The other night I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in years – namely because he had moved away. Doyle had always been such an encouragement and support to me in whatever endeavor I was involved in at the time. But as a friend, Doyle offered something else – something that every leader needs. He offered me the gift of perspective.
The first time we got to know each other was over lunch. We had served on a couple of planning committees together and I had admired his wisdom and kindness. Lunch on that day was no different. I heard his story, and shared mine with him. I talked about the fact that I was living in a parentheses period – an in-between time in my work. (I was serving as a men’s pastor at the time, but anxious to get back to being a senior pastor.) Doyle’s primary word (and that of everybody whenever I’ve been anxious to make a quick move) was, “Stay where you are.” Actually he said, “I can’t think of anything more important than working with men.”
After sharing more joys and frustrations, he (lovingly!) asked me a slap-in-the-face question:
“Man, what does it take for you to be happy?”
Ouch. I didn’t realize how negative and complaining I had become. Or that I was sitting across from the king of gratitude.
That’s the kind of friend I needed, then and now. And the kind of perspective everybody needs – particularly in leadership.
Do you have people like that in your life? Do you have people who, when everybody else is telling you how awesome you are, says, “Wait a minute!” Or who have the kindness and courage to hold up a mirror to your snarly, whiney ways? Don’t run from people like that. Run to them. They’re a gift from God.
A Blip on the Screen
There was another time. For me it was in-my-face big news. Stop the presses and hold on to your bloomers. Dramatic in one sense of the word, painful in another. What I’m referring to is the news I received one Sunday morning that the church I had been a part of (with Doyle) was in major upheaval. The senior pastor ultimately resigned in what amounted to a church split. There was a lot of anger flying around, along with a lot of debates and open accusations.
Every hair on the back of my gossipy head stood up. What will happen now? What led to this? Who could give me the inside scoop? What issue (that was little of my own business) should I invest in emotionally? After all, this was the biggest church in town and that congregation had meant a lot to me.
Not long after that, I was talking to Doyle on the phone about another matter.
Had he heard? Yes.
What were his thoughts? I’ll never forget what he said:
“Oh… in the larger scheme of things, I think it’s just a blip on the screen.”
That one sentence completely refocused me. Something that one minute seemed massive, when viewed from another perspective, seemed small and manageable.
A Needed Skill and a Priceless Gift
Perspective is one of the most important skills of any leader. It takes considerable skill, humility, and a listening heart to step outside our own cultural moorings and see our opportunities and issues “from outer space.” But one advantage we have is the ability to see the world and your lunch meeting this week from God’s perspective. Check out this verse:
Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Paul was saying that believers are no longer limited to a flesh level of regarding others. As new creations in Christ, we now have access not just to God’s presence, but to His perspective as well. And that potentially changes everything.
In the process, He offers us wisdom and the gift of perspective in the form of honest feedback from trusted, wise friends. Do you have someone like that?
Do you have someone who can tell you when “honestly sharing your feelings” makes you sound like a crybaby?
Do you have someone who can tell you why you should be encouraged when you want to crawl into some hole and quit?
Do you have someone who can make your mountains look like molehills, or vice-versa?
Do you have someone who can tell you what the devil’s doing when you feel invincible, or what God is doing when you feel useless?
Do you have someone who will tell you what you need to hear, whether you want to hear it or not?
Do you have someone that, regardless of whether you listen to them or not, will still be your friend – and still offer the gift of perspective – tomorrow?
That, my friend, is one of the most priceless gifts anyone – especially any leader – can have. I think I feel a lunch or coffee meeting coming on. How about you?