In my performing arts troupe, I play both sides of the field. It’s a delicate balance, really… one that took time and heaping spoonfuls of humble pie over the years. My Troupe has committees, each serving as a gear to make the machine called “us” run smoothly. There is plenty to do and while I am proud to lead such a fabulous group of professionals, I am even more proud when they don’t need me to turn a dream into reality. Last year, I vowed to be a better follower and when the situation called for it this year, I truly enjoyed wearing that hat.
I am on two committees and I loved meeting with my committee teammates, brainstorming and executing our plans, and presenting ideas to the Troupe like other team members. It was fun and it gave me a grassroots view upon which to compare my aerial one. My ideas were not always chosen and they didn’t play favoritism just because I’m the founder. We worked together and I loved every minute of it. In the end, I felt more well-rounded as a leader and collaborative as a follower!
As a leader, my job is to create other leaders, not do everything myself. Now, there something you should know – I’m a perfectionist, so when I founded this organization, I truly felt like I had to do everything and as a result, my Troupe didn’t feel like I didn’t trust them to do anything. Over time, we communicated openly and worked on being a well-oiled machine instead of a bunch of squeaky gears. The result is a group of 10 people that know their roles, serve in them well, and be interchangeable as needed.
Are you allowing yourself to be a team player? Do you listen to the heartbeat of your team or do you just push them to exhaustion?
What would happen if all of our leaders learned how to be exceptional followers?
In a world where mutual human respect seems to be a dying artform, I needed proof after the presidential election. I needed resuscitation that all was not for naught and that there was good in the world to override the poison I had heard around me. I was also seeking the truth that I wasn’t just aimlessly helping people as they stomped on top of me on the way to their destination. I needed a beep on the heart monitor, a waveform on the EKG to give me some hope to press forward that day.
It came the night that my performing arts troupe was recording a creative piece. I’ve been on a kick lately of pushing us toward the unfamiliar and questioning our systemic practices. This particular evening, we would be taping in my church’s sanctuary and utilizing their colorful lighting amenities. It was exciting to see how it would look, but I was spiritually exhausted.
The blip that I needed arrived in the form of a White pastor of an ethnically diverse church saying yes to a predominately Black troupe and authentically caring about our creative goals. Not once was race a factor. Not once was time an issue. All we cared about was Jesus and making an excellent product to encourage others.
At one point of the 2-hour session, I was overwhelmed. I got so full that tears welled up in my eyes. The lighting, the sound, the attire, the laughter… it all hit me. Here we were, defying everything that society says we should hate about each other and working with sincerity and passion. Let me be clear – prejudice exists and I am not oblivious to it. But there was proof of life available and all I had to do was look around. Proof that the same blood pumps within us all and that everyone isn’t trampling over the other in shameless indignation. The heart of people are walking evidence that proof of God’s life exists. That beep was all I needed to keep going.
What has been your proof of life lately? Have you overlooked your blip?
I’ve had the pleasure and pain of seeing a lot around me…and so have you.
After a week of hateful spew oozing from the news channels, it was apparent that my eyes and my heart was in an overloaded state. I needed a break, a muse, a wisp of hope to flutter before my eyes and awaken my spiritual senses. Where was it? The flutter. The glimpse of shimmer in all that was covered in coal. I couldn’t see it amidst the racial slurs on television, small-minded retorts, strong-willed behavior, and effervescent paranoia. My glass was half-full, but the vessel was cloudy enough to block the view that something good could be inside of it.
Then I came home to find a card in my mailbox from two friends checking on my health. The warmth of the contents were already seeping from the envelope, so after reading the beautiful words, I pressed the open card against my chest and felt the love that poured out of it. I remembered that in the same week, two friends invited me to their son’s birthday dinner because they saw me as part of their family. I recalled kind words, sweet gestures, and bleeding love from sincere hearts. Hearts encased in different shells than mine. I was grateful for my family’s consistency; however, the breath of fresh air at the top of that half-full glass was the perfect reminder that all is not toxic in the world of black, brown, white, etc.
For every thing I saw that ransacked my optimism, there were people with genuine respect that reminded me of something I had heard in my spirit earlier that week and that came up in conversation earlier that evening.
Hate the systems more than the people.
This was a hard pill to swallow and a difficult truth to hear. If I inflict the pain that I felt toward those who support what I despise, I am no better than the racists doing the same toward me. I can’t be vindictive toward every White person I encounter. I simply can’t. I don’t have the right to generalize no matter how angry I am at the mountains of ignorance on both sides. I don’t live in a mental utopia, and I definitely do not encourage the use of a band-aid to cover up our wounds, but my anger has to go somewhere constructive before it causes me to see through its glasses alone. Swirling inside of my chest and making me sick to my gut are not the best activities for it. Paying attention to our local government is a productive start for us all, but first, we pray to see that which we are truly fighting. We pray not to plow over the good stuff to scream about the bad. In all of our ranting, we have to see. And honestly, I see so much. So much beauty in the ashes of this aftermath that are waiting to be fragrant. Such an open road between two mountains. Sincere people going to work everyday trying to make a difference. I see the wisps. The shimmer. It doesn’t extinguish my flame, but at least it can materialize into hope.
I truly see so much. Thank God for that.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12 NASB
“We keep changing the chefs never noticing the oven is broken.” – T. D. Jakes, Sermon: Destiny Flocks Together
This isn’t a political piece. It’s bigger than that.
So, since you’re here, you might as well come on in and keep reading. *smile*
I was teaching my Introduction to Communication class today and something flew out of my mouth like a free bird. I can always tell when the Holy Spirit takes over because the faces of my students look like someone punched them in gut and the echo of my words surprise me when I hear them.
We were discussing conflict resolution and communication styles. The students’ conversation turned into how the value of the relationship and a person’s stage in life can affect conflict resolution strategies. Then, I said something that made the environment change. I’ll paraphrase below since I don’t remember the exact wording.
“Sometimes, you have to admit that there are no more band-aids in the box and it’s time to agree to do the surgery. It may not be a pretty quick-fix, but if you have placed a high value on the person and the long-term health relationship, you have to agree to do the work and have a common goal of achieving a shared understanding.”
I felt it. It was a slight shift where my students thought about their personal situations. So, I gave the “pregnant pause” before continuing my lesson plan.
Depending on the value you both have placed on each other and the relationship (whether platonic, familial, or romantic), the conflict resolution outcome will vary. And just because the outcome isn’t a win-win (which isn’t nearly as feasible as people think in most cases), it doesn’t mean the issue was not resolved. Perhaps you have extended every option in your emotional storage and the other person is stuck on fueling the fire. The resolution is to accept the loss of the relationship type and get used to a new normal (lose-lose). The outcome doesn’t always have to be rosy to be the best option.
Let’s take this communication theory further. In the case of our most recent presidential election, I found Pastor T. D. Jakes’ quote most fitting. At times, we place too much responsibility on one person to fix our problems. Just like a surgeon has technicians and a team of doctors to consult, so does anyone that sits in the president’s seat. Unfortunately, just like in a medical situation, we put an unrealistic divinity on one human to heal our diseases. As Pastor Jakes said, we never put the microscope on the systemic leaks that need to be addressed. We simply change the person in the seat. On a personal level, instead of surgery, we opt for the band-aid of another partner, another friend, another job, another state, and all the while, the best option is to dig deeperfor the source of the problem and attempt to resuscitate our lives.
Since we’re all created by the same God, shouldn’t we all get along? Shouldn’t everything be perfect and no surgery be necessary? hmph. Take into account the following verse:
1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:1-6
Everyone is living in a tainted shell; therefore, we have to do the work to keep peace abounding in our communication…and in our country. Diligence is necessary. Patience is a prerequisite. Tolerance is essential. We’re in a time where the band-aids are peeling because the problems are too great and the blood is running freely. Let’s do better and choose wisely in speech and in our political footsteps.