Recently, one of my friends who is planning to emigrate to the US told me that the reason he was going was because he was tired of working in situations where the other members of the team did not conform to the high standards of patient care that he himself believed in. He much preferred to work in a situation where every member of the team took pride in his or her job and hence fulfilled it to the best of his or her ability. While I did argue with him on that point and I know there are hardly any places on earth with perfect working conditions, I understood what he was saying. Often, we are faced with situations where other members of the team appear to have a different set of standards. In medical practice, this is often more because of ignorance rather than indifference, though not always so.
Those who know me well, know that keeping my cool in the face of ignorance or incompetence is not my specialty. And over the last few weeks, as the patient load increases and with it the stress for all the staff, I have come face to face with a number of situations where small mistakes have been made in the functioning of our team. While, for the most part, I have tided over the crises without too much increase of my blood pressure, there have been at least 2 occasions when my temper has got the better of me. Now usually, I would go on without too much concern or introspection, for after all, it was in the interest of good patient care that my hackles were raised. But that was till I went to church last Sunday.
Last Sunday, Amy was asked to sing in the main English church here in Shillong. She gave a stirring rendition of 'Where there is faith' by All4Him. I had goose bumps by the time she finished and the preacher said in his sermon that it was the first time he had heard clapping in the church after a special number! But gratifying as that was, that is not the point of this post! The pastor obviously did not have a very high impression of doctors. He even said that he knew some doctors who deserved to be beaten up! Hardly surprising given the morass our profession is in at the moment in this country. So he made it a point to deliver a lot of his sermon directly at me, which was easy as I was sitting in the front row of the church!
And one of his points hit home hard - Be gentle, doctor, he said, pointing directly at me. Be humble of heart. Coming as it did right on the heels of one of my flare-ups, I was squirming in my seat. Gentleness is one of the traits that my character has extremely minuscule quantities of, if at all. But as I look at the men of God I know, starting with my father, I can see that gentleness is one of the common characters that they share. In the world of today, aggressiveness and ambition are highly desirable qualities. It is often more likely that you will get what you want by raising your voice than by being gentle. But the challenge is to transcend human pettiness to reach a level where my gentleness is not misconstrued as a sign of weakness, but rather, of deep inner strength. And every time I display my petulance, I not only weaken my witness, but also diminish my effectiveness. Being gentle - how easy it sounds. But this world and my heart are not used to it......
"Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength." — Ralph W.Sockman