Yesterday was Remembrance Day/Veterans Day. Add Thanksgiving on both sides of the border and it is no surprise that there’s currently an abundance of gratitude on social media. Warm words of appreciation for soldiers, parents, children, teachers, siblings, friends, and the like, all tug at our heart strings. Words of recognition for acts of sacrifice and service, be they on the battlefield, at work or in the kitchen, are powerful.
The opposite is also true. When we feel a lack of gratitude for the serving we do, it’s just as powerful, maybe even more so. It is so tempting to feel like there needs to be a fair balance of give and take. I serve you, so you serve me. But that is not the model of leadership and living to which Jesus called His followers. Notably, the self-sacrifice of our veterans more accurately hits the mark.
“…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt 20:28.
“True leaders do not use power to empower themselves; they use power to serve others…Leadership is not measured by how many people serve you. It’s measured by how many people you serve. Service is the greatest act of leadership. Serving the people is why you exist. So, anytime a leader wants to be served, that’s not a leader that’s a parasite.”
Ouch. In my own struggle with wanting to be served (because after all I’ve done my share of serving…sigh), I have stumbled upon a handy new strategy to help me submit to the refining of the Holy Spirit in my heart on this issue. Whenever I recognize, by God’s grace, that hunger for accolades, I will try to immediately seek out an opportunity to express gratitude to someone else or set a plan to do so. I have a stack of cards at the ready in my purse, spoken word is readily available, my phone is in my pocket and ultimately my time is a gift I choose to use to fulfill the desires of my heart.
As leaders in the church, and in this season where an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is front and centre, I invite you to take on this challenge too. Imagine how God might multiply the impact on His Kingdom of a few words of appreciation offered to those we are called to serve! Here are some guidelines:
- Seek out those individuals who likely go under-thanked.
- Be as specific as possible in your gratitude.
- Highlight who they are, not just what they've done.
- Devote time to discovering an individual’s ‘love language’, so that they hear the message you are delivering.
- Express it face-to-face as often as possible.
- Don’t rush the moment. Be fully present.
We won’t be successful every time. We will fall to the temptation to feel taken for granted. That’s OK. Grace abounds. Along the way though, thanks be to God, we will have the privilege of being messengers of the Gospel. “You are loved! No strings attached.”