A Culture of Cowardice (part six)

I’m a leadership coach to pastors. In a series on Leadership Courage, we’re laying out the context. I assert that a Culture of Cowardice dominates much of the North American Church.

Allow me to use a personal example to illustrate what it can look like to replace cowardice with courage.

11 crucibleFifteen years ago, I attended some character development trainings that served as a crucible and a spotlight—illuminating aspects of my character and my impact on others I’d been blind to.

Jean Marie is a powerfully incisive woman who had trained four of my teens. She’d heard first-hand what they experienced with me as their dad: distant, demanding, disconnected, self-consumed, rigid, judgmental, severe, angry, cold.

Then, she facilitated a workshop my wife attended. She learned of the frustration, disappointment, loneliness, and anguish to be married to a guy like me.

For the next five years, Jean Marie served as a character coach and trainer for me.

I’d never known anyone like her.

Her love for my family and for me was palpable, remarkable, undeniable, and unrelenting.

And, so was her full-court press to challenge my self-importance, to provoke me to consider my true impact on those I love, to undermine my commitment to remain clueless, and to interrupt my practice of excusing myself and the beliefs I fabricated to support it. She opposed my hiding from life when I didn’t know what to do, and offended the arrogance of my belief that my view was “right”.

She unsettled decades of confidence I’d placed in my innocence and virtue.

Up to that time, there were people who loved me and overlooked my childishness, selfishness, and playing small. Others, recoiling from the stench of my self-righteousness had nothing to do with it—or me.

11 jean marieJean Marie was different. Though disturbed by the offensiveness of my hypocrisy, she loved me steadfastly. It was her love that held me in the cleansing fire she brought.

Oh, that I would love so well!

Over the ensuing years, she and others like her, were used by God to transform me. Many times since then I’ve risked friendships to stand as an immovable interruption to some way of thinking that was undermining a friend. So has Annie.

To love our friends this way has sometimes cost us those friendships.

To lose a friend but save a soul, or a marriage, or a family—is what courage does.

Over my career in business and ministry, I’ve resigned five times.

Why?

To stay required that I compromise my ethics or my understanding of God’s call on my life. To go meant that I’d be unemployed. No small challenge for the primary breadwinner of a family of eight.

But, I’d learned from Jean Marie what courageous love does.