Over the summer, my kids are in and out of camps, trips and clubs. There’s one club, though, that never ends. Any guesses? (Hint: we have a teenager).
Yup, drama club, courtesy of our teenage daughter and (mainly) her circle of friends. It’s not official, but it’s very, very real. Friendships start, friendships end. Teachers are ‘awesome’ one minute and ‘the absolute worst’ moments later.
I’m not sure, though, that adults are, after close inspection, much different. We hide the drama better, but it’s still there, barely beneath the surface. And, it really affects us and the groups we’re part of. Instead of concentrating on the work at hand, these hidden dynamics are a distraction from what God is calling us to accomplish together.
I can think of several student leadership teams where a few people weren’t pulling their weight. Those who were more involved became burnt out and resentful toward those other leaders, creating a quiet, but clear, tension that made those teams more than a little awkward.
But, what can be done?
Last time, we took a look at the first part of one answer to that question – you’ve got to ‘know what you bring’. When you know who you are and what you’re good at, you understand your role on the team. You don’t try to take on others’ jobs and you’re free to contribute your own strengths.
Well, at least in theory. Knowing may be ‘half the battle’, but, it’s only half the battle, right? We can all think of times where we knew what was right but didn’t do it.
That leads us to those deeper, annoying ‘why’ questions. If I know what I’m good at, why do I sometimes hold back? In our context, if I know what I bring to the team, why don’t I always share it?
We can’t get into all the possible answers here, but in my experience, team members often hold back because they’re afraid of what others will think. Rather than risk looking stupid, we keep our thoughts to ourselves.
The bible has a ton to say about fear. This is slightly oversimplified, but at the end of the day, we either choose to fear God or others. The overall pattern of our choice will go a long way in determining how we live, and, whether we can make the kind of impact we want to as we serve on teams.
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
I love this verse because it’s so clear. If we understand that God is our ‘helper’ in each moment, we won’t be afraid because we’ll be reminded that others can’t really do much to us. And in a culture with a fair degree of (outward) civility like ours, the negatives generally boil down to people talking behind our backs or cold indifference.
Getting back to our context of working with others, what happens if we fear God and not people? When we start to worry about what others might think, God’s presence helps us step back. We can evaluate our contributions apart from what others might think. We can share them, and, if others find them foolish, it’s fine. It hurts, but it doesn’t destroy me. God – and not someone else – determines my value. He’s accepted us, so we don’t need to fear someone else’s rejection.
A student friend told me about a resident who was trying to make him do a procedure he wasn’t really competent to do. He understandably felt a lot of pressure to comply, but he stepped back, remembered that he ultimately served God (and the patient) and told his resident that he couldn’t do it. Sure, there was some tension, but ‘fearing’ God made all the difference and everyone moved on.
As we close, here’s your ‘assignment’, some possible steps to move forward:
- In group settings, where do you find yourself fearing others? What does that look like specifically, and, how does that lead you to hold back what you could otherwise offer?
- How would ‘fearing God’ change how you think about your situation and shape your response?
We need to know what we bring (what we’re good at), but the key to actually contributing it starts with putting God – not others – at the center of our lives. This is a lifetime journey, but each step adds up and allows us to make the impact we’ve always wanted to.