YOU ARE A PERSON (NOT A PROP)
Do you work with people? Do you hire people?
Do you care for people? This is for you.
You are a person; a whole person. The people you interact with are whole people. Heart, soul, body, mind, strengths, weaknesses, opinions, tendencies... we come with it all.
I sat in my supervisor's office, poised, heart racing, finding a steady grounding on his cubed furniture couch. It took me five years to finally be able to form language around it.
"I feel like I'm taking crazy pills," I sputtered. "I mean, I feel like I'm this marionette doll on stage, standing among others. Someone or something is pulling the strings, asking me to look this way and hold my mic a little further from my mouth. I'm being told to stand on a spike mark, then told to intentionally not stand on the spike mark. And for some reason I now have a closet of royal blue dresses that were bought for me to wear. Am I crazy? What's going on?"
The more I investigated the environment where I was working and ministering, the clearer I came to realize that I had become disembodied, picked apart.
I was a prop, not a person.
The wanted parts of me were extracted, enhanced, praised and curated. In my case:
blonde - white - woman - mid-20's - blue dresses - lashes/extensions - vocalist
The unnecessary parts of me for the job were ignored or diminished. They were not given proper sunlight and water to thrive. My singing voice was well watered. My speaking and spiritual development voice, not. My stage presence was encouraged and fed. My guitar and piano playing, stored away for another day.
Far too often we leaders do this to our teammates. It may be completely unintentional, but please hear me. Do we ever highlight a spectacular part of a human because it postures us in greater light?
- In organizations... "We have a person who is not of our organization's ethnic majority on our team. We did it. We're diverse!"
- In the home... "Child, be silent. Smile, say please and thank you to whatever you're given. We don't want to hear your thoughts."
- In friendships ... "This friend has so many followers, and we're definitely posting a pic together after hanging tonight."
Whatever it is, in whatever field you find yourself, how tempting is it to lean in and highlight a few aspects of a person we love, without valuing the entire human being?
I want to challenge us to be agents of change and anti-puppeteers. Get to know the people you interact with. Engage in the difficult, awkward, uncomfortable conversations because you are for them and for their good. Do not see your people as props. Do not dissect, extract and pull strings.
We can do hard things. Lead your people well. Show up for them. Know them. Love them and care enough to see them as a whole person.