Benefits for leaders who are open to reason:
1. Being open to reason takes the pressure off the leader to have every good idea and solve every problem. The leader guides the group through the process of discovering possibilities, researching solutions and choosing the path forward.
2. Being open to reason can save the leader time, resources and emotional credit with others as they become aware of their blind spots and avoid pitfalls.
Benefits for the community where leaders are open to reason:
1. Leaders who are open to reason create environments where all ideas can be heard and considered, resulting in discovering more creative and effective solutions. It also makes space where it is possible to form plans collectively.
2. Being open to reason fosters the understanding that each of us needs the others.
3. The blind spots of leaders pose danger to the group enterprise. Having a leader that is open to reason protects the group from that danger.
Biblical inspiration and support:
Years ago I thought the leader of a group was the most opinionated person who exerted pressure to get their way. I no longer think that way. The following passage from the book of James is what made me start to re-evaluate what it means to lead and to be wise.
“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13–18, ESV, emphasis mine)
Selfish ambition, which makes self the focus and has the need to personally win all discussions, arguments and decisions, is the enemy of true wisdom. Bitter jealousy, which is incapable of celebrating the gifts and successes of others, is the enemy of true wisdom. These characteristics bring chaos and evil.
But true wisdom is pure. It does not change with the tide of opinion. It does not give way to ambition or envy; it is unpolluted.
True wisdom is peaceable and gentle. True wisdom does not demand or pressure, but pursues true reconciliation and connection.
True wisdom is open to reason. This implies that wise people really listen to others. We all need to have the foundations of truth set by the Word of God, but that leaves many issues open to discussion. Wise people are confident that God will work through His Holy Spirit in us as we discuss. Wise people know that every person only sees from their own limited perspective and so recognize God has given us one another as a gift–offering new perspectives and insights, and even challenging questions. It is not always comfortable to entertain foreign ideas. I think that is why it is somewhat uncommon to do so. But I believe we must be open to reason, open to the possibility that our understanding may be lacking and that God might be using other people in our life to uncover our blind spots.
The thing about a blind spot is, you usually do not know it is there until there is a collision.
Being open to reason allows our blind spots to be uncovered without the pain and damage of a collision on our team. (Another way of thinking of blind spots might be the “log in our own eyes” like in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:3-6 and Luke 6:41-42, see practical application below.)
I have discovered that being open to reason requires faith in God. It feels vulnerable to allow the possibility of my mind being changed. Because of this, I need to know that God keeps me safe. To turn to selfish ambition and bitter envy is the opposite of putting our trust in God. When we engage in that kind of “wisdom” we are working to protect and promote ourselves.
We see in this passage that being open to reason complements being submissive, impartial and sincere. To be wise is ultimately to be a peace maker. How amazing.
I remember how stunned I was to read this passage and realize that God was defining wisdom relationally, not intellectually. That is not how I had commonly thought about wisdom. How about you?
Being open to reason helps us move one step closer to true wisdom.
Different people see things differently. I remember a time I was serving on a team and one member left to go on a trip. When this member was gone, it seemed like it was easier to make changes more quickly. So, we came up with an idea and implemented it while they were away without thinking much of it. When she returned, she asked us questions about our decision that uncovered caveats we had not considered. We had not thought about how many people were invested in the old way and we had not spoken with stakeholders and given them an opportunity to be part of the change. Speaking to her, and being open to the reason she offered, helped me see how I had made a mistake in how I had gone about making the change. Had I asked her for her perspective before I made the change, I could have avoided some unnecessary fallout. We probably still would have made the change, but we would have involved more people in the decision-making process and engaged more people in deploying the change. That experience helped put more value on the input of people who see things differently than me.
A friend offered this reflection: “When I lead, I could easily be offended by another opinion or answer, thinking it was targeting my ability instead of helping. That's not Godly wisdom in the body of Christ, it is focused on self. The Lord was gracious to me and I learned, finding that working and learning from others was the best leadership! God just put me there to put the puzzle pieces together!” How refreshing it is to realize our role is not to come up with every good idea or have all the answers but to put the pieces together.
Reflect on wisdom.
Take a minute to write down how you think our society would describe a wise person.
Next go through James 3:13-18 and write down how the “wisdom from above” is described. What differences do you notice? What surprises you the most?
Of all the attributes listed, if you grow in one, which one would you choose?
Pray and ask God to help you grow in that attribute and in wisdom.
Where is there chaos and disorder in your life or your team?
James 3:13-18 talks about disorder and chaos being the fruit of selfish ambition and bitter envy.
Take a moment to pray and ask the Lord to show you if ambition and envy are contributing to the disorder. If something comes to mind, ask the Lord for true wisdom in that situation. (James also shares the comforting and powerful truth: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5, NIV))
Who on your team thinks very differently than you do? Invite them to share their point of view on an issue your team is facing or a new idea you are exploring.
Then listen and really consider what they have to say. Count it a gift to be able to hear a different perspective. Offer a summary of what they said to make sure you heard them correctly. Ask clarifying questions as needed. Make sure to thank them for their time and for sharing their perspective and let them know you will consider what they shared as the team moves forward. (Note: No need to promise to do what they suggest, but do agree to listen well and fully consider what they have said.)
Blindspots… the log in your own eye?
Take time to read Matthew 7:1-6 and consider Jesus’ teaching about how we “…do not notice the log that is in [our] own eye…” (Matthew 7:3, ESV). How does this relate to what we commonly think of as blind spots?
A final word:
Being open to reason gives leaders opportunities to spot blind spots.
Comment: How has another person’s perspective helped you avoid a collision?
Hi! I'm Jeri Howe.
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