It's common knowledge, to many who know me, that I am a "peace" guy. I try my best and work hard at being able to understand and speak to those on all sides of an argument, belief or position.
That's not the way I used to be. In my earlier years, I used to be very opinionated and argumentative, especially if I believed or thought I was right. If you didn't believe like I did, then you were, in simple terms, on the "other side of the issue." Loosely translated, you were my enemy. Your being my enemy excused me from having, or feeling obliged, to treat you like I treated those who were on my side (meaning those who had accepted me into their group). You were to be dismissed, devalued, and not ever defended.
I am ashamed to admit that at that point in my life, I needed, for some reason, to believe that warped kind of thinking. Looking back, I believe it more about having low self-esteem and the need to be accepted by a group . . . any group.
I quit believing and living like I had on the day when I engaged in an emotional/spiritual assessment exerice. In that exercise, I was asked to symbolically look behind me. In doing so, I began to see all of the people that I'd left wounded and hurt on the side of the road who didn't think or believe like I did. As I saw each face, my heart broke into hundreds of pieces as the awareness of the pain I had caused others began to swell inside of me like some emotional/spiritual tidal wave. The experience caused me to actually slump into a chair as I put my head between my hands and rocked back and forth as each wave of realization crashed upon me.
I wonder what hurts worse . . . hurting someone else, or the realization about what you've done?
Part of the pain was coming to realize that I wasn't raised to treat other people like that. I was raised to be a bridge builder, not a bridge burner! I was taught by loving family, teachers, coaches and pastors that there was never any kind of justification, ever, for causing harm. I remember thinking, and perhaps crying out . . . "I'm not a bridge burner! I am not a bridge burner! I am a better man than that." I just had to be a better man than that.
Another great influence that helped me decide to live differently was a book that was gifted to me by the late Paul J. Meyer of Waco, TX. 16 years later, I still encourage people, especially those who do lead others, or who want to lead others, to read this book. The authors are Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. The title of the book is: "The Servant Leader: Transforming Your Heart, Head, Hands and Habits." The central premise of the book is this, that one can never see or understand themselves as servant leaders (modeling Christ's example of leadership) and communicate with others who "are different" until one finally come to grip with two things: your pride, and your fears.
The horrible thing about pride and fears (well, my pride and fears) . . . they mix like oil and water . . . in other words, not very well.
In the rural setting I am humbled to serve in, I've discovered that even though I'm the pastor of a local United Methodist congregation (I actually pastor 2 churches) I'm also a "village chaplain". I'm approached and receive calls and inquiries from all sorts of people. What a humble privilege it is to be a pastor to all kinds of people . . . God's children every one. I believe I am approached, more often than not, because people know that I try to live out my life and faith as a servant, and that I strive to be a person of peace as often as I can.
Those of us who are privileged to lead others . . . may we give strong consideration of the blessing and benefits, to ourselves and to others, when we try to be servant leaders. Our world desperately needs servant leaders.