I recently shared a trio of posts from 2017 detailing Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Unbeknownst to me in late September as I was meditating upon Paul’s words and what I had previously written, I was about to embark on a nine to twelve-week training with my company which would cause further reflection on the famous passage. As part of my employers’ ongoing and relentless commitment to the personal betterment of their staff both professionally and personally, we have been on a journey through James C. Hunter’s The World’s Greatest Leadership Principle: How To Become A Servant Leader. Hunter concludes leadership skills and character development are one and the same. He builds his writing upon a foundation of the most sought-after leadership skills mirroring the same attributes of love described by Paul and therefore devoted the largest chapter of the book to detailing and defining each of these characteristics.
I was honored to be selected to present this chapter to the staff and discovered Hunter’s words to be some of the most practical applications of love I’ve yet to find. If truly applied and practiced, I believe the qualities and skills he details can impact not just one’s workplace, but every relationship, interaction, and encounter we experience in life.
Depending on one’s personal preference of scripture version, the exact terms listed by Paul may vary although the meanings remain. Due to this, for simplicity’s sake we will define the eight attributes of love as the leadership skills Hunter lists:
Patience – Kindness – Humility – Respect
Selflessness – Forgiveness – Honesty – Commitment
Before examining each of these, it’s important to understand a key distinction of love Hunter declares in his writing and why it is considered a skill. Love is not about feelings, it is about how we behave. While feelings have the power to influence decisions and behaviors, they have nothing to do with the choices we make to practice the qualities listed above. According to C. S. Lewis, “Love in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.” Notice how Lewis embodies the words of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves. He points out love is a matter of will we have naturally about ourselves and should choose to have towards others. These words of Jesus, recorded as the second greatest commandment, have been etched in my brain from an early age, but Hunter’s determination of love being a skill shines a light on the command I’ve yet to see until this point in my life. Feelings have no effect on our skills and therefore should have nothing to do with the choice to remain kind, respectful, forgiving, and committed. By definition, skill is the ability to do something well, based upon one’s knowledge and practice. As followers of Jesus, we should be known as those who love well and therefore love should be a skill in which we are most proficient as we practice patience, kindness, humility, respect, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, and commitment.
In his book, Hunter embodies the words of both Jesus and Lewis in defining love as the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their great good. In simple terms, love is as love does. It’s of little use for me to make a claim of loving someone if I do not embody the skills of love.
Love looks like Patience.
Love looks like Kindness.
Love looks like Humility.
Love looks like Respect.
Love looks like Selflessness.
Love looks like Forgiveness.
Love looks like Honesty.
Love looks like Commitment.
The journey through Hunter’s book has been an unexpected experience. Previous leadership books I’ve read have done little more than provide how to lists of being a better leader while causing reflection upon those I may have once reported to and making determinations of I will or will not be like them. Servant leadership, as described by Hunter, becomes more of a mirror into one’s own life reflecting what is truly present or may be lacking in efforts to become not just a better leader, but a better person.
Over the next few weeks, I will take a closer look at each of these skills and discuss them in greater detail sharing more of Hunter’s thoughts. I will note, however, this discussion is not in efforts of making a to do list or checklist for the sake of proving whether one is loving. It’s simply to share a new glimpse of love which has given me pause and made me consider my own behaviors towards others regardless of what I may be feeling. Love is not about feelings, it’s about how we behave.