Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

Don’t Expect Too Much!

frustration

“Don’t expect more than they are capable of.”

On a road trip, a new friend verbalized something I had been pondering for several months. While taking her to a speaking engagement in a city a couple hours away, she shared what the Lord had spoken to her heart while praying about a difficult relationship. That simple statement helped her navigate some painful circumstances and experience peace in the midst of it.

That simple statement also shed light on what the Lord had been speaking to my own heart, to extend grace to the challenging relationships in my own life.

It’s good to have high standards for our personal and work relationships. There should be kindness when dealing with conflict. There should be respectful and safe behavior at all times. Abuse of any kind is unacceptable. However, many of my disappointments stem from expecting too much from others.

For example…

There are people in my life that are not detail oriented. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. They can come up with systems to help them become more organized and efficient, but they won’t become detail oriented.

There are people in my life that avoid dealing with emotional issues. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. Some people do not have emotional intelligence. They can learn listening skills and acknowledge the pain of others, but the emotional realm will not be a strong or comfortable area for them.

There are people in my life that seems to live in a completely different universe than I do. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. No matter how much I explain my perspective, it won’t help them to see things my way. A good friend recently shared why she thinks marriage can be so hard. “We only want our own way all the time.” I agree with her, and I believe this applies to all our relationship troubles on some level. My way is the right way. Your way is the right way to you. Different universes.

Acceptance of the way other people are wired or the way they see things allows me to extend grace to them. It helps me feel peace instead of disappointment, while adjusting my expectations.

All relationships are messy. Some more than others. Not expecting too much from others helps us thrive when relationships are less than smooth.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3).

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the people in my life. Help me to see them through Your eyes rather than my own. Teach me to get rid of the plank in my own eye before insisting on helping others with the speck in theirs. Help me not to expect too much from others. May I approach all my relationships with realistic expectations and grace.

 

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Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Love…No Matter What

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On my flight to Chicago last week, I sat next to a young woman and her boyfriend. We introduced ourselves and exchanged some social niceties. Then she turned toward her boyfriend and the two of them engaged in conversation, while I began to read a book. Within a few minutes the couple’s discussion became quite robust. The noise in the cabin drowned out their words, but their body language spoke loudly. I prayed under my breath for the Lord to help them, and wondered if I should intervened.

The young man’s arms made exaggerated gestured. The young woman wiped tears from her cheeks and her body quaked as she tried to stifle her cries. I could hold back no longer.

“Is everything okay?” I asked. “I can’t hear what you’re talking about, but you’re clearly involved in an intense discussion.”

They looked at me in surprise, sheepish expressions on their faces. The young man explained.

“We just spent the weekend with some really good friends. We’re from Chicago and are very liberal. Our friends are very conservative. We had some arguments with them. Now my girlfriend and I are talking about what happened. It’s really hard.”

Now it was my turn to be surprised. I had imagined several scenarios, but I hadn’t imagined this.

My heart went out to them. A dear friendship was threatened by differences in political ideology. Sadly in our nation, this is becoming increasingly common. Belief in a cause or the adherence to a particular faith takes precedence over decency, even when those closest to us are involved. This great divide can be excruciating.

Too many people are choosing their beliefs over kindness, respect, and love. This shouldn’t be, especially for Christ followers.

We can believe wholeheartedly in the teachings of Jesus and still treat unbelievers with kindness. Cruel and rude words must have no place in our lives.

We can adhere to moral standards and still respect those with whom we don’t see eye to eye. Caring for them does not equal moral compromise.

Followers of Jesus are called to love people. Period. In fact, Jesus instructed us to love our enemies, those who stand in opposition to our beliefs or wish for our demise. Lest we forget what love looks like, take a stroll through 1 Corinthians 13 or Matthew 5 where our Lord teaches us to turn the other cheek, give your shirt to someone demanding your coat, and bless those who curse you.

Think about the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). A man looked beyond religious and racial differences, and treated an injured human being with compassion. He tended to the victim’s wounds, brought him to an inn, paid for his room and board, and offered to provide for other expenses if needed. The Samaritan was a neighbor to one who was culturally an enemy. Shouldn’t we do the same? It may not be as dramatic as saving someone’s life but we can certainly treat others with decency and respect.

And what about those who are closest to us? If love transcends political affiliation and religious beliefs (and it does) and if every human being is priceless because they are created in God’s image (and they are), how much more should we love our family and friends without strings attached? Differences must not be divisive. We can take a stand for our beliefs and do what we know to be right without rejecting others for thinking differently. We can hold tightly to our faith and convictions, while still holding tightly to our loved ones.

I have recently adopted a phrase from my granddaughters’ story book:

“I love you, because I love you.”

I try to say and show that often.

As I got ready to exit the plane, I offered encouragement to the young woman and her boyfriend. “Don’t let go of your friendship. Listen to what your friends say. Try to understand where they are coming from. Make it a learning opportunity. And hopefully they will do the same.”

Will we do the same? Let’s approach our relationships with grace, committed to extend kindness, respect, and love no matter what. Let’s love them simply because we love them. After all, isn’t that what our Heavenly Father does with us?

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other (1 John 4:9-11).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me when I struggle and do not honor You with my choices. Thank You for walking with me, as I live imperfectly and try to figure things out. Help me to treat others with the same grace You give me. Teach me how to balance my zeal for You and Your ways with loving others who believe differently than myself. Empower me to love others unconditionally. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Servant Leadership

Will Somebody Please Listen?

id-100149544The presidential election results were announced less than a week ago. In light of the current outcry, it may disappoint you to know that I avoid talking politics. I understand the power of politics. Policies can have a long-lasting and profound effect on our lives. While I take the responsibility to vote seriously and contact governmental officials regarding important issues, I believe my calling is to serve others in a way that transcends the political arena.

My purpose to love God and others goes beyond a person’s political or religious beliefs. I don’t have to see eye to eye in order to extend a hand of kindness. I may not agree with their viewpoint or lifestyle, but I can treat them with the respect they deserve as someone created in God’s image.

The term “servant leadership” is popular these days, especially within Christian circles. One of the distinguishing features of servant leadership is listening to others. Because their followers matter, they take time to ask questions, seeking to understand before being understood. There are so many divisive issues in our country right now. Some people are angry; others are living in fear. Sadly, I don’t see much listening going on.

It seems like everyone wants to be heard, but nobody knows how to listen. They may hear the words and ideas, but they don’t grasp what’s being said. They don’t put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

I think I have good ideas. I think my beliefs and lifestyle are pleasing to the Lord. I think my worldview is correct. So why should I feel threatened when others don’t agree? As someone who strives to be teachable, I want to understand how they came to their opinions. I want to hear about their journey.

I love public speaking, and I love interacting with others one-to-one, but I don’t shine in group settings. If I’m not in charge of a meeting, I am happy to be quiet. I like to listen to and consider the input of others. I offer my ideas, but if others talk over me I refuse to assert myself. I simply won’t compete to be heard. Decades of experience of not being heard has forged in me the desire to listen to others with my heart.

James 1:19 says that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” When we are quick to listen and hear someone’s heart, we will speak and get angry less.

Listen and be a part of the solution. Hear and help others heal.

Would you join me in listening to others? Would you take the time to understand where someone else is coming from and affirm their value as a person?

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:7-9).

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:9).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can love and listen well to others. Help me put down my own defenses and reach out to others. Help me to seek to understand rather than to be understood. Use me to be an agent of healing to those around me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Posted in Personal Development

Keep Learning No Matter What

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This phrase is generally used as an excuse for being too old to learn a new skill or habit. It may be true for a dog, but it doesn’t have to be true for us. In fact, no matter how old or educated we might be, we should always seek to learn and grow. How sad it is to be around others who are so set in their ways that they refuse to listen to new or different ideas. It isn’t just “the old folks” with this kind of attitude. There are plenty of “young ones” that fit in the closed mindset category, too.

People that thrive in life and as leaders are poised to learn. Learning leads to creativity and the ability to innovate. Being stagnant is draining to relationships. Maintaining the status quo is damaging to business. Growth and vitality come from the willingness and ability to change as needed.

Twenty-five years in non-profit ministry has shown me there isn’t just one right way of doing things. God’s Word remains the same, but there are a varieties of ways to express it. Just when a system is perfected, it’s time to tweak it to address a situation that arises. Thirty years of marriage has taught me that I need to find new ways to connect with my husband to keep our relationship solid. Resting on our laurels will take us to a dangerous place. We can’t just pat ourselves on the back because we’ve gained so much experience. We need to keep moving forward.

Transformation is produced from the consistent, on-going application of knowledge, whether it comes directly from the untarnished truths of God’s Word or from wise principles spoken by others.

We don’t have to go to school in order to learn. I enjoy academics and I love reading. However, I have found people to be the greatest resources for learning and transformation.

Mentors are older than I am or have walked where I want to go. They are farther along the road of life and can share their experiences. I recently had the opportunity to meet a former Executive Director of the organization I currently lead. She resigned 10 years ago. Things have changed remarkably since she was at the helm. However, I listened intently to her stories of how God met financial needs in the midst of difficult times. She inspired me, and showed me a dimension of faith I hadn’t seen before.

Reverse mentors are younger than I am and don’t have the breadth of experience that I have. However, they possess specific skills that I lack (i.e. social media savvy), or they have a particular perspective I want to understand. So they mentor me in an area I want to grow. The majority of people my organization serves are between the ages of 15 – 29. It’s important to connect with our clients. By engaging in conversations with young adults, I learn about their mindset, beliefs, and values. The knowledge helps me serve our clientele better.

Learning from others is enhanced when I glean from people that are different from me. Rather than surrounding myself only with people that agree with my beliefs or point of view, I welcome alternate opinions and ideas. Differences don’t need to create tension or alarm. Instead I try to look for principles that are beneficial. At the very least I come away with deeper understanding of somebody who is incredibly valued and loved by our heavenly Father, whether or not they know Him. As a committed follower of Christ, I took two classes in Eastern religion and philosophy for my undergraduate degree. I enjoyed robust conversations about a worldview quite different than my own. As a result, I emerged better equipped to be a Christian and live out my faith than before.

No matter your age or how much experience you have, remain teachable. Be open to the Lord and expect Him to use many kinds of teachers.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Proverbs 4:5-6).

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will add to their learning (Proverbs 9:9).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. Help me never feel that I have arrived, but rather seek to learn, improve, and grow. May my ears be open to Your instruction as you use many people along life’s way. May I be transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.