I was re-reading my notes from attending the Hawaii Leadership Practicum back in 2012, and I stumbled upon a powerful reminder for leaders. The leader of the practicum, Wayne Cordeiro, told us
A mind can reach a mind, but only a heart can reach a heart – Wayne Cordeiro
Another way to say this is that people matter.
Back to the Source
This concept can be seen in action in 1 Corinthians 8. Paul is writing to the Corinthians about eating food sacrificed to idols (a big no-no for Jews). But Jesus’ life and death and resurrection changed the purpose and direction of many of the Jewish laws, especially those related to food. Here’s where it gets interesting. Let me list v1 and then skip to v7:
1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.
To quickly summarize, Paul is arguing that the person who knows that the food laws have a new meaning as a result of Jesus has a higher responsibility than the one who does not know. Indeed it is the one with knowledge (the one who is “right”) who is supposed to choose the course of action that is most beneficial to the one without knowledge (the one who is “wrong”). The person and their faith walk are more important than being “right.”
An Awkard Meeting
I was anticipating an upcoming one-on-one meeting with a certain bit of apprehension. I was going to tell a leader that his ministry was causing harm rather than benefit. Moreover, I knew this leader would attack me for saying it.
I took a course at the International Institute for Restorative Practices, and they gave me a helpful tool called the Compass of Shame (link to summary). This tool helped me realize that the attacks would be automatic rather than rational. In other words, my character was going to be attacked and the reasons wouldn’t make sense. But this tool also helped me realize that eventually the automatic response would subside and we could then have a fruitful discussion.
And so, even though I was “right” in my mind, I absorbed the character attacks without defending myself. When he was calmed down enough, though, we had a real conversation. In a “happily ever after” moment we actually managed to find a role where he would be very helpful and he is still doing great work there. My mind couldn’t reach his mind at first, but my heart could reach his heart. People matter.
Contrary to popular belief, Paul was not denigrating learning in 1 Corinthians 8:1. Instead, he is placing the burden of acting in a loving way on the one who has greater knowledge. If you are “right” but you behave in a way that belittles or attacks or ignores others, your knowledge is puffing up rather than love building up.
- What conflict are you trying to engage (or avoid) right now?
- What knowledge is needed?
- How can your heart outshine your mind in engaging the conflict?
- When have you experienced conflict in a way that built up rather than puffed up?