Often a subordinate in a relationship comes to our ministry, asking if it is okay to have a voice within their hierarchal structure. The follower is afraid to bring critique to what they are experiencing.
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Leader and follower constructs are essential in a fallen world where chaos wants to reign. Part of God’s answer for His creation was to implement hierarchal structures, a good thing.
There are employers and employees. We have pastors and congregants. Mercifully, we have civil authorities that provide directive care over the citizens. There are parents and children, and husbands and wives. Perhaps you can think of other hierarchies.
When these frameworks are working correctly, there will be order in all the relationships involved. When sin disrupts these constructs, the people will hurt. And evil will attempt to tear down what the Lord is building.
The individuals who make up the leadership or the constituency are imperfect, which makes the implication clear: mistakes will happen. There is no way around imperfect hierarchies in a fallen world.
The question becomes how do you react when you’re in a relational dynamic where the imperfections of the authority in the relationship are affecting you (and others) in adverse ways? There are two absolute wrong responses:
- You must not keep quiet when problems arise.
- You must not sin when you speak of things that you perceive to be wrong.
If the authority tells you not to critique (bring your observations), you would be wise to ignore that request. You have several options, and you should exhaust them until there is an acceptable change. Here are a few of those options.
- Can you “overlook” what you perceive as wrong? If you can, by all means, overlook it.
- If you can’t overlook it, you must take the issue to the Lord. Spend adequate time talking to your Father about this matter.
- If you can’t dismiss it after talking to God, you must bring it to the person involved. In most cases, you should not bring it to someone else before you chat with the person with whom you are struggling.
- If that person is unwilling to talk, is dismissive, defensive, or flips the conversation around by making it your fault, you may need to go to someone else, with the hope of finding a solution.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. – Matthew 18:15-17
Caveat – You may have a close confidant that you want to talk to before you chat with the person with whom you’re struggling. This action happens all the time with counseling. Someone will come to me with a problem before they go to the person with whom they are having the problem.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29
Having “behind the scenes” conversation about someone else does not have to be gossip or slander. If your motive is redemptive restoration, as opposed to tearing down an individual, you should experience God’s favor as you seek wisdom from a trusted, competent, biblical friend.
You Must Work It Out
If the person in authority mandates that you can’t talk to anyone, other than God and yourself, do not listen to that counsel. If you do follow that advice, you will bind your soul, dull your conscience, and grow in bitterness.
God never silences His children when they are struggling with others. He does not silence us when we struggle with Him. The Psalms are full of vocal, hurting saints, who needed to go to God with their complaints. They worked it out imperfectly. But they did bring their critiques to the person with whom they were struggling.
I have told my children many times that I want them to talk to me when they have a problem with me. I’ve made the same appeal to my wife. It would be heartless to tell them to “suck it up buttercup,” or even worse, attempt to make a biblical case that they can’t bring their critiques to me.
We cannot be that thinned-skinned, over-protective, hyper-defensive, or selfishly-determined to do our thing regardless of what others think, especially those who are under our care.
I appeal to every husband, father, mother, pastor, employer, and any other person who has an authority position over others to create an environment of grace that encourages others to give feedback, observations, (critique).
If you do not establish a grace-centered milieu, the folks you want to lead will resist you all the more. Demanding that people have no voice with their opinions only stirs those views in more vocal ways, which inevitably leads to sinful reactions.
It’s ironic, but the more you try to keep people from sharing their opinions, the more they will share, even to the point of protesting against you.
Call to Action
- Are you creating an environment of grace that encourages folks to share their opinions, including their critiques?
- Are you creating a culture of fear where folks are growing in inhibition if they say anything critical about you?
- Are you aware that the more you try to stop people from voicing their opinions, you will create more adversity?
Also published on Medium.