It’s funny how naive you can be at 20—all grown up, finishing school, ready to take on the world. When I married in my mid-20s, I somehow thought I knew how to communicate well. I could handle conflict; I would address any marital issue with ease; I would easily express how I felt. I quickly discovered, however, that I was wrong. Completely. On all accounts.
As our first year of marriage progressed, I found that I didn’t even know what I felt inside, let alone how to express it. Greg patiently listened; he encouraged me to discover myself; he made it safe for me to open up and deal with any issue that arose. I learned that open discussion was healthy, that I could disagree and still be a Christian, and that the manner in which I expressed myself mattered most in any dialogue. People are always more important than discussions, and the spirit with which you engage others often determines the outcome.
People are always more important than discussions, and the spirit with which you engage others often determines the outcome.
Years later I discovered again how little I knew when I became a “boss.” How do you encourage others to use their gifts while still holding them accountable? How do you foster a spirit of teamwork while recognizing people’s individual skills? How do you inspire buy-in for the mission of the organization while allowing people room to follow their own dreams?
A situation recently arose between two coworkers. They were each gifted and creative in their own right, but both believed they were misunderstood, and consequently refused to work with the other. After hearing both sides individually, we met together in my office to find the best solution. God, what am I doing here? You know I’m not equipped to deal with this.
I was glad for the desk that hid my sweaty palms and the quiver in my legs. Forcing a smile, I began to ask questions. The men skirted the issue as they talked, tension hanging in the air. Then something switched in one of them, and the accusations began. I sat back and watched as the heat of anger rose in his neck and face. The man being accused was instantly defensive and angry. But then another interesting shift occurred. I watched as the anger drained from the second man, and when he spoke, his voice was quiet. “Let’s separate our emotions right now and focus on the object out here. That’s the issue.”
The first man began to deflate. The accusations became less, and soon they disappeared altogether. I sat back, saying very little but watching the Spirit of God at work. Two hearts, angry and hurt, brought together by one man’s humility. One man’s willingness to set aside his anger, his defensiveness, his wounded pride, and react with kindness.
I learned about grace that day. I, who was supposed to be the boss, had been the student. Amazed to see the depth of grace. Astonished to discover its power. Unearned and undeserved, yet freely given.
Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.