We all want healthy, life-giving, encouraging, relationships in our lives. Relationships of mutual respect, grounded in compassion and care. Relationships built on love and integrity which give us the strength to live our lives to the fullest.
Courageous relationships give us support to be the leaders needed at work, at home, in the community, and even in our churches. Yet, too often we find ourselves in relationships carved out of fear where we are tentative in our commitments and based upon co-dependency where we seek to survive.
Are You Wearing a Mask?
I once had a minister friend who got so depressed that he had to be hospitalized. I went to visit him. Our time together was much like all other times we were together. We laughed as we joked and reminisced. When I asked him how he was really doing, he replied that his problem seemed to be rooted in his desire to be “a pleaser.” He went on to say, “All my life I have put up a front. I have pretended to think and feel things that were not really me.”
I remember him saying that he got up every morning and put on whatever mask was expected for the day. He said, “I am being told that I have worn so many masks for so long that I don’t know who I am. That is why I am depressed.”
But this next statement is why I tell you the story. He said, “I have to re-establish relationships in my life that assist me in shaping my own personhood. But to do this means not having everyone like me, and I simply don’t know whether I can stand that kind of pain.”
How do you develop relationships that are healthy, in alignment with who God has created you to be and that allow you to be a courageous leader at this point and time in history? Asked another way, how do you build relationships with the people around you that allow you to be a courageous leader?
It’s Time for a Heart-to-Heart Conversation
John Claypool tells of participating in a conference in South Carolina where a well-known preacher gave a powerful sermon. It was what the audience wanted to hear and they responded enthusiastically. After that session was over, a friend of Claypool, a man whom he had known for years, came up to him and said angerly, “Did you just hear the last speaker? He was simply playing to the gallery. He was exploiting the audience to get their approval.”
As the man was complaining, the very speaker about whom he was talking, walked up. The man complaining was now face-to-face with the speaker. Claypool said, “My friend’s expression completely changed, and he said warmly to the speaker, “Good job, friend, you really hit the mark. Welcome to South Carolina.”
After the speaker had moved on, Claypool turned to his friend in amazement and said, “I don’t believe you just said what you said. One minute you are telling me you feel a certain way about a sermon and then, face and face with the preacher in question, you say the very opposite. I want to know which is the real you?”
His friend turned red in the face and said, “Well, what I said to you at first is how I really feel, but you can’t just go up to a person like that and be perfectly honest.”
Claypool replied, “If that is the case, I don’t think you have any right to accuse him of playing to the gallery. It appears to me that you just did to his face the very thing you accused him of doing with the audience.”
Claypool said their exchange triggered a heart-to-heart discussion between the two of them. He said they talked openly about conflict and integrity. Claypool concluded his story by saying, “I felt then, and I still feel, that what he was doing is the kind of thing that makes authentic human relationships impossible. If he had said to the speaker what he really felt, there would probably have been some conflict, but there might also have been the growth of a healthy relationship.”
Courageous Relationships Begin with Vulnerability
What would have happened if Claypool’s friend had been open, vulnerable, and authentic with the speaker? He might have discovered he was mistaken about the speaker. The speaker might have really believed the things that resonated with the audience. A truer image of the speaker would have emerged and a healthy relationship could have developed.
On the other hand, his recognition of what was happening and his honesty in calling the speaker’s hand might have provided a redemptive encounter.
These two persons might have had a moment of authentic fellowship out of which a healthy relationship might have grown. As it was, they passed one another out of fear of conflict. Claypool’s friend had “hidden his light under a bushel” and failed to take responsibility for the way he really felt.
My Bias Opinion
So here is my Bias opinion.
This is one of the great illnesses of our time.
We have made a god out of being “nice” and pleasant when it comes to face-to-face relationships, and as a result, little authentic sharing takes place.
There is a difference between being nice and being vulnerable. Often, just being nice poisons relationships. It can cause you to forever stumble around broken and unhealthy. On the other hand, the price of vulnerability sometimes involves open disagreement. But, I am convinced that it is worth it. When you dare to be true to yourself and authentic in who you are, then the possibility is open for you to have true fellowship with the people around you, and know a richness of life that far exceeds strained congeniality.
You don’t live or love in isolation. Only in relationship with others. In fact, you don’t have an identity in isolation. You can only be your true self with a network of relationships. Without faithful living, in relationship with the people around you, there is no Christian discipleship and there is no courageous leadership.
How do you build courageous relationships?
Let me suggest that you start with the following:
First, answer these questions: (They will assist you in getting a clear focus on courageous relationships)
- What is your purpose? Who has God created you to be?
- Where have you seen God recently?
- Who are 3 of your most important relationships? Why are they important?
- How do these relationships help you be who God created you to be?
- Are you willing to build upon what you have learned from these persons to develop other healthy and sustainable relationships?
Second, listen to Episode 90 of LeaderCast.
This episode explores what gets in the way of building courageous relationships and gives for principles in building courageous relationships.
The Transformation Guide will walk you through the four principles of building courageous relationships by assisting you to reflect on your own actions and intentions as you learn how to deepen your most important relationships.
Will you “Say Yes” to Courageous Relationships?
Are you willing to build upon what you have learned from the persons around you to develop other healthy and sustainable relationships? To answer “yes” means you have work ahead of you. It may be time-consuming and even challenging.
But you will reap the benefits of healthy relationships who will help you be the courageous leader God has created you to be.