Monday, September 26, 2011

04.19.10 Taking Responsibility

In the inner recesses of my heart, I am a complainer.  I naturally want everything done my way all the time, every time.  So I inwardly grumble when the people and the situations around me don't comply with my wishes [i.e., when things go wrong and I just "know" it would have gone better had it been done my way].

But I hold back my complaints most of the time because I am a leader.  Leaders who complain are not useful, because they do not set the necessary example of taking action about the problem.  Gandhi urged us to "be the change you want to see", and we would progress much more quickly towards the goal of a better world if we heeded this advice.

The problem is, it's incredibly difficult to take responsibility for making improvements.  I have been in leadership and in ministry long enough to know that every person wants the other individual/group/organization to do the changing, as if that one person has all the flaws that make it difficult to remain in partnership.  If only he would do this... and so the complaint continues, and the finger is never turned around and pointed right at the heart of the complainer. 

The cycle spirals out from our intimate relationships into our neighborhoods, our church community, our city, our country...if only "the other" would do something differently, then we'd all be so much better off.  But the fact is, we are "the other" to everyone else.  People want us to change just as much as we wish it on them.  And someone has to act first.  Someone has to voice the underlying discontent - in a respectful, constructive, and open-minded way.  And that someone better be armed with a load of ideas on how to resolve the issue - because complaining outwardly is no more helpful than remaining silent if some suggestion for improvement and willingness to pursue change doesn't accompany the grievance. 

The interesting challenge here is that, in order to stop blaming "the other" for our less-than-desirable circumstances, we have to actually start the hard work of changing ourselves.  Responsible individuals are intentional about honest reflection and personal transformation.  Being responsible to God, and to one another, requires us to consider ourselves with sober judgment (Rom 12:3), to use our time wisely (Eph 5:16), and to do everything we possibly can to build up the people around us (Eph 4:15-16).  It means loving people where they are but pushing them to be even better, starting first with ourselves.

When I am faced with a person or a situation that is less than ideal, I first ask: is the problem with "the other" or with me?  In other words, is there any objective truth that should compel the other to change or is it simply a matter of my preference?  If the issue lies with me, then I must decide whether it is important enough to present, if I need to move on (leave the person or circumstance), or if I must simply drop it.  And if I drop it, it must be dropped [I must truly be able to let it go].  If however, I am bound by scripture or by conscience to urge change, then I must be willing to commit to see the change through.  I must do my part, which is often painful, hard work because it requires me to forgive, to be generous, to be patient, and, quite often, to change something about myself as well.

So - what have you complained about recently?  And what are you going to do about it?

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