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

Learning More About What A “Microagression” Is

Written by: on September 13, 2018

Before I get to Tina Seelig’s Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World, I again would like to thank all of LGP8 for your open responses to my Blog from last week regarding the role of women in ministry. Your written words were greatly appreciated, but even deeper, your willingness to let me learn in a safe environment was even more appreciated. I needed the Zoom chat, and especially Jenn in opening my eyes to how our comments may be perceived. I again apologize for writing an inappropriate response in the sidebar that I thought was actually a compliment, but certainly was out of order.

I am so glad we are colleagues, where we live out the “iron sharpening iron” principles (Proverbs 27:17). [1] I come away from the experience a better person and a more understanding leader.

I also appreciate Dr. Jason introducing me to a word I had never heard before–microagression. Shows how ignorant I am when I did not know what he was referring to. Immediately after our Zoom, I looked it up and was amazed how much has been expounded on the topic. MSN had an article the very next day titled 14 Things People Think Are Fine To Say At Work But Are Actually Racist, Sexist, or Offensive. They defined microagression as an an unconscious expressions of racism or sexism and “one thing is that they are in a sense ambiguous, so that the recipient is apt to feel vaguely insulted, but since the words look and sound complimentary, on the surface (they’re most often positive), one can’t rightly feel insulted and doesn’t know how to respond”. [2]

Was I microagressive? Yes, unintentionally, without malice, but still yes. Derald Wing Sue in Microagressions in Every Day Life: Race, Gender and Sexuality wrote reviewed in a scholarly journal article stating microagressions are most typically due to an “unconscious bias” [3]  on the part of the participant.  My personal context of interpreting Scripture in a conservative manner has been greatly influenced because of my inner bias. Right or wrong, I am biased, as we all are.

Our previous readings have warned about bias, including Polanyi in The Great Transformation: the Political and Economic Origins of our Time [4] and Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. [5]  If we allow our bias’ to overwhelm our sense of listening and understanding, then we are arguing needlessly at the expense (usually) of the people we care about the most.

Well, enough of that rabbit trail, and now, onto Insight Out. 

In the Invention Cycle described so well by Seelig, I was struck by one small sentence and decided to dig deeper into it. The sentence was simply this: “Our actions lead to our passion.” [6] In fact, the one factor that tied together each of the facets of the invention cycle was PASSION–imagination (engage and envision). creativity (motivate and experiment), innovation (focus and reframe), and entrepreneurship (persist and inspire).

Without passion, in my opinion, no step in this process is sustainable. I know I wear out and bog down when my passion is lacking. In my studies for this DMin, I would certainly drop out if my passion evaporated. The program is too costly in time and resources without a passion for leadership and growth. Each of us must retain our passion with passion.

Seelig used the term “passion” 36 times, as an unofficial part of each of the facets of the invention cycle. A few of my favorites included:

Passions follow engagement, not the other way around. Passions are not innate, but grow from our experiences. [7]

Only after engaging do you unlock your passions. [8]

Inspiration stories are filled with people who are passionate about what the’re doing, motivated by imagination. [9]

You’ll have a clearer picture of what motivates you, understanding the relationship between confidence and passion. [10]

Seelig’s Stanford background was impressive enough for me, but add to that her other writings, and I feel I have gained from her. “What I Wish I Knew When I Was Twenty” gained the highest ratings for her on Goodreads.com, with our book this week coming in a close second. [11]

Our prior reading in Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, Nohria stated this about passion:

We come together because of a shared passion: To develop leaders who can make a positive difference in the world. [12]

We have classmates who are passionate about their topics: Armor of God, egalitarianism, generosity, discipleship, etc. Stewardship through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is my dissertation passion, specifically by benefitting the local church.

May our passions persevere in this program, as we continue down the Invention Cycle!


[1] Barker, Kenneth L. Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2008.

[2] Osario, Francisco. “14 Things People Think Are Fine To Say At Work But Are Actually Racist, Sexist, or Offensive.” Msn.com, Assessed September 11, 2018, www.msn.com/.

[3] Sue, Derald Wing. Microagressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation. John Wiley and Sons, 2010.

[4] Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: the Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Beacon Press, 2014.

[5] Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Vintage Books, 2013.

[6] Seelig, Tina. Insight out: Get Ideas out of Your Head and into the World. Harper One Publ., 2015. 27.

[7] Ibid., 24.

[8] Ibid., 39.

[9] Ibid., 165.

[10] Ibid., 191.

[11] Chandler, Otis. “Tina Seelig.” Goodreads, Assessed September 12, 2018, www.goodreads.com/.

[12] Nohria, N. Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice an HBS Centennial Colloquium on Advancing Leadership. Harvard Business Press, 2010.



About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

17 responses to “Learning More About What A “Microagression” Is”

  1. M Webb says:

    Last week you take on egalitarianism, this week the micro- aggressions expressed? I felt, heard, read, and observed tension in the cohort’s discussion, visual body language, vocal messages, and chat messages. Sorry, I did not feel sharper after the zoom discussion. Instead I felt dulled and grieved because the evil one created division.
    There was a lot of admonishing and very little encouraging, sharing how Scripture might apply, or praying for unity in our discussion. How do you think Prov. 27:17 fits?
    I wonder if Seelig had watched us what she might have thought about our individual and group creativity?
    Stand firm my friend. Keep your armor on!
    M. Webb

    • Hey Mike, I’m curious where you saw division. I heard hard conversations, but felt that all was said with love and respect. If I, in any way, came across as having a divisive spirit, I’m deeply sorry. I have the utmost respect for every member of this cohort. I sincerely want this to be a place where we can sharpen each other, but always with grace and honor. Do you think that tension is always the work of the enemy, or are there healthy and godly tensions and debates?

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Mike, when you sense that would you be willing to write or say something in the chat? I think we need to hear the encouragement, pray or whatever the Spirit is leading toward in that moment. I appreciate your voice in our chat.

  2. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hi Jay,
    Thank you for this post and for continuing the conversation from last week. From all the interactions and mutual-learning going on, I think you are in the right place with this program and our cohort! Appreciate your heart and approach, man!
    I was reading Seelig along the same lines as you, focusing on that idea of our passions not just coming from some inner “thing”, but from engagement or action or experience with the wider world. I think this is a really great point. I’m interested in knowing why or how the Dave Ramsey material became your passion. Is it simply as a tool for helping the local church? Does it grow out of a personal experience you’ve had?

    • Jay Forseth says:

      Thanks for asking Dave! A man named Larry Burkett may have actually saved my young marriage, due to my poor stewardship. So I decided early I wanted to help other couples in the same way. Dave Ramsey was the most effective in my circles, especially in reaching people outside the church, so I jumped on board and helped start 43 Dave Ramsey classes across the country and have been passionate about it ever since…

  3. Kyle Chalko says:


    Yes i am learning a lot about microagressions too. My instinct is to say people are hypersensitive and ignore it, but I have a very self-assured temperment and am not easily offended myself, so I know have to be wrong in this instinct. I really appreciate you leading the way in being teachable and vulnerable. You are inspiring Jay!

    I think microagression is the wrong word, because I am not being “aggressive” when I do those things, nor are most people mal-intented. I think it is more like micro-offensive. Its low-key racist or low-key sexist, or low-key patronizing.

    I think one thing I am sensitive about (probably too sensitive, and especially so when I was even younger) is being called “son” or “buddy” by an older man or even “sweetie” by an older woman. It is a term of endearment but it also used as a way to place a hierarchy in the relationship. Ya know?

    am I off here?

    • Greg says:

      When I began pastoring I had people ask me all the time what church I was the youth pastor at…keeps you humble

    • Jay Forseth says:

      You are not off Kyle, and I love your new definition of “micro-offensive”. You are really on to something there. To me, you are doing what Seelig says about “thinking outside the box”. Well done, once again, Kyle!

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Kyle, I agree with the hierarchy or belittling that happens when called out as you were. I have had much of that from older men and tend to recoil or even call people out if I know them and they do it.

      I appreciate your and Jay’s self-awareness and humility in this dialogue. It’s good to be able to share and learn from one another. I am learning from you all as well: mal-offensive – good replacement.

  4. Jay,

    I really appreciated the work you went to on writing this post. Thank you! It’s thoughtful and thought-provoking.

    I like how passion is a theme you keyed in on. I just read and responded to Trisha’s post (my heart is still thumping from the movie trailer she posted!), and it visually conveyed how passion – a deep, inner motivation that compels one forward – is necessary to get unstuck. Whether one is a stranded couple marooned on their boat in the Pacific or a depressed pastor in a shrinking rural church, that passion must push them out of their stuck place. Seelig’s writing can provide tools to think differently, reimagining reality and how God would want to work through them in that situation.

  5. Great post Jay and I so appreciated you spending a little time talking about microaggressions, because it was the first I heard the word as well. It makes me want to be more aware of my words and the impact I am having on others. I love your heart Jay and consider you a true brother in Christ!

    • Jay Forseth says:

      You are my Brother, Jake! You raise the water level for all of us in this program due to your heart and expertise. Let’s keep sharpening, “as iron sharpens iron”.

  6. Greg says:

    The word micro-aggression was click bait for me. I had never heard that word either but figured
    Out by context what we were talking about. I appreciated you taking time to investigate this subject more.
    I too liked that quote of Seelig. I am sure all of our focuses are easy to guess as we try each week to funnel our reading through the lense of our passion.

  7. Shawn Hart says:

    Jay, I’ll start but saying that you and I are growing together. The micro-aggression discussion was enlightening and educating, and I hate to admit, a little soul-cutting. I know that though there are differences in biblical interpretations sometimes, this does not excuse my obligation to be word-conscious and brother/sister considerate. I never want to admit that I am too stubborn to change; however, sometimes I am too stubborn to want to change; excuses are much easier. I know it is a changing world with changing rules and expectations, but I believe I am up to the challenge. I hope everyone will show patience and love when correcting my future mistakes…I am sure there will be some.

    Second confession of the post: I still remember the theoretical head-scratching I was doing the first time you discussed your dissertation idea; I just didn’t quite get the reasoning. However, later on in Capetown, we were all discussing our topics, and there was a purity behind your topic that, to be honest, I am still not sure I understand. There is a difference now though; you see, this reading has started making me look at everyone’s topics differently; instead of asking “why,” I am trying to ask, “why did Jay pick that topic?” It is the realization that none of us were given the same calling, and none of us will have the same passions or life lessons; so it really makes sense that we all become passionate about different things. Ironically, my own dissertation is about the value that we all must find in who God has called us to be; and yet, I was struggling with that very understanding. I hope I am being molded along the way; and I very much look forward to seeing the results of your future work.

  8. Chris Pritchett says:

    Thanks for your continual generosity of heart and spirit. You are filled with kindness and openness to the Lord’s hand on your life, Jay. I like how you brought in passion, and Seelig’s way of connecting passion and action. I can’t help but think of the Passion of our Lord…

  9. Trisha Welstad says:

    Jay, your willingness to have hard conversations in so healthy for us all. Thank you. I think we are going to get more into this when we get to Friedman’s book later this semester. Also, I am so grateful for your posture of being a learner. Looking up micro-aggression just to understand and then enlighten us as well. Well done.

    I keep thinking from last week, you mentioned being part of the Global Wesleyan Alliance, which I am as well being Free Methodist. Have you read or heard of BT Roberts book, “Ordaining Women”? He is the founder of the Free Methodist Church and his book was recently updated by Ben Wayman and can be found on Amazon. It’s short, simple and reaches into the points you made last week. Happy to dialogue more. I have done a lot of reading on this throughout seminary and am asked a lot as a female pastor.

Leave a Reply