I have been hiding something from you all in recent days. And that’s because I’m confused and it’s complicated.
In leadership, we speak about being vulnerable and we speak about being strong. I wonder though: which one is it? Are we meant to be vulnerable? Are we meant to be strong? Or can I be both? And to what degree should I be either?
Excuse me a moment, while I play mental gymnastics while you read along. I read a tweet recently that said we should never show our fears, because leaders need to be strong, but not only that they need to be perceived as strong.
My philosophical position rules out that tweet quite quickly. I know that we can be strong, and should be strong, but to suggest that we should not reveal weakness is absurd. I’m in a generation that appreciates authenticity and when one is feeling weak, why cannot one admit it?
On the flip side I think about quality leaders who have been vulnerable enough amongst their people to reveal that they are far from perfect. They have been vulnerable and have expressed that with humility to others.
Though, I am realising that becoming vulnerable to the people around you, to the degree that causes you to spill all your problems to the listening crowd is thwart with danger. I say danger, because there are some problems and concerns that require a private response. Unchecked anger, and emotional turmoil that has not found healing can easily damage other people under the guise of vulnerability. Some may even suggest that the sharing of their hurt and pain is for the benefit of others, so that others may learn from it. If they are honest, the divulging of their hurt and the releasing of their burdens is more than likely for the benefit of themselves!
The Oyster Shell
Now I have been hiding something from you, and I want to be vulnerable, but it’s difficult. See, I don’t know if you can relate, but it reminds me of an oyster shell. Picture this for a moment. A closed shell, smothered with seaweed, sitting at the bottom of the ocean.
Over many years grainy sand may find its way into the shell, becoming an irritant within the shell. (If you’ve ever tried to hose yourself down after being at the beach, you get what I mean). The sand, week after week, month after month, causes layers to form, that ultimately creates something extraordinary within the shell: A pearl.
A natural pearl (which are rare these days – most pearls are farmed), has taken years to form, and is highly sought after expensive jewellery found only at the top end of town. The shell that created the pearl, was only able to do so because of the irritant that made its way into the shell.
This is incredible. The frustrations, the irritating things of life can be the very things that help shape us into the people that God wants us to be! Like it says in James chapter one, verses two to three, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.’
There are things that cause us to be fragile, feeble and frustrated. Though, this is merely the sand entering the shell. This is merely God’s way of shaping us and creating the pearls within us.
What have I been hiding?
The shell has the pearl inside it. The world does not see the pearl until the shell is pried open. Until the shell is vulnerable to the world, the world does not see the beauty within it. I love this! The people around you cannot see what you are hiding, the beauty within, unless you let people into your life, until you open up and be vulnerable and authentic around others. We cannot see what you hide.
If you are an artist, then draw and paint and show the world.
If you are a communicator, then speak.
If you are a teacher, then teach.
If you are a servant, then serve.
If you are a leader, then lead diligently.
The world is not served by you being and acting small.
And this is what I’ve been hiding from you.
I’ve been hiding my best. I’ve been burying my ambition. I’ve been too fearful to be a better me. I’ve over played people’s opinions. I’ve thought too long and hard about what other people think. I have held on to bitterness too long. I have closed myself up to a world that needs to see the real Pete Brookshaw: the one with a sense of humour, slight irreverence, passionate spirituality and world changing ambition.
I’ve become like an oyster with a closed shell and that does the world no favours.
The truth is, you’ll never guess what I’ve been hiding if I don’t choose to be a little vulnerable and open myself up to the world.
I want to be strong. I want to vulnerable.
And I really want a cream-filled donut to finish off this article, but unfortunately my wife has been hiding them…
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:
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