Listen Carefully

During these times of uncertainty, it is easy to jump to conclusions about things that we really don’t understand. The unrest that has seized the United States is multi-faceted and we need to understand as many perspectives on these issues that we can. It’s easy to make conclusions based on the soundbites of our favorite news outlet or twitter account holder. We forget that many “ordinary” people have a very keen perspective of what’s happening that we may not. The old expression “you can’t see the forest through the trees” has a lot of validity the further removed you are from the problem. Personally, I have led a life of privilege, so it is important that I work harder to understand the issues. As James reminds us, “be quick to listen”; you might be surprised by what you hear. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The deeper down you dig, the less polish you’ll find on the things you hear or the statements that are made. All leaders need to listen to what is being said, not how it is being said and what side actions are taking place. Don’t focus on the actions but focus on the root issue. We’ve all been locked up for weeks (emotionally and physically) and what we’ve seen the past four days is not surprising to those of us that work in the Homeland Response field. These are desperate actions to what are perceived or actually desperate circumstances. Unless you are a person of color, you cannot begin to understand why this is happening unless you start listening – carefully.

Search for the facts, they may not be stated in a way that you’re used to hearing them. Be slow to speak, let the speaker get everything out before you begin to say anything. These conversations are usually the time when we simply justify why something is happening or why we can’t change. Resist the urge to become angry in the face of criticism; remember there can be more than one right answer to many problems, keep your emotions in check. When people exchange their thoughts, they are exchanging gifts, accept it with grace and they’ll do it again – the dialog now begins. If you don’t accept the gift well, you’ll never get a second chance. Many people today haven’t had their “gift” accepted very well and are lashing out.

James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to heed these words as well. Listen to the words contained in the bible; be slow to speak about why that isn’t realistic or how it’s impossible to follow the example of Jesus Christ. How often do you actually hear the Word, is it only in worship? The Word is a guide for us to learn and apply but it’s hard to do when you only hear it once a week. As you listen to the Word, let the meaning sink in. Look for what is being said beyond the words. Jesus often used parables as examples and honestly, they can be confusing too. Be patient and meditate on the Word of God, it will come to you.

Be slow to become angry or frustrated when you read the bible as you compare your life to what you are reading. Remember, God gave us the Law in the Old Testament and salvation in the New Testament. Don’t feel guilty about how you lead your life, Christ died for all of our sins – past, present and future. No day will go by without sin in your life. Some people think that that acting in a Christ-like manner just won’t work because they have too many “problems” in their lives or have done too many “bad” things for God to forgive. Nonsense! God sent His son to save the world and not condemn it. If no day can pass without sin, we would all be condemned if it wasn’t for God’s grace in our lives. Those with faith in Jesus Christ are saved.

Leadership

This is my first weekend home from the exercise in Indiana with the Army. By all accounts, it was a successful training exercise for the soldiers who were able to practice their technical skills and for the Command and Control Headquarters elements to work out their processes. My role was to function right in the gap between fantasy and reality or as we refer to it, between the White cell and the BlueFor. The white cell is where the exercise is controlled. This is where the documents are created, the themes are established, and where plans are created based on player actions (BlueFor). My role is particularly unique as I interface with the BlueFor, gather information from the actual units in the field and report it up into the White cell for confirmation or what is referred to as the “ground truth”.

I’ve got to pay attention to everything that is going on so our team can provide the right information to the BlueFor to drive the exercise in a particular direction. The White Cell that I worked in is under the direction of a retired One Star General who runs in tight formation. During a briefing to the active duty Two-Star General, he provided information that was contradicted by a different white cell whereby making it appear that we were in the wrong. At our shift change, he lit us up like a Christmas tree about how we were not providing the BlueFor the correct direction in the field. It has been a long while since I’ve been in that type of situation. At the conclusion of the shift change, we provided his staff with the “proof” that we had been following the “script” all along and that the other White cell was wrong in their assessment. At the next shift change, he displayed something that is very rare among leaders; he apologized for calling us out. I was shocked to see genuine leadership by someone who I imagine is rarely mistaken. He could have swept it under the rug or simply chalked it up to the rage of war but he didn’t. He stood tall and admitted his error.

“Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” 1 Timothy 3:1

It takes a lot of courage to step into a leadership role. The whole debate about “are leaders born or are they created” fails to recognize the courage component. If someone steps into a leadership position without a little fear, they are stepping on thin ice. I’ve said before that leading is a privilege and an honor that we should not take lightly. People are putting their faith in that person and in some professions, their lives. Leading is more than telling others what to do or having a rank/title. Leaders are accepting the faith that others are placing in them. It is a noble task. Timothy is describing those who wish to lead the church and is reminding them that it isn’t about the power and prestige that comes with it but the honor and responsibility that does. Jesus knew His role as the leader of the disciples. He knew what God was asking of Him and gladly accepted His fate. He charged us all to be “fishers of men” by teaching us how to live better lives, be examples for others to follow but most importantly, to rely on God for the wisdom and strength to carry out our daily lives. Leadership is a noble task and it is not to be taken lightly. People are putting faith in you. Rely on God for your wisdom and strength and you will always have their faith.