Leading Like Jesus: Empathy

After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:1-5 NKJV)

As a leader, I’m well aware of the positive impact good leadership can have on a person or organization and how poor leadership can have long term negative consequences. Because of this, I read books on leadership, attend leadership conferences, read leadership blogs, and follow proven leaders in social media. I try to surround myself with good leaders in order to learn from their examples. Hands down, the greatest leader is Jesus Christ. His ability to lead and equip 12 men, to change history and the world, stands as a great example of what it truly means to lead. Including today’s post, I want to share 7 principles I’ve observed from one example of the Lord’s leadership.

Empathy that leads to Compassion
Empathy is what happens when we see the needs of others and imagine how we may feel or react if we were in their place. For example, I’ve never lost a dear pet, but I might empathize with someone who has lost a pet. Empathy is a little different from sympathy. Sympathy is the feeling we get when we witness the pains of others in situations we’ve actually experienced. If you scrape your knee, I can sympathize because I’ve done it too. Compassion is what happens when our empathy or sympathy move us to action. For example, if you’ve ever been homeless or even if you haven’t ever been homeless, your care and concern for the homeless may move you to give resources to help the homeless in your city. That’s compassion.

In the scripture today, Jesus had empathy that led to an act of compassion. He saw the needs of the multitude and was moved to lead his disciples to find a solution. At the same time, he also showed concern for the development of his disciples by using this event to teach them valuable lessons. His empathy led to compassion because he cared for the people.

Great leaders care about the people they lead, and the people their organizations serve. This is true whether a person is leading a team, a department, church or business. If you’re a team leader who cares about the well being and success of your team members as well as the success of the team, you can create a winning environment where success is sustainable and renewable. If you’re a business leader who cares about employee morale and satisfaction you will have higher retention rates and greater productivity than your competitors. Companies that care for their customers and show it with good customer service typically, perform better than those with mediocre standards of service.

Without empathy that leads to compassion, leaders are reduced to managers and purposeful work can be diminished to mere programming. It is imperative that you develop empathy as a leader on the front end. What I mean is, don’t allow your care for those you lead or the people you serve to be an after thought. Care about their future success before you even hire. This is especially true for leaders of non-profit organizations with volunteer staff. Volunteers must be led with empathy because they are not obligated to give you their time and energy. Every volunteer wants to know that they are appreciated for the sacrifices they make. They want to know that you care about the talents and resources they give freely for your church or organization.

Most importantly, great leaders apply empathy and compassion to their own lives to help them lead well. These leaders care about their own development and well being. They realize the best gift they can give their followers is a healthy, happy, growing self. They care about their integrity and honesty and lead themselves to cultivate those qualities.

Forgiveness 103

James Dixon, a friend of mine from college, shared this recent post on Facebook.
“That 3 year old head of household asked “Does God like bad people?”
I answer, “Yes God loves everybody, he just doesn’t like bad behavior.”
Her: “Does God love me when I act bad?”
Me: “Yes baby, he still loves you.”
Her: “Oh ok then!” as she jumps down from my lap w/ one of those “IT’S ON NOW!!” looks on her face searching for something to get into. *shegotme*”
James’ explanation to his daughter is simple, practical, and brilliant. He shows his daughter what God is like, affirms who she is in relation to God, and puts bad behavior in the proper context without diminishing her value as a person.
Our understanding of this concept is critical to our ability to forgive others. Regardless of what wrong a person does, they are still worthy of love. We must never forget that it was God’s love for a broken, sinful, guilty world that caused him to give his only son. He was still able to love and forgive us no matter what sin we’ve committed.

“And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 NKJV)

The word Jesus uses here for “forgive” means to send away. It’s kind of like bidding farewell or leaving something or someone behind. As Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he tells them to ask God to send their debts away. They are to ask God to separate his view of them from what they’ve done. Basically, they are asking God to love the person and hate the sin. 

Make no mistake, our bad behavior is worthy of the wrath of God. By God’s standards we deserve eternal destruction for breaking his law. But God’s love for us is so powerful it can sever our souls from the sinful nature that dwells within us. He gives is grace that we couldn’t earn, righteousness that we couldn’t obtain, and the act of forgiveness that loves us in spite of our faults.

Share your thoughts on this topic. Leave a reply.

Forgiveness 102

“Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:8, 10, 11 NKJV)

Someone committed a wrong at the church at Corinth. They addressed the issue and made corrections. Now Paul tells the church to forgive and tells them how to do it. He says “reaffirm your love to him”. Sometimes we make the mistake of gauging forgiveness on how we feel. We think once we stop feeling hurt or angry over an offense then we’ve forgiven the offender. But our feelings of satisfaction or relief can’t help the offender who may feel sorrowful, embarrassed, hurt, or guilty over what happened. In that case our forgiveness is incomplete.
Paul says this incomplete forgiveness can allow Satan to take advantage of us. It’s one of the enemie’s devices against believers. When we fail to follow through and reaffirm our love in forgiveness the enemy can easily divide and conquer. On one side he can bring down our image of the offender and on the other side he can bring down the offender’s image of us and themselves. We may incorrectly view ourselves as superior while they may be wrestling with the question “am I a bad person”.
Forgiveness isn’t complete until love is reaffirmed. That means we must do the work (actions, not just words) of re-establishing our love for the offender. If we say we’ve forgiven someone but are avoiding them, dismissing them, ignoring them, or withholding grace, love and kindness from them our forgiveness is incomplete. We must do the work of convincing them that we genuinely love them as a person regardless of what they’ve said or done. Then we won’t be fooled by the enemy’s devices.
What are some ways you can reaffirm your love towards others? Leave a reply.

Forgiveness 101

We’ve all had to forgive others and be forgiven by others. I know I’ve been on the receiving end of forgiveness far more often than I’ve had to forgive others. I also realize I’m not very good at forgiving because from childhood I was always just told to “forgive”. You know how it goes.

Chris hits Brent with the ball. Brent tells the teacher. The teacher gets both of them together and asks what happened. Chris says it was an accident. The teacher makes Chris say “I’m sorry”. Next she turns to Brent and tells him to say “I forgive you”. Then she sends them off to play again.
It seems simple enough but it’s not always that easy. Difficult conflicts where people are emotionally wounded or seriously angry may require more than “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”. So here is some insight on how to forgive.

“But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.” (2 Corinthians 2:5-8 NKJV)

In this passage Paul is referencing a conflict in the church at Corinth that was so severe the church had to discipline the person responsible. Now that the situation is over, he says the church should forgive the person. 
In English we typically define forgive as “relief from debt, or to no longer feel resentment toward a person”. But here in this passage the word forgive in Greek means “to grant as a favor, that is gratuitously, in kindness, pardon or rescue”. It’s root word is the same word for grace. Our English word carries with it the images of debt, guilt, and resentment while the biblical word has the image of favor, grace, and kindness. 
When Paul says “forgive” he is telling the church to go and grant favor, go and give grace, and go to show kindness to the person who has committed the wrong. True forgiveness is an act of love and grace by the offended to the offender. It is an act that gives without expecting anything in return. Forgive, just like love, is an action word.

Getting Control

One of the biggest barriers to conflict resolution is hightened emotions. It’s hard to approach someone to resolve a conflict when you’re hurting inside. It’s hard to even entertain the idea of resolving conflicts when your anger is calling for vengeance. In some cases our feelings are so strong nothing a person says or does can appease us. We’re too hurt to forgive and too angry to forget. Here are a few tips for getting emotions under control.

1. Tell God how you feel. 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7 NKJV)

Before we run off to vent our feelings with friends, coworkers, or classmates, we need to talk to God. When we submit ourselves to him and pray about how we feel, three things will happen; he will give us his perspective on everything, peace that surpasses all understanding, and protection for our hearts and minds. 

2. Make every thought obedient to Christ.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 NKJV)
Any thought, idea, or feeling that is contrary to the knowledge of God must be addressed. God gave us emotions and it’s okay to feel, but it’s also mandatory that we’re obedient to God. When we’re emotionally charged its tempting to release those pinned up feelings by saying harmful words. We may be tempted to violence. We may begin to plot our retaliation and vengeance rather than seeking a resolution. Those thoughts and emotions must be captured, disciplined, and made obedient to God before they spiral out of control and cause us to sin.
3. Mature in the area of self-control.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians5:22, 23 NKJV)

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,” (2 Peter 1:5, 6 NKJV)

Self-control (also called temperance) is a mark of spiritual maturity just like increased knowledge of God’s word or changes in your lifestyle. It is identified as a fruit of the spirit and as a virtue to add to our faith. If we are constantly maturing in the area of self-control we will be less likely to lash out when conflicts rise in our lives.
What are some other tips you can share for getting feelings under control? Leave a reply.

Love and Conflict

The single greatest conflict in the history of the world is the conflict between humanity and God. When Adam and Eve failed to follow God’s commands they committed what is called sin (missing the mark). As a result, they were cursed with death and banished from the Garden of Eden. Since that time, every descendant of Adam and Eve, every person born in this world, has a sinful nature (see Romans 3:23).

We are born with the capacity to commit any sin imaginable. It’s in our DNA. If you doubt what I’m saying, consider the toddler who takes toys from others who aren’t looking (stealing), or who’s face is covered in chocolate as he says he didn’t take the cookie (lying). That child hasn’t reached an age of comprehension just yet and their nature is in its purest state (see Proverbs 20:11).
This sin nature puts humanity in direct conflict with God who demands we live according to his law of holiness. The bible even calls us enemies of God ( see Romans 5:10). The end result of this conflict between people and God is eternal death (see Romans 6:23). 
To resolve this conflict between God and humanity, God used his great love.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” (Ephesians 2:4, 5 NKJV)

Even though we were guilty, deserving of wrath, and already condemned to death for breaking God’s law (see John 3:16-18), God’s great love was the motivator for resolving our conflict.  His love sacrificed Jesus on our behalf so we could be made alive and reconciled to himself.

When we seek to resolve conflicts with others we need to check our motives. If we are motivated to prove how right we are we’re also proving how wrong others are. Of we are motivated to get our feelings appeased, we are selfish and only taking something away from the conflict without giving anything to help resolve the conflict. If we are motivated to protect our self image we are automatically devaluing the self image of others.

God has shown us the best motivator; love. Love covers a multitude of sins (see 1 Peter 4:8). We should love others enough to want what’s best for them regardless of what they’ve said or done. We should love them enough to make sacrifices for the sake of resolution. If you believe your conflicts are beyond resolution it’s time to step up your love game. Love those who are in conflict with you with the love of God. Even if your heart is bleeding inside because of the hurt you feel, make sacrifices for the sake of your relationship.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13″ NKJV)

What are some challenges you face in resolving conflicts? How can love help you overcome those challenges? Leave a reply.