I’m the Leader, It’s Not My Job to Make You Happy

I encounter people who think it’s someone else’s job, perhaps my job as a leader, to make them happy. You may have also seen this same expectation of a spouse, a friend, or a parent. Some people expect other people to make them happy.

In fact, to me, that doesn’t even seem fair to the person wanting happiness. I may define happiness different than they do. What makes them happy may not make me happy. They may be happy on days I’m not so happy.

Happiness is a much more personal subject than something I can or care to control for someone else. I have enough trouble dealing with the issue personally.

The fact is, as a leader, I need to create an environment where:

  • If they love the vision…
  • If they can respect my leadership…
  • If they are willing to work responsibly…
  • If they are generally healthy individuals…

They can be happy.

But their personal happiness is out of my direct control.

I want people to be happy, but I can’t make them happy.

Here’s my advice, seek your happiness in the contentment you find in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Count your blessings…name them one by one. Find happiness in the simplest times of life. Choose happiness as a desired emotion. Put on a happy face! You have far more control over that in your life than I do.

Have you been expecting someone to make you happy? Is that a realistic expectation?

5 Ways to Tell If You’ve Forgiven Someone

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Whether in business, in church, or in family, relationships can cause pain and separation. It’s tempting to get even, but forgiveness is not an option for the believer, even for that person who has hurt us the most. Forgiveness is treated as an important attribute for followers of Christ in the Bible. Even still, I frequently hear people give excuses for not forgiving someone, such as:

“You can forgive but you can’t forget” … That’s most often true…only God (and sometimes time and old age) can erase a memory.

“I’ve tried to forgive them, but they haven’t changed” … That’s probably true. Forgiveness can be a catalyst for change, but it doesn’t guarantee change.

“I may have forgiven them, but I’ll always hold it against them” … Okay, that may sound logical, but it’s not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a releasing of emotional guilt you place upon the other person. It’s a choice we make that happens in the heart. It’s not a release of responsibility or an absence of healthy boundaries, but it is a conscious choice to remove the right to get even from the person who injured you. It’s a release of anger and the right to hold a grudge.

Forgiveness is hard.

Recently I was talking with someone who wants to forgive the person who has hurt her the most. She wants to be free from the guilt of holding a grudge. She wants to follow the example of Christ in Biblical obedience. The problem? She’s not sure she has truly forgiven, because she still hurts from the injury.

I shared with her that while forgiveness is a decision…a choice…it is not an automatic healer of emotions. It helps, but emotions heal over time. Then I shared some ways she could determine if she’s truly forgiven the other person.

Here are 5 ways to tell if you’ve forgiven someone:

When the first thought you have about them is not the injury they caused in your life. You should be able to have normal thoughts about the person occasionally. Remember, you are dropping the right to get even; the grudge you held against them.

Ask yourself: Would you help them if you knew they were in trouble and you had the ability? Most likely this is someone you once cared about…perhaps even loved. You would have assisted them if they needed help. While I’m not suggesting you would subject yourself to abuse or further harm, that you are obligated to help them, or even that you should, but would you in your heart want to see them prosper or see them come to harm?

Can you think positive thoughts about this person? Again, you’ve likely been on positive terms with this person or in a close enough relationship for them to injure you to this extreme. Is there anything good you can come up with about them? If not, have your really forgiven them?

Do you still think of getting even with the person? There may be consequences that need to come for this person and you may have to see them through to protect others, but does your heart want to hurt them? If so, would you call this forgiveness?

When you have stopped looking for them to fail. If you have truly forgiven someone, then just like you would for anyone else, you would want them to succeed or at least do better in life. Forgiveness means you’ve stopped keeping a record of the person’s wrongs.

I realize this is a tough list. Those struggling with forgiveness will most likely push back against it a bit. Feel free to push back if you’re not struggling with forgiveness. (Or claim you’re not :) ) I know this, however, for your heart to completely heal, you eventually need to forgive the one who hurt you the most.

Have you seen a lack of forgiveness keep someone from moving forward in life?

What would you add to my list?

You may want to read:

7 Things Forgiveness Is

7 Things Forgiveness Is NOT

A Guaranteed Way to Improve All Communication

Do you want to improve communication in a relationship?

Remove the barrier…

In almost all miscommunication, there is a barrier to communicating effectively. Find the barrier, remove…or at least address it, and communication will improve every time. I guarantee it. (Or your money back for this advice. :) )

The barrier may be:

A personality difference…

A perception…

A thing…

A language…

A misunderstanding…

An attitude…

That may involve turning the television (thing) off when trying to talk with your spouse or children, recognizing the differences in two people (personality), or letting go of a prejudice (attitude).

Whatever it is, you find the barrier…address it…and you’ll improve your communication. You may not be able to remove the barrier completely. I’m assuming you won’t throw away your TV when you can’t communicate, but with intentionality you’ll at least be able to minimize the barrier.

What other barriers have you seen to effective communication? 

7 Issues to Address in Pre-Marital Counseling

As with most pastors, I’ve performed a fair number of weddings. Part of being in ministry is helping couples enter the most important of relationships…marriage. It’s a daunting task and responsibility. Prior to a wedding, however, a minister has access to speak into a couple’s life in a way unique to any other time in their life.

I feel it’s important to help couples, as much as I can, be prepared for marriage. With time always at a premium, I frequently suggest couples walk through the book “Preparing for Marriage“. I’ve found it a helpful tool in thinking through many of the issues a marriage will encounter. I also try to make sure, as a minimum, the couple understands a few key principles prior to their wedding day.

Here are 7 issues I try to teach in pre-marital counseling:

You are different – Opposites do tend to attract. Each spouse is not only differently physically, but there are differences in backgrounds, outlook on life and the way to approach a situation. This is not intended as a curse against marriage. God designed those differences for a reason. The more a couple learns to celebrate those differences, the stronger a marriage will become. (I address this issue in previous posts HERE and HERE.)

Leave and cleave – Don’t let either set of in-laws dictate how you lead your new family. Decide in advance that no one, related or otherwise, is going to be a wedge between you two. Every couple has lots of other relationships, including perhaps children someday, but none of them should be allowed to interfere with the oneness God intends to create with the marriage. (I address these interferences more in THIS POST.)

Expect surprises – Life won’t always be as blissful as it is today. There will be hard days, whether self-induced or life-induced. Life brings changes and those times have the ability to catch even the best marriages off guard if not prepared for them. We can never be fully prepared for what might come, but we can prepare ourselves that when something comes, whatever it is and no matter how hard it is, that we will handle it . Couples should use these times to improve the strength of their marriage rather than allow them to pull the marriage apart. (I talk about this issue in a post on keeping the marriage fun. Find it HERE.)

Make a commitment to the marriage no matter what – Couples usually assume they are doing this by standing at the altar together, but statistics would say otherwise. Many times these days a person is saying “I’m committed until it becomes difficult or until the love we have today fades.” That’s not the Biblical picture of marriage God designed. Marriage is more than simply a feeling of love, it is a commitment to love…for better or worse…from this day forward. Verbalizing and agreeing to that on the front end, and continuing to remind yourself of that through the difficult days, will help the marriage last. Couples who should ask for help soon, not letting problems in the marriage linger too long without asking for help. Remove the fear of asking for professional counseling if necessary. It would be better to get help early than to see the marriage disintegrate beyond repair. (I preached a message on the commitment of marriage HERE.)

Model after the right couples – I encourage couples to find a couple whose marriage they admire and follow them closely. Most likely they have some stories to share. Things may not have been as wonderful throughout their marriage as they are today. No doubt they have learned some practices to having a strong marriage. I challenge couples to learn all they can from the couple they want to be like. (I did a post about this issue HERE.)

Evaluate often – Couples should ask  themselves often, are we growing together as a couple or further apart? Is the marriage growing stronger or are there holes that need addressing? Don’t assume your spouse feels as you do. (I’ve learned this is especially true for men who often don’t know there is a problem until it’s a big problem.) Establish the understanding early in the relationship that you have the right to periodically check on the state of your marriage. (Read a post about questions to assess the health of a marriage HERE.)

Put Christ first – This is the one most couples expect the pastor to say, but it’s not just the preacher answer, it’s the best secret to a lasting marriage. “A chord of three strands is not easily broken.” A couple’s individual and collective relationship with Christ will ensure they can endure the hardest days of a marriage. When the relationship with Christ suffers, the marriage will often suffer. Satan looks for any excuse to destroy the marriage. Pour your heart and life into Christ and let Him strengthen and sustain your marriage. (I preached on Christ’s standard for marriage HERE.)

That’s my list. I’m not sure they apply simply to premarital couples. These are good principles for couples regardless of how long they have been married.

Just so you know, I have, at times, simply shared with them this list. Sometimes I weave them into the discussion. Regardless of how you choose to do it, make sure you are strategic in helping couples begin their married life together.

Pastors, how do you do premarital counseling? What would you add to my list?

7 Random Pieces of Advice for the Younger Leader

I love working with younger leaders. It keeps me young and it helps to know I’m investing in something and someone who will likely last beyond my lifetime. I want to share some things I’ve learned from experience. Some of it hard experiences.

Here’s a random list of practical advice for young leaders.

If you can learn and practice these early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience.

Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes – It helps you remember but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed. If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people that’s what you are doing.

Respect your elders – The fact is, you may not always feel respected by them, but that’s their fault not yours. Showing respect to people older than you now will ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Learn all you can from everyone you meet – This includes the awkward, even difficult people that you encounter. (You may actually learn more from them if you’re willing.)

Keep a resume handy and keep revising it – You may never use a resume again in today’s work world, but the discipline of gathering your experience as you gain it forces you to think through your worth to a future employer. You’ll likely be asked to defend this someday and need to be prepared.

Never burn a bridge– You’ll be surprised how many times relationships come back around. Don’t be caught by surprise.

Be an encourager in the organization – Encouragers win the approval of others and are rewarded because they are liked. Be a genuinely positive influence on your team.

Never underestimate a connection – When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. Follow through on the opportunity to know someone new. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will work for good.

Drop the defensiveness – Young people often get defensive when a person with more experience shares something they do not yet know. This is especially true when being corrected by a leader. Remember you don’t know what you don’t yet know. It’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Grow from your correction. Be patient with those who are trying to teach you. Get the chip off your shoulder and allow feedback to make you better. Over time you’ll win over those who see you as inexperienced.

There are 7 random suggestions. Elders, what other suggestions would you advise?

Does Your Church Value Your Family?

Ben Reed is community groups pastor at Grace Community Church where I serve. Ben is an excellent leader; truly becoming one of the sharpest minds on small groups in the country. If he’s not on your radar he should be. You can learn from him and he loves helping other churches. Recently Ben had a family situation that took him out of the office. Our email and text exchanges through that time prompted this guest post.

Here is a guest post from Ben Reed:

As a church, we say that we value the family. Now I can personally vouch that we do.

I know that older generations accuse my generation of not working hard. But if you spend much time around me, you’ll realize that I don’t fit that mold. (and, in fact, I’d submit that my generation isn’t lazy…we just work differently)

I really enjoy hard work. And when I have to be out of the office for an extended amount of time, it drives me nuts. Not because I’m being pressured  from other team members or not living up to perceived expectations. It’s simply because I love what I do, and I love working hard at it.

When Family Calls

So when I had to be out of the office for 10 days, it was tough. I felt torn: I wanted to be at the office, but I desperately didn’t. See, my wife’s grandfather was rushed to ICU, then transported to hospice care, and I was at his side with my wife’s family for the better part of 10 days. And I wanted to be there, at his side, the entire 10 days.

But I texted Ron, saying this:
I hate being out of the office so long. It is not my style. Sorry I’ve been so absent the last week and a half. I know it’s ‘excusable’ but I also know me being out isn’t ideal.

His response:
It’s ok Ben. It’s one of our values as a church. Family first.

I tell people all of the time that we are a church that truly values family. By the way we’re structured (very simply), we get the chance to tell people, “Gather with us on Sunday, join a small group, and the rest of the week invest in your family!”

But this time, I got to experience this. I was given the freedom to be present with my family when I needed to be present with my family. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my church staff supported me being absent.

We put our money where our mouth is.

When push comes to shove, we value family. Even if that means that things have to slow down. Even if that means that a team member is absent. Even if that means a team member’s voice isn’t present at the table.

We know that if our team members don’t do a good job at home, they can’t do a good job leading their ministries (1 Timothy 3:4). And intellectually, I get that. I’ve even said that to people.

But it was an entirely different matter when I needed to apply that to myself.

My church values my family. Which makes me even more proud to serve her.

Does your church value your family?

7 Personal Development Benefits of Saying No

The more experience I get in life the more I learn the importance of personal development. And, one of the most important aspects of personal development I have learned is the unique and rare skill of being able to say “No”.

In fact, learning to say no may be the most important personal, professional or leadership development tool one can have.

We have lots of opportunities to say yes. The old saying, whether it’s doctrinally true or not is fully practically true. “If Satan can’t make you bad he’ll make you busy”. I’ve seen throughout my life, especially with my personality wiring for achievement, that if I’m not careful I will say yes to things God has never planned for me to do and often I’m not capable or the best person to do them. Does that ever happen to you?

Saying no, as hard as it is for some of us, comes with great reward:

  • Saying no is the power to help resist temptation…
  • Saying no keeps you from the stress of overcommitting…
  • Saying no protects family life…
  • Saying no provides adequate time for what matters most…
  • Saying no preserves energy levels for prioritized work…
  • Saying no allows others opportunities they wouldn’t have if you always say yes…
  • Saying no permits you to control your schedule for an ultimate good…

The value of learning when to say no, and actually practicing it, is immeasurable. (I’m sure you could add even more values to my list., but I’m kind of stuck on the number 7 :) )

I highly encourage learning the power of “No”.

In what area of your life do you most need to personally develop in your ability to say no?

I’m Off Today…Here’s Why

I’m off today…

My “Type A” personality says I probably should be working…

I’ve been traveling a great deal lately…

I have work to do…

It’s called catching up…

But I’m off today…

Why?

Because my wife is off today…

And I love my wife…

Here’s the reality I try to live everyday…

If I don’t protect my marriage I can’t help yours…

If I don’t invest in my marriage, I can’t invest in your marriage…

If my marriage is struggling, so will my other work…

In fact, so will every part of my life…

I’m a better pastor when my marriage is strong…

So, don’t work too hard today…

I scheduled myself off…

BTW, be honest: What’s the state of your marriage today?

My Advice: Don’t Always Give People an Answer

multicultural mentor

I have a theory I practice often.

I’ve been using it for many years — as a leader, father, a friend, and a pastor. It’s not always what people come looking to me for, but I think it’s the best practice.

I don’t always give people answers.

  • As a pastor, people come to me for answers.
  • As a dad, my boys come to me for answers.
  • As a friend, people come to me for answers.
  • As a leader of a team, people come to me for answers.

In either case, I don’t always give people answers.

I don’t try to solve their problems for them.

Now, please understand, if there is a clear Biblical answer for their problem or issue, I give it to them. I’m talking about the issues more difficult to discern. Things such as career choice decisions, the calling in life decisions, who to marry, etc. — the unwritten answer type decisions.

For those type issues, I probably have an opinion, but I never “have” the answer.

Instead…

I help people discover a paradigm through which to make the decision.

  • I become an objective listener.
  • I help them see all sides of the issue.
  • I share Scriptures that may speak to both sides of the decision.
  • I serve as an outside voice.
  • I may diagram the problem, as I hear it, so they can see the issue on paper.
  • I help them learn to pray and listen to God.

And then I release them to make a decision.

Here is my reasoning…

If I solve the problem:

  • I’m just another opinion — and I may be wrong.
  • They’ll resent me if it proves to be a wrong decision.
  • They’ll never take ownership of the issue.
  • They’ll likely do what they want anyway.
  • They won’t learn the valuable skills of listening to the voice of God.
  • They won’t learn from experience.

My advice:

Don’t always have an answer.

Help people form a paradigm through which to to solve their problems or make decisions.

Are you too quick to have an answer sometimes?

2 Words that Always Motivate Me

“You Can’t”

Oh yea?…we’ll see about that…

Cheryl and I hang out together on Saturdays. It’s our favorite time of the week. We do whatever we want to do…together. Many times that involves eating. Our boys say when they are old and boring, they want to be like us…often driving miles just to eat somewhere new or unique.

On a recent Saturday we found a new breakfast place. It was good…not as good as we hoped for…but not bad. We had plans that evening to drive an hour away to an Italian restaurant we had heard about, but never been. In the middle of the day, I told her I was going to eat something…I don’t remember what. She said, “You can’t eat that now. You won’t eat any supper.”

Oh yea?…we’ll see about that…

I didn’t want something to eat as much as I wanted to show her I could eat whatever it was and still eat a full supper.

That’s a simple illustration, but it’s repeated throughout my life. Tell me I can’t and I want to prove that I can.

What is it about me?

Am I alone in this desire to prove those two words wrong?

(BTW, You can’t comment on this post and tell me you’re like me…or that I’m weird. YOU CAN’T!)