Comfort and challenge…

As we settled into our seats Easter Sunday 2012, I wondered where Pastor Rich Nathan would take us. I’ve been taught by him long enough to know that we were not likely to hear your typical Easter message. I would not be disappointed. I would be challenged in a funny kinda way. I’ve rinsed this four year old writing and hope the reminder hits you as it has me. Good…

Rich taught from John 21:1-17. He told the story of Jesus surprise visit to the disciples after His resurrection. I’ve read this text numerous times. Rich, like all great teachers, brought nuance to something I already knew.

Days before, Peter had denied he even knew Jesus. Never seen him, he said. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Peter, full of pride, promised he would stand strong. He didn’t. Epic fail. The passage in John is all about how Jesus restored him. Jesus didn’t brow beat Peter about his failure, He simply asked him if he loved him. Jesus asked him three times. Each time Rich pictured Jesus moving toward Peter and comforting him as he allowed him to release his shame. FM, baby.

Here is what sealed the deal for me. Rich referenced the movie, Good Will Hunting, and told the story of how Will was released from his shame by his counselor Sean. Sean kept moving closer to Will, who had been badly abused by his family, and simply kept repeating a stirring phrase,”It’s not your fault.” “It’s not your fault.” “It’s not your fault.” Will gives Sean the heisman the first few times and then slowly lets those words sink in. Suddenly the torrent lets loose as he fully trusts his counselor and releases his shame and pain in a burst of tears and a lengthy embrace. Before you challenge high performers, make sure they trust you. Understand their struggle and their failures. Help them release themselves from whatever is weighing them down. I’ve made the mistake of misreading many. I’ve hit many when what they really needed was a hug. I too am a work in process.

This morning, I hit one hard and knew it was right. I’ve hit him a bunch of times before this tax day pop. You will make many mistakes here if you lead anything. Your job, is to keep doing your job, and your job is to make your team better. Do not make the epic mistake of avoiding the hurt that comes with the delivery of the virtuous hit. Our culture is trying to turn leadership into some form of cheerleading. Leadership is not cheerleading although cheering your team on to keep working and celebrating their good work are a part of it. Leadership is hard. Leaders have to go first and sometimes that means delivery tough news on tough topics to the very ones you’ve come to love.

Countless high performers, just like Peter and Will, are stuck in mediocrity or all out revolt simply because they don’t have a leader that believes, first. Leaders go first. Leaders, remember, are masters not just at the challenge but also the repair. Leaders are master repairmen and women. Take a look around your team. Where could your repair work unleash a Peter or a Will? Where are you avoiding a challenge because you really like the person? Where are you avoiding a challenge because you fear the challenge will break not build? Where are you being nice and not kind? Where are you kind even when not playing nice? Where are you conflicted?

God, help me comfort and Challenge. It is a fine line between one, distinct, and deeply connected and two, distinct, and disconnected. Get comfortable here, leader. And, God, help our leaders…

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