When James Hunter mirrored the skills of leadership listed in The World’s Greatest Leadership Principle: How To Become A Servant Leader to Paul’s attributes of love from 1 Corinthians 13, he provided more than simply how to be a great leader. He spelled out practical ways of showing love and provided insight on being a great human. When I first set out to detail each of the skills here, I naturally thought the eight traits would divide into four posts of two skills each. However, as I begin studying them more, the breakdown I’ve used seem to fall off the pages right before me.
As I’ve stated in each post, Hunter’s ultimate definition of love is the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their great good. Patience and kindness are the first traits listed and are the first steps on the road to extending oneself. For most of us, patience and kindness come rather easily, at least externally, as we always strive to show our best face to strangers and others we seek to hide our true selves from. The act of extending was further displayed as we then discussed humility, respect, and selflessness. These three skills provide the motivation to allow us to be patient and kind as the more aware we become of treating others with respect and seeing we are human and all the same the more patience and kindness flow naturally from us. I truly believe the last three skills discussed cause the greatest extension of ourselves when practicing love.
To once again borrow the words of C. S. Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Extending yourself makes you vulnerable. In other words, to love is to be open to hurt. These last three skills guide us in dealing with hurt.
Forgiveness is defined as letting go of resentment. It’s one of the most important character skills for a person to possess: because people are human and will make mistakes, a lot of them. Your spouse, your kids, your parents, your boss, your coworkers, your teammates are going to screw up and let you down. We must be willing to accept limitations in others and develop the capacity to tolerate imperfection. The skill of letting go of resentment that lingers when people have hurt us, falsely accused us, threw us under the bus, and generally let us down is not about being passive or letting people get away with bad behavior or pretending the bad behavior is acceptable. Forgiveness involves going to people and communicating how what have done has affected you, dealing with it, letting go of any lingering resentment. Resentment destroys the human personality. Harboring resentment, seeking revenge, and obsessing about what others have done to us often causes us to become spiteful and hateful. When our pride and feelings are hurt, we justify not letting people off the hook.
Hunter explains forgiveness occurs when we separate people from behavior. We all do bad things but aren’t necessarily bad people. Are we as willing to let others off the hook as easily as we do ourselves? I was once told by a man I loved dearly, “Rock, we only accuse others of what we are capable of doing ourselves.” I hated hearing those words. I refused to admit the judgments I made mentally against others were only because I had the ability to do the exact the same things. Then the words of Paul is his letter to the Romans wafted through my thick head, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
Honesty is simply being free from deception. Trust is the glue that holds relationships together. Trust is built by behaving with honesty, it requires effort, and comes through communication of listening and speaking. One major aspect of honesty which is rather difficult is accountability. Failure to hold people accountable for their actions is deceptive and is not living up the responsibility of helping others be the best they can be and provides the false illusion that everything is okay. Dishonesty and deception take root in our heart as unforgiveness is allowed to dwell. Gandhi stated, “One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.”
Commitment is defined as sticking to your choice. Practicing the skill of love requires commitment and passion for personal continuous improvement as well as a passion for doing what you say you are going to do, following through on promises, and finishing what you started. Commitment is about being loyal to people on the team and being there for others when they fail or when they need your help. It’s not about blind loyalty – doing the right thing always trumps loyalty. Commitment is having the moral courage to do the right thing regardless of friendships or alliances, even if its unpopular or comes with personal risk. Moral courage is the resolve to subordinate anything that gets in the way of doing the right thing. When all is said done, that right thing is always love.
Forgiveness, honesty, and commitment require vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be capable of being physically or emotionally wounded and possibly open to attack or damage. It’s not a popular idea today to love to the extent of being vulnerable and possibly exposing yourself to hurt; however, as Paul reminds us in the closing of his famous words on the subject, “Love never fails.”