I remember the exact moment that I lost faith in him. He was someone I had looked up to for many years and then…it was gone. He was a leader for many of us and the topic for this group that was gathering was actually leadership. He had missed the previous meeting and his co-leader had asked the group why we thought the conversation the previous week had so much more depth. A couple of “safe” answers were tossed out and then I answered. “Last week, the lesson was presented in a more conversational way instead of one person dispensing information. There was give and take and it led to a natural and healthy challenge for everyone to think. Not only were we getting to know you better…but we were becoming known ourselves.” That was when it happened. The leader that had missed the previous week abruptly took over the lesson and let us (me) know, in no uncertain terms, that he was in charge and that he knew the only good way to lead the class. He repeated multiple times during his rant “I have things to say!” I can still see the red tension in his face as he held back the anger and tried to control his very strong emotions about what I had said.
This may not sound very big to you but it stunned me. As someone who was still learning that I had a voice…still learning that my voice had value…still learning that I had value…and still learning that there was room for me in this world, I was shocked to hear this Godly man shut down open and honest conversation and basically demand that this class about leadership be just another platform for him to share his ideas and use his voice but not be willing to hear the ideas and voices of others…he was unwilling to learn from the other people in the room and it became clear that his idea of leadership meant that the people he led had to be sheep…not leaders.
As usual, this got me thinking and looking for patterns. This leader had a team of people he worked with…all of them had similar abilities to him…all of them had similar leanings and perspectives to him…all of them were the same gender as him…all of them were the same race as him…all of them even looked a bit like him. He surrounded himself with people whose voices were echoing his own.
Surrounding ourselves only with people who are like us and will agree with us isn’t leadership because it doesn’t allow us to learn anything new and if we aren’t learning we aren’t growing. If we only allow ourselves to hear our own voices, it is very easy to become proud because there is no challenge present…no give and take…our own voices are the only ones we hear and the only ones that matters to us…and that isn’t leadership…it’s idolatry. In order to have a full understanding of something, it is imperative that we listen to the voices of others and then decide what we think. We have to get uncomfortable and look for diversity if we want to see the whole picture and then we have to look for diversity if we want to carry out a resulting project well. We are referred to as parts of the body in scripture…not a pile of hands…and if we don’t respect what is different from us…if we don’t allow ourselves to see things from another person’s perspective…we will condemn ourselves into becoming nothing but a pile of hands…and there isn’t much value in that.
So how are you doing with this? Have you found your voice? Do you tend to surround yourself with others who sound just like you or have you found a place where your voice can contribute to a choir of other voices…creating something that is greater than the sum of the individual voices? Do you question others in a healthy and respectful way or do you just follow along like sheep? Are you still learning or do you think of that as part of your past? Are you able to hear a differing point of view without it raising your hackles? Are you able to humble yourself? If you find these questions difficult, you aren’t alone. I felt my heart rate increase as I was writing them. While I think that I do look for diversity in a lot of ways, I still think that there is a lot of room for improvement for me.
My prayer today is that we would each take our next step in valuing the voices we have but not at the expense of shutting out the voices of others…that we would take the time to hear…really hear others who are different from ourselves…that we would also learn to be still and hear our own voices…that we would become part of a choir of voices and that we would embrace our opportunities to sing solos and also thoroughly enjoy when we get to sing with others. I’m praying that we would seek to become leaders who value other leaders and who make lifting each other up a priority. Friends, I’m praying for unity that does not require uniformity.
Much love friends,