Thursday, March 1, 2007

Serious Freedom

I tend to be a pretty serious person. I don't say a whole lot (unless I'm tired) and I'm awfully introspective. Although I love to laugh, I tend to view life through some pretty straight-rim glasses. When I was younger, my parents were concerned that this was cause for some concern, but as I got older they realized this is just who I am.

What most people don't expect that although I take life pretty seriously, I will do almost anything for a reaction. Whether its sipping ketchup through a straw, eating a whole bowl of butter or nearly licking the bottom of my friend's foot, I think its fun to do what's unexpected. And outside of causing myself or others harm, I'm game for almost anything.

The reason for this seemingly incongruous disparity is that I take the freedom I have to be the person I want to be very seriously. Although I'll do things for a reaction, I won't do things thoughtlessly. I appreciate the fact that who I am to become is determined by my actions, and I try never to lose site of this.

I think its similar in our relationship with Christ. He has given us freedom, but some treat this freedom flippantly. The freedom we have in Christ is a serious matter because it determines the extent to which we will use by Him. When we take it seriously, we have the ability to love with abandon, pursue Him with passion, and to give generously. When we don't, we float on the wings of complacency.

Freedom allows us to be the person God wants us to be . .if we take it seriously.

Freedom is thrust upon us, and we must take it whether we
will or not. Happiest is he who takes it most completely and
most joyfully, but also most seriously and with the deepest
sense of its dangers.
... Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)


Loss of Control

I'm a world-class worrier. I'm pretty sure that if there was a contest for worrying, I could take the crown. Although age has taught me to mitigate this tendency I still tend to be overly concern about things over which I have no control. I want those I care about to be happy, and I want to do whatever I can to assure that this status is obtained.

The thing about worry is that it really doesn't do anybody any good. It uses up valuable time, energy and resources, and in my case, often causes a lack of sleep. Actions that are motivated by concern have a much greater result. After all, is through our behaviors that we are able to change things.

There are things in life that we have control over. There are other things in life that we don't. Might as well focus on the things we can change. Then we won't have time to worry about everything else.

There is no use worrying about things over which you have no control, and if you have control, you can do something about them instead of worrying."
--Stanley C. Allyn,
former CEO of National Cash Register Co.


Perceptions of Greatness

One of the hardest lessons that is learned on our journey to adulthood is that we are not what we think we are. The perception that we have of ourselves is rarely the same perception that others have of us. This can be both good and bad. For example, I tend to be my own worse critic so in a way this could be good news for me. On the other hand, I also think that I'm pretty witty, and the fact that few might fight my humor laughable kind of makes this bad news. We tend to think of ourselves as being a certain way, and because we are intimately aware with our inner thoughts, feelings and motivations, we are justified in believing that this is who we really are. But others aren't privy to this internal dialog, so they form their opinion based solely on the part of our lives with which they have experience.

Leaders, maybe more than any others, have the potential to be the hardest hit as a result of this consideration. After all, their behaviors are observed by a greater number of people than those who aren't leading, and leaders are less likely to be really known by those that follow. As my dad has told me "it's lonely at the top". Being in a position of leadership means that there are few people who can relate to you; there are only a few that understand you. Even these individuals can not fully appreciate the struggles that a leader must go through and the careful balance that must be maintained between the various contingencies. Leaders are known of by many, but only known by a few. Perceptions of who a leader is abounds, understanding of the leader is scarce. And perhaps the hardest part of the equation is that the reality matters very little. Perception will form the basis of judgment. Many leaders try to manage perception but after awhile that gets pretty futile too. Each person will interpret actions based on their own experiences and biases. Leaders can not make decisions and consider these hidden agendas.

So, what is a leader to do? The right thing. It is only through doing what the leader knows to be right that the leader can be sure that perception doesn't matter. The leader has made a decision based on what he or she believes will accomplish the most good and which will serve his or her followers. If its a Christian leader, they will also be motivated by the opportunity to bring God the greatest amount of glory. Knowing that the decision is concurrent with the right thing to do, makes misperceptions easier to manage. Even if misperceptions persist, the leader can rest in the knowledge that their decision was motivated by the proper reasons and that the final judgment will vindicate them.

Leadership is never easy. Being judged by others isn't either. Knowing that you did the right thing can make both manageable.

"One of the hardest tasks of leadership is understanding that you are not what you are, but what you're perceived to be by others."
--Edward L. Flom,

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Better Things Ahead: March 2007

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