"I'm nothing more than a charity case to you!" The words hit me like a pile of bricks. My face went pale as the words sunk in. I had no response for her, only silence. I simply didn't know what to say. I had known this young woman for a while, and she had let me in on some of the inner struggles she had been facing. God put me in a place where I could recognize some of the problem causers in her life, and I thought I knew how to handle them. I had been talking to her, giving advice, and trying to fix the problem. Everything seemed to be going great until she expressed her frustration, and explained the flaw in what I was doing. In the midst of trying to lead her out of some very dark times, I was trying to be the hero. Looking back on it, I realize I was doing it wrong, in three specific ways.
1. I was trying to do it for her, not with her:
I believe leaders, Christian leaders in particular, have fallen into the "do it for them" mentality. In my house, my mother is completely computer illiterate. Every time that something doesn't work, I have to come in and troubleshoot the problem. (Usually fixed by the I.T. crowd answer.) Unfortunately, my mother isn't learning how to fix things, I'm the one fixing them. Some leaders tend to fix the problem, without teaching anyone what was wrong, or how they fixed it. Christian leaders are especially guilty of this, giving one-way sermons and lectures that give an answer to a problem, (like why Christians believe sex outside of marriage is wrong), but never explaining why. Real development, both spiritual and physical, happens when the learner is a part of the fixing process.
2. I was technical support, not a friend:
It's hard for me to make friends. I am not a psychologist, and so I am not entirely sure why, but I can guess it has something to do with my dislike of trusting people. What I see myself, and other leaders doing is a whole lot of involving themselves in other peoples lives, but not letting people into theirs. Many Christian leaders are seeing leadership like airdropping supplies into Haiti. We give them food, clothes, and medicine, and we don’t have to meet the people in their poverty and discomfort. Leaders who write books, offer counsel, and get involved in the lives of others, all whilst never letting people into theirs. Tragically, I see this in my own life, and have tried to lead that way. However, as Jo Saxton points out - it doesn't work. Leaders need to have a two-way relationship with those they lead.
3. I was the solution:
As I've shared before, I'm a comic book nerd. Every comic's story differs in small details, but usually follows the same flow. As the three act trope dictates: We are introduced to the good guys and bad guy in act one. The heroes run into some difficulty in the second act, but in the third act, defeat the bad guys and save the day. There is a certain degree of comfort with this model, the heroes are always the solution to the problem. In a way, the bible teaches the same three act story, with one major difference: we aren't the heroes. Some politicians, business strategists, and pastors go into their respective fields with the idea that they are the solution to the problems of the world. As we've seen with this recent debt crisis, more politicians are probably not the answer. Pastors are not the solution to the problems of the people, rather they only point to the solution.
When this friend of mine brought this up to me, I was shell-shocked. I wish I could say that the above account was a single isolated event, but it wasn't. This has been a consistent problem with the way that I've been leading. Thankfully, I’m recognizing it quicker. I'm learning to lead others to the answer, instead of just giving it to them. I'm trying to let people into my lives, despite my dislike of it. Finally, as God has been repeatedly showing me: I'm not the hero. I'm convinced more and more every day that Jesus is the hero, and my job as a leader is to assist Him in what He's doing. I’m not doing it perfectly, and I don’t think I’ll ever get it totally right; but the hero, my hero, always saves the people in the end.