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Canary

For many years I have had the gift of attending Chick-fil-A Next, the annual Operators seminar with my husband John. We have been so fortunate to hear some truly incredible speakers during his tenure with the company. We just recently returned from this year's event, and I had been really looking forward to hearing Adam Grant.


Grant is an organizational psychologist, professor, and bestselling author. I have learned so much from his books and social media posts. During his talk, he talked about the "disagreeable givers" - he gave character Roy Kent from the show Ted Lasso as an example. Grant has said, "It's a mistake to pressure everyone to be optimists. The world needs pessimists too. They're the canaries in the coal mine who warn us of danger... Optimists may solve problems, but pessimists detect them early." It reminded me of Paul's instructions in Ephesians 4:15 to "speak the truth in love."


This touched a special nerve for me, because earlier this year I read a book called The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron. This isn't what you might immediately think of. While yes, HSPs are sensitive emotionally, they are also sensitive to other things - like tags in shirts, water temperature, and picking up on the vibes of others. This can be a huge gift if you recognize it - and can be debilitating if you don't know it. These gifts - and they truly are gifts - can overwhelm you. HSPs make up about 30 percent of the population and are typically introverts; however, a smaller percentage are extroverts. I found out I am just that. Here’s how to know if you are one too. Aron says, “Being highly sensitive does not at all rule out being, in your own way, a tenacious survivor.”


Animals can also be highly sensitive. This trait was explained to me like a gazelle. Imagine seeing a wildlife documentary and all the gazelles are happily grazing. Then suddenly, one holds its head upright, listening. HSPs are the early warners. They detect early when something is - and isn't - right. Gazelles need early warnings to escape a lion. They depend on that tuning in ability to literally save their lives.


So - back to Grant. Although his work headed into a somewhat different direction, this idea of the canary in the coal mine comes to us in different ways. Early detection of warnings by people who are truth tellers, aware of their gift and can deliver insights with love is incredibly important.


Over the last few years, I have seen a slow moving situation play out. While listening to Grant, I suddenly thought in that particular story, "Wow - I was the canary." I saw and felt something negative coming down the tracks, but listening to me felt uncomfortable for some who preferred to barrel on ahead. While I take no pleasure in being "right" in this circumstance - it has been a long, slow unwinding - I found it insightful to realize suddenly that I had been the canary. I was very humbled by realizing this past anxiety had actually been a gift. I saw with new perspective how a really hard part of my own story had been a personal response to something that needed attention. Thankfully, unlike the canary in the coal mine, I didn't have to die in order to prove myself right - even though things still went wrong.


Whether you are also a HSP, or you know someone who is, or this doesn't resonate with you at all - this is a reminder to listen to that internal voice. Whether you consider it to be your conscience, God's guidance, or the Holy Spirit - listen. When something feels off - listen. Feel that vibration. Pay attention. It may just be pointing you out of danger, setting a boundary, leading you to help others.



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