Differentiating Biblically: Part Two

Edwin H. Friedman’s book A Failure of Nerve is an excellent book on leadership. Through this book, I’ve learned a lot about leadership –especially about self-differentiation. I’ve come to see my tendency to fail to differentiate in friendships and mentorship. I know my tendency is to fail to differentiate and adopt people’s problems and accept the responsibility to fix them.

Friedman very helpfully argues against this sort of universal responsibility for leaders. While it is a huge temptation to simply absorb the responsibility (and occasionally guilt) for the problems and sins of others, this is ultimately more destructive than helpful. In order to be an effect leader, one must be able to understand the difference between the leader and the rest of the group. A leader will not be helpful to the group if the leader is constantly drowned, distracted, or dealing with the issues of every other member of the group.

As Christians, we occasionally are tempted to simply over compensate from the careless mentality that so many other people have. We see someone struggling, and it grieves us to the core. We want to help people; we are willing to sacrifice much for others. This is good, but often abused.

However, ultimately, Christian leaders can’t be fully useful or helpful if they are unable to say no to some things. There are times when it is not their responsibility to make something happen, there are times when they are not at fault and should not accept the responsibility. It is very easy to fall into the idol of togetherness and simply accept the fault, responsibility or blame –just to keep the peace. While this can seem effective, it removes the leader from being effective and causes the leader to falter under the unrealistic weight of responsibility. Furthermore, it doesn’t help lead the other members of the group to grow and accept their responsibility.

Therefore, the best way to lead is not by taking responsibility left and right. Rather it’s understanding what your responsibilities are, and doing them well –even if it means you can’t do something for someone else. For me this means, that my wife is primarily responsibility. I’m called to care for her. If my options are care for her, or do homework, minister to an old friend whose calling, or some other good things –I ought to care for my wife first. When I’ve done a good job there, then I can move on to other responsibilities: homework, work, and other things. But, if I’m constantly home late and irresponsible in my role as a husband, I won’t lead my wife well. Nor will I truly be caring for the other people. Similar to Friedman’s analogy on page 231, leaders need to give and model responsibility rather than taking it all. This is how the members of their group will grow to accept their responsibilities and spread the acceptance of responsibility further. A leader leads best by training his followers to grow rather than simply doing the work for them.

Always, Only for My King,
Josiah Bennett

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