“I’ll do it myself—it’s no big deal.” It starts off innocently enough, but soon you’ve taken on more than you can handle and the difficult conversations you’ve been avoiding are starting to pile up and resentments are beginning to form. Worse yet, you find yourself in or quickly headed toward burnout. This happens so often among well-intentioned leaders, we think we are being peacemakers when in reality we are attempting to keep the peace and failing miserably because in our own spirit, there is anything but peace. We continue on like a good soldier and find false comfort in scriptures like “in this world you will have trouble…” or “do not grow weary in doing good…” all the while the pressure is becoming overwhelming and the emotions we’ve pushed down are now bubbling to the surface in the form of defensiveness or even anger. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
Have you ever stopped to think about the stories we tell ourselves about others when we simply take on what we were expecting them to do? In that moment a judgment has taken place. It’s so easy to jump to the negative headspace, we assume we know why they’ve disappointed us, so we open an account where wrongs are stored rather than opening a healthy dialogue. In her book Dare to Lead, Brené Brown suggests, when we initiate a difficult conversation, on average it will cause us about 8 seconds of discomfort, that’s it, 8 seconds! I’ll take the 8 seconds over months or even years of resentment and bitterness. Why don’t we want to have a tough conversation? Because they are tough, duh… But when we avoid them, we are harming ourselves, the people we are in relationship with and the community we are a part of. Think about it this way, Jesus asked a ton of questions AND answered many questions posed to him with questions—he is the master of curiosity. We can truly be peacemakers if we would only learn to be curious rather than judgmental. Here are a few examples you might try using the next time you’re tempted to avoid a hard conversation and take on more responsibility: “I’m puzzled as to why it took so long for you to respond to my email?” “Will you help me understand why you feel the way you do?” “What does support from me look like to you? Will you help me define it as we continue to move forward?” “The story I am telling myself is that you are upset with me for not doing…is that true?” What a tremendous opportunity we have to take a personal inventory of the messages we speak to ourselves concerning others. Imagine a community where assumptions are never made, expectations are clear, and peace is made though the courage of being vulnerable with one another. As the leader goes, so goes the team.
Matthew 5:9 (ESV) - “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”