I listened to this Art of Manliness podcast on The Leader’s Bookshelf. The host was interviewing Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (that really is some title) who had surveyed a number of generals and admirals to find out their recommendations for books on leadership and then written about the top 50 results.
Earlier this year my friend Jonathan recommended the episode to some school parents since their students were assigned to read Killer Angels, a historical fiction piece about the Civil War. In the top 50 there is a surprising amount of fiction and, less surprising, a lot of history. In the interview itself there are some easy tips for reading more, such as carrying/reading Kindle copies and using small segments of time rather than waiting for big blocks. The episode isn’t groundbreaking, but it is worth a listen for the reminders/encouragement.
3 of 5 stars to Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim Grover
I grew up watching Michael Jordan, and this was an interesting perspective from his first trainer. This is not a book about Christlike greatness. It’s not a book about how to have friends or care about anyone other than yourself. At the same time I found some of the reminders timely and a spur to confidence.
If this hurts your feelings then you should reread it.
One of the most extraordinary examples of adaptation to immaturity in contemporary American society is how the word abusive has replaced the words nasty and objectionable. The latter two words suggest that a person has done something distasteful, always a matter of judgment. But the use of the word abusive suggests, instead, that the person who heard or read the objectionable, nasty, or even offensive remark was somehow victimized by dint of the word entering their mind. This confusion of being “hurt” with being damaged makes it seem as though the feelings of the listener or reader were not their own responsibility, or as though they had been helplessly violated by another person’s opinion. If our bodies responded that way to “insults,” we would not make it very far past birth.
The use of abusive rather than objectionable has enabled those who do not want to take responsibility for their own efforts to tyrannize others, especially leaders, with their “sensitivity.”
—Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, 70-71
I’m reading Tribes by Seth Godin bit by bit. Even though not everything applies to my setting, it’s interesting to read his different perspective. I thought this was particularly provoking:
I define sheepwalking as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line. (96)
He’s talking about a business, but I believe he’d have no problem recognizing the same issue in a church. He might have said, “I define sheepwalking as the outcome of leading people who have been taught to be obedient and giving them brain-dead ministries and enough fear to keep them in line.”
On the next page, Godin considers it in light of the goal of education.
Training a student to be a sheep is a lot easier than the alternative. Teaching to the test, ensuring compliant behavior, and using fear as a motivator are the easiest and fastest ways to get a kid through school. So why does it surprise us that we graduate so many sheep? (97)
Back to a church, one reason why a pastor may prefer docile sheep is that the sheep will continue to need him. That’s not just wrong, it’s counterproductive. Part of the pastoral role includes equipping sheep not to need the shepherds, at least not to the same degree, and certainly not more as the sheep mature. A pastor can’t help people mature by teaching them that they always need to hold the pastor’s hand.
Pastors should want sheep to be obedient to God, not necessarily to get “in line” with all the church programs. Shepherds should want a flock that fears God, while being trained to bear God’s image without the shepherds always watching over their shoulder. Maybe the first problem is that too many pastors are sheepwalking themselves.
On laughing as responsible leadership:
For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.
—King Lune in The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
On laughing as hard humility:
[K]ings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness….It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do….For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.
—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
On laughing as Calvinist worship:
If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.
—John Bunyan, Seasonable Counsel
Doug Wilson observes that a majority observation makes things more difficult.
All the tawdry dishonesty on exhibit in Congress right now has been there for a long time. Those who understand biblical principles of governance have understood that, and have been writing about it for decades. And (I am convinced) they were right, at least as far as the argument goes. But there is an immense practical difference between a naked emperor that just one boy sees and a naked emperor that the whole populace sees. If it were a matter of simple argument, he is naked the whole time, and point taken. But it is not until everyone sees it that it becomes a political problem for the emperor.
The more control you seek, the less influence you will have. And the more influence you have, the less control you need.
-Dick Gregory (via Mijah)