Edited to note: To be certain, this post was not directed to or related to one specific instance or conversation. It was borne out of a question someone posed to me on how I, personally, but our family, collectively, have purposefully persevered in ministry over the last 20 years. Serving in ministry, specifically, and leadership, in general, one receives constant feedback, both positive and negative. Aside from a deep and abiding faith in Christ, what has sustained us is making sure to have truth-tellers in our lives and tools that help us discern the many voices and messages that we are surrounded by daily. The following tools have been greatly beneficial in helping us not only to survive, but to thrive in ministry and leadership.
In the beginning, Jon was my boss, not my boyfriend or husband. Right out of college, I was hired by a para-church ministry and began working with him as part of his leadership team. And today, he’s both my supervisor and my husband! Pretty sweet, if I do say so myself!
Over the last twenty years, I’ve learned a lot about leadership from Jon. And I have grown significantly as a leader because of his belief in me and his
insistence, er, I mean, encouragement to develop all the skills and abilities that God gave me, even if that meant living outside of the box of other’s expectations or personal opinions. Although he has shared many leadership lessons, there are two that stand out and have stuck with me over the years and in various vocational endeavors.
First, Jon insisted that our leadership team identify the truth-tellers in our lives. Those people we could trust and count on to provide honest, constructive feedback, which is essential to grow and develop as a leader. He assured us, these voices were the ones we needed to zero in on and clearly hear because there would be countless others trying to drown them out and pull us down.
To this very day, I have a cherished and respected group of truth-tellers in my life. People who come alongside me and share personal insight and biblical wisdom, so that I may grow as a Christian, a wife, a mom and a pastor. This is a network of individuals with whom I am completely vulnerable and authentic. No topic is off-limits. And I openly request and receive their feedback, insights and truth.
Along with identifying our truth-tellers, Jon also shared an important tool with our leadership team in dealing with the criticism and constant negative feedback from naysayers. Nearly two decades later, this tool continues to be one that I draw upon in those moments when a random person belittles me, criticizes me or tells me how I should be doing my job, how I should parent, or even their opinion about my role in my marriage.
What is this amazing leadership tool?
Pure and simple: I quack. Maybe not out loud. For then, I’d be labeled a quack. But with a big smile on my face, I go to my happy place in my head and I quack. Trust me, it works! Quacking is a metaphor for letting things roll off your back like water off of a duck’s back. And not taking the criticism to heart. Remembering to listen to the voice of Truth (God) and your truth-tellers.
In the Bible, we are told words can build up or tear down (Ephesians 4:29*). People have strong opinions about a pleothra of topics that directly relate to my life, my job, my educational choices for my kids, my marriage, and the list goes on and on and on. And, wouldn’t ya know, they freely and frequently share those opinions as God’s word to me from them. And ya know, sometimes, they’re valuable. Other times, not so much.
Along with the Holy Spirit, I do believe God uses godly people to encourage and instruct us. People who have been there and done that. A trusted circle who will purposefully share from a place of wisdom, instead of personal preference. For me, the voices that I readily listen to and hold close to my heart are those of my truth-tellers, not the masses.
Have you developed a network of truth-tellers in your life? If not, I’d encourage you to pray about that and to begin to identify who those people are in your life. As we learn to listen beyond the clutter of noise that infiltrates our lives, and to sift through the negativity, varied opinions and personal preferences, our truth-tellers become those voices for which we can depend upon to speak truth and life, even if it’s hard to hear in the moment. These are the voices we need to hear and to heed.
Are you dealing with a special personality in your place of employment or a challenging individual in your network of aquaintances? Oftentimes, these people haven’t earned a place of trust in your life or a right to speak so directly to you that you would even take it seriously. Even still, they believe they know what you should be doing, how you should be doing it, and when you should be doing it. Sometimes, it can be hard not to retaliate to what they are saying to you, especially if it’s hurtful or condemning.
As Pastor Jon shared yesterday, “At times, we need to speak the truth. But, sometimes, we simply need to keep our mouths shut.”
Trust me, this isn’t always easy, especially when it feels like a personal attack. It requires self-control. Or, perhaps, duck tape. I mean, it does come in many cute colors and designs now. We could make a fashion statement while keeping our mouths shut. Seriously, though, if this is the case for you, consider quacking! For many years, it’s worked for me. If you try it, let me know!
I have to believe that people don’t intend to be hurtful, or to put their foot in their mouth, or to act like they know-it-all. Or maybe they do. Even still, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt. So, I keep my truth-tellers close and my quacking even closer. And maybe, just maybe, I will invest in some leopard print duck tape, too! I need all the help I can get!
* When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you. (Ephesians 4:29 )