Thursday, March 4th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


I love parables because they force me to think deeper. There are many I enjoy, but there's one in particular that has special twist. It goes like this:

A man is walking down the street. As he passes a store, he notices a large sign in the store window. The sign reads, "Clothes cleaned while you wait." He walks into the store and takes his pants off. He hands them to the person behind the desk. The person behind the counter is in complete shock.

"What are you doing?" they ask. The man says, "Your sign says that you clean clothes while you wait." To this the person behind the counter says, "We don't clean clothes. We make signs."

We want to be
people who walk the talk.
We do what our signs advertise.

This parable reminds me of how some people operate. They are "sign makers" who advertise a message they do not deliver. A friend of mine was telling me about a new supervisor. The supervisor talked about how he was going to be supportive and be there for his employees when they needed him. He used such good relationship language. Unfortunately, my friend said, he was all talk. In fact, the way he treated his employees created distance and a lack of trust. He only made signs.

One complaint from those who are grieving is that the people they thought would be there for them haven't been. They made promises to be supportive, but their words had no follow through. They were only sign makers.

There are some sign makers that send "pep talks" during staff meetings. Unfortunately, they do not otherwise act as encouragers to their employees; instead they threaten, harass, and intimidate. So when the employees receive these so called "pep talks," they know it is just a lot of hot air. The pep talks are seen as manipulation and are not sincere.

A friend of mine who works as a business consultant said about sign makers, "The work place environment has degenerated to one of counterproductivity due to an overriding feeling of negativity emanating from management. In short, management does not see their employees as assets, only people who are there to perform a function. Management too often has not hired people they trust, or empowered them to do the job that management needs done within an uplifting, positive environment that is customer-centered."

Sign makers are found in personal relationships, the church, the schools, politics, and business.

In all relationships, whether work or home, we all need to be people that others can feel safe with because there is trust, honesty and caring. We want to be people who walk the talk. We do what our signs advertise.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700