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When You Get Knee-Jerk Reactions Against Your Influence
by Tom Goodman
March 11, 2010

The leader's intent is to influence, but the intent to influence will bring out the rocks.

Oh yes.  As John Acuff blogged today, "There Will Be Rocks" (a riff on the film title, There Will Be Blood), sometimes those you want to influence have rocks ready to throw at you.  He wrote:

The rocks are built of all the negative experiences they've ever had with the idea you're trying to tell them about....  They hold a rock composed of a church they fell in love with only to have the pastor have an affair.  They hold a rock full of all the conversations they've had with hypocrites and liars who once shared the same idea you are.

And they want to throw it at your idea.  To unleash that rock.

Have you experienced this as a church leader?  As a parent?  As a boss?  As an intervening friend?  As someone who expressed an opinion on social media?  What's your gut reaction when the rocks come out?

Some leaders disengage:  They quit trying to influence (and thus quit leading).  They find (or gather) people of like minds who won't try their patience.  It's interesting that in our churches we still use the title "church leaders" for people like this who have become nothing more than program organizers.

On the other hand, some leaders engage with the rock-throwers, but only in terms of combat.  They become defensive, prickly, perhaps even relishing the verbal equivalent of a cage match with their opponent.  I've seen too much of that at church and on social media sites.

Acuff has an alternative:

What I've learned is that the best thing to do is to confess those rocks are there.  To get off your platform, whether in a one-on-one conversation or on a blog, and stand beside the person and say honestly, "Hey, you've got a rock in your hand.  It's a rock that I helped put there with my own hypocrisy and mistakes."  And then, once you've said that, once you've built a relationship that is real, I think you can ask them for the rock.  You can say, "Can we talk about that rock?  And while we talk, can I hold it for you?"

You know what happens when they give you their rock?  Their hands are open and empty.  They can now hold something new in those hands.  Something like truth and mercy and grace.  You can hand them something new when they hand you something old.

The art of communication isn't about merely getting something off your chest but about getting something into another heart.  And that requires that we process through the knee-jerk reactions we often get as we begin to communicate.  As Acuff puts it:

There will be rocks, but that's OK.

We serve a Christ who knows a thing or two about moving rocks.


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