Grace and the Heart of Discipleship

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It was a rainy day in Los Angeles, as it often is that time of year, and as I sped along in the left lane I hit a pool of standing water and began to hydroplane. I let up off the gas, but it was too late. I spun backwards across four lanes of traffic before slamming into the concrete barrier along the right shoulder.

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What are you about?

It's a simple question really, although one that might be difficult to answer:  What are you about?  What defines you?  What is unique about you?  What makes you who you are?

Jamie asked this question of herself on her blog, which got me thinking about what I'm about.

I'm about Jesus, and I'm about helping others follow him.

I'm about my wife.

I'm about the Church and more specifically my church.

I'm about community.

I'm about cities. I live in DC, and my last three trips have been to Seattle, New York City, and Addis Ababa.

I'm about food. I especially love Chicago pizza, hot dogs and beef sandwiches, and if you grill meat I'll like it.

I'm about leadership, learning to lead myself and others well.

I'm about too much TV.

I'm about receiving grace and trying to get better at giving it.

I'm about reading and writing.

I'm about social media.

I'm about driving.

I'm about generosity.

I'm about being stressed and agitated but trying to change that.

I'm about my friends.

I'm about Sabbath.

I'm about poker.

I'm about competition and winning.

I'm about thinking and challenging and stretching my mind (and yours).

I'm about serving the vulnerable, because that's what Jesus is about.

I'm about integrity.

I'm trying to be about joy and intentionality.

I'm about theology.

I'm becoming about artistic expression and travel.

I used to be about politics.

I'm about exercise (sometimes).

What are you about?  Leave a comment below or better yet, write your own post and link back to mine.  I'll be sure to swing by your blog and check it out.

Photo by Flickr User gfpeck

You can Take your Advice and Shove It

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." -Proverbs 15:1

Or to quote a more modern proverb, "You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar."

In other words, you're more likely to win someone over or get what you want when you're sweet, kind, and gentle than when you're harsh, overbearing, and rude.

I got an e-mail recently from a person who seemed to be telling me how to do my job.

My immediate reaction was, "You can go jump."

After a bit more thought, I realized their idea might not be a bad one, but I was still pretty opposed to it because of the source and the tone of the email.

Fortunately, this cooler head prevailed before I responded, and I simply said I'd consider their idea but let them know I might not execute it.

Even still, I wish I had waited a bit longer to reply, as after calming down just a bit more, I would have let them know I truly did think there was value to their idea, which likely would have helped placate them if I decided not to act on their suggestion.

This experience made me realize that I have a tendency to do this same thing: point out where others have gone wrong or how to do things better.  (Actually, my wife pointed it out the night before in an unrelated conversation. Sometimes she's far more observant than I.)

I think there's a significant leadership lesson to be learned here, one that I'm not sure I really understood until I so quickly juxtaposed being on both the delivering and receiving ends of this sort of criticism.  And that is simply that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

You'll get more done by being kind and persuasive than by being harsh.  A harsh word will really only do three things

  1. Give you short-term satisfaction that you were right and the other person was wrong.
  2. Alienate you from that person, decreasing your influence with them and making it far less likely that they will actually do whatever you were hoping.
  3. Make you bitter.

A soft word—advice delivered humbly, gracefully, and lovingly—is far more effective at both accomplishing a task and building a relationship.

Photo by flickr user Alan Stanton