“Whosoever diggeth a pit shall fall in it” ~ Robert Nesta Marley.
Two phrases puzzled me when first I moved to Jamaica. School friends would offer to either ‘carry’ me home, or ‘follow’ me home. Neither of those offers sounded very appealing to me. We were kids, so they were not offering to give me a ride home. And I definitely didn’t want anyone to be picking me up! I was a big girl of almost 8 years old, and hated being treated like a baby. I was the youngest, but I certainly was no baby! And then why would anyone want to follow me? Walk beside me, not behind me!
I don’t know how or when I began to understand the meaning behind some of the more interesting turns of phrases, and I don’t believe I asked outright – I probably just had a very puzzled look on my face most of the time! And observed a lot. The experience gave me skills in ‘emotional intelligence’, that ability to interact and empathize with others, and has served me well all of my life. Especially as I moved from country to country, from culture to culture.
Being a ‘follerer’ as they would say in Jamaica, was a thing. Young boys were discouraged from being a ‘frock-tail follerer’ (skirt chaser, I suppose!). We would be admonished not to ‘follow bad company’. But we all can’t be leaders, and in fact, if you were brought up in the church you were expected to set a good example, but not necessarily to try to stand out. There was a concept that I learned about in one of my management classes about styles of leadership, and it was that for there to be leaders, there must be followers. I believe they even called it ‘followership’. The nice thing about obtaining higher levels of education is that you seem to be allowed or even encouraged to make up new words! But the take away from the chapter in question was that everyone cannot be leaders, especially not all at the same time. There have to be followers.
There are times when we are uninspired by our leaders, or worse, times when we are positively distressed and depressed by them! For sure we know that all managers are not good leaders, and all leaders may not be good managers! There have been three times in my life when my immediate boss has been so difficult to work with (and I am being extremely polite here) that I have left and found another job. Being in the nursing field you would be correct in assuming that all three were women. Each of them proved next to impossible to work with, and since I had choices, I moved on voluntarily, before the decision was made for me.
They used to use terms like ‘autocratic’ and ‘laissez-faire’ to describe leadership styles. Now they use terms like ‘transactional’ and ‘transformational’ (perhaps we have even moved on to a new set of terms now – perhaps ‘trumpian’ is a new level of hell!). But there is a special type of leader, and it is one who can see skills and strengths in you that you didn’t know you had, and then gives you permission to use them. I have had those types of bosses too.
One of the disadvantages of growing up in a Christian household is that you are constantly being reminded not to show off, not to be bragadocious and boasty, but to be humble and quietly appreciate your good fortune. And one of the features of being young (and I feel that this is a particularly female trait), is an inability to see your own value, both physically and as a human being. I know many of us are shocked to look at photos of our young selves. We see youthful beauty, where we only saw imperfections at the time. Why did we not have more confidence? Why were the opinions of others so important to us? There is a term for the inability to honestly see our own body, it is called body dysmorphia, and many of those who have eating disorders suffer from this. Perhaps the advent of the ever-present camera, with every moment a photo opportunity, this generation of smart phone children will grow up loving themselves more. Then again, I read an observation that social media has turned us into a community of ‘comparers’, looking at the lives and possessions of others and feeling ‘less than’.
This week I have been musing on the significance of actions over hype, of substance over words. Every day we are being bombarded with distracting showmanship, and we must sort through the layers of packaging to find the nugget of truth in the midst of it all. When all is said and done, it is our actions which leave the biggest imprint, not our resume or our lengthy bio. How have you left your stamp on the world?
My father’s favorite Bible reading was from 1st Corinthians 13, read at weddings and at funerals, and all points in between. We may be highly educated, but knowledge can fade away; we may have many possessions, we can lose them. The version I grew up hearing has a lovely line “Charity (aka love) vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” and it is good to remind ourselves of this from time to time. It is not necessary to be recognized for everything that we do, in fact, if you require that validation it is probably more about your own ego, than the person you are helping.
This weekend I hope that you can celebrate all of the gifts you have been given, and share them with another, without fanfare, without bright lights. I hope you can find leaders who inspire and transform you, and if you can’t find them, become one!
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!