(embrace) imperfection: my word for 2018

dented car adam-griffith-252508

Photo by Adam Griffith on Unsplash

I chose a word last year, but wasn’t writing faithfully, so never put it out there for others to know. That’s not important since a word for the year isn’t chosen to flaunt or compare with others, but rather to help focus attention, effort, and growth for the individual who choses the word.

This year I am back at it. I am sharing my word with you, not to say you should pick a word yourself or to show off mine, but rather because somehow putting it into print gives it a kind of “officialness” – a concreteness for me – maybe even a bit of accountability from the few who read this and know me well enough to ask me about my word during this next year. 🙂

2018: embrace imperfection

Ok, it’s sort of two words, but again, that’s not important. What matters is that I have struggled with perfectionism most of my life. It has caused me to be very critical of myself and others. It causes me to be continually discontent: nothing is ever completely finished, good enough, or all that I would like it to be. It drives me to want more, to do more, to be more. All. The. Time.

im • per • fect: (n.) someone or something characterized by faults or weaknesses that do not necessarily impair its use; not fully formed or complete; still in process

As I have grown, I have learned to temper my perfectionism. With four children, it didn’t take me long to realize a perfect home would never be a reality. My love for them made it not too difficult to value hospitality, community, and other’s learning over picture-perfect decoration and neatness.

At work, valuing teamwork, shared leadership, and coaching new leaders fairly easily took priority over my personal perfectionist tendencies. I care more about encouraging and empowering others than I do about imposing an unrealistic perfection standard.

I know I don’t practice this perfectly (duh!), and I know others don’t always experience the grace I would like them to get from me, so this year I want to focus on embracing my imperfection.

I am convinced that other’s won’t feel that imperfection is OK in them
if I don’t feel that imperfection is OK in me.

I recognize that when I play my tape forward, my internal unrelenting desire for perfection reflects the ridiculous delusion that if I just worked at it hard enough, I could actually get to the place where I never need grace myself. I would never make mistakes. I would never need forgiveness. I would never need help. I wouldn’t need a Savior.

That’s crazy. Perfection will never be my reality. It is not possible. It isn’t even desirable in my heart. I long for community and I long for connection with God and others.

Imperfection enables closeness.

Imperfection does not have to prevent closeness as I often erroneously think it does. Rather than withdrawn from people because I am not handling my thoughts, words, or actions perfectly, I can lean in closer to others and experience their grace and support that encourage my heart and help me grow. Truth is, imperfection makes me more accessible and people have continuously surprised me with their judgment-free acceptance of my imperfection.

This year I want to get better at embracing my imperfections rather than running from them or attempting to hide them. This may be one of the most challenging words I’ve ever chosen. Maybe I will be brave enough to let you know how it’s going as the year goes on.

What are some of those “crazy-makers” that you battle in your heart? 

If you have one, what is your word for 2018?

discomfort with diversity

diverse handsHow great is my committment to diversity? Do I give lip-service to the concept or do I live out my convictions with my attitudes and my actions?

I have been considering these challenging questions a lot in the past weeks, after reading two posts that tied diversity to discomfort. The basic premise explained that diversity will cause discomfort for me.

When I work, worship, or play with people who are different from me, they will present words, ideas and ways of doing things that are different from my personal preferences.

That might be more discussion or less than I like. More noise or less. Different music. Different flavors. Different values. More technology or less. More detail or less. Quiet work space or open collaboration. Different colors. Different styles. More emotion or less. More time together or more time alone. Spend more or spend less.

Because not everyone is like me,
if I am comfortable all the time, then others are not.

I work with diverse teams and with a great variety of people from all over the world. Each of my friends and each member of my family is different. If I truly want to invite, encourage, and empower the unique people around me, I must feel uncomfortable some of the time… and not just tolerate the discomfort, but really embrace it as a means to greater diversity.

  – gender – race – age – nationality – personality – religion – family background –
– economic class – political party – experience level – strengths and weaknesses –

All of these differences can cause discomfort and even conflict… but they are the source of rich diversity at home and at work.

diversity

Photo credit: estherase / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Instead of having a goal to make everyone happy; we could each willingly accept unhappiness some of the time, knowing that means someone different feels satisfied.

Rather than seek my own way, I am slowly learning to become more comfortable with my discomfort and celebrate – and even intentionally seek out – diversity that challenges me.

How do you react to situations that make you uncomfortable? What do you do to embrace diversity?

how are your listening skills?

listening skillsThe most important skill that any people helper/developer can cultivate is to listen.  Listening to people is not a passive activity, but an active one. 

Leadership is about influence. Some leaders use positional power to manipulate behavior, but true leadership is relational. Good communication strengthens relationships, and the first step to good communication is good listening.

I have spent the last few weeks in my M.A. class learning about listening. It has been convicting, challenging, and motivating. I thought I was a pretty good listener until I took time to really evaluate my normal communication tendencies against these listening skills…

Listening with full attention

Sitting calm and centered. No fidgeting. Giving eye contact. Projecting warm curiosity. No distractions.

Listening with acceptance

No judgement. No forming opinions in the back of the mind. No planning a rebuttal.

Listening for understanding

“I hear you saying…” “Can you tell me more about that?”

Listening to hear more

Truly engaged and focused. Allowing for silence; not rushing to fill the quiet spaces. Waiting. Lean in.

Listening for information

Can I learn from what they are sharing? Is there something I need to hear? Not getting defensive. Open to hear more.

One exercise I did for the class was to try to listen to someone else talk for three to five minutes without saying a word – just making good eye contact and using body language to show interest and engagement. It was SO hard to not jump in with a comment, advice, or suggestions. You might want to try this… Let me know how it goes for you!

How are your listening skills? What do you do in order to listen well?

six important abilities for an incarnational leader

As promised in my earlier blog, here are six abilities that we can develop in order to develop an incarnational model of leadership. These abilities come from Duane Elmer’s book, Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility.

1. OPENNESS includes getting “out” and involved where people live and also inviting people “in” to my home and life = hospitality. Hospitality has the same root as hospital, two Greek words meaning “loving  + the stranger.” It evolved to mean connecting with strangers in a place of healing. True hospitality receives others openly, warmly, freely without any need to prove anything. Hospitality creates an atmosphere of safety and security so that deep, meaningful conversations can take place. An interesting twist to consider is that we sometimes honor others most by receiving from them rather than by trying to give to them.

2. ACCEPTANCE is the ability to communicate value, worth and esteem to another person, considering each person as created in God’s image and worthy of dignity and consideration.   A leader demonstrates acceptance when they suspend judgment. Not all judgments are wrong, but most premature judgments are! Acceptance also believes the best of people, while not being naive.

3. TRUST is confidence in a relationship when both parties believe the other will not intentionally hurt them but will act in their best interest.  Trust develops over time as we practice reciprocal need and mutual dependence successfully. Trust involves emotional risk; it is fragile, hard to gain and easy to lose.

4. ABILITY TO LEARN involves learning about, learning from and learning with others – recognizing that everyone has something to offer. Learning happens best when the leader is able to initiate and sustain interpersonal relationships and when they have a strong self-identity. People who are comfortable with themselves are also authentic and real with each other and avoid pretense in relationships. Active listening communicates a willingness to learn from the one speaking.  Another key to learning is positive, realistic expectations. These increase an individual’s ability to anticipate challenges but also to know that greater learning will be worth the effort.

5. UNDERSTANDING is the ability to find the deeper motivations and meanings behind values and behaviors. This requires pursuing the “roots” below the superficial words and actions. Too often we assume others are foolish or illogical simply because their reasoning is not self-evident to us. Understanding brings new perspectives. Forming the habit of asking Why? Why? Why? helps us to increase our understanding.

6. SERVANTHOOD is the ability to help people in such a way that their dignity is preserved and they are more empowered to live God-glorifying lives. Service takes different forms, depending on the situation, so it can’t be legislated, forced, or manipulated; if it isn’t sincere, it will come across as artificial and false.

I want to be an incarnational leader.  How about you?