make good assumptions

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I’m kind of on this Nelson Mandela kick because I just read a book of his memoirs. He has so many wise things to say about leadership. This one really struck me:

It’s a good thing to assume [and] to act on the basis that … others are men of integrity and honor … You tend to attract integrity and honor if that is how you regard those with whom you work.
(Conversations with Myself)

I am not always good at this. I suppose it goes hand-in-hand with the idea of being a critical thinker instead of a critical person. When I’m acting like a critical person, I am not acting on the basis that others are people of integrity and honor. Instead, I’m assuming that people are ignorant, lazy, incompetent, self-serving… the list goes on and on. However, I think Mandela is so right. When you treat the people around you like they have great character, it attracts other people of character to you. On top of that, I believe treating people like they have great character raises the bar and actually causes them to start behaving that way.

In short, people will behave in accordance with the identity you assign to them.

Set the bar low, and people will behave accordingly. Set it high, and most of the time, people will strive to meet your expectations.

This is all rolling in my mind this week because as a Movement group we decided to intentionally focus this week on what Paul said in Ephesians 4.31-32:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

While there is obviously so much to be applied in these verses, I find a clear connection between Mandela’s words and Paul’s command. Oftentimes the reason I don’t want to treat people kindly is that I don’t feel they deserve it. And yet what does that sort of response do? It perpetuates the very behavior that frustrated me to begin with. But if I am willing to be kind to others, to treat others with integrity and honor, not only am I encouraging people toward better behavior, but I am also illustrating Christ.

This is certainly not an easy task. (I have to remind myself of these verses before every single class period at school.) But the more I think about it, the more I realize how important these verses are.

Will you take on the Ephesians 4.31-32 challenge?

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