Redline Panic

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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The workplace can be a hotbed for the unexpected. We rarely see those unnerving events coming—you know, the ones that take us out of our normal routine and cast us into fearful uncertainty. Some surprises are rather small and stressful, others catastrophic. But at the time we face them, anything unexpected can seem overwhelming.

I think back to my piloting days, now long gone. These days I favor an exit row seat on American Airlines, but I enjoyed many wonderful years of adventure in a private airplane. You might be familiar with one danger of flying a small aircraft—the “spin.” Although uncommon today, accidental spins were a serious issue before World War II. In fact, many pilots lost their lives.

Here’s what happens: Most accidental spins occur during landing, usually when a pilot fails to execute a coordinated turn. One wing stalls while the other still supports lift. The stalled wing drops and suddenly the airplane is spinning vertically toward the ground. The pilot is usually caught completely by surprise.

Imagine a pilot turning on final approach to land. All seems normal, and then suddenly he is falling out of the sky, straight down, and spinning. The ground fills his window shield and is closing fast. Panic pushes aside rational, logical thought. Everything in him screams to raise the nose of the airplane and return to level flight. His natural instinct is to PULL BACK ON THE CONTROL STICK and stop the dive.

But that’s the worst action he can take.

To do so will only prolong the stall and the spin.

First, he must reduce power and stop the rotation by applying opposite rudder. Then—and here’s the hard part—he must push the control stick FORWARD, or in a down position until the stall is broken. That’s a hard action to take when the airplane is already pointed straight down. It goes against his natural instincts, but it’s the one action that can save his life. Only once the stall is broken can he raise the nose of the airplane to return to level flight. Like the accidental spin, life at work can dish out all kinds of surprises too. They always seem to come when least expected and at the most inopportune moment. At such intersections, our soul wants to react instinctively. Unconsciously, we lunge to protect ourselves. We want to run for our lives.

Sometimes those instincts can be dead-on.

But, sometimes not.

Our instincts may direct us to do or say something more harmful than good. We may find ourselves aggravating the spin rather than escaping it.

Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (ESV).

These words can apply to many life experiences. But when I’m surprised by the unexpected, this Proverb reminds me to stop and be still. When my daily routine is staggered by a painful event, my vision narrows and I often fail to see the big picture. At such times, I like to do three things.

  1. Pause. I step back before making any major decisions or saying anything I may later regret.
  2. Pray. I take time to pray about the situation, praying for wisdom.
  3. Sleep. Really, I like to “sleep on it.” I’ve discovered that something as simple as a good night's sleep can help clear confusion and all the emotions swirling around inside of me.

These simple, but often overlooked action steps help me refocus on the situation—and on God. More times than not, I move in a different direction than my instincts told me to go the day before.

Of course, not all circumstances allow us time for reflection. But most do. And then, your decisions need not be rushed. By taking time to pause, pray, and even sleep, we can help insure that the sudden shock and confusion of an event don’t drive us to a place that’s worse than the one we face.

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