Hello, leader. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you worried about that person on your team with the permanent bad attitude? Or maybe the person who keeps making a mess of their life? Well, do I know just the thing for you! Take a deep breath and repeat after me:
“I am not responsible for other people’s growth.”
That statement should make you feel relieved but, in case it didn’t, or if you’re just wondering where this is going, please read on.
You may ask, “What do you mean by that statement? Doesn’t being a leader mean you help people grow?” Of course it does! That’s one of the privileges that comes along with a position of leadership. However, let me ask you this in return: have you ever been able to get someone to do something they refused to do? Chances are that you haven’t, at least not without threats of bodily harm or the use of some form of manipulation. The truth is that some people don’t want to grow and others simply aren’t ready to get over their problems.
Whenever we need a reference for leadership, we should always start by looking at the life of Jesus. He was (and is) the ultimate example of a leader.
When we read through the Gospels, we actually never see Jesus trying to control the actions of His disciples. We see Him lead and correct, but we also see Him empower.
In fact, one of the first things He does after taking on His disciples is send them out to heal the sick and raise the dead. There’s no mention of training classes, year-long internships or anything of the sort.
While I’m not trying to downplay the importance of those things, I am trying to highlight how little control Jesus exerted over their actions.
He presented them with opportunities for growth but never forcibly pushed them toward anything or used guilt as a manipulator.
He let them grow at their own pace even though it’s clear that some of them grew pretty slowly (I’m looking at you, Saint Peter).
Something we like to say here at Bethel is that you can’t work on someone else’s problem harder than they’re willing to work on it themselves. Meaning if we’ve been giving someone opportunities to grow and they just won’t take them, it’s not our job to try to force them to grow.
What made Jesus such a great leader was how He always led in love, no matter the magnitude of the mistake. The disciples would get prideful, cut off people’s ears or try to call down fire from Heaven to destroy a town and Jesus would have to step in. But because everything the Lord does is for the sake of growth, they recognized the life that came from His correction and that’s what kept them coming back.
Jesus did not correct them to protect His ministry but to further theirs.
That should be our goal as well.
So what can you do when someone doesn’t want to grow? Start by asking good questions.
Never make assumptions that you know what’s going on. Messes are almost always just the telltale signs that something else is going on.
Set goals with them and make a growth plan to help them get where they need to be. Empower them to rise to the occasion and cheer them on. However, at the end of the day, people will do only what they want to do or what they are currently capable of handling. Some people haven’t walked far enough with the Lord yet to be able to handle some challenges but that’s okay. The Lord is faithful and knows how to lead them in their process.
It’s important to note that some people will need a level of help that you will not be able to provide. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to send them to someone who has been trained to handle it. Counseling is incredibly powerful and almost every person alive can benefit from it.
It doesn’t make you a bad leader if you can’t fix everything yourself. It makes you wise for not trying to fix something you can’t handle.
We have a stance that we will always work with someone who is willing to grow. If they are at a point where they cannot or will not grow, we bless them and send them on their way, letting them know the door is open if they reach a point where they are able to work on things.
So let’s take a minute and take that heavy load off your shoulders. You can’t change anyone’s heart and that’s okay. That’s the Lord’s job. He knows exactly what it is that they need, and knows exactly where they need to go in their process. That means that He brought them into your world for a reason. And, if that’s the case, it means that you have something you can offer them. Pray about it. Ask the Lord how you can love them along their way. Maybe all you need to do is believe in them and encourage them. It’s shocking how many people don’t have anyone else in their corner.