I have a problem. If I’m in a group and there is a lack of leadership, I will jump in to lead even if no one appointed me the leader — even if it’s not appropriate. It’s an illness, really. I can’t help myself. It feels similar to when I was in a classroom as a child and the teacher would ask a question and no one would answer. I’d wait a few seconds (maybe ten, each one feeling like an eternity) as the tension in my mind would grow. Why isn’t anyone answering!? Finally, my hand would shoot into the air and I’d give an answer — even if it was the wrong one.
Thankfully, I’ve learned to live with this illness and have been able to develop some level of patience in situations where there isn’t leadership but it’s clearly not my place to step up. However, recently I failed miserably at practicing that patience. Just before Christmas, I served as a juror for a criminal case trial. It was a difficult experience for many reasons, but primarily because sitting in judgment of someone else was hard for me to do. (Especially when the person we convicted was my son’s age, just 19 years old.) I had stomachaches for a week about it. I don’t regret the experience, but I have no desire to serve on a criminal jury trial again. Ugh.
We were in court for three days, and on the third day, it was time for us to deliberate. I was curious to see how our “foreman” would be selected. I have been a professional facilitator and so I thought to myself, “If no one else volunteers, I’ll explain my skillset and offer.” However, someone else volunteered so I was off the hook. After a few hours of deliberation, we were at a deadlock and our volunteer forewoman was visibly frustrated. I asked if anyone would mind if I used the whiteboard to help us document the evidence we thought supported a guilty verdict and the facts that cast doubt on guilt. It was a helpful exercise and we came to a conclusion shortly thereafter.
A few people thanked me for doing what I did and had I just accepted their thanks humbly, that would have been the end of it. But I was annoyed that the person who volunteered to be in charge didn’t know how to moderate our discussion, so I got a little arrogant. Later on, the judge sent us back to deliberate on a few additional counts (none of us were expecting that) and we were all annoyed. I got impatient with our forewoman and a little snarky. I said something sarcastic when she was unable to get us unstuck the second time. I was a bit of a brat, to be honest. In the moment, I felt justified in my snarkiness, but in retrospect, I am incredibly ashamed of my behavior. I’m not even sure who else noticed my impatience, but I felt instant shame. In fact, I have prayed that I could randomly run into that forewoman someday so I can apologize for my attitude.
You see, I had prayed before going in to jury duty that I would be a witness for Christ. I had been given the opportunity to display humble leadership earlier in the day and could have used that opportunity to shine for Christ in follow-up conversations with fellow jurors as we left that day. Or, at the very least, I could have left knowing I was a blessing. Instead, I completely threw that out the window less than an hour later through my arrogance and impatience. The entire jury was frustrated, and I only lent fuel to the fire of impatience among us. I was a leader all right, but I wasn’t a good one in that moment. And I was certainly no witness to Christ. Instead of making friends and talking about God’s work as we left that day, I didn’t talk to anyone because I was ashamed of my display of arrogance.
Every day we are given opportunities to lead and influence and be a witness, which makes each of us a leader — whether you like it or not. The question isn’t whether or not you’re a leader, the question is, “What kind of leader am I?” And as 2015 is getting started, the bigger question should be, “What kind of leader do I want to be? What opportunities is Christ giving me to shine today?” For me, it’s not about beating myself up for this incident (even though it is embarrassing to share it with all of you); it’s about learning from it. My humanity makes me vulnerable and imperfect and God can use me anyway. Praise God that he will humble us when needed in order to refine us into the type of leader he created us to be.
“Lord, make me a better leader. Let me bring less of my impatient, arrogant self into my interactions with others and more of you. Thank you for how you continue to humble and refine me into the woman you’ve designed me to be. Please let me get out of my own way. Please let me remember that my purpose is in you, not in my own thoughts and opinions. Christ, make me a better leader so that I can be a brighter witness for you. Amen.”