour.
Maybe we can all take a little more time to look in the mirror?
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