The Importance of Relationships!
A core challenge for leaders today is the nurture of relationship. In the face of unrealistic demands, many have neglected relationships, caught up in the heresy of productivity. It comes as no surprise that America has been called “a nation of cut-offs.” In clinical terms, cut-off refers to the action of distancing in response to disruptive emotions. For leaders to emerge as poets and prophets, learning anew how to be in relationship with people and planet will be essential.
Six particular relationships are worth noting here. The first is the relationship leaders have with their spiritual life. Anthropologist Angeles Arrien believes that “spiritualism is the highest form of political consciousness.” A significant body of literature is emerging that reflects the importance of the spiritual life in shaping character. It takes courage to live by our convictions. Knowing the source of our core values becomes the means by which to live with integrity in the face of challenge.
The second key relationship is our relationship with our own person. We cannot love others, if we do not love ourselves. Again, love of self will involve coming to terms with our shadow-side or we will project onto others unresolved issues. Key to our ability to accept ourselves is the gift of mentors across the span of our life’s journey. We need others to model, guide, comfort and challenge. Likewise, we need to serve as mentor and guide for others. Both in the receiving and giving, we are shaped through our relationships.
The final two relationships are tied to having a circle of friends and family with whom it is
safe to bring our whole selves, and a community in which to serve. Leading, especially in times of exile, can be a lonely endeavor. We need people we trust with whom we can share our vulnerabilities and challenges. People who can both celebrate and challenge us in our assumptions. A circle with whom we can share the whole truth of ourselves. Likewise, we need to be able lead in a context that allows us to serve out of our gifts and passions in response to the needs of the community. Author Frederick Buechner describes the importance of our relationship with our communities when he names call “as the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Our “growing up” into maturity—into completeness—cannot be attained in isolation. “As iron sharpens iron,” so we are shaped and refined in the context of relationship: spiritually, with self, with mentors and mentees, with friends and family, in and through the communities in which we live and serve. Relationships are the context in which we come to know ourselves, learn to control ourselves, and are set free to give ourselves.
Together we are poets and prophets!