Walking Out Is Permissible, but Not Beneficial

Some students at Notre Dame exercised their First Amendment rights and walked out of their commencement ceremony a few days ago when the Vice President of the United States began his speech. While I certainly would (and have) defend their Constitutional right to leave in protest, I challenge their judgement in choosing to do so. For any courage they may have displayed, their lack of honor and maturity was that much more glaring.

These young people, while accomplished in the sense that they have earned degrees from such a fine institution as Notre Dame, haven’t really done much of anything yet. Their lives are just getting started and they have much to learn as they endeavor to accomplish things they have only dreamed of. By contrast, Vice President Pence has graduated from undergrad and law school in addition to serving as a U.S. Congressman and the Governor of Indiana prior to his election as Vice President.

They presumably walked out over disagreements with his policies. He is a staunch conservative who undoubtedly offends their beliefs. Now that they are out of school, they can do something about it. They can organize, write, volunteer or run for office, among other things. They can enter the conversation with greater focus and commitment now that they aren’t distracted by their studies. They can get in the game, but the game requires that you stay in the room. Not walk out.

The idea of ideas requires dialogue. Those young people don’t have things figured out solely from their own perspective any more than Mike Pence does. To sharpen, refine, develop and deploy their fledgling beliefs, they have to stay in the room. They have to hear the other guy(s) out if they want to actually be heard. It goes both ways. There may even be things that he, or others that they disagree with, say that they learn and/or grow from. If they stay in the room for long enough, they may get to share something that challenges or develops the belief of their antagonists, whoever they turn out to be.

Honor is not solely a reflection of the other person; it’s a reflection of the character of the one that is offering it. You give honor because your have honor to give, not just because they earned it. Honor given where there is disagreement isn’t agreement, it’s a reflection of the maturity of your character. It’s evidence of the humility required to serve and credibility required to be heard. Honor stays in the room.

Sacrificing Strength

sacrificeMy natural bent is towards action. I am inclined to go there once I see there. In the Strengthfinder’s assessment, my #2 strength is “activator” and my #1 is “strategic.” So, according to that assessment, I’ll be inclined to see “it” pretty well and then be about doing “it” pretty quickly. As I said a couple of days ago here, there are strengths as well as blind spots in that.

I’m working with a team and I’ll pull the team towards action. In the middle of that contribution, if the other members of the team aren’t equally engaged we will likely get going too fast. I’ll take us to a break neck speed and be totally comfortable. Others, though, will be blown away.

I have to listen and they have to speak. It’s the strength of the team but it’s only a strength if all parties operate in whatever strength they offer and allow for others, too. The concert of strengths is what maximizes the capacity of the team.

If the team is a concert but it’s made up of only a single instrument, there are limits to music that can be accurately or adequately interpreted. Music is designed for orchestration. Teams are meant to be blended and complimentary, not isolated and exclusive.

When every member of a team feels like their strengths have a place of value, the result will be sweet and attractive. When a single member is the single reason for a team, start the clock towards dysfunction and expect turnover. The gifts within the group will be looking for a place to be expressed and if your team won’t allow for it, they will find a place that will. “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” (Proverbs 18:16)

Strategic activation is necessary for organizational dynamics, but so is learning and harmony and other gifts that might be sacrificed if not given room. It’s not easy for a strong gift to take a secondary place to another gift. The greatness of our design is that if we’ll sacrifice the strength of our gifts for the benefit of other gifts, we’ll actually become stronger in the whole than we were individually prior to that sacrifice.

Perpetual Honor

oath of honorWithin an organization where there is a built-in collaborative dynamic, honor will be fostered. Where there is honor, there will be value for people and where there is value for people, there will be loyalty. Loyalty will manifest as commitment and commitment will take the group to new places which exceed the limitations of a single person.

There is a tension which is required for the facilitation of collaboration and the potential of honor. The tension exists between the need for structure and the release of the gifts within individuals, no matter where they reside within that structure. An organization that isn’t structured cannot facilitate honor. At the same time, an organizational structure that depends entirely on the gifts of the top layer of leaders does not foster development for those that come behind them.

The tension is resolved within the design of honor. Honor is often interpreted and displayed as an offering to the leader. It is typically viewed as respect given to individuals of influence and position. Individuals that receive this type of deference can take the bait, if they are not careful. When told how great they are, they can start believing they are great and soon it will become all about their perceived or actual greatness.

This is why leaders absolutely must submit themselves and/or be submitted to accountability. Any of us are susceptible to believe things about ourselves that defeat our insecurities but are not rooted in eternal security. This perverted filling of a need for security produces twisted and insecure leadership practices.

Within a leadership model that ensures accountability, leadership is the place where honor is initiated. Honor is not bottom-up, but top-down. True leaders initiate honor for others within the organization not because others are more deserving by comparison, but because of the honor that is part of the leader’s character. Character that will produce honor for those whom it serves from a place of leadership is not natural, but developed.

The development of a leader’s character is the primary qualifier of that leader’s capacity. It’s not their education, experience, vision, gifts or skills that validate the leader, but it’s their character. A mature character comes with maturity and process. The process works out the impurities and flaws to develop the honor within the leader.

Leaders of character will develop leaders of character by honoring the potential of the next generation. That will not happen from a place of insecurity or need for affirmation. The developed leader will be the source of security and affirmation for those that follow. In those that follow, the organizational goals can hope for a perpetual solution. That solution is in people who are honored because those that went ahead were leaders of honor.



Honoring Diversity in Community

colorful-ceramic-potsNo matter how good we are at something, there are other things that we can’t do at all. We can take a niche and master it, but a niche by its very definition is a subsection of the greater need. Those other niches require somebody else that can master them for the entire need to be met. We can’t do it all by ourself; we need a community.

Community is the forum for us to operate in unity with people equipped and specialized differently than us to achieve the greater goal. We complement one another by operating with honor for the gift in the other. We can bristle at the personality traits of those that we are in community with but we are invited to die to our offense and honor the gifts in even the objectionable. In that exercise of honor, the picture and purposes of God are put on display.

When a community is formed, there will naturally be some level of diversity and often times the greater the diversity, the greater the potential for that community. The greater the diversity, the greater the breadth and depth of the capacity for that particular community. When we are able to operate with honor and grace towards one another, the diversity of a community becomes its greatest strength as it covers the broadest landscape of God’s design.

Community will attract diversity where the gifts in every individual are honored. In practical terms, to honor the gifts means to:

  1. Recognize – With eyes to see, we can agree with God’s design in another and the value they bring to the greater community. Everyone was created in His image, not just you and people who look like you.
  2. Call out – Intentionally articulating the value you see in someone else activates permission for that someone else to explore their destiny in your common community.
  3. Give a Place – If we relegate certain gifts in others to second or third tier, that place will not reflect honor or facilitate the destiny of the community.
  4. Support – Yielding time, opportunity and resources that the community distributes implicitly and/or explicitly.
  5. Encourage – Even the most gifted stumble and fall; the community has the inherent power to give members of that community courage to keep going by encouraging during success as well as setbacks.
  6. Celebrate – The culmination of honor and encouragement is recognition among the community as a whole for the contributions and value that the individuals of the community offer. This has to be intentional, it won’t happen by accident.

Community facilitates destiny and requires sharing. Destiny isn’t about the individual but if it were it would be a shadow of the magnitude that it is intended to carry. If and when we yield our gifts to the community of others, we will compliment and contrast to such a measure that the whole world will take note.

3 Lessons of Legitimate Leadership

king davidTo some degree or another, we all want to be in control. Some of us want to be in control of much and some of us are satisfied being in control of a little. Whether it’s an opportunity to lead and control a vast array of resources or the autonomy of controlling our own destiny, there is a common denominator that is required of us to be stewards of whatever we influence. To legitimately reign over anything with security and anointing, we are required to be submitted.

A friend of mine in the army used to say, “Whenever you have to tell others that you are in charge, it’s obvious that you are not in charge.” In other words, if we have to operate from positional authority, we have no leadership legitimacy.

I saw this in the life of King David recently. Consider the following exchange between King David and his wife in 2 Samuel 6:20-21, following David’s shameless celebration at the arrival of the Arc of the Covenant:

“. . . Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord.” (emphasis added)

Michal uses David’s position as king to try to shame him at his abandon in his worship of the Lord. She sarcastically makes her point by contrasting how she believes royalty should conduct itself vs. the chosen behavior of a son celebrating his Father.

David, however, doesn’t refer to himself as king, but as prince. David is the king, and while David recognizes his royal identity he does so in the context of a ruler under the authority of the King. David refers to himself in a secondary position as a prince to the King of Kings. David doesn’t have to be in charge to be in charge; he defers to the majesty and rule of God.

Three leadership lessons from this glimpse into the rule of King David:

  1. The legitimacy of leadership is in a heart of submission as it’s the humble heart that is prepared to rule.
  2. Humble leaders rule from a place of security and don’t have to position and maneuver as he/she isn’t insecure in what could be perceived as faults.
  3. Secure leaders don’t scramble to protect their domain when others attack them because they recognize their Source of authority and legitimacy.

Leaders lead because it’s their design and in doing so, they recognize the privilege of leadership as a gift of their Designer. The exercise of authority is one of humility, not accomplishment. Leadership is received and honored, not flaunted or protected.


Harnessed Power

thoroughbred_horse_racingMost of us realize the purpose of our design towards greater things than are immediately evident in our present circumstances. We can practically see, touch and feel the pull towards a destiny that exceeds our current reality. The tension is between restraint of desire for the sake of practical responsibility vs. unleashed passion towards fulfillment of a legitimate great and glorious purpose.

That pull to run as fast as possible towards the finish line is like the heart of a champion thoroughbred racehorse. It’s the engine that drives the vessel towards its ultimate goal and it’s a legitimate part of our design. That’s the way that God intended the zealous playing out of a powerful Kingdom.

The thing about the racehorse is that it didn’t know how to race to win when it was young. It knew how to run and it’s heart was passionate about running. At first, however, it didn’t want any control over that passion. It knew it was a racehorse, but didn’t believe it needed the control of reigns or weight of a rider.

I’m no expert horseman or anything, but believe from Westerns that horses will likely resist the first reigns introduced to their mouths and may buck the first rider. The bit that connects the reigns sits in the horse’s mouth and the first reaction will likely be to spit that bit out of its mouth. The horse has to take the bit to allow for the reigns which the rider will use for the control necessary to recognize the full potential of the champion racehorse.

  • The reigns dictate direction by applying pressure through the bit which influences speed and turns.
  • It’s a harness to the unbridled passions and abilities. It’s a restraint necessary for the realization of potential. It’s objectionable yet necessary.
  • Meekness is harnessed strength. It’s the re-direction of otherwise powerful but out of control intentions towards a legitimate purpose.
  • It’s capturing the complete potential through limiting the time and direction of application at the hand and discretion of another. It’s non-negotiable when considering destiny.

We all need to take the bit. Not only the bit that God might impose on us for the direction of our lives, but also the bit that God will allow to a rider. Most of us can accept the direction of the Lord, but what about when that direction comes through authority He delegates to man? What about when He delegates authority to the unrighteous? Remember Saul as king over David?

Harnessing our potential towards a destiny will make that destiny attainable. It’s not about how fast we are able to run by ourselves, but how well we run the race, which involves others including a rider. It’s slowing down and yielding control to realize our full potential, but it requires the discomfort of a bit we would rather spit out.