love

Leadership Courage (part eleven)

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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.

Leadership Courage (part four)

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The Price of Love

Courage, I’ve suggested, is living with heart. With you heart fully engaged. Fully invested. Fully in play.

Some would argue that to live this way is expensive. Costly. Reckless. Even dangerous.

I agree.

To live with your heart withheld is costly, too.

There’s no living without paying prices. Give your heart; there are prices.

Hide your heart; other prices are paid.

So, let’s examine prices that living with heart exacts. Just to be clear about it.

Whenever you care about anyone and anything, you invest some of yourself.

The more you care, the more of you, you invest.

dream 4Initially, maybe, all you invest are thoughts and ideas about what could be. What this could mean.

What it could become.

Before long, you entertain how you might be affected. How you might contribute. The good that could come out of it all. How you might benefit… if it works out.

As you do, you give yourself permission to see it. To see as possible what this could lead to. What it could become…

And, as hearts are wont to do, your heart gets gripped.

Not only do you see this as preferable, you begin to love what this might be. Now wanting it, you give yourself to it, a bit at a time. Giving more of yourself as you do. Your time.

Your focus.

Your attention.

As you pour yourself into having it happen… you are changed. Some of what used to capture your attention no longer does.

People notice.

No longer repressing your enthusiasm, you invite others in.

Some back away. They want nothing to do with your stupid dream.watching 4

Most are satisfied to stay on the sideline, amused maybe, watching to see what will happen…

whether your dreams will be dashed or fulfilled…

waiting to see if it’s “safe” to join you.

And, a few are enrolled.

They choose in.

Into the possibility of what could be. As they do, your relationships change.

The stakes are higher now. Greater. “If this thing goes south…”, you catch yourself thinking, “a lot of people could get hurt.” “And, if we succeed…”

Momentum seems to come from nowhere. Connections appear in surprising ways. Provision arrives unexpectedly. It’s like there’s a wind at your back, propelling you forward.

You feel alive.

Energized.

Hopeful.

Life seems to open up before you, to expand.

At the same time, loved-ones caution you not to get in too deep.

Remember the movie Rudy?

Rudy 4At the bus station Rudy’s decision to try to get into Notre Dame is confronted by his father: “Chasing a stupid dream causes you and everyone around you nothing but heartache…”

You’ve heard the message too: Don’t go too far. Don’t move so fast. What about the risks? What if this doesn’t work?

Don’t you care about us?

All along the way, with your heart engaged, you are paying prices. You set aside the predictable, the familiar, the safe. You wade into foreign waters. So much is unknown, untested, uncertain.

Disappointments come, as they must.

Setbacks catch you off-guard.

Betrayals stun you. Backlash comes from unexpected sources. Supporters withdraw. Criticisms that began as a whisper grow in ferocity. You feel alone.

Each time, your hopeful heart is nicked.

Lanced. Pierced. Wounded. Assaulted.

You want to pull back, dis-invest, protect yourself, be reasonable, find balance, cut your losses.

Most of all, you want to rescue your heart from the hurt.

C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves, writes: “Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one…”

To live and lead with courage is to love so much that your heart is vulnerable to being “wrung and possibly broken”. And yet, when your heart is wrung, or broken, you choose to keep it engaged.

Silencing your survival instincts and trusting God to heal and strengthen your heart, you keep giving yourself — fully – to your life.

This is no small matter. If it were, the world would be full of powerfully courageous leaders.

Imagine if the Church – even your church – was a gathering place, and equipping place, a sending place for leaders like this…

Leadership Courage (part three)

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The Heart to Lead

Francis Frangipane asks in The Three Battlegrounds: “Is your love growing and becoming softer, brighter, more daring, and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love is. A measurable decrease in your ability to love is evidence that a stronghold of cold love is developing within you…”

Paul, with all that was at stake in Corinth, governed his own heart so that it stayed open wide, and his affections so that they were not withheld from them. [2 Cor 6:11-13] So rigorously and openly did he give his heart that he was able to call them to reciprocate—his leverage coming from his having gone first!

He called them to a “fair exchange” of affections.

I wonder if, on those occasions when I have been stunned by the absence of affection I’ve encountered, it actually represented a “fair exchange” of the stinginess-of-affection that I’d sown into the relationship.

I too have trained myself to keep my heart carefully cloistered away where it can’t be hurt. Not much. Yet, this protection comes at a great price.

As humans, let alone Christ-followers, we were made for love.

kids 3Made to love.

Built to access and share affection readily, easily, generously.

Like little kids do.

Remember?

Living with and among imperfect human beings, I’ve been hurt and I’ve seen others get hurt.

In the movies and on TV we see characters that give the appearance of being deeply satisfied, fully alive, and relationally connected without the risk of hurt and heartache that love requires.

Smooth operators.

Cool customers.

Cold lovers?

I once taught myself to live that way.

Denying what I was, and what I was made for… ‘till Christ captured my heart and taught me a new way: a risky way, a vulnerable, dangerous way. Since then, there’s been an accordion-like opening and closing, expanding and compressing of the affections my heart was meant to exude.

open 3This past decade I’ve been intentionally entering the rigor to open my heart wide and to war against the regular impulse to withhold my affection from those I influence. Imperfectly and purposefully I’m giving myself to this dangerous and delightful way of life. Calling others to engage in a “fair exchange” of affection.

What might God do among those you lead, if you were to give up trying to keep your heart “safe”?

What if you trusted God and opened your heart wide to those you lead?

Leveraging your love with them.

 

Leadership Courage (part two)

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The Heart to Lead

This series is about courage… living with heart.

It’s written as an invitation for you, as a leader, to live and lead with your heart fully engaged. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christ-followers in the commercial and cultural center, known as Corinth:

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.”          -2 Corinthians 6:11-13

As in all affairs of the heart, there is risk.

LCS2 first copyTo me the question is: ”Who goes first?” Who gets to be first…

to love

to risk

to reach

to be vulnerable.

Paul settles the issue for those in ministry: we get to go first! In doing so, we model the way of love for all those around. “We have opened wide our hearts to you”, Paul says. “We are not withholding our affection from you…”

Of how many in Christian leadership could that be said?

How generously, how obviously, how daringly do you love?

How careful are you to not withhold your affection from those you lead?

Most pastors say they love their people well, sacrifice for them, work tirelessly, and always try to be accessible. Yet, Paul speaks of his heart being wide open to them.

That’s intense.

A heart wide-open!

LCS2 cool love copyA big, gaping opening that can be exploited, disappointed, rejected, maligned. And, I speak not just to the young, wide-eyed church planters that haven’t yet taught themselves to distrust their congregations and to bury their affections behind a mask of professional, religious niceness.

I mean you: the veteran of betrayals, abuses, attacks, and back-stabbings… by those who you’ll likely find in Heaven. You, who’ve been around the block a few times. “We’ve not withheld our affection…”.

Heck, how challenging has it been to keep your heart wide open to your spouse? What struggles have you encountered to not withhold your affection from your own wife or husband?

How stingy are you with your heart, these days?

Leadership Courage (part one)

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The Heart to Lead

This begins a new blog series. The topic is Leadership Courage.

Courage is integral to leadership.

The link between the two is inseparable. Attempting to lead anyone, without employing courage, will undermine the possibility of the enterprise you hope to lead others in.

Management is another bird entirely. A manager does not a leader make. I hold a management degree. LC 2015 management 1An advanced degree. From a pretty good school. We learned and practiced sophisticated problem solving techniques. We got pretty good with multifaceted analytic tools: market, cultural, financial, logistical, and competitive analysis just to name a few. Maybe most importantly, we developed our abilities at strategic reasoning and planning. In no way is my objective to denigrate management or management education. Yet, leadership is an altogether different matter.

Leadership is the visible employment of courage in a way that changes people

Their thinking, behavior, and the impacts of those changes.

So, what is courage?

A friend and mentor often says: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but is moving forward in the face of fear.”

So, what is it that moves one forward in the face of fear?

The answer, I think, can be found in the etymology of the word itself.

Our English word “courage” comes from the French cor which means “heart”.

Courage, literally can mean “with heart”.

To live courageously is to live with heart.

With your whole heart.

LC 2015  heart 1Your whole heart engaged.

Your whole heart invested.

Your whole heart at stake.

Your whole heart exposed.

Your whole heart vulnerable.

And, what makes this whole-heart living so elusive is this: we’ve all had our hearts hurt! You cannot live, be in relationships, and love without having your heart broken… rejected… crushed. In short: hurt.

Since you’re not stupid, you learn from each heartbreaking experience not to play fast and loose with that heart of yours.

You’ve learned to be cautious.

Protective.

Watchful.

Once, you lived with your heart in your hand. You put it out there where someone could embrace it as a marvelous, generous, precious gift. And, sooner or later it was rejected, repelled, repulsed.

That hurt. A lot.

And, since you’re no fool, you made sure not to make that “mistake” again. So, you pulled your heart back.

You weren’t quite so willing to give your heart away. A person would need to prove himself before you’d loosen your grip on your heart. And, at the first sign of trouble, you’d be quick to retrieve it!

Then, maybe later, an opportunity presented itself. A good opportunity.

A really, really good one. Possibly it was a venture, a business idea, a ministry, a job, a project. You might have been skeptical at first, but the idea grew on you and, as it did, you became more and more passionate. You began to see yourself in this. You decided that you could actually see this working out! As you gave yourself to this possibility other priorities fell aside. You invested more deeply. Past the point of “no return”…

Then, somehow, in some way you hadn’t anticipated, the bottom fell out. Words were spoken.

Hard words.

Harsh words.

Again, you and your wounded heart retreated from this “folly”—and any future follies as well. From now on, you’d be playing your cards a little closer-to-the-vest. What a fool to risk like that! What an idiot to trust so indiscriminately!

With each experience, you pulled your heart back.

To a place less vulnerable. A little further from other people. Not so susceptible to their whims and vacillations.

A little farther from your dreams.

LC 2015  chest 1Closer to your chest.

Eventually, you took that heart of yours and stuffed it back inside your rib cage. Back where you decided it should’ve been all along.

Safe.

Unexposed.

Invulnerable.

Impenetrable.

Like everyone else.

Well… most everyone else.

In AD 185, St. Irenaeus of Lyons in his theologically important treatise Against Heresies wrote: Man fully alive is the glory of God.

A human being fully alive is the glory of God.

When you take your heart out of your chest and extend it at your arm’s full length to those you have affection for, are you not becoming more fully alive?

When you put your heart in play, at stake, at risk for some great, worthwhile heart-engaging endeavor, do you not become more fully alive in the process? A human fully alive is the glory of God.

So, what does all this have to do with Christian leadership?

When you lead with your whole heart fully invested, you inspire the rest of us to join you.

THAT’S leadership.

When you are fully at stake, with your eyes wide open and yet you are still “all-in”, you invite us in, as well. In fact, when you are engaged like that, you exude an almost irresistible magnetism that draws others in with you. You and those you inspire become fully alive.

The glory of God.

The Meaning we Make Up (part three)

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Last time I raised the question: “What are people to you?”  We’re talking about the meanings we give to ourselves, to the experiences in our lives, and to others.  So, please stop and consider: what meaning have you attached to people?

I don’t mean your ex, or your mother-in-law, or your favorite Olympic athlete.

I mean human beings. The whole bunch of us.

Christianity, I suggest, invites the following:

  • People are an opportunity to bring glory to God.
  • People are openings for intimacy.
  • People are possibilities for experiencing and expanding the Kingdom of God.

What would be created in your relationships, if you chose one of these meanings for the people God puts in your path… co-workers, neighbors, the clerk at the DMV?

What if your congregation embraced these meanings for those in your community who are not members of any church?

If our meaning shifts, what other shifts automatically follow?

Try it and see.

For this next week, try one of these meanings on—like you would a sweater.  Just put it on, every day, for a week… and see what happens.

Live in it as if it’s true.

As if people are an opportunity for you to bring glory to God.  Then, do what comes naturally when “an opportunity to bring glory to God” calls you up, or asks for directions, or slinks into work hung over.

Live for one week as if people are an opening for intimacy.

Just do what comes naturally when “an opening for intimacy” comes home late for dinner, forgets her textbook at school, or asks to borrow your golf clubs.

It’s surprising.  Once your meaning shifts, a whole lot of other shifts happen all by themselves.

Emotionally, you’ll be different.  Instead of frustration you may feel intrigued. Rather than disdain or judgment, anger or indifference, you might experience mercy or kindness, curiosity or compassion.

Since you’ll be feeling differently, your behavior will shift, as well.  Not like gritting your teeth and tolerating someone you can’t stand.  When the meaning shifts, and your emotions change, you actually behave differently, pretty automatically.

Here’s an example: A relative and I’d had an icy relationship for the several years after I became a fire-breathing Christian.  Convicted by God, I began to see how oppositional my stance was.

It broke me.

Repenting, I chose to embrace him as a gift, rather than a threat. Love and kindness replaced fear and judgment. Automatically, I started to see the virtue in him and, just as automatically, I began to affirm it.

The “ice” began to melt almost immediately … and … twenty years later, he gave his heart to Christ.

Coaching Distinctions #24

Leadership Courage Series

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#7: A Culture of Cowardice (part three)

We’re seven segments into a series on Leadership Courage.  This is our third pass exposing a Culture of Cowardice that I believe has dominated much of the Church in North America.  I’ve confined my comments to North America because I have very little exposure to non-Western churches and leaders.  Since the US has been exporting what we call “the Gospel” in earnest since WWII, no doubt we’ve packaged and shipped our cultural preferences along with it.

Regrettably, we may have exported a Culture of Cowardice to the foreign field.  You who minister cross-culturally can offer your observations from around the globe, by commenting below.

Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve has been eye-opening.  He identifies characteristics of chronically anxious families, communities, and societies.  While I see ample evidence of these features in American society (just look at our national response to the “Crisis in the Gulf”) it has been stunning to consider how applicable these traits are to Christian churches in our day.

Two articles ago, I suggested that the insipid capacity of the typical congregation to tolerate discomfort has accelerated our orientation away from bold, courageous leadership and centered it on the most needy and emotionally-regressed among us.  Last week, I opined that religious political-correctness has become so toxic to courageous leadership that Jesus – not the “Flannelgraph Jesus”, but the historical Jesus of the New Testament – would embarrass many in church today.

Do you find this stunning?

It is my privilege to work with pastors in dozens of denominations—each with their own peculiar polity and priorities. Some systems locate leadership responsibility and authority with the pastor.  Others load the pastor with leadership responsibility yet deny her or him the authority to lead.  Still others withhold both leadership responsibility and authority from their ministers. Regardless of denominational polity, it has been my observation that no one has as great an opportunity to influence the culture and values of a local church than the Senior Minister. That is why I’ve dedicated my life to standing with and strengthening you.

You who stand in pulpits determine – more than anyone else – what your congregants talk about. To the degree that you choose your title or topic or text when you preach, you inject that into the “congregational conversation”that takes place in the cars and restaurants and kitchens of those who hear.  Now, you don’t get to determine what they say about your topic, but you do get to decide what that topic is.

Think about it.

Does your preaching provoke people to think?  Do your sermons unsettle the status quo?  Do your messages undermine the meaningless mediocrity of most of your members’ lives?  Do you challenge your congregation to change?

If not, why not?

Read the Gospels—just the words in red—and notice how often Jesus did exactly that. Jesus stood as an interruption to whatever came between his hearers and the Kingdom of his Father. Jesus constantly provoked, unsettled, undermined, and challenged those he was with.

Didn’t he?

Jesus loved them enough to offend and oppose that which would do them harm—even when they cherished it as good, or nice, or comfortable.  He loved the rich young ruler enough to spell out exactly what it would take for him to inherit eternal life. [Mk 10:21]  Love motivated Jesus to challenge the rich guy. Love– not for himself, his own comfort, or reputation– but love for the other moved Christ to risk offending him.

I assert that it, too, is love that motivates you to pull back from challenging and offending and opposing the nonsense and mediocrity your parishoners hold as true.  Trouble is, it is not love for them that keeps you from goring their sacred cows of compromise. No. It is self-love that fuels your commitment to censor your voice.

Isn’t it?

You don’t want to put up with the push back.  There’s no point in stirring up a hornet’s nest.  You’re already on thin ice with several stakeholders in the church.  No need to rock the boat.  You’re already tired enough.  Besides, they’ve made you pay big time when your preaching got too personal a while back.

Thank God that Jesus didn’t fear offending the woman at the well—maybe she and her whole village would’ve perished–had he played it safe.  What if Jesus chose to quench his zeal [Ps 69:9, Jn 2:17] rather than go after the powerful and popular merchants in the temple?

Courageous leadership is leadership with heart.  With your heart fully exposed, fully engaged, fully at-stake.  There is no virtue in being a jerk.  I’m not advocating that you be oppositional just because you can. Nor am I suggesting that you blast away at whomever and whatever bothers you, just to get something off your chest.  No, that would be selfish.

To risk your own security, your comfort, the way others regard you for another’s benefit—that is love! To stand powerfully resolute, because of love for someone else, in the face of ridicule and rejection—is exactly what Jesus did!

Didn’t he?

A decade ago, I attended a series of character development trainings.  Each was designed to serve both as a crucible and a spotlight—to allow me to see aspects of my character and my impact on others that I was blind to.

Jean Marie is a powerfully incisive woman who had trained four of my children.  She’d heard first-hand what it was like for them to have me as their dad: distant, demanding, disconnected, self-consumed, rigid, judgmental, severe, angry, cold.  Then, she facilitated a workshop that Annie attended.  She learned of Annie’s frustration, disappointment, loneliness, and anguish with a spouse like me.

For the next five years, Jean Marie served as a coach and trainer for me.  I had never met anyone like her. Her love for my family and me was palpable, remarkable, undeniable, and unrelenting.  And, so was her full-court press to challenge my self-consumption, to provoke me to consider my true impact on those I love, to undermine my commitment to remain clueless, to interrupt my many excuses and the beliefs that supported them, to oppose my hiding from life when I didn’t know what to do, to offend the arrogance of my belief that the way I viewed life was, in fact, “right”, and to unsettle the confidence I’d placed in my supposed innocence and virtue.

Up to that time, there were people who loved me and overlooked my childishness, selfishness, and playing small.  Others, recoiling at the putrid odor of my self-righteousness would have nothing to do with it—or me.  Jean Marie was different. She was sickened by the offensiveness of my hypocrisy, and yet she loved me steadfastly.  It was her love that held me in the cleansing fire she brought.

Oh, that I would love so well!

What about you?

Leadership Courage Series

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#3: The Price of Love

Courage, I’ve suggested, is living with heart.  With you heart fully engaged.  Fully invested.  Fully in play.

Some would argue that to live this way is expensive. Costly. Reckless. Even dangerous.

I agree.

To live with your heart withheld is costly, too.

There’s no living without paying prices.  Give your heart; there are prices.

Hide your heart from your own life and other prices are paid.

So, let’s examine prices that living with heart exacts.  Just to be clear about it.  Whenever you care about anyone and anything, you invest some of yourself. The more deeply you care, the more of you, you invest.

Initially, maybe, all you invest are thoughts and ideas about what could be.  What this could mean.  What it could become.

Before long, you begin to entertain how you might be affected. How you might contribute.  The good that could come out of it all.  How you might benefit… if it all works out.

As you do, you give yourself permission to see it.  To see as possible what this could lead to. What it could turn into…

And, as hearts are wont to do, your heart gets gripped.  Not only do you see this as preferable, you begin to love what this might be.  Now wanting it, you give yourself to it, a bit at a time.  Giving more of yourself as you go. Your time.  Your focus. Your attention.  As you pour yourself into having it happen… you are changed.  Some of what had captured your attention no longer does.

People notice.

No longer repressing your enthusiasm, you invite others in with you.

Some back away.  They want nothing to do with your stupid dream.

Many others are satisfied to stay on the slideline, amused maybe,

watching to see what will happen…

whether your dreams will be dashed or fulfilled…

waiting to see if it’s “safe” to join you.

And, a few are enrolled.  They choose in.  Into the possibility of what could be.  As they do, your relationships change.  The stakes are now higher. Greater.  “If this thing goes south…”, you catch yourself thinking, “a lot of people could get hurt.”  “And, if we succeed…”

Momentum seems to come from nowhere.  Connections appear in surprising ways.  Provision arrives unexpectedly.  It’s like there’s a wind at your back, propelling you forward. You feel alive.  Energized.  Hopeful.  Life seems to open up before you, to expand.

At the same time, loved-ones caution you not to get in too deep. Remember the movie Rudy? The scene at the bus station when Rudy’s decision to try to get into Notre Dame is confronted by his father: “Chasing a stupid dream causes you and everyone around you nothing but heartache…” You’ve heard the message, too:  Don’t go too far.  Don’t move so fast.  What about the risks?  What if this doesn’t work?  Don’t you care about us?

All along the way, with your heart engaged, you are paying prices. You set aside the predictable, the familiar, the safe.  You wade into foreign waters.  So much is unknown, untested, uncertain.  Disappointments come, as they must.  Setbacks catch you off-guard.  Betrayals stun you.  Backlash comes from unexpected sources.  Supporters withdraw.  Criticisms that began as a whisper grow in ferocity.  You feel alone.

Each time, your hopeful heart is nicked. Lanced.  Pierced. Wounded.  Assaulted.

You want to pull back, dis-invest, protect yourself, be reasonable, find balance, cut your losses.  Most of all, you want to rescue your heart from the hurt.

C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves, writes: “Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one…”

To live and lead with courage is to love so much that your heart is vulnerable to being “wrung and possibly broken”.  And yet, when your heart is wrung, or broken, you choose to keep it engaged. Silencing your survival instincts, trusting God to heal and strengthen your heart, you keep giving yourself — fully – to your life.

This is no small matter.  If it were, the world would be full of powerfully courageous leaders.  Imagine if the Church – even your church – was a gathering place, and equipping place, a sending place for leaders like this…

Leadership Skills Series: Being in Conflict

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Principal #5- Who, before What and How

Thus far the focus of this Leadership Skills Series has been to resource you, as a Christian leader, when you’re in conflict.  The first four distinctions, plus those remaining, will support you becoming skillful when you’re in “deep weeds”, as my pal and mentor Gary Mayes often says.

You, like me, are also called on to referee when other people are sideways. ‘Who,before what and how’ is the principle I employ virtually every time I get to help broker a breakdown.

It is grounded in the notion that God is committed to make us like Christ.  To my clients who are Christian, I say: God’s trying to make a Christian out of you!

God is so committed to transforming us into the likeness of Christ, God will allow conflicts to surface the selfishness, judgments, entitlement, and arrogance that undermine our effectiveness as witness to the world.

God is so interested in our being authentic, that God will let conflict expose the manipulative game-playing and con-artistry each of us has mastered over our lifetime.

Said another way, God is more interested in the Who: the kind of person you are as you move through your life and relationships… than he is aboutwhat needs to be done to resolve the conflicted mess you’re in, and how you and the other party are to move on with your lives!

Got it?  “Who, before what and how”.

The rub is, as humans we want to get out of the tension, out of the frustration, out of the discomfort of the conflict right now!

We don’t care much about the character of Christ being formed in us– we want the no-good bum to pay!  We’re not all that interested whether the fragrance of Jesus is so evident that people around us begin to re-think what they’ve decided about Christ — we want to win!

Invite the battling parties to temporarily suspend their press for what and howAsk them to consider what, in their own character, God is addressing through this upset.

As a human being, I prefer that my life be a certain way.

So do you.

Each of us has a “preferred version” of life and each of us has our ways and means to try to get life to behave the way we prefer.  Trouble is, there are people in that life of yours, and each person has their preferred version of life, too… and their own ideas about the territory where your two lives intersect.

So, your preferred version of life has at least three committed opponents: reality, other people’s preferred version of life, and God—who is massively committed to developing you into the kind of person who lives an exemplary life.  Your leadership development.

When your preferred version of life bumps up against reality, against other’s ideas about how life is supposed to be, or against God’s character-building designs for you— friction results!

Can’t be helped, ‘till something gives.

And, have you noticed: reality doesn’t give.  God, thankfully is more committed to your development than you are.  He rarely gives.  So, rather than surrender your fantasy about how your life and the people in it should be, your “ways and means committee” goes to work on the people near you.

In dozens of creative, bullying, cunning, unrelenting, manipulating, shaming, fear-inducing ways you labor to undermine their commitment to their fantasy of life, so you can have yours!

All the while… God is after your heart.

Who, before what and how.

What would love do?

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