Note: this is the first in a series of posts I will be doing specifically based around leadership issues. I am not exactly sure as of yet how many I will be doing, but I want to deliver words that are not just geared toward leaders, but about them, as well.
I have a T-shirt that someone made for me a few years ago that reads, “I’m not mean, I’m just bold” and it cites Isaiah 50:7, which says, “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.” (NIV) I don’t wear it much. Something about the way it is made makes me hot when I have it on and it also being black doesn’t help the hot thing, especially in the North Carolina summer. Still, I like the shirt. The reason I like this shirt is because I think it clarifies something important about our resolve to serve God and the way that resolve is sometimes perceived. At the same time, I think we also need to pause and think about what Isaiah 50:7 is saying. It is speaking of determination, not negative or bad behavior. It isn’t talking about feeding problems or about making things worse. It is talking about the fact that if we have set ourselves to do God’s work and we are really doing His work, we will not find shame before Him.
Which brings me to the point of this note: I fully well admit that I have, in the past and sometimes even in the not-so-distant past, been a leader that fueled spirits at times because I wanted to make my own point or get something across. Like lots of others in this world, I can speak without thinking, act rashly, and act in a manner that we might call “bold,” but have done so rudely or without properly ordering myself and my ways.
We all know how difficult it can be to handle people, especially when people are frustrating, vexing, or rude. I am not a stranger to having a reputation for boldness. People who know me know that I say what I mean and I often have a way of presenting things that can be on the blunt side. I will not apologize for making things plain, but I am also learning more and more that as I walk through this ministry, there is no excuse for behaving or speaking in an ungodly manner. God calls us to be people who not only give respect, but to be respectful in our conversations and interactions with one another. We talk a lot about being “bold” in Christian circles today, and we talk about it with a sense of pride in ourselves as we conveniently try to excuse our bad or unchristian behavior. It’s as if being bold has become an excuse to act and speak in the flesh, causing other people to be offended and hurt.
There is no shortage of people calling themselves everything from Apostle to Pastor (I am leaving out teacher because nobody seems to want to do that now, but that’s a different story) today, and the results are a never-ending disaster of people who seem to be able to get at least a modest following, but do so to the disgrace of the office. It’s hard to find a true one, one who is truly called of the office they claim to have and actually operating in it properly. This has led to an endless parade of people who don’t have the anointing so they don’t walk in it, but who are quite comfortable walking in the flesh. They get enough Biblical knowledge to know how to disguise their own behavior as “holier” or “superior” to someone else’s, and are quick to brand people who don’t measure up to their opinions of exacting obedience as inferior. Make no mistake: the offense I spoke of earlier is exactly the point, because offense gets attention. (Remember this for later on.) They want to make everything personal, just to make sure they hit you where it hurts and you retort with something back, so a never-ending, meaningless debate can ensue and you can spend your whole day or night thinking about how to answer back and handle that specific situation.
For many years, I always tried to “educate” people who pursued those means of attack because I thought they acted the way they did out of ignorance. When someone would come on my page and start about women preachers or would approach me about it on the phone or in person, I was the first one there with an arsenal of Bible verses and contextual information to try and show them that the Bible didn’t say what they said it did. If I posted something on my page and someone tried to come and tell me something was wrong with it, I was there, ready, and purposed for the attack. The problem, however, wasn’t ever the Bible or what it says; it was how it was interpreted. The problem wasn’t my information; it was how it was perceived. The problem wasn’t facts; it was that everything, every single time, always became personal.
The problem with these types is that they aren’t uninformed by ignorance, they are uninformed by choice. They defend their behavior by saying that they are just speaking the truth (even though it’s usually not truth, but a distorted version of it), not recognizing that every one of us has a choice in how we choose to present truth. Rude people know they shouldn’t talk the way they do or conduct themselves as they do, but they do it anyway because it gets them attention. They want the whole world upset because if everyone gets upset and it’s all because of them, they will be the focus of everyone’s attention. Just like our mothers used to tell us, some people don’t care if the attention is negative or positive…they just care it’s focused on them.
The problem with me was that I was responding out of the flesh. I have old boxes filled with letters that were full of proper facts and reasonably interpreted Bible verses, only to be peppered with personal, admittedly mean-spirited commentary to try and effect my point that these were people who just sought to be mean and attack me. So my method was…if you attack me, I am going to attack you right back, but I am going to (misguidedly) think I am doing it with authority. My information might have been correct (it usually was, I take painstaking efforts to make sure I don’t give out wrong information), but my flesh wasn’t right. My flesh wanted validation and wanted people to feel bad for how they spoke and treated me, because I was “anointed.” I wanted those people, those actions, those individuals to see what they were doing was wrong and submit that to the correct information provided. I hoped that, by trying to check them with an upfront method, they were going to be changed and their rudeness disguised as boldness would soften and humble itself.
The thing I didn’t realize is that they didn’t accept the authority God placed on my life in the first place, so doing what I did didn’t change that for them. They might have thought I was right, but nobody was going to say anything to me about it and they certainly weren’t going to come and apologize. I just wasted a bunch of time and energy on something that had no point in the first place.
In the early days, I didn’t know any better and didn’t have anyone who was interested enough to sit me down and show me that there was a better way to handle the situation. Through many years and many hard lessons, I learned that maybe being so deliberately vindictive wasn’t always right, but when every argument turned personal, I had a way of turning it right back, even when in leadership.
What I have learned over the past few months (it took me long enough, didn’t it?) is that no amount of brow beating back is going to change a person who has deceived and convinced themselves that their ungodly behavior is functioning on a godly principle. If people believe their behavior is actually acceptable, no amount of sitting somewhere and talking to them, back and forth, to the point where I also get angry and wind up wanting to tell them off, is going to break through that spirit. Such retaliatory behavior is both childish and immature, no matter how professional the information presented may, in reality, be. It requires deliverance, and deliverance that refuses to feed that spirit (which we will talk about in the next paragraphs).
We should never, ever be people who just go around looking for trouble and using our faith to defend our fleshly behavior, no matter what side of the spiritual battle we may be on. It’s fine to be bold, but our boldness needs to be balanced with humility. We need to be people who are humble enough to admit when we are speaking out of our own thoughts and feelings and not throw a few Bible verses or the Name of God in a conversation to defend our own bad and unseemly behavior. We need to be willing to examine ourselves first, look at the real reasons why we are doing what we do, and stop justifying ourselves so we can continue doing it. God wants to do a work in each and every single one of us, and the reason it’s not getting done is because we aren’t letting God transform us from the inside out. If you want Him to change big things (ministries, destinies, churches, nations), then you better let Him start by changing you, first.
Your problem is not everyone else; it is you.
There are spirits that operate through people that just want to get you so hopping mad and riled up that you can’t see straight. They come, they pick, they retaliate, they behave in a nasty manner, they say whatever it is they want to say, they don’t consider feelings and they always seem as if they are trying to have the last word or are vying to be “right” about everything. And it seems as if I am surrounded by people like this, all the time, who just have to get theirs in and do it their own way.
If we want to stop confronting these things and experiencing the mess that results from them, we need to stop feeding these spirits. Yes, there are times when we need to address things, when we need to say things about people’s behavior and when we need to rebuke or “check” someone because of how they are acting (and no matter how mad we might be, we can still do so with grace). When to do it and when to walk away are discernment calls, things we need to learn how to handle as we go through our lives and we go through this call. We won’t always do it perfectly, but being able to see what situation warrants what starts when we are ready to stop having to defend ourselves all the time and have other people see that we are “right” and they are wronging us. The sooner we stop feeling like we have to step in and help God out with other people’s conviction, the better we will be able to step back and let whatever spirits need to die, die right there on the spot. If the spirit wants attention, then you look at yourself and stop feeding it. Don’t get into the personal argument it wants to start and the way it wants to cause offense and make you all upset and angry.
I am realizing that, as a leader, I need to go first and model this for the people who are covered by this ministry or who look to me in a leadership role. Instead of arguing, set the boundary and walk away from the situation. Instead of lying awake, all night, angry and forming arguments, I have to trust that God will protect my own bold stand for Him to refuse to fight and quarrel with disagreeable people and that He will protect my reputation.
2 Corinthians 3:1-6 tells us, “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (NIV)
The Spirit gives life to what it creates, and that includes our interactions with other people. If we call ourselves Spirit-led, then that means more than just being able to speak in tongues or shout as we run around the room. Being Spirit-led means that the Spirit guides us in our each and every interaction, and that He moves through us and our decisions rather than us ourselves. Maybe in here, we’ve got boldness all wrong. Maybe instead of seeing boldness as the need to be outspoken or to spread our thoughts around, maybe we need to be willing to be bold enough to do what needs to be done, without a word in every situation, without explaining ourselves, assessing what is necessary based on what we discern we are dealing with, and without having to make a fuss so our own flesh can get attention. Maybe boldness is an action.
Be bold enough to have self-respect, and walk away. Be the leader, be the example. You can starve anything if you don’t feed it.
…So stop feeding it!
Love y’all in the Kingdom,
Apostle Dr. L.
(c) 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.