Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Loving and Leading with Grace

the-21-rules-of-this-housesource: choosinghomeschoolcurriculum.com

This is a picture of the rules posted on our fridge during my child raising years. “The 21 Rules of this House” was the centerpiece of our home. I added a few extra rules for good measure, along with a consequence chart for offenses.

I was a stickler for rules when my kids were young. I had an intense desire for order, believing that there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. Schedules were created to follow strictly without exception. Someone could drop by our home at any time of the day or night and find a clean and well organized house with angelic children (in my dreams). If I had my way our home would have resembled a private boarding school rather than a loving safe haven.

Through the school of hard knocks (a nice way of saying that I often felt like I was going crazy), I have come to the understanding that, while rules and high expectations are important, loving and leading others well require continual grace.

For some reason, the Babcock kids had difficulties with Rules 12, 14, and 18; however, Rules 13 and 20 rarely were problems. Looking back, I wish I had given more grace.

The Ten Commandments are the cornerstone to a godly society. Why are they so difficult to follow? Adultery and murder are not tempting to me, but keeping the Lord at the highest place in my consciousness and actions, as well as guarding against envy are constant struggles.

The Apostle Paul described the human conflict in the book of Romans.

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing (Romans 7:18-19).

We wrestle with knowing that God’s law is holy and good, and actually following it. The only remedy for our inability to perfectly master the law is grace.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Grace is undeserved favor. Even though we cannot possibly be good enough to achieve perfection, the Lord extends kindness to us. He desires His best for our lives. Love for us is His motivation.

As recipients of God’s abundant grace, we are instructed to practice grace with others.

In preparation for my granddaughters’ visit this summer, I decided to post a new list of rules on the fridge. You will notice that 21 rules have been pared down to six, and the rules are more general. There is no consequence chart, either. Time out is the only consequence, followed by hugs and affirming conversation.Our Family Rules

For me, our new list of rules represents life lived with grace.

What does practicing grace look like to you at home? With those you lead? In your circle of friends?

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the grace You have poured out on me. As the Shepherd of my Soul, You gently lead me in Your ways and re-direct me when I go astray. Teach me to love and be kind to all people in every circumstance. May my life honor You and be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advertisements
Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

No More Mr. Nice Guy!

NoMore

Did you grow up hearing the words, “Just be nice!” from your parents, teachers, and other authority figures in your world? I sure did. In every social circle, the message was reinforced over and over again. “Just be nice!”

To me that meant to ignore your feelings no matter (especially anger) and smile. It meant to push aside all conflict and unpleasantness, and cooperate with others. Smooth things over at your own expense. And always, always be sure to display a cheerful attitude with your voice and face.

When I became a Christian, the message of being nice continued. Now there was a purpose to being nice—to be a light in the dark world. After all, how can others see Jesus in us unless we are nice?

While I agree with this sentiment, working with people for years has shifted my thinking. Being nice isn’t enough. In fact, too much niceness is damaging.

As Christ-followers we are called to be kind, not necessarily nice. But “What’s the difference?” you might ask.

Niceness is usually superficial. It is not authentic, because it does not address motivations of the heart. It disguises anger and frustration as acceptable words spoken in sarcastic tones or with double meanings. It talks around problems without ever dealing with the issues. It may even fuel a martyr complex. The root motivation of niceness is the desire to be liked.

Kindness flows from within. It is authentic, because it is based on God’s wonderful, gracious love, and true compassion for others. The Holy Spirit produces deep and genuine kindness that is unshaken by circumstances. It does not shrink back from having a difficult conversation, because the desire for the best possible outcome is in mind. The root motivation of kindness is immovable confidence in God’s love for you as His unique, precious Child.

It is possible to be nice without being kind.

Being nice infects ministry. Leaders tolerate gossip and division, and don’t talk directly with the offenders. People don’t bring up concerns or dare to openly disagree with others. Ugliness festers under the surface, but everyone is nice to each other. After all, we don’t want anyone to leave. Kindness grieves when things under the surface aren’t right and works to make them so. Sometimes the kindest action is to encourage people to leave, so that they can find a place that is a better fit, and those remaining can thrive.

Being nice damages businesses. I spoke with a friend recently about his frustration at work. The owner talks about serving the public with excellence, and yet she tolerates less-than-excellent performance from her employees. She gives warnings, but nobody has yet to be fired, even with absences and drug abuse. The reason? “I want to be nice. They have kids and really need this job.” Sometimes it is kindness that fires a person, as a challenge to rise to the expectations in the work place. This also allows the company to live up to its potential.

Being nice harms relationships. People go months, even years, without communicating honestly. They say and do things to avoid rocking the boat. At some point, they can no longer stuff their frustration and it all comes pouring out in words they later regret. Then they make a promise that they will try harder to be nice, because getting angry didn’t work. I speak from experience. My husband and I were married for 12 years before we had a real conversation about things that caused us frustration. It was scary and vulnerable, but we were better for it, and it opened up the door for more healthy conversations.

An organization—family, workplace, church, service group—is only as strong as its weakest link. It is kindness that confronts weakness and encourages others to develop their potential. It is kindness that provides a safe place for honest communication. It is kindness that establishes boundaries and consequences, and then follows through, always with a loving and forgiving approach.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say to be nice (unless it’s in a modern translation I don’t know about). But it does instruct us to be kind.

I urge you to spend time in prayer and self-examination. Where have you substituted being nice for kindness? Ask the Lord to help you grow in kindness in life and as a leader.

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32, NLT).

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your kindness that never fails. Teach me to be kind and not to shrink from tough issues. Show me how to speak the truth in love, and always seek to please You rather than people. May I lead with confidence and kindness, doing what is best for others instead of what seems easiest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Wisdom from a Security Officer

 

Federal buildings are not known for their warm and friendly environment, with their tight security and austere atmosphere. Once through the security check, pick a number. Then wait in an overcrowded room, restlessly watching the minutes and hours creep by.

This week during my visit to the Social Security office, I was pleasantly surprised.

A security officer named Mike met my daughter and me at the door, welcoming us as if we were his special guests. He smiled as he checked through our belongings and guided us through the metal detectors. Once cleared, Mike did not stop there. He continued to watch out for our welfare. “Do you know where to pick a number?” he asked, patiently standing next to us to assist if needed. He ushered us into the waiting room and showed us the available seats. We were there almost two hours. During that time, Mike checked in with each person about every 20 minutes, connecting with them as if they were friends.

As my daughter and I left, I thanked Mike for making our experience such a positive and pleasant one. His reply: “We’re all stuck here. I figure we might as well make the best of it.”

We’re all stuck here. I figure we might as well make the best of it.

For Mike “making the best of it” meant spreading kindness and joy. For others (myself included at times) it means “white knuckling it,” impatiently and miserably enduring until the end.

We may be stuck in a difficult job. We may be stuck as the leader of a group that is unreceptive to our vision and plans. We may be stuck in a family where tensions and conflict are high. The scenarios could be endless. We find ourselves in settings we do not like and would never choose.

In the midst of being stuck, our response as servant leaders will make the difference between surviving and thriving. Rather than being a thermometer and simply measuring the temperature around us, we have the power to be a thermostat and actually set the temperature of our environment. The best way to “make the best of it” is to adjust our own attitudes and expectations. Smile to set others at ease. Show interest in them and respond with kindness. Offer forgiveness and encouragement, speaking words of life and hope. More importantly, we must pray for our followers, inviting Jesus to work through us in the midst of the challenges.

I want to be like Mike. Better still, I want to be like Jesus who came not to be served but to serve, ministering to the needs of others, sharing love and hope along the way.

Jesus was stuck here on this earth, but He certainly made the best of it.

In what area(s) do you feel stuck?
What would it look like for you to truly make the best of the situation?
Invite the Lord to empower you to share love and hope with others around you.