“You don’t know what you’re doin’! Mrs. Jones didn’t do all this flippin’ junk! Whadda waste of time!” My frustrated choir student struggled during a sight reading exercise. Her coping device consisted of assassinating my character.
For the umpteenth time I explained to the choir that if they wanted to attend a competition, which they requested, we needed to do our time in the trenches with sight reading exercises.
For the next month, my chief complainer led a grim little band of 4 or 5 students who folded their arms and stared at me each time we practiced sight reading. They chose to lose participation points rather than admit I might know a little more about music competitions. At times I’d overhear them trying to recruit more students to their merry troupe.
When the competition rolled around, the rest of the choir performed well on the sight reading portion. We still received a lower mark because, as the judge said, “I’d like to give you a higher grade in here as most of you are doing a great job, but I can’t because 4 or 5 of you seem to be completely lost and not understanding how to sing these exercises at all.” The bus ride home was very, very quiet.
If you determine to lead according to God’s guidance, conflict is inescapable. I know this is normal leadership stuff, but certain elements of conflict used to drag my emotions to subterranean levels. Attacks on my character ranked numero uno. When individuals criticized my personality, leadership style or questioned my motives, I slid into a pit. Wallowing in the mud hole someone else created, it used to take numerous words of encouragement and support to bring me topside again.
Gradually, I learned that there will always be people trying to drag me down. If you are in church leadership and obeying God, that’s the deal. Read Exodus and Numbers. Considering the shenanigans Moses dealt with will put yours back in perspective. Not everyone celebrates what God is doing through you. Some can’t even tolerate it. You must be prepared with a response plan when gossip, strife, grumbling and complaining start digging a hole for your emotions and self-esteem to slip into.
Joseph knew the pain of being verbally trashed and cast down, like, way down. The pit wasn’t the worst of it either! His journey to a ruler’s position in Egypt went by way of slavery and prison. Years later, during a reconciliation with his brothers, he says one of the most profound statements in the Word. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV) God used some pretty vicious behaviors to place Joseph in power.
God used the jealousy and rage of Joseph’s brothers. God allows humans to choose good or evil. If He gives us a free will, He cannot constantly override individual decisions to commit sin. One of the qualities that amazes me about Him though, is His infinite ability to bring beauty from ashes. Clearly, God desired to move Joseph to Egypt for his eventual promotion. His new position would ultimately save the lives of the very brothers who wanted him dead. I love the serendipity of them eventually bowing down before him, just like his teenage dream predicted.
God used the wickedness of Potiphar’s wife. God could have steered Joseph into a household where the mistress wasn’t starring in her own daytime drama, but He didn’t. Potiphar’s house became another step in the journey to test and strengthen Joseph’s wisdom and morals. I imagine it crushed him to go from his achieved position to prison. Are you starting to see the pattern, though? Joseph’s travels to his destiny involved ups and downs between positions of honor and circumstances of lowliness.
Oh dear sisters, I know how much it hurts to be manhandled by other’s words and actions. Understand, our loving Father allows this in our lives for the same purposes He permitted His own son to be brutally assaulted. Our ability to lead successfully is influenced greatly by our character quality and maturity level. Our strength and purity come forth through fire, just like precious metals.
Although people may intend to diminish, disrespect or destroy us, we can always choose to rise above their mudslinging and hole digging.
I encourage you to look at your critics with different eyes. Ask God what He’s trying to refine within you through the mud slingers in your world. Sometimes, God will use people to make your current situation so intolerable that you will consider something else He’s prepared for you. Study Joseph’s life and consider all the sinful behavior God re-purposed to direct Joseph’s path. He can do the same for you, if you will seek His perspective and insights.
In my next post we’ll look at more character issues. I’ll share five ways unhealthy leadership behaviors and attitudes can damage our fellowship with other believers and God himself.