For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Serving people who treat you well is relatively easy. But serving people who behave badly toward you? That can be much harder.
At one time or another, we’ve all been disrespected. I have. You have. We all have. We’ve experienced behavior that is rude, arrogant, self-serving, jealous, demeaning, dominating, and even manipulative.
It is not easy to serve people when they are falling short of their potential in these ways. But when they show up like this in your relationships, you can lean on your servant leadership orientation to guide yourself and them to higher ground.
Here are five practices to help you stay kind and serve while dealing with awful behavior:
When people behave badly toward you, it likely has nothing to do with you. It could, but chances are high that it doesn’t. Most often, the bad behavior you can see is rooted in emotional trauma that’s hidden.
People often disrespect others in order to create on the outside what they feel on the inside. In other words, they seek to hurt because they themselves are hurting. This usually isn’t a conscious process. It’s often spontaneous. Whether or not the pain people are feeling is rational or justified is beside the point.
If this idea feels foreign to you, think about the last time you stubbed your toe. When you felt that sharp, intense pain shoot through your foot, what was your first reaction? You had to expel something, right? Maybe that something was a gasp or a yell or a word that can’t be printed in this blog.
The pain came in to your body, and so something had to come out of your body.
That’s often how disrespectful behavior is formed. Life causes people pain and, because they’ve never been taught to “expel” that pain productively, they do it unproductively, through all sorts of negative attitudes and behaviors.
Acknowledge this. Allow yourself to be guided by it when you experience or witness disrespect.
Scottish author and theologian Rev. John Watson put it best: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
That said, you shouldn’t be a doormat. No servant leader should. In fact, servant leadership is rewarding precisely because you lean in to situations like this. But before you respond, ask yourself, what is your instinctual response to being disrespected?
If you’re like the rest of us, your gut instinct is either to go on the offense or the defense. The truth is, neither of those positions will serve you. When you react to poor behavior by attacking the other person or defending yourself, you’ll only amplify the emotions that are causing the behavior to occur in the first place.
So, don’t react immediately. Pause. Count to ten in your head. Breath deeply, relax your posture, and allow your spiked emotions the chance to calm back down a bit. If you can wait a few hours before responding to poor behavior, do so. Give yourself permission to calm down and regain perspective.
The other person will feel you pausing. They won’t be able to not feel it. And even if they aren’t yet able to pause their own emotional roller coaster, their inability to hijack you will keep the situation from escalating further.
Once you’ve regained your balance, invite people into a “different” conversation with you – a conversation based in mutual respect, curiosity, and kindness.
When you talk, wipe the slate clean. Don’t dwell on the past. Give people the opportunity to begin again with you, on equal footing.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)
Show people how you want to be treated. Pull out all the stops. Roll out the red carpet. The worse their behavior was to you, the more they desperately need you to show them the way!
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)
When you experience a positive shift – any positive shift — in the other person’s behavior, affirm it. Notice it, lift it up, and give thanks for it.
We all have so much work to do to become the people God created us to be. None of us is perfect. Let people know that you actually believe in their potential to get better. Just as Jesus believed, and still believes.
“And all are justified freely through his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)
Mark – I am Kali and Mark’s mom and I so relate to your offerings. I try to promote positivity and love – it is lacking in so many relationships. Continue doing your wonderful work. Merry Christmas.
Thanks so much for your feedback Jeri. I really appreciate it. Thanks also for your heart for servant leadership and the positivity and love you share. You are making a significant positive impact on the world! Merry Christmas to you and your family as well!
How did you know this was a message I needed to hear today?! Amazing how God works. Thanks for being there ~
Marilyn, I am so pleased that you found this article helpful for you today. Truly God at work!! Blessings to you and your family for an awesome Christmas!
Don’t you wish we could take first impressions and assumptions out of our vocabulary? Jumping to conclusions and making assumptions puts up barriers to relationships and potential. I was once working on a team with several people. After six months or so, I was talking to my manager and she complimented me on turning around relationship with a co-worker. Apparently my co-worker had said she didn’t like me and didn’t want to work with me (or something like that). I literally had no idea that I had rubbed this person the wrong way. She had made first impression judgements of me. I had made no assumptions. It worked out for the best and we became good working partners and friends. I remember wondering at first how I could have missed that she didn’t want to work with me but was immediately thankful that I didn’t make any assumptions. I could have let my imagination and assumptions ruin what turned out to be a good relationship.
Jane, thank you so much for sharing your story of the importance of not making assumptions as you walk into relationships. It is a sweet reminder that we all have stories, but if we look to build positive relationships no matter what the past or present circumstances, it can be extremely beneficial in moving the relationship forward. You are a blessing!!
Thanks for a very good article, Mark! Have you written on how to expel the pain productively?
Thanks for the feedback Josephine. I really appreciate it. I have not written on that yet, but certainly a good thought for the future! Have you found anything that worked for you? Merry Christmas!
Great post with subtle advises. Negativity in other’s behavior must not be expressed specifically. Try to acknowledge the point logically, respectfully and parliamentary. At times, sarcasm, satire, humor, implicit, arrogant, awful, insult and hurtful behavior are completely based on interpretation. The best way is to observe and listen with no reactive response. Regards.
Thank you so much for these additive insights into this subject Asesh! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Your point to first and foremost observe and listen, is fantastic. I appreciate your heart for servant leadership, and I know you are making a significant positive impact within your sphere of influence. Blessings to you on all the great work you are doing!
Mark, there is a lot of truth in your article but the way to achieve kindness is not. None of us are kind, and none of us is perfect but He is. We all HAVE sinned and fall short but He does not and He will never fall short is the meaning of those words. He died so we will never have to fall short in Him if we walk in the light as He is in the light. We do not need to lean on our leadership training, or our own selves in the way to be kind, this blocks the way of our Lord’s Spirit from working in and through us. We need to only lean on Christ and what who He is within us, and He will give us what we need supernaturally without conscious effort when we face any adversary and we-we face our own natural behavior within ourselves. He draws all men and women to himself not “leadership” training but He Himself, His training, His ways, and His Spiritual behavior and He gets all of our praise and glory for making each of us who we are.
Thanks for your insights Vicki. I really appreciate your love for Jesus and your allowing him to work through you in all your activity. Following Jesus’ model and his instruction to us is certainly a great way to illustrate kindness. I do believe that leadership training, specifically training that Jesus’ provided in Scripture is very helpful in stepping into practices of servant leadership. I also believe that allowing Jesus to flow through us so that we can be His feet on the street in the marketplace is a great way to honor Him and become the servant leader that God created us to be. I wish you blessings as you continue to advance servant leadership principles and kindness in all your activities. You are helping to make the world a better place!