Are You Using Your Resources?

TeamThe modern workplace is a team environment. Team members might be global, but chances are wherever you are, whatever you do, there is a team structure.

No more private offices. Most workers are seated in cubicles or open work spaces organized by team. Why?

Many reasons; perhaps foremost is the synergism of teams. Everyone has weaknesses, shortcomings, things we simply don’t know, don’t know that we don’t know or things we are required to do that we are not very good at doing.

That’s where working in a cooperative team can be a blessing. At least in theory, the strengths of teammates can compensate for individual weaknesses. The team succeeds because individual members help one another.

Currently, I am watching the antithesis of this play out.

A team member is failing, not meeting metrics and not saying a word. Not knowing more than what I see, I would say this person is failing because they don’t understand the concept of team. Surrounded by people who could help, this person has forged a path alone. And they are getting lost in the weeds.

In a team, help is close at hand. Because the team succeeds or fails as a unit, it is in every member’s self-interest to be helpful. Going it alone in a team environment is a recipe for failure.

We are better together, to borrow a phrase.

Christians can learn from this office lesson. Often, we struggle wordlessly, on our own, with an issue, a sin, a problem, never once reaching out for help. That thing gradually overtakes us. And we end up in rehab, in bed, in jail, in a bar, in trouble.

That doesn’t have to happen. We have help!

  • God has given every believer His indwelling presence, the Holy Spirit, the “Comforter,” the Greek word is actually “parakletos” or paraclete, one who comes alongside to help, counsel (John 14:16)
  • God also has given us one another in “koinoinia.” That is, Christian community in fellowship with other believers, our teammates.

God never intended life to be lived solo. He declared it “not good” that man should be alone then created Eve for Adam. Jesus formed a team of 12 disciples. He sent disciples in pairs to minister in the cities ahead of Him.

Life, Christian life in particular, is meant to be lived out in community. Yes, as God’s children, we can go directly to God our Father for help. We Protestants declare the priesthood of the believer and Jesus Christ as the only mediator between God and man.

Even so, there are times when we need each other. The same Bible that teaches if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness also says: “Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.”

If we persist in facing life’s struggles Lone Ranger-style, we set ourselves up for failure.

The first step in success is admitting when we need help then having the humility to ask for it. God has provided everything that we need pertaining to life and godliness.

Are we using the resources He’s made available?

Escape Sin’s Paradox

a-universal-paradox

I am ever learning but never coming to know the truth.

I am sampling all the world has to offer but am empty still.

I am ever seeking new experiences but never finding joy.

I am free to do what I please and enslaved by my own choices.

I am the constant critic who is blind to my own shortcomings.

I am the instigator of wrongdoing and the accuser once the deed is done.

What am I?

I am “the paradox of sin.”

I am pleasure and punishment rolled into one.

Sin is pleasurable for a season. When the season passes, sin’s beauty is ravaged; and we are left with its ugly reality.

We’ve all had our conversations with sin, heeded its voice and inevitably encountered its diabolical duality.

Sin promises freedom but everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

Sin twists our desires, compels us to seek fulfillment in self-destructive ways. Sin drives us to run after a nameless something that is always beyond our grasp.

When I survey the landscape of my own soul, I see sin’s stillbirths: dead hopes, dead dreams and dead relationships. Eventually sin turns on us, confronts us with our guilt, reminds us of how we’ve failed, whispers that we deserve to die.

In truth, we’re all sinners. The wages of sin is death. There is none righteous, not even one.

Yet, death was never God’s plan.

Man was created in God’s image, an eternal soul with free will, freedom to choose. God planted a garden and put Adam, this man He created, in it. The garden was filled with pleasant trees, two of which are identified by name: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God gave but one restriction:

Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die. (Gen 2:17)

We know the story: the serpent persuaded Eve to eat of that tree, insisting there was no death in it, that it was the source of godlike wisdom. She gave it to Adam and he ate. Why weren’t they drawn instead to the tree of life?

We human beings are forever tempted to taste a freedom that results in our own bondage. Given a choice, we gravitate toward death not life. Look at your own choices and say it isn’t so.

Fortunately, God has provided a way of escape.

The last Adam, Jesus Christ, has released us from the paradox of sin. His death and resurrection has broken sin’s power over our lives. We don’t have to obey the siren call of our own sin nature. We are free. Sin reigned in death. Grace reigns through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:19-21)

 “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Are you Somebody?

“Do you know who I am?”

The question is usually asked by someone who isn’t getting what they expect and consider themselves entitled. After all, they are Somebody: a person of status, position, social standing and/or means who expects to be treated accordingly.

Somebodies don’t follow protocol. They don’t stand in lines. They don’t wait.  And if they do, there is hell to pay.

If you are the impatient type, as I am, perhaps you’ve been tempted to be Somebody.

Happened to me when I went for a dental cleaning. The practice has been sold and most of the people are new. I, however, am a long-term patient, accustomed to prompt and skilled service. Things have changed. First, they called last minute to ask if I could arrive early to an appointment scheduled six months earlier. That would be a No. I rescheduled.

I waited nearly 15 minutes to be called back. As I waited, my husband sent a text saying I should consider the visit a “test.” He reminded me that I’d be representing Christ while there and should keep my behavior in check no matter what happened.

I needed the reminder.

I waited 45 minutes before a hygienist touched my teeth. Bitewing films were taken by someone who needed help turning on the machine. When the hygienist arrived, without apology for the delay, she promptly dropped an instrument with a loud clank.

She then kicked it aside, joking that I needn’t worry. She had plenty and would not need that one again.

If I could have spoken, I might have dropped a verbal bomb on this woman who apparently didn’t realize she should suction as she worked.

Instead, I sat there battling the urge to ask “Do you know I am”

  • a paying customer
  • a longtime patient
  • a witness to the first dropped instrument in decades at a dental office

It came to me that the more important question is whether I know who I am: Nobody special, just another human being whose faults, frailties and outright sins Someone died for. I should take my cue from Christ who “made himself nothing” (Phil 2:7) even though He was Lord of all. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of enduring death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Phil 2:9)

A real Somebody is willing to become Nothing. They are not provoked, remaining calm under pressure. Christians are called to be Christ-like even in unreasonable circumstances.

For a moment, I considered that my inexperienced hygienist – whose framed degree revealed that she’d graduated less than a year ago – might have had a string of late appointments before me and I had walked into the perfect storm. Maybe she was doing the best she could and I should just relax and show some mercy. (Luke 6:36)

I took a deep breath and let her finish without a word of criticism and managed to leave the office without making a scene. Test passed.

Next time I’m tempted to pull the Somebody card, I hope I choose to be merciful instead. To quote Shakespeare:

 The quality of mercy is not strain‘d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest… It is an attribute to God himself. (The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1)

Good Leaders are God-aware

Godware

Got one of those LinkedIn Pulse emails recommending blog posts worth reading. One caught my eye: a Harvard Business Review piece entitled  “5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware.” It’s advice on how to become a good leader.

Becoming self-aware is key, said the post, because “Self-awareness lets us better understand what we need from other people.”

To become more self-aware, readers are instructed to meditate, to have honest how-am-I doing conversation with trusted friends, to write down plans and priorities, to take a psychometric test (think Myers-Briggs type indicator) and to encourage formal feedback at work.

That’s it?

Inhaling, exhaling, journaling, accepting constructive criticism etc. have their place, their benefits and their limits. We’re human. Becoming more aware of our selfish human selves doesn’t fix us.

Knowing my Myers-Briggs type (ENTJ) and being a natural planner/priority setter didn’t make me a better leader a.k.a. manager. Most managers became managers because they were good at something else. The annual 360 feedback process is like a writing a novel. Once it’s written and read, what happens? In my experience, not much. The calendar turns toward the sequel.

Most people don’t need to “cultivate and develop” self-awareness. My problem, maybe yours too, is that I am all too aware of me – my needs, my wants, my desires, and my demands. I’m not unaware of other people. I simply don’t care as much about them as I do about me. Like the HBR blogger, I am focused on what I need from other people not on what I can give them.

Obsession with self-knowledge is not a biblical principle. The Bible encourages people to know God and, in the process, begin to know and understand ourselves. Our answer is outside ourselves and beyond other people.

The prophet Isaiah had a God encounter. When he saw the Lord, he also had a full-on moment of self-awareness. His response: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…” Isaiah 6:5

God-awareness is humbling; this makes us better prepared to lead. “Humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 15:33

Biblical leadership is about denying self and serving others. Jesus, our example, went about selflessly doing good. In John 13, He strips down, suits up in a towel and bows down to wash the disciples’ feet. He willing goes to the cross, dying there to save them and the rest of us self-absorbed sinners.

Becoming that kind of leader isn’t something we’re likely to learn from Harvard Business Review. May I suggest a few tips from the pages of Scripture?

  • Treat people as you’d like to be treated. Matthew 7:12
  • Be merciful. You’ll need mercy one day. James 2:13
  • Be humble. God knows how to exalt you in due time. 1 Peter 5:5-6
  • Never take credit for someone else’s work. It’s stealing. Leviticus 19:11
  • Pray for wisdom. Proverbs 2:6

That last is key. What we really need to lead well we can only receive from God.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. James 3:17