Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I Choose…

Written by: on October 31, 2014

I first read Edwin Friedman’s book, A failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, in the fall of 2009. I didn’t realize just how much I learned from this book until I picked it up again. His thoughts on self-differentiation changed the way that I lead and interact with people in my family and in the church that I serve. The area in which this book has helped me the most is in this area of differentiation… it’s the idea that not everything is personal or has to be personal. It’s ok to have people disagree with you. It’s ok to have people change and argue with you. It’s the nature of the position; it’s not personal unless I make it personal. However, as a woman, I know that many things are personal… I have conversations and opposition simply because I’m a woman. In situations like that, the way that I differentiate is by telling myself that this would happen to any woman in my position. Again, it’s not me; it’s my position that is causing so much strife. If I don’t think this way, then the burden is too heavy for me to carry. It’s too difficult. I’m interested to know what you all think about this way of differentiating?

There are two quotes that stood out to me this time around… it has nothing to do with self-differentiation, but important nonetheless. First, “more learning will not, on it’s own, automatically change the way people see things or think. There must be first a shift in the emotional process of that institution (person).” (P31) Why haven’t I thought of this before? I think that this is the reason that I struggle with church so much. People come and learn, but nothing seems to change in the way that they do life. How do we get people to have this emotional shift? Or, is that not my job?

Second, “most of the decisions we make in life turn out to be right or wrong not because we were prescient about the future- which after all does not exist yet- but because of what we do after we make the decision.” (P61) As Christians, we are so consumed with doing “God’s will.” We invoke “God’s will” more than anything ales… but what if God’s will is broader than we think… and what if God cares about the follow-up and the follow-through more than he cares about that initial decision. What if God cares more about my integrity rather then if I go to Costco today or tomorrow? We tend to focus so much on the initial decision that we forget the journey that will get us to the end. The journey is harder than the decision.

About the Author

Stefania Tarasut

8 responses to “I Choose…”

  1. John Woodward says:

    Stefania, you bring up some very interesting questions and issues! I think you have taken the right approach when it comes to leadership. It is very important to stand back and discern if what is bothering people is you as a person or your personality (or bad habits and irritating manners), or if what bugs them is that what you are doing as a Christian leader goes against their particular understanding or thinking. I know in your situation where it is more often “not about you” but it is about their feelings or way of thinking that is bothering them. Here is where so many Christians leaders get sucked in, they think that they should try to please everyone and so they are no longer true to their calling and give into the narrow thinking of those around them. This provides no leadership and won’t kick-start people out of their small and demanding ways of thinking and acting.

    And here I think is the answer to your second question. How do you get people to experience an emotional shift? I think by being a “well-differentiated leader” as Friedman describes is where you start. Many won’t break out of their emotional confinement, but as long as you stay true to your calling and provide an example of an emotionally stable, strong and independent individual, it will challenge others to make that emotional shift…which they will fight, criticize and make your life miserable before they actually begin to change. I think this is what makes Friedman so interesting, is that he understands how hard it is to stand up and be present which irritates those around us who find fault because you chose stand up and not buy into their dysfunction. Taking it, I guess, is a sign of a good leader!

    Let me know what you think on this!

  2. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Hi Stefania, Glad that this book has been a great help for you as deal with people in your leadership position. I admire you for your ability to differentiate what is personal or not personal and in my opinion your way of differentiating is great!

  3. Stefania,

    You hit another home run with this post! Thank you again for your insights and transparency. Beautiful!

    I also loved the concept of differentiated leadership. It gave me both hope and a reality check. I don’t have to get caught up in the garbage that others put on me — and the reality is that this kind of dysfunction will always be with us. I have often been a “reactor” more than an “actor.” If you read my post this week, you will see that this is so. But the reality is that much of the time I do not have to be reactive. In fact, often I believe that I make a problem that comes my way bigger by overthinking the problem or by taking it personally. You are right on this. The reality is that it’s not about me. I am not THAT important. I need to let things go rather then ruminating on them. Obsessive thinking is probably never a positive use of time, but I have caught myself doing just that many times in my life. The better way is to learn what I can from the situation, admit that I am not perfect, and apply a huge dose of emotional intelligence to the event.

    Stefania, thanks for the reminder to be healthy. Watching your example in this area is becoming a very helpful thing in my life, so keep sharing, keep growing, keep writing. Your faithfulness at your church for all this time is a good example of long-suffering and humility. Thanks for example.

  4. Liz Linssen says:

    Hello Stefania
    I always love reading your blogs as they are so real 🙂
    I think we share something of the same struggle being women leading churches! But as you rightly say, people’s criticisms are simply to do with our gender, and not ‘us’ per se. After all, usually these people hardly know us.
    I also loved your point on how changes doesn’t happen unless there is an emotional shift. This is something I’ve come to realise. We can teach great sermons, provide inspirational worship sessions, and so on. But unless God moves in the heart of the individual, very little change happens. Who does that? Well, I think God does that as we pray and ask Him to. I often say to God, I can only do what I can do. The life transformation ‘stuff’ is His work. Only He can do that. What do you think?

  5. Ashley Goad says:

    Stefania… I loved the way Friedman challenged us… If you want to change those around you, try changing yourself first! How dare he be so frank and bold! He was a lot a like you! You always have a knack for telling it like it is.

    So I wonder, as you read, did you come up with an answer for your question, “How do we get people to have this emotional shift?” Or, how do we model the shift? Or how do we promote that shift?

  6. Richard Volzke says:

    Ashley, Stefania, and Liz,
    We cannot change someone’s emotions or get them to shift their views. We can only change ourselves, with God’s help. Liz, I agree with you that it is by prayer and seeking Christ that anyone’s heart will change. I think we can model change for our people and churches, but often that may be the extent of our influence. I have been in many meetings where the sr. pastor or church leader has asked “how can we change or lead the people in a new direction?” The truth is that we can’t. Once I understood this truth, it has allowed me to completely walk with Christ and not worry whether or not others are following or coming along. My job, as a leader, is to do what God tells me to do and everything else is on Him. If I am leading for Christ, then it is Christ who people should follow…not me.

  7. Stefania,
    It is always so hard to differentiate from the emotion that is being aimed at you. Though as leaders we understand or at least attempt to understand that simply being in the position of leader will procure the wrath of others, it is still hard to “let it go.” Not being a woman I cannot use that as an assistance to acquire a differential stance. But identifying as a Christ follower, this I have leveraged to my benefit when in the fray. I recall Paul’s words – “to some we will be the aroma of life leading to life and to others the aroma of death leading to death.” Wow! That really is a statement to the reality that not everyone is going to like you no matter how hard we try.

  8. Clint Baldwin says:

    I like how you mentioned that just maybe God cares more about the “follow-up” and the “follow-through” than perhaps which particular decision we often make.
    How might that change church culture for the better if we followed this?

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