learning to trust

rappel

It’s that time again – the end of one year and the beginning of another.

In some ways it feels surreal. Nothing very grandiose actually happens during the night of December 31, other than a big party in New York and a small family party with fireworks, games, and too much food. Nothing super special. The sun goes down, I sleep – albeit not many hours – in the same bed, and I wake up to the same house, with the same family, friends, work and life that I had when I when the day before ended.

On the other hand, a new year is a big deal. A calendar milestone. A chronological capstone. A time for reflection, evaluation, and a fresh start with new goals, focus, and intentionality. 

I do not stop to review my life very often, so I am grateful for the reminders at this time of year. And I am grateful for the opportunity to refresh my perspective and consider how I want to live my 2016.

In the years past, I have chosen one word for each year – an attempt to encourage myself to think, speak, and act with a particular heart attitude. I have chosen words like empower, fulfill, courage, and authentic, but this year I am choosing TRUST.

There are a lot of big challenges and struggles bombarding my family and friends. I can tend to worry, and get frustrated or tense or discouraged. Sometimes I feel helpless and without hope.

I want to choose to believe in God’s goodness and His love and His power to resolve, restore, and redeem these difficult consequences instead.

I want to TRUST Him.

I may be choosing my most faith-stretching word so far. It goes against my natural desires to fix the problem myself… and fix it fast. It goes against my anger and fear and impatience when the problems drag on or get worse before they get better.

Most of my natural tendencies do not help the situation or the person I care about. I can bring a lot more power to a situation with prayer and a peaceful attitude. So that is my One Word for 2016 – TRUST.

Feel free to ask me how I am doing with it as the days and weeks go by. 🙂 I’ll need your encouragement.

What word are you choosing for 2016? 

are you happy to see me?

My dog Mandy loves me. She wags her whole body as soon as she sees me. She dances a little jig, and if I would let her, she would joyfully do a five foot vertical leap to kiss me smack on the lips. Sometimes I forget to feed her on time, sometimes her water dish goes dry, sometimes I don’t give her any attention all day… It doesn’t matter; I don’t deserve it, but she is always happy to see me. 

People aren’t like that.

Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni and others state that one of the most important elements in relationships is trust… and I have to deserve it; I have to build it; I have to earn it. I have learned a lot about trust from Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity.

  • The first way that I earn trust is by connecting authentically with others. People feel like I connect with them if I listen for understanding – really hear them, with empathy and validation for their concerns. Connection happens when the people I work with feel that I truly value them, that I care, that I invest in them. I will not always do what they suggest, but they know I will hear them out, consider their ideas, and never discount how I affect them with my actions.
  • Trust is also built by looking out for other’s interests. Cloud calls this “extending favor”. In other words, I am “watching their back”, and I am on their side. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals or performance standards, but it means that I will do all I can to help, train, encourage or provide resources so that others are successful. If I have built trust, they can be confident that I will always speak well of them, and I will always speak up for them. They never have to worry that they might “get on my bad side” or that I might turn on them.
  • I also build trust by balancing power and vulnerability. Others can trust me when they see that I make things happen and get things down. I earn trust when I am competent and responsible, and when I follow through with what I said I would do. On the flip side, I also need to acknowledge my mistakes and faults at times. When I am authentic about my own challenges, others gain courage to face their own. When I am honest about my weaknesses and needs, others can identity; they are often willing to help, and we build more trust in the process.

Since trust is the basis of relationships, I need be constantly evaluating how I am doing in my relationships at work and at home. Am I connecting? Do they know I care? Do they know that I am “for” them?  Can they depend on me to get things done? Have I been real with them?

Are they happy to see me?

How do you build trust? How have others earned your trust?

(** If you enjoyed this post, you might also like “how’s my wake?” – more from Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity.)

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?