You Often Get What You’re Looking For

Yesterday, Gail and I were traveling to San Antonio, Texas, where I was scheduled to speak. As we sat at the gate waiting to board, the gentleman sitting next to me was engaged in a phone conversation.

A Woman Looking Through a Magnifying Glass - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #3551768

Photo courtesy of ©

Apparently, he had just had a negative exchange with a TSA agent. He bellowed into the phone, “Yea, you pay an idiot ten bucks an hour, pin a badge on his chest, and he thinks he is God.”

Of course, in his story, he was an innocent victim; the TSA agent was the villain. He recounted several similar stories and finally concluded, “They’re all a bunch of morons, I tell ya—MORONS!”

Interestingly, Gail and I had just come through the same TSA screening line. We greeted the agents cheerfully, and they replied in like manner.

After Gail was cleared by the first agent, he looked at my credentials and asked, “Are you related to Gail?” I smiled and said, “Man, I wish!” We both chuckled, and he waved me through with a big smile.

Right before we were scanned, we encountered a second agent, who was also polite, professional, and even friendly. I thanked him, and he replied, “You have a great day, sir.”

As I listened to the man next to me, I thought, I don’t think I have ever had a negative experience with a TSA agent. I’m not saying they don’t happen. The TSA has to recruit from the human race, so I’m sure a few bad apples slip through.

But my experiences have always been neutral to very positive. (Okay, except in Newark, where they can be a little bossy.) I, for one, am grateful for the job they are doing. I try to express it frequently.

What I am saying is that you often get what you look for. If you think TSA agents are idiots, then your mind looks for evidence to support your conclusion. (It’s amazing how the mind works that way.)

On the other hand, if you believe that TSA agents are just fellow citizens, doing a tedious, often thankless job in order to keep us all safe, your mind will also look for evidence to support your conclusion.

Given the fact that we haven’t had another terror incident since 9/11, I think they are doing a pretty great job. Regardless, you are likely to get what you’re looking for. The choice is yours.

By the way, if you travel a lot, you might want to subscribe to the TSA’s blog. They do a good job of explaining the rationale behind many of their procedures.

Question: How do you see those you encounter throughout the day? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Dr. Art

    I try (emphasis on the word “try”) to be responsible for the nature of the outcome of the encounter.  If I approach it from the perspective of wanting it to be positive then I need to bring a positive attitude to it. It usually works. There are times, however rare (at least I think its rare, but like most men I need to a final opinion on this from my wife :) when I bring a negative one to it. Those can be negative, but not always. There are also times when I bring a positive attitude and the response is negative.  I guess what I’m saying is when have a lot less control over the responses of others than we would like, but probably more than we know.
    So, when you come to an encounter bring the right attitude, at least your half way there.

  • Tamara Vann

    Great piece! You are oh so right, too. People do get what they’re looking for. Businesses need to learn how to rise to the challenge and behave better than the customers – in many cases. When they do, they might just surprise, delight and earn a customer for life. This video offers great tips for getting the job done –

  • Sivakishan

    Hi Michael, I can relate to what you shared. I recently started using public transport (Buses) in New Delhi. When I commute on my two-wheeler, I always dread these buses for the way they are driven and keep distance from them for my own safety. Only after using public transport did I appreciate the context in which they are operating and am now thankful for doing their ‘thankless’ jobs of 8 or more hours a day in the very traffic that I consider hellish. They need to be acknowledged for taking me home safely and for reaching their homes safely every day. Thanks for sharing. Siva

  • Jeff Randleman

    Great thoughts!  I believe in trying to see people as God sees them.  It can really change my outlook, and theirs!  Thanks!

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  • Constance A.Buckley

         I view people with interest. I almost always see beauty in people and am happy to see them. I believe we’re all made in the image of God. When I worked at the library, after many years I began to burn out. It seemed that I got a few customers representing their earthly father, the father of lies. Then I wish I viewed them as hopefully as when I first met them. Sad to say, I could only manage civility and occasionally left the area of service to one of my colleagues when they approached the desk. 
         One time, I asked God to show me the person as He saw them and I got filled with such compassion, the person saw it and was immediately transformed. That person approaches me at fairs and other random places with kindness and I’m glad to see the individual, too. That’s how I want to remember to respond to others, with the love of our Savior.

    Constance A. Buckley

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  • Just an American Christian

    While I appreciate the sentiment of kindness and Christ-like spirit in this article and the comments, we are ignoring something vital that someone needs to voice – folks, wake up!

    I am a solid, Biblical Christian, but I am also an American who has his Fourth Amendment rights violated every single time I have to endure a TSA screening. It is “unreasonable” to assume EVERY God-fearing American citizen is a potential threat. This is not done in any other law enforcement operation EXCEPT at the airport (at least not in my state). It is “unreasonable” for the TSA to offer me, an innocent citizen, only the choice of an insulting, degrading, violating search or “just don’t fly” (that last is from the TSA website Q&A section). The TSA blog and website continue to spin the idea that these “warrantless searches” are reasonable and Constitutional, but I insist they are not. Our Founding Fathers would cringe at how our government has responded (or “reacted” would be better) to the 2001 attacks on our citizenry – by treating EVERY American flyer as the potential enemy. This is exactly what the Fourth Amendment was supposed to protect us from. The burden of proof is on the government authorities to LEGALLY and JUDICIALLY prove one is suspicious before searching through their “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Then and only then, with a judge’s signed warrant. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THE TSA IS KIND, MEAN, NASTY, RUDE, HAPPY, SAD, INSULTING, CONSIDERATE….they are breaking the law set by Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, Roger Sherman, Elbridge Gerry and many other Founding Fathers.

    Even Paul demanded that the violation of his rights as a Roman citizen NOT be ignored when beaten in Philippi (Acts 16:37). He lovingly, kindly and most assuredly angrily demanded that those who were inflicting injustice be called to account (read the end of v. 37). We too MUST demand a return to decency, dignity and liberty provided to us in the Fourth Amendment, folks – or we will lose it (and more).

    I am an American. I am not a terrorist. I am a Christian. I am not Muslim. I love this country. I love what God has blessed us with in our liberties and basis of laws. And I am proud to be in a nation, from its very foundation, where we have been granted certain protections  - which are slowly and tragically being taken away. 

    Be kind and loving and Christian to the TSA agents. Yes! Just as Paul was with a Roman solldier. But let’s at least admit, we have lost one of our precious freedoms – and we should resent it – not merely accept it as lemmings. I will smile, act with kindness and share Christian love when I face the dreaded TSA line – but I can not, I WILL NOT compliment the audacious TSA and their agents for taking away what used to my “inalienable” right!

    “They who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    [Benjamin Franklin]