Over the past several weeks you have been navigating the waters of conflicting values. Whether it has been the civil and political unrest, the numbers of people dying from COVID-19, or the displays of racism and white supremacy, the conflicts keep coming as angry waves in the midst of a storm.
At best it is surreal and overwhelming. At worst it is numbing and paralyzing.
How do you care for people and lead during such upheaval and conflict? To answer that question, you must be clear regarding your values.
Who you are is how you lead.
Differentiate Yourself as a Jesus Follower
As a follower of Jesus, how do you differentiate yourself when you encounter people of different values? To care for and lead the people entrusted to your care, you must know your values. Last week I asked you to look deep within to discover what values motivate you.
To care for and lead the people entrusted to your care, you must be honest about your current reality. Last week I asked you to make an honest assessment of your current reality. To navigate the waters of conflicting values, you need to know yourself and know your context. This is where we stopped last week.
So, let’s continue with naming another part of current reality.
Know current reality. Be truthful about your context.
Prolonged hatred leads to dehumanization.
Dehumanization is the act of seeing a person as inferior, uncivilized, or less than human. This happens when feelings of hatred developed toward an individual become redirected toward the entire group that person belongs to.
When you see others as less than human, you rationalize violence, cruelty, and hate by comparing persons to animals. Individuals who would never murder another person find it easy to kill a “subhuman” enemy. Especially when you can shoot first and ask questions later.
When someone says “Black Lives Matter,” if you immediately want to dismiss it because you feel you are being left out or, even worse, you are elevating black persons to the same level you are, pause and check yourself.
What happened to “loving one another as I have loved you”? If you say, “Oh, that doesn’t mean everyone, only humans.” Once again, check yourself. Remember, who you are is how you lead.
Harboring Hate, Feeling Powerless
Hatred leads to a desire for revenge or to take action against a perceived threat. Some people harbor hatred for others, become energized by it, and express it through violent acts.
I have learned that such people feel powerless.
Rather than facing their anxiety they project it negatively upon another person or group of persons. They attach themselves to someone who they perceive has power. Then, all in the name of power, they blindly follow the dictates of that person. To say that hatred can have you do some crazy things is an understatement.
There is little self-awareness, vulnerability, or empathy. This is the one big mistake that people motivated by hatred make.
The power is not in strength. The power is in vulnerability.
After all, it is the vulnerable act of Jesus dying on a cross that saves us. The power is in the new life brought about through vulnerability. Who you are is how you lead.
Know where you are going.
This is your mission or goal. For the sake of this article:
- Create, equip, and resource a community of Jesus followers where radical love is practiced in acts of kindness and compassion; a community of relationships where love transcends cultural and racial division. When talking about such community and relationships, G.K. Chesterton put it this way, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
- Create, equip, and resources a community of Jesus followers where poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated; where racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of relationships to all people; where love and trust will be vulnerable in the midst of fear and hatred; and where there will be peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation of adversaries.
Dr. Martin Luther King said it this way, “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men (people).”
That sounds like a lofty goal, but it is the description of the kingdom of God. Isn’t God’s love our goal? Know your values, be honest about your context, and lead people toward the goal.
A Few Reminders
You have a right to protect yourself and your family. You don’t have the right to take human life. As a citizen of this country, you can stand your ground. As a citizen of the human race, you do not have the right to take a human life. Who you are is how you lead.
Don’t use hurtful harmful words but helpful words, the kind that build-up and do good to those who hear them. It matters what you say and how you say it. What is on the inside will find its way to the outside. Who you are is how you lead.
As a leader, you will encounter people who disagree with you, who disappoint you, and who say one thing and do another. Be generous in your response to persons. Considering the situation. Are they doing the best they can? How can you assist persons in becoming who they were created to be? Who you are is how you lead.
As difficult as it is, love the people around you as you have been loved. Be creative and commit yourself to be a model of unselfish compassion and service. Who you are is how you lead.
I’ll have more to say about the above themes next week. Until then, reflect on what I’ve shared above. Know that each theme has boundaries. Knowing who you are is about defining expectations. I’ve outlined some expectations of Christian leaders in this two-part series. Next week, I’ll share more about boundaries.
Please know you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. If these expectations leave you recognizing you need support to lead in this way, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are ready to come alongside you as you deepen your understanding of courageous, faithful leadership.
Another place to begin is by listening to the LeaderCast podcast.
This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. (See Episodes 159, 160, 161 and next week, episode 162). This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021.
Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.