Emotional Landmines

In a recent discussion, the situation in Israel was brought up. What situation? It’s a situation many people don’t know of.

There are churches that have fallen into disrepair because they cannot be accessed to be maintained. In the 1950s and 1960s, landmines were placed around these buildings and access to them have been limited.

Access to these buildings has also been deadly.

There are fences around the locations of known landmines. Signs are posted to beware of the potential landmines buried unseen beneath the ground. There are more than one million landmines buried in and around Israel.

These unseen dangers have destroyed lives. They have taken the limbs and lives of children who are playing and enjoying life. These landmines have killed men and women.

But what do these landmines have to do with emotions? A lot.

Emotional Landmines

There are emotional landmines in our lives and in the lives of those we lead. These are the unseen dangers that blow up when you step on an issue someone is dealing with.

What does an emotional landmine look like? Emotional landmines look like –

You have a conversation with a team member. The conversation is not super pleasant but a conversation that needed to happen.

At the end of the conversation, you and the team member both agree that the discussion is finished and you are both okay… except the team member isn’t okay.

Months later, you mention something to this team member. The team member explodes on you. They unleash a verbal flurry that takes you by surprise. The team member says hurtful things and leaves angry.

You’re left stunned. Speechless. Even hurt.

You just stepped on an emotional landmine.

Emotional landmines are dangerous. They’re a trap many leaders happen to step on.

It’s not the leader’s fault they stepped on the emotional landmine. You were doing what needed to be done and you thought the issue was settled.

It was, in your mind. In their mind, it was just beginning.

I don’t believe there’s a way to completely avoid emotional landmines. Sometimes the landmines have no relation to anything you’ve done. They explode because the person has been harboring the issue for so long from some long-ago, maybe even childhood, hurt.

As a leader, we have to be aware of the potential to step on the emotional landmines of others. These issues can blow up before you know it and there appears to be nothing you could have done to stop it.

We can’t stop emotional landmines from exploding. They’re the unseen danger. We have to live with the fallout from the damage.

What you can do is the following:

Approach people in a loving manner:

Hurt people tend to hurt people. If you come to someone in kindness and love, you may be able to diffuse the emotional landmine. They may open up about the issue they’re experiencing and reconciliation can happen.

Begin triaging:

You didn’t know the landmine was there. You stepped on it. People were hurt. What do you do now?

You begin to triage the situation.

Look for ways you can help tend to the wounds of the team member, those who were impacted by the landmine, and to yourself. Without warning, you stepped into a battlefield.

Ask for forgiveness:

You may not feel like you have done anything wrong. However, the person you’re dealing with was hurt.

Step up and tell them you are sorry. Tell them you didn’t know what was going on. Ask for forgiveness.

Asking for forgiveness can change the hearts and mannerisms of the hurt person.

Dealing with people is never easy, especially when emotions and hidden anxieties are at play. We also cannot walk timidly around our people. We have to stand firm and confident in what we’re doing.

Be ready for emotional landmines. Be ready to step in and take care of the wounded.

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