High maintenance

Last week, during a conversation with John, I commented “I am weary of this high maintenance situation.”

I’ve thought about the term, “high maintenance”, since then.

It is easy to describe a “high maintenance” vehicle. You know what I mean.

  • It started with a higher than “normal” price sticker. Owning a “high maintenance” vehicle proves that you have a storehouse of cash (or a pretty good credit rating).
  • It demands a special fluid diet of oil and fuel. And, not only are those fluids more expensive than are the “normal” fluids, but they are harder to find. You have to search out the right “gas” station and pass by the cheap oil change places.
  • And, the very name, “high maintenance”, describes the challenge of keeping it in service. No shade tree mechanic has the right tools or training to handle this baby. Everyone at the dealership maintenance shop knows your name and your vehicle’s history.
  • Owners of a “high maintenance” vehicle are scared to let others operate it – there are just too many unique steps that have to be followed.
  • It’s the vehicle that excites owners when it starts up and keeps running, because that is not what usually happens.  “High maintenance” rarely equals “dependable.”
  • You can find “high maintenance” vehicles in garages, driving slowly in parades, and parked in the farthest corners of parking lots. Often, a “high maintenance” vehicle is parked more than it is driven; it is just too fragile for everyday driving. When someone needs help moving, getting the kids to the park, or carrying the potluck supper dish, this is NOT the vehicle you bring to do the work.

Are we “high maintenance” leaders, friends, spouses, co-workers, citizens? Maybe a quick review of the symptoms of “high maintenance” vehicles will help us look at ourselves.

  • Do we have a high sticker price? Does asking us to help “cost” everyone around us? Would it be easier for others if we weren’t involved?
  • Does our involvement require special conditions? Do people tiptoe around us or can they speak freely? Do we find people hiding issues from us to avoid dealing with our reactions? Does our insistence to “share” our opinion mean that others are hesitant to share theirs? Do we recognize that someone else may have a better idea than ours? Or, have we simply stopped asking anyone else for their ideas?
  • Do the people around us know about our “maintenance” issues? Does everyone know “the story” about the last time we blew up or pouted or practiced stony silence?
  • Do we find that others do things themselves rather than include us because it is just too hard to have us be part of the team? Speaking of team, when was the last time we were part of the team rather than being the team leader? Do others think of us as good listeners, as coachable, as good team members?
  • When we are involved as part of a team, do people seem to go out of their way to praise us? Do they seem surprised that we are working alongside others? And, are we proud of being recognized as “just one of the folks” rather than actually being “one of the folks”?
  • Are we seen as only being parade worthy? Do we believe that dirty work is beneath us?

It’s a hard question: Am I high maintenance? I’m sure that we can see ourselves on both sides of that question.

So, let’s think about the Dr. Phil question: How’s that working for you (and me)?


“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10 ESV)

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