When the anxiety is lower, the congregation has a higher capacity to perceive what is trying to emerge and invite a new narrative. Granted, as anxiety rises, the functioning of people potentially becomes more reactive and conflict can easily follow, for conflict is a way of dealing with anxiety. The anxiety and conflict, when responded to appropriately by leaders, can be the catalyst for creative, adaptive growth and positive change.
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Anxiety is like the wind—you cannot see it, but you can feel it and observe its impact. But to observe it, one must pay attention. For example, one cannot see the wind, but if you look at a flag on a flagpole, you can tell if there is wind, and if so, you can estimate its strength. You can feel it against your skin.
This process of conversational leadership is a way of growing, deepening and broadening the container, so the deeper, more important, courageous conversations can happen. The container has to do with its quality, paying attention to the group field; the clarity and interaction of intention and attentiveness, each of which help establish context; to monitor if it is too palpable? As the leader, influencing the quality of the container is our first job and very closely, it is inviting others to share that responsibility with us.
If I am to be a builder of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, I must remember to think small: peacebuilding and conflict transformation begins with recovery of peace and transformation in my own soul and with those around me; those nearest to me which cross my path.
The alternative to extremes is a middle path that moves in-between and walks “the narrow ridge”. An alternative middle path is able to hold “paradoxical curiosity.” This middle path is a soulful, grounded, humble way that takes courage and strength to hold. It is the in-between space where the in-between conversations occur.
What is your art? What is your dream calling you to do that you have always wanted to do but have been afraid to take the first step? Where is life for you?
The minister, leader, counselor or facilitator does not take security for granted, nor does he or she use theory or theology to substitute for the encounter. The challenge is to be fully present in the “nothing else than process without getting lost in the abyss”
Whether pursuing our longing literally or symbolically or some of both, longing is about falling to the center of our longing. Advent invites us to be intentional about the search.
The path also requires letting go of hurt and wrongs inflicted in anxiety and conflict. Like Jacob and Esau, forgiveness and reconciliation are a journey. I will see in the eyes of those that I have been blaming heartaches that look and feel very much like my own. In their struggles, stumbles, failures and celebrations, I see my own.
Most leaders speak 80% of the time and listen 20%. The best leaders reverse that equation, listening 80% and speaking 20%. Being in silence and being with silence expands the circle of listening and hearing, thus the depth of leaders. Silence: a gift, a blessing, the spirit’s pulsating soul. What I would give for some time of silence, I often think. When my wish is granted, I disrupt it and flee from it by creating a distraction or cacophony of sounds. Do I really want that for which I ask, SILENCE? What is silence and what role does it serve for the ripening of our deep self, or our souls?