Grow Up, Leaders!
By Susan Lawrence
I walked into my second meeting with smoke pouring from my ears. I was irritated, frustrated and ready to do something I’d regret later. My first meeting had been productive if productivity is defined as checking off agenda items. We got done what needed to get done, but there was a rush to the process. People shared complaints but not a shared focus, and it wasn’t the first time. Near the end of the meeting, I asked the leaders how they were doing and how I could support them. I knew they had busy schedules and wondered if the demands of ministry, family, and work were building pressure on the verge of explosion. They assured me they were okay and left.
A friend and I sat and talked until my next meeting. We discussed a controversial movie, family challenges, and holiday celebrations, then the conversation reflected on the meeting. My friend said, “I need to tell you something that’s been weighing heavily on my mind.” She proceeded to tell me about a situation the previous month when some women from the same ministry got together for a service opportunity. The leaders weren’t happy with the turnout, and they voiced their discontent with the remaining women – repeatedly and fervently. A situation came up in which my name was raised, and the discussion of disappointment continued.
I don’t care that someone talked about me, but the fact that leaders were spouting frustrations alongside women who look to them as examples infuriated me. No wonder women didn’t want to show up to serve. Instead of serving out of joy from personally sacrificing one’s time and effort; serving was being portrayed as something to feel guilty about if someone didn’t participate. The message sent was “If you don’t show up, be prepared to be the topic of conversation.”
Judgmental gossip is cancerous and it has no place in leadership.
Judgmental gossip affects the person about whom you’re speaking – even if she isn’t aware of what’s happening – because it’s her reputation at stake, and in many cases, she has no opportunity to respond.
Judgmental gossip affects the people who are listening because it (1) sets an example that such behavior and attitude are okay and (2) lets them know they’re not valued. If someone gossips to you about someone, she’ll gossip about you to someone else.
Judgmental gossip affects the person who is doing the talking. When she’s allowed to vent without consequences and accountability, she doesn’t grow beyond where she is. She needs to look for the root causes of her need to talk about someone and understand the eroding impact judgmental gossip has.
I was careful not to fight fire with fire and talk negatively about the people involved, but at the same time, I wanted my friend to understand what she experienced is the not the behavior she needs to emulate. It’s the personal responsibility of each of us to understand God’s principles and hold ourselves to His standards, sifting through others’ behavior to discern what we need to respect and use as inspiration and what we need to use as examples of what not to become. God is our standard of measurement. No matter what we experience in relationships on a daily basis, we need to look as He guides and challenges us to grow.
I wanted to share a piece of my mind and tell a couple people to take their roles of responsibility with…more responsibility! I wanted to tell them if they had a problem with me, they needed to come directly to me. I wanted to tell them the potential damage they were doing didn’t just involve the people who witnessed their behavior – in the specific situation as well as others – but it would create ripple effects through families and the church. That’s what I wanted to say, but I didn’t, because I realized…
I’ve behaved in similar ways.
Ouch. It hurts when God teaches a lesson right when you think you’re about to teach someone else the same lesson, which you think you’ve already mastered. I could point out all the differences between the situation I found myself in and the situations God was recalling for me to consider, but I know I’d just be rationalizing. There was one unwhelming similarity I couldn’t ignore: I hadn’t honored God with my behavior. I had poorly stewarded the influence I had on others.
I called and set up a lunch date with the women, trusting God to guide me through God-honoring conversations. Perhaps the lessons I learned through the process will help you, too.
Expect of yourself what God expects from you. Stop comparing yourself to others. Respond when God challenges and convicts you, and expect Him to do the same with others in His own ways and timing.
Acknowledge the impact you have on others. You won’t realize the influence you have on someone every time, but you can be certain others are looking to you even when you don’t expect it. You won’t be perfect, but you can passionately pursue God, which is a great characteristic to display to others.
Stop rationalizing. Just because you understand the reasons behind your behavior and don’t know the motivation behind someone else’s isn’t cause for assigning comparative values. If God says you’re wrong, you’re wrong, regardless of your motivation.
Choose your friends well. Invest in friends you can trust – not just with information. Having a friend who will keep all your secrets is not necessarily a great friend. Invite people into your life who will stop you when you’re out of line. We often seek friends who will agree with us through every situation. The most important quality a friend can have is a growing relationship with God. Ask your friend to hold you accountable to His standards even when it’s uncomfortable, and do the same for her.
Know how to deal with conflict. Some of us avoid conflict, and some of us are comfortable with it. While it helps to know your personal default setting, it doesn’t justify your habits. Know what God says about conflict.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Prov. 27:17).
Susan is a Women’s Ministry Consultant, conference and retreat speaker, and the author of women’s Bible studies Pure Purpose, Pure Emotion and Pure Growth. She has served in local ministry as Small Groups and Women’s Ministry Coordinator and is passionate about building healthy relationships within the local church. You can contact her at email@example.com.