What we don't conquer conquers us!
You would have to be wrapped in cotton wool not have some bumps and bruises from life. If we don't deal with those hurts and offences, we land up carrying the venom of them through life.
I remember sitting in a community gathering where someone was sharing with great passion what they had learned from a recent conference they had attended. What they said was inspiring they had obviously been inspired by this conference and their words were stirring us up. My heart joined with theirs with a resounding yes and amen as they called us to action. That was, until one side comment, which like a scorpion's tail whipped over and revealed their wound. I felt it as I recoiled with a no, I was no longer standing with them as I saw the venom hit their target and I watched with sadness the slumping and stiffening of shoulders in front of me as shame and hurt sunk in.
It was such a visceral reminder that a little bit of unresolved pain in our lives can have such a negative impact on others. And the sad thing is, they were probably totally unaware of their impact and the people they had stung weren't the ones who had caused them the original pain, even though they might look similar. It was such a pity because the awesome message they were delivering lost all its potency and they had also lost all their credibility.
I thought about it over the next few days, not with judgement, because I know from experience how easy it is to allow unresolved anger unforgiveness, bitterness and offences to grow into a deposit of venom waiting to be unleashed when you least expect it, to people who don't deserve it. I also know from experience the damage it wreaks and how utterly ashamed you feel once you have curled that sting back again, not understanding where that came from.
As leaders, our unresolved pain or issues can have a weighty impact on our team, which can be particularly damaging. It breaks down trust and makes us lose credibility. And just like we do with the beautiful scorpion, people create space between us and them to keep themselves safe.
Very often our passions and the things that we become known for and the things that drive us to succeed can be because of injustice in our life. It can be the driving force behind our success because we want to right the injustice. The things that may have caused so much pain, can be the fuel of that great work you are doing. Many great initiatives are born out of adversity, but if we never deal with that pain and we carry the venom of that injustice with us, we are in danger of doing it from a place of judgement and that is the wrong motive.
Take the time to embrace the fuel that has given you the impetus to do that great work, but do deal with the venom, you will discover that compassion is a far more sustainable driving force than judgement.
I pursued leadership work because of my experiences and from the effects of bad leadership from my home country. What started out as a judgemental "I'll fix them" mission, soon became a "wow, it's tough here, and they aren't what I assumed, they are doing the best they can with what they have right now, how do I stand with and support them?". When compassion became my fuel, it was far more fulfilling for me and my clients were feeling encouraged, ignited and equipped.
How we approach and see people, matters, even if it's unsaid, they will feel it. And people will always live up to our expectations, good or bad. As a leader choose to see the gold in your people and bring it out of them. And deal with your venom.
Just a note on compassion. The Latin root for the word compassion is pati, which means to suffer, and the prefix com- means with. Compassion, originating from compati, literally means to suffer with. The connection of suffering with another person brings compassion beyond sympathy into the realm of empathy.
What are you thoughts about being led by compassion rather than being driven by judgement or injustice?