By Rev. Rodney Burton
Where no oxen are, the manger is clean. Proverb 14:4
This statement causes me to realize and remember something very important. Where animals are gathered, there will be messes to clean up. Fair enough?
It also causes me to realize that as a pastor, when you deal with people you will also have messes. The reality is that relationships with people can be the most difficult thing in the world through which to navigate.
There are two very important promises I have tried to make to myself regarding my interactions with people:
1. I will do my best to live at peace with all men by speaking the truth in love, by giving and receiving correction and instruction, by working through messes in a timely fashion, and by striving to hold short accounts in difficult situations.
2. I will blow it trying to fulfill promise #1.
I would love to say that I have mastered the art of interpersonal relationships and the dynamics of being a pastor, friend, family member, etc., but that is simply not true. Very few things in life cause struggle quite like interpersonal relationships. Some things are inevitable.
— Feelings will get hurt. I have been on both sides of that.
— Misunderstandings will happen. There are too many to recount here in this blog.
— Apologies only go as far as actions support.
Day in and day out dealings with people can turn hair gray or, like mine, make it fall out.
From a natural standpoint we are bent toward being people pleasers. From a spiritual standpoint we are created in the image of God who fully embodies love. Therefore, most of our relational lives are built between these two tensions. We want to please people while loving them as God does. I find more and more that this requires full reliance on God’s Spirit.
So, I have summarized below a few points that I God has been speaking strongly to me regarding relationships.
1. I will grow in loving myself so that I can fulfill God’s call to love my neighbor as myself. My issues with and toward others stem from issues within myself.
2. I will work to always speak the truth in love. When the pendulum swings too far either direction, it is not beneficial to anyone.
3. I will not assume anything or tie anyone to their past. When you assume the worst about someone you will never bring out the best in them.
4. I will hold short accounts. There is no reason for me to continually revisit things I say are over. If I revisit these things, I have neither truly repented nor forgiven.
5. I will see the potential in everyone. Several people saw potential in me and therefore everyone deserves to have someone believe in them.
6. I will not base my opinion about someone on what others say to me about them, but will take the time to get to personally get to know them.
7. I will be willing to invest into the lives of anyone who will allow me that privilege, never taking for granted how precious that opportunity is, and never taking that person for granted.
8. I will celebrate victories with people and never become jealous or upset when those I have invested in surpass me in recognition, position, honor, etc.
9. I will allow others to correct me, hold me accountable, and tell me “NO.” I do not need “YES” men surrounding me. I will welcome confrontation when I need it.
10. I will guard my tongue and watch my cutting sarcasm, knowing that there are passive aggressive tendencies in my life and at times behind my words.
None of these will be easy. Yet, all of them are absolutely necessary. I love people. I love relationships. And I value them enough to do my part to make them the best they can be.