A Safe Place in a Kingdom Culture
Ruthie and I are a team. On our team, I take a primary-leadership role, which thrills Ruthie. With that being said, I have always tried to facilitate a safe atmosphere in our marriage for honesty and mature disagreement. So has Ruthie. Because of this, I cannot begin to tell you how many problems we’ve avoided, how much time we’ve saved, how many problems we’ve solved, and how much improvement to our relationship we’ve experienced, all because of the power of honest teamwork—made possible in a safe environment. The fact that I am the head of our home does not deter Ruthie from being 100 percent who she is. And for her to be completely who she is designed to be, there must be a safe place for her to express herself—honestly, confidently, and without negative reprisal.
Nevertheless, contrary to our overall successes in teamwork, there have been problems we did not avoid and blessings we did not receive. At times, we failed to engage the kingdom culture in our relationship. We failed to adequately communicate, we neglected to hear each other’s heart on a matter, we railroaded each other’s agenda without consideration, and we held back our thoughts in fear of a defensive reaction. Our journey as a couple has been to minimize, or eliminate, unacceptable attitudes and practices which negate the power of the kingdom culture in our marriage. We try to create a safe place where we can both be who we are designed to be.
In order for any team to succeed in a kingdom culture and facilitate healthy disagreement, a safe place must be established.
A safe place is an environment where honesty and disagreement do not have negative repercussions.
Let’s uncover attitudes and behaviors that will destroy the safe place in the kingdom culture (on any team, of any size).
The Simon Cowell Approach
On June 11, 2002, a new obsession swept the nation when Fox aired American Idol for the first time on television. Mimickers on other networks began creating look-alike competitions, of all sorts, largely following the general design unleashed by American Idol.
The show was a competition of young singers and singer-wannabes, hoping for a musical contract that would catapult them to fame. American Idol hit the 500-episodes mark at the beginning of 2015.
The winners were decided by three judges. One of the most notorious of the three is Simon Cowell, who created intentional controversy with his brutal honesty and his non-compliance to what seemed to be the general consensus of the audience and the other two judges.
One place where Simon came alive was when judging an audition of someone who lacked talent or singing ability. His comments were often nasty. He told competitors, in one way or another, not to quit their day job—he brashly told people, time and again, that they were terrible.
Though I was never much of a fan of American Idol, I did watch a few auditions and performances during that first couple of years. What always surprised me was how many of those who auditioned (who were clearly not endowed with a voice of distinction) argued with the judges. They responded with their own choice rebuttals of the judge’s assessment. Their reactions provided Simon prime opportunities to humiliate them for believing they were better than they actually were.
My point is that every organization, or team, is eventually going to have the challenge of what to do with people who think they are good at something—when they are obviously not.
How Honest Should We Be?
When working with people who don’t see themselves as they are, I certainly don’t recommend becoming a disciple of Simon Cowell. On the other hand, not being honest with people doesn’t help them either, especially if a lack of honesty is simply to keep them from being hurt.
When we allow people on our team to stay in a “bubble” of false self-affirmation, the mission of the whole is challenged. Often, the victims are those who are not in the bubble. In a situation such as this, we need to ask the question: How does the kingdom culture handle a situation in which someone esteems their ability more valuable than they actually are.
I’ll give a few tips when dealing with such an issue:
Be careful about confronting what really isn’t a problem. In other words, first, exemplify mercy, tolerance, and love which hides a multitude of sins. And also demonstrate a bit of perseverance.
If the issue does need confronting, wait for the proper timing to address the issue. I often pray about the timing, asking God to open a door of opportunity, instead of barging through a door. When the Lord opens the door, I take my cue and enter. Be prepared to wait.
Address the issue with no more than two people at first. Don’t gang up on a person. Don’t embarrass a person in front of a crowd.
In helping a person see what is not their strength, point out what is their strength. Call them forward. Be encouraging, even if the topic seems negative.
Follow up on their heart. Sometimes it takes days to process an episode of being corrected. Show you care with a follow-up call or meeting.