He fell into the fetal position and began crying…

Jonathan was one of those annoying participants. You know the guy…he not only had to be the best at everything but he made sure everyone else knew it. There was nothing you did that he didn’t already do. There was nothing you knew that he didn’t already know. Oh and of course nothing was challenging enough for him. When we each had to climb the 35-foot power pole by ourselves, Jonathan elected to climb blindfolded, claiming it was just too easy for him to scale the pole with all his faculties intact.

Are you getting a picture of this guy?

This was all happening during a ten-day Outward Bound program. I was a participant, along with Jonathan and eight others. None of us knew each other prior to the program but the idea was for us to all function as a high performing team during the program. After all, we were going to be out in the wilderness together where our survival depended on each other.

But something was different with Jonathan. There was a competitiveness about him…a “me-first” thing going on. It was as if the team was there to serve him instead of him serving the team.

By the third day we had all gotten used to Jonathan and his self-grandiose mannerisms. We had one final group activity to complete before dinner and I could tell the instructor, Christian, was in a hurry to get going.

“This activity is called Wind in the Willows.  It’s a trust exercise where each of you will get a chance to be in the center of the circle with your eyes closed. You will then fall back into the waiting hands of your teammates who will gently move you around the circle…back and forth and to the side.”

While Christian demonstrated the correct body posture for each of the positions, many of us began smiling as we looked around the circle. At this point words weren’t needed to express the collective thought (minus one) which was…What will Jonathan’s hijacking of this activity look like today?

Seriously, as with every other group exercise we had done up to this point, there was only one correct answer when Christian would say, “Who wants to go first?”

But what kind of story would this be if there wasn’t a twist.

“So, who’d like to go first?” asked Christian.

Dead silence.

Quickly we all glanced at each other with our eyebrows raised. You know how groundhog’s heads pop up from the ground? That’s kind of what we all looked like at that moment.

More dead silence.

“Look guys,” said Christian, “we need to get going.”

Finally someone other than Jonathan volunteered.

Awkward looks darted across the circle.

Perhaps being a team player is finally sinking in, I thought with hope as I glanced over towards Jonathan. But nothing…no reaction.

Finally everyone had taken a turn in the center of the circle except Jonathan.

“Jonathan,” shouted Christian, “it’s your turn.”

By now something seemed wrong to me. Jonathan wasn’t in his usual I can do anything you can do and do it better mode.

Waving his hand to signal No, Jonathan responded, “Been there, done that.”

“I don’t care,” shouted Christian, getting annoyed, “we are all doing it.”

“Seriously,” cried out Jonathan, “I’ve done this a hundred times. It is not necessary.”

They squared off at each other as we all watched in shock.

“Listen to me,” said Christian in no uncertain terms, “we’ve got things to do and we cannot move on until you get your ass in the circle.”

Shaking his head in disagreement, Jonathan slowly and reluctantly headed towards the center of the circle.

Mary Ann, a fellow participant, touched Jonathan’s shoulder to let him know it was going to be okay.

He jumped.

“Sorry, I was just trying to help,” apologized Mary Ann.

Sweat was now dripping from Jonathan’s brow.

“Get into position,” directed Christian.

Jonathan was noticeably shaking, hesitant to close his eyes.

 

Christian changed his tone, now seeing the fear engulf Jonathan.

“Look at me Jonathan, what’s going on?”

“Jonathan stiffened up. “Nothing, I’m fine.” He took a big breath before falling back, eyes wide open.

The second Jonathan’s body came into contact with the numerous hands ready to support him, he bent over in the opposite direction and crashed to the ground, landing in a fetal position. He then began to cry, covering his face as his body shook.

“Are you okay?” cried one participant while another stroked his back with her hand.

“Let him be,” asserted Christian, “and give him some space.”

All eyes were glued on Jonathan.

I must admit, for a guy who triggered me so, I never felt more compassion for someone than I did for Jonathan at that moment; and it wasn’t just me. Our team for the first time in that program was unified.  The giant had fallen and it turned us into a support team like no other.

Or so I thought.

Instead, Jonathan brushed himself off, apologized for having a weak moment, and proceeded to go back to being the bastard that he was before. Sadly, his brief moment of true authenticity…the moment that literally changed the group dynamics for the rest of us…was merely an aberration for him…a mistake, a moment to forget.

Rarely will Outward Bound kick out a participant from one of their programs. Jonathan was kicked out four days later for continually refusing to be a team player. He just never got it.

I wonder if he ever will.

 

 

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  1. Wow…it must be stifling, not to mention unbearably heavy under Jonathon’s suit of armor. I can’t imagine living that way. Still, what a great in-your-face lesson of the importance of authenticity, not to mention patience!
    Another great post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Judy
    • September 10th, 2012

    Love the Blogs –
    I almost felt sorry for Jonathan even though I think he was extremely self centered it sounds like he has a very big wall up and it keeps him from trusting others as when he was in the situation where he had to let his self fall and trust someone to catch him. Maybe by now he has some peace with his inter feelings and is a better person, we can always hope.

  1. January 27th, 2013

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