|We judge all of life by our own experience. In some ways, that can be a very good thing because our experiences tell us something about the nature of life. The problem, though, is that our experiences don’t tell us everything we need to know.
Some weeks ago, my Proverbs 31 wife and I went on a two-week vacation, and most of our time was spent in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Our daughter had been there for her work and had raved about it; we have friends from that part of the world, and three of my cousins grew up there. If that seems like scant reason to go, my apologies; I’ll get away and relax at the slightest provocation. The trip was wonderful and the scenery, beautiful.
One of the surprises was the almost complete lack of connectivity. I took my cell phone and my computer with me, expecting to keep in touch and up-to-date while I was away. For most of our trip, we had minimal cell phone service. We had coverage in four of the bigger towns we visited, but everywhere else, nothing. We had to recharge our phones every day, since the batteries went dead searching for a signal.
My computer was equally lonesome. Two of the places we stayed had Internet available. That was it. In one town, we asked around and managed to identify two WiFi hotspots. One was a restaurant and the other was a coffee shop in the local mall.
The trip itself was a technology sabbatical and a step back in time. I left for Michigan in a state of blissful ignorance, expecting things there to be much as they are at home. The technology that shapes my work life would simply reconnect in a new locale and my work would go on as usual—I was wrong.
Personal experience leads us to believe that all of life is as it is in our own corner of the world. I know this stuff—in fact, I teach this stuff—and it still surprised me how large that technology gap was.
There are two lessons from this. The first is easy, and the second is quite difficult. First remember that not everyone in the world has the advantages—including technology—which you take for granted. When companies decide to accept employment applications electronically, it may be convenient but it makes certain assumptions that may not be true. Common practice in the metro area, the very practice creates an invisible wall that excludes many of the outstate areas. Leaders need to think about that when seeking people to fill non-technical jobs—the right person may not have access to the technology necessary to apply electronically.
The second lesson is harder because it cuts to the core of who we are. It takes a lot of humility to recognize that we do not have a complete—or maybe even accurate—view of the world. It takes intentional compassion to move outside of what we know and see the world through the eyes of others. It means recognizing that my own point of view has natural appeal to me and giving people the respect they are due means meeting them on their own terms.
Jesus modeled this humility well:
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:4-8, ESV).
Real leadership is not blind to the circumstances of others. Christ-centered, redemptive leaders learn to humble themselves, and in doing so, they learn to address all of life with the love of Christ. In the words of Peter Vaill, “ … leadership is not learned. It is learning.”
So wherever God calls, we serve others with compassion, humility and respect. And we learn to nurture people who are not just like us.