Relationships

RLL 72: Bathing Suits in Winter? Presenting a United Front in Blended Families

RLL 72: Bathing Suits in Winter? Presenting a United Front in Blended Families

It’s spring, and summer is approaching rapidly! In our world, that means that all sorts of fun discussions are now taking place: what kinds of bathing suits our girls are allowed to wear, summer job opportunities, and what the general schedule will look like. These are all issues about which the parents feel strongly, and they also present us with the opportunity to either present a united, supportive front towards our kids or to backbite and undercut each other if we do things incorrectly.

I’d be OK with my daughters wearing a bathing suit like this.

I’d be OK with my daughters wearing a bathing suit like this.

In all families, and especially in blended ones, it is crucial for all of the adults involved to present a united front as much as possible. The reason for this are obvious: consistency is one of the major potential factors in difficulties for kids within blended situations, and presenting a united front can help minimize that issues. So, how to go about creating and maintaining a united front, even when there are disagreements and thorny issues? I’ve got three quick thoughts to share on how to make this work.

First, have the discussion without the kids present. Back in the middle of winter, my wife and I began talking about bathing suits for our older daughter. We’ve also had a few conversations with her mom on the same topic. This has allowed us to come to a pretty good understanding of what we expect in terms of modesty, etc, for our daughters as they pick out their swimwear. Because of that, we’re now much more able to have the discussion with the girls, knowing that all of the parents are on the same page.

Second, once a decision has been reached it is important that all adults agree to stick to the decision, even if it’s not our first choice. For example, I’d be ok with it if my daughters only ever wore giant, baggy, one-piece bathing suits made of sackcloth or heavy wool, or maybe wear a giant t-shirt on top of a giant one-piece bathing suit. However, both her mom and stepmom have gently pointed out to me that it’s simply not realistic. As a result, it has allowed us to come up with some general parameters that we agree on, and within those parameters our daughters have the freedom to choose what they like.

Third and finally, it is absolutely critical that all of the adults show each other mutual respect both when they are around each other and when they are separate. That is, each parent must be willing to show respect to the others even when they disagree about the specifics. In general, I’m the parent with the strictest views about clothing, etc. However, that doesn’t mean my view is always the right one, and it’s been a good lesson for me to learn. As we have these discussion then, it is important for all of us to stay on the same page, both for maintaining a united front and also because it is an excellent opportunity to set a good example: respectful disagreement is becoming rarer everyday, and we have a responsibility to show our kids how it can be done. In the long run, the bathing suits my kids wear may or may not be a huge deal. However, teaching them about modesty and compromise, about respectful disagreement and decision-making; these are issues that are important.

Remember, in every situation, put the children first, keep a long-term perspective, and show one another mutual respect. Do these things, and you’re on the road to a much better blended family situation!

Action Step: This week, consider how you and the other adults in your situation can improve the way in which you present a united front to your children.

RLL 33--Inverted Leadership (part 2 of 4)

RLL 33--Inverted Leadership (part 2 of 4)

From chapter 3 (Impact or Success?) and chapter 4 (Results or Relationships?)

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another Real Life Leading blog post! This week I'll be sharing excerpts from the next to chapters of my upcoming book Inverted Leadership: Lead Others Better By Forgetting About Yourself!

Chapter 3 is called The Virgin Queen and the Little Corsican: Impact or Success? 

In leadership, one of the key components that must be discussed is this: what is the purpose of your organization or group? Is it to achieve success, however that may be defined? Or is it to make an impact on those around you? As Christians, we must recognize this distinction between success and impact as of crucial importance to our leadership. Our role in the world is to further the ends of Christ’s kingdom, and we begin by recognizing that this may not involve ‘success’ as defined by the world, but it will certainly involve making an impact on those around us for the Gospel.

Queen Elizabeth I of England, also known as Elizabeth Tudor and as 'The Virgin Queen' (image from englishhistory.net, accessed on 5/27/18 at 6:51am)

Queen Elizabeth I of England, also known as Elizabeth Tudor and as 'The Virgin Queen' (image from englishhistory.net, accessed on 5/27/18 at 6:51am)

Queen Elizabeth I of England is known as the Virgin Queen because in a historical age dominated by men, especially male monarchs, she ruled England for over half a century, unwed. In fact, our state of Virginia is named for her, since the first attempt at English colonization there occurred during her reign--the Lost Colony of Roanoke, founded in 1587. Her reign in England is known as a time of political stability and a time when religious tolerance and peace was finally achieved after decades of bloodshed caused by the Protestant Reformation and the tumultuous reigns of King Henry VIII, his son Edward, and Elizabeth’s older half-sister, the infamous Bloody Mary. Queen Elizabeth is known for surviving around two dozen assassination attempts, mainly believed to have been instigated by the Catholic rulers of Spain and the Vatican, and she is also known for establishing England as the dominant Protestant power in Europe.

Thus, Queen Elizabeth I is an amazing example of a successful leader by any measurement, leading England for over fifty years while providing political stability, religious freedom, territorial expansion, and economic growth. And if all of that was not enough, a quick study of her life will also show you that in addition to being an amazingly successful leader, Elizabeth I was also rather eloquent. So, why is it that most people have not heard of or ever bothered to study her life? Is it perhaps that because, though she was successful, the direct impact of her rule is either less than we would expect or simply underappreciated?

Portrait of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis-David - 'The Emperor Napoleon In His Study At the Tuileries' (wikipedia--accessed 5/27/18 at 6:47am)

Portrait of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis-David - 'The Emperor Napoleon In His Study At the Tuileries' (wikipedia--accessed 5/27/18 at 6:47am)

Let’s take another example: Napoleon Bonaparte, the Little Corsican who rose to power in France due to the French Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte is the second most written about historical figure in world history, ranking only behind Jesus. Napoleon was originally from a family of minor nobility living on the island of Corsica--this, combined with his diminutive stature earned him the less-than-flattering nickname of “The Little Corsican”. He was able to go to a French military academy on scholarship, and due to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, he was able to quickly rise through the ranks of the French army, becoming a general in his early 20s. In 1799 he helped overthrow a provisional French government, and after becoming ‘first consul’ and then ‘consul for life,’ in 1804 he declared himself Emperor of the French.

Very few, if any, people in Europe were untouched by Napoleon’s reign, though his reign was significantly shorter (and much less ‘successful’) than Elizabeth’s. The point is this: Elizabeth is an amazing example of a successful monarch who ruled for over half a century. Napoleon was a much more impactful monarch, though his reign was significantly shorter and ended in multiple defeats. Napoleon’s impact, especially via nationalism and its effects on the development of various European countries, continued long after his death. Nationalism, after all, was one of the main causes of World War I, which began a hundred years after Napoleon’s first exile. So for us, the question is this: what type of leader do we want to be? Do we want to be successful, or do we want to be impactful?

Just as a final look at success vs. impact, consider briefly the life of Christ. His earthly ministry lasted only around three years. He spent most of his time with twelve specific men, though often crowds did gather to hear him speak. He had neither money nor political power, and he was eventually arrested, tortured, and killed by the reigning powers of his day. And at the very end of his earthly life, even his closest followers deserted him. Yet, following the Resurrection, his apostles remained faithful, his message spread to the ends of the earth, and He set in motion a movement that has had tremendous effects in every nation on earth despite the hostility of people and governments. This should tell us that our focus should be on impacting the world for the Gospel through our leadership, rather than seeking earthly success in whatever our chosen areas of influence are.

Chapter 4 is called Is Winning Arguments Even A Thing? Results or Relationships?

In leadership, it is often easy to forget that our job is not simply to get or achieve a desired result. We get caught up in trying to accomplish a stated goal or task, and we lose focus on the relationships that make any achievement possible. We forget that people are eternal, while anything we do here on earth, unless done for the Lord, will simply pass away one day. This chapter discusses how to remember and retain a focus on relationships rather than on results.

I got married for the first time after my sophomore year at Covenant College. After graduating from Covenant with a degree in History, my young family--which now included a baby girl, born less than a month after I got my diploma--and I moved five hundred miles north so that I could take up a job as a teacher and soccer coach at Fayetteville Christian School in North Carolina. While in Fayetteville, we lived in a house owned by my in-laws, and for a while, my brother-in-law came to live with us. One day he witnessed what I now see as one of the most embarrassing leadership failures of my first marriage. My wife had loaded the dishwasher and was getting ready to run it, but before she did I decided to move some of the dishes around.

How many of us have been here before?  (From http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/dishwasher-loading-arguments-are-common-reason, accessed on 5/27/18 at 7:03a.m.)

How many of us have been here before?

(From http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/dishwasher-loading-arguments-are-common-reason, accessed on 5/27/18 at 7:03a.m.)

Perhaps some of you can identify with feeling like you are the only person in the house who knows how to properly load the dishwasher. Well, both my wife and I felt that way about ourselves. So after I moved the dishes around, she went back and replaced every one into the positions she had put them in originally. Then I went and sorted them again and stood back watching as she again rearranged this dishes. This went on for probably ten minutes, while tempers and words continued to get hotter and louder, all while my brother-in-law watched (probably trying not to laugh at our ridiculousness). It’s been over a decade since that event, and I honestly do not know how it ended or in what way the dishes were arranged when the dishwasher finally got turned on. What I do know is that no matter who “won” that argument, the real loser in that moment was our relationship.

Have any of you won an argument with your spouse or significant other and still been happy about it ten minutes later? How about with a child, friend, or colleague? Perhaps sometimes, but I know what most often happens when I win an argument is that a relationship is also damaged. There are hurt feelings, there is resentment, and there is a strain in that relationship that did not need to be there. The reason this matters is because in leadership, everything starts with relationships, and so we need to take care of them. If you take care of relationships, the results will take care of themselves. And the most important relationship to take care of is your relationship with Jesus; all other relationships flow from there.

Thus, in our leadership, we need to remember the phrase “Be the first…”. As Christ first loved us and gave Himself up for us, so we must be willing to give ourselves for others even before they do so for us. This phrase also implies give and take, as we saw earlier: give respect and take responsibility. Give respect to each person you meet and take responsibility for the way in which you present yourself to them. Now, don’t worry: this is not an entire chapter about image or presentation or personal branding or any of those things. But it is about how you present yourself to other people: be the first to give respect and to take responsibility.

As leaders we must also be the first to admit fault when we are wrong and be the first to share credit with other people when things go well. Very few leaders ever accomplish anything of value all on their own. There is almost always a team or group involved, so let’s be sure to acknowledge that; it will go a long way in terms of relationship building and in the impact you will have on your audience. It is also evidence of humility to be able to encourage and applaud others’ contributions instead of having to publicize one’s own accomplishments.

Last, and most importantly, be the first to serve. As Christ washed the disciples’ feet, as He gave Himself up for us, so we must be willing to serve others if we are to properly fulfill our roles as leaders. Always be willing to do the little bit extra, show up early, stay a bit late, go out of your way for others. All of these things essentially hit on the same idea. A key component of leadership is putting the needs of others before our own, in order to help them become better versions of themselves.