“Be nice so that they like you.”
I heard that phrase many times as a child. So that’s what I did. That is what I thought loving others should look like.
But you know what? That is not the way God sees it.
Yes, I know that I am called to love my neighbor as myself. Yes, I am to lay aside my rights for the sake of another as Christ did for me when He laid aside His privileges and died on the cross.
However, laying aside my rights doesn’t mean people-pleasing — that is, simply agreeing with people in order to avoid healthy conflict or disagreement. Loving one another sometimes means that I’m willing to talk about the hard things, knowing that I’m risking the other person’s affection toward me.
Isn’t this the very thing that Jesus did when He was with the woman at the well? He spoke plainly. He spoke the truth in love. He knew that was exactly what she needed, even if it meant talking about the hard things in her life.
So I love and care for others in order to help, to serve and to build them up so that they can “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, English Standard Version).
In a difficult relationship with a co-worker or friend, I move toward the person and bring up that uncomfortable topic. I don’t wait, hoping that someone else will do the hard work of confronting the person or that the person will just somehow move on. I choose not to wait to be vulnerable with my weaknesses, but I move in authenticity toward others. When I am the only voice in the room that sees a situation differently, I speak up. At times, even encouraging someone is a step of faith, but I do it. Every choice involves taking a risk.
What am I risking?
… being misunderstood.
… the disapproval of others.
At their core, these risks are about whether I feel loved and accepted.
As a leader, what is God asking me to do about it?
Desires to be loved and accepted are valid and part of being human, but they cannot be the driving force in my life. These desires cannot be the goalposts that determine my actions, either in my relationships with others or in my work.
Instead, I must purposely set aside my desires and risk moving toward others. In a meeting, I don’t shrink back and stay quiet when I know there is something that needs to be said. When a relationship is in trouble, I don’t turn away and gloss over the issue because it would be uncomfortable to talk about it.
That boils down to seeking the Lord’s guidance, then moving out in faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit to speak up and say graciously what I see and think. Then, I leave the results to God.
God has called me to be a servant leader and to set aside my own need to be loved and accepted for the sake of another. It is something I am still learning, but it has made a world of difference in how I interact with and lead others.
How about you? What has God taught you about how to love others well?
About the author: Lori Beyar has been a staff member of Cru for 23 years. She has been part of the campus ministry, and is now involved in leadership development and is on the Eastern Europe area leadership team. Lori is passionate about bringing the gospel of hope to the world by developing leaders. She and her husband, Keith, have three children, ages 13, 16, and 18. They served for 6 years in Central Asia, 12 years in Russia and are currently serving in Hungary.
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