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Sometimes the Truth Hertz

May 28, 2020
Car Rental — Mountain Travel Symposium

If you’ve been reading or watching the news, you’re probably aware that Hertz has filed for bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about this. It opened with this very insightful sentence: The coronavirus has been the proverbial tide going out, exposing who’s swimming naked.

The bankruptcy comes as a shocker to most of us who use rental cars in our travels. Hertz is, after all, a 102-year-old company that began “as a fleet of 12 Ford Model-Ts in Chicago and helped pioneer the rental-car business.” At its 2014 peak, Hertz’s market value exceeded $14 billion. I’d say that was solid! But over the past few years, it hovered around $2 billion. And these days, it’s way not there. The threat of bankruptcy sent it below $500 million. That’s not solid. And 2014 wasn’t that long ago!

I’m not an economist, so I’m not qualified to speculate on what the future might look like for Hertz, if there’s any future at all for it. But from what I’ve read, the slide and fall isn’t surprising to the financial community. It happened in a few years (6), but not over night. And not in one big cataclysmic collapse. Poor leadership and management decisions caught up in a relatively short time. Looking through the rear view mirror, even someone as uneducated in finance as I am can see that the end was predictable.

On one level, the Coronavirus put Hertz over the edge. But on another level, it was only the catalyst for what was probably inevitable because of poor leadership and bad decisions at the corporate level.

If you’re interested in more details and a pretty good assessment, you can read the article in the Wall Street Journal here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/hertz-was-already-in-terrible-shape-the-pandemic-finished-it-off-11590434631

So why am I writing about Hertz in a Marriage and Parenting blog? Simple. Because the Hertz story is similar to all the marriages and families I’ve seen crash and burn in the 46 years I’ve been in ministry. I can’t think of a single one that happened in one big event, over night. All of them had been crashing for a long time, even though they didn’t seem to show it. By the time we smelled the smoke, it was too late for most of them. The spiral had begun many decisions before we saw the crash. And when the crash happened, there was lots of hurt and damage to lots of people.

In my marriage counseling, I generally see couples somewhere between 6 weeks to 6 years too late. By the time a couple comes to see me, they’re usually already in deep yogurt. Usually only one of the spouses really wants to come in for counseling. The other comes under some duress. Either they felt they had no choice or they come so that they can say they did all they could when the whole thing finally ends.

The scenario is generally disappointing. “Fix us,” is usually the theme. More often, it’s “Fix them.” Because they’re the problem. If they could snap out of it, we’d be good. So snap them out of it. Me? Oh, I’m not the problem. They are.

You probably already know it, but in case you didn’t get the memo yet, it doesn’t work that way. I can’t fix anybody’s marriage. I can’t snap anybody out of it.

Virtually every mental health issue is worse across the board than before the Covid outbreak. Some are disturbingly worse. More suicide attempts and successes. More violence. More depression. More anxiety and panic. And more marriages are in trouble today after close to 80 days of “Stay At Home” than ever before.

Here’s my theory for why this is. Intense stress will always seek a weak spot. And when it finds it, it will expose existing weaknesses and issues. Ala Hertz’s crash and burn.

So what do you do about the weaknesses this stress has exposed? I’ve read about two or three approaches. One is to ignore them and just make the best you can of a bad situation. This approach subscribes to the “This, too, shall pass” philosophy. Oddly, for lots of things, this is true. Often, it’s not a great way to go with marriage and family, though.

Another way is to make your weaknesses irreverent. This is one that gets a lot of print in business and organizational literature. The concept is that you work to leverage your strengths and work from them so that your weaknesses just don’t matter. I had a guy once tell me, “Go with your strengths and bag your weaknesses.” There’s some reasonable logic in this. In many business settings it works well. In my experience, though, not so much in marriage and family life.

The third way I’m familiar with is to address your weaknesses and do what you can to strengthen them. This method costs more effort and investment than the other two. In my opinion, it has a better chance of working out well in marriage and family life.

There’s a whole book in this idea. I’ll only unpack a little bit of it here, though. Starting with the fact that you can’t address something you haven’t identified or can’t identify.

Lots of the couples I work with in counseling know they don’t like their marriage, and that they’re getting more and more alienated from each other, and more and more hurt and hurtful toward each other, but they haven’t really identified the problem. They know they’re driving each other crazy, but they can’t really get much further than accusing each other of various crimes and misdemeanors in the relationship. These accusations may have real substance. They may have actually have been committed. But they’re generally not the problem. They’re expressions of the problem.

The starting point for me as a counselor is to help people identify the issues that are behind the stress fractures they’re experiencing. I do my best to not tell them what these are, but to help them discover them for themselves. This takes lots of patience on their part and mine. And it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to bring light to dark areas. This is why I like being a Pastoral Counselor. I don’t have to beat around the bush and hope and pray that the client will bring it up so I can speak into it. I can start there, unrestricted.

If you’ve discovered stress fractures in your marriage, I suggest you consider getting the help of a godly and wise counselor who is able to address the spiritual side as well as the psychological side of your life. Getting another set of eyes and ears on your situation, and having the careful guidance of a mature believer to help you identify your stress fractures and give them names could be the best first step for you to address the issues that stress has exacerbated, and then move toward addressing them so as to strengthen the weaknesses.

There are tons of good resources for this process available to you today. Books by the ten’s of thousands. Some of them are even good. There are DVDs and Internet streaming and podcasts and blogs. Many of them are good and helpful. You can’t just type in “marriage help” into your browser and take the first ones that come up, though. I don’t think I’d even say to go with a web search of “Christian marriage help.” Internet searches can be pretty indiscriminate and some things that report themselves to be Christian aren’t. So you have to be wise and careful. But when you connect with good resources – and for me this means ones that are rooted in biblical philosophy and practice – they can help you make great progress toward addressing the things that are holding you back in your marriage and family.

I’ve already used up all my words for this installment, but next time I’ll give you my list of go-to resources for figuring out how to identify and address the stress fractures that Covid-19 and the lock down may have exposed.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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