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Monday, July 17, 2017

Ms. Bossy-Pants

This blog originated as a Facebook Live post.

I was reading 1 Corinthians chapter 12. A familiar chapter for many of us, though possibly not as familiar as chapter 13. In this chapter, Paul is talking to the church in Corinth about spiritual gifts and how they work together. He calls the Church the body of Christ and asserts that every member of the body is important.

As a counselor, my thoughts on spiritual gifts soon turned to thoughts on personality traits. While many of our personality traits are shaped by our early environment, we are born with many of them in our DNA. Anyone who has raised (or even been around) siblings can attest to how different they are from birth. For example, I have a brother who was given up for adoption at birth. We reunited with him when I was in my early 20s and, though he had never before met the rest of the family, we shared many family traits. His wife even wrote a poem about how it was so clear that some of his traits (physical and personality) were a result of shared DNA.

Our personality traits are not inherently good or bad. We know that God created and shaped us as individuals and we are all important. There are bad habits and unhealthy choices and patterns but not a bad personality. As with so many other things, it is all in how it is used. Our personality can be used for amazing Godly things or that same personality can wound, divide, and bring all kinds of destruction into the world.  

Let’s be still for a moment and reflect on the fact that, whether we like who we are right now or not, we are valuable. What God has placed in you is valuable. What God has placed in me is valuable. Sometimes, we need to be still and just take a moment to remember that we are created with purpose and we are gifted with blessing.

 I recently attended a writers’ conference where I was blessed to learn from the lead editor of The Upper Room, a devotional magazine. She used the word didactic. Isn’t that a fun word? She said, “I am a teacher and therefore I am quite didactic.”

My initial thought was, “I'm going to have to go home and look that word up I don't even know what it means.” 

She continued, “That means that I come across as bossy”

I know what that word means! She spoke about how our bossiness can show up in our writing. Now, if one is a personable speaker, one might be able to get with a little bossiness.  When we write, however, bossiness can work against us. It creates a divide between author and reader that does not necessarily need to be there. She warned us to be wary of the use of the word “you”.
Now, I know that I am bossy. Anyone who has known me for long knows that I can be bossy. I decided I had better go through my latest manuscript and check for “you”. The first section of the manuscript is on Grace. It is all about helping people see how important it is that we love one another and are willing to share the burdens of those in our community. How we must walk with people through their failures. This chapter was designed to bring us together – and it was full of “you”. 

Ugh! I campaign against the “us vs them” mentality and yet I had used language that created a similar divide – in my chapter on Grace! 

As I mentioned before, I am a bossy person. If I see a child misbehaving, I am likely to discipline them. Yes, someone else's child. (In my defense, I try not to do it in an obvious way but more like, “I see that you're hitting little Susie let's come over here and play with blocks instead.”) I use the excuse that I was a teacher for so long. In truth, I would probably do the same thing even if I had never been a teacher. This is part of the personality God knit together in me. If I walk into a room and no one is directing traffic, I default into a traffic director. It's innate in me.

And while it is a character trait that I sometimes need to reign in, it is also a valuable part of who I am. I'm learning that my bossiness is not something to cause shame. I shouldn't have to say, “I'm a horrible person because I'm a bossy person.” Granted, if I'm bossing people around to get my own way that's not healthy or helpful. If my bossiness results in others not being heard or if it strong-arms people into doing things they do not want to do, it needs to be called out and reigned in. 

But somebody has to direct traffic, right? 

We need bossy people in the world! We need individuals who can get us all moving in the same direction. Individuals who are willing to step out and say, “I need you to get up and take care of xyz.” 

I understand that not everyone reading this is a Ms. Bossy-pants (or Mr. Bossy-pants). As Paul explained to the Corinthians, we all represent different parts of the body and we need to celebrate those differences. Each of us are treasured in the kingdom of God. 

As with my bossiness, we each have traits that need to be reined in from time to time, but let’s not allow that knowledge to paralyze us. It is nearly impossible to steer a ship that is not moving. Let’s move forward with authenticity and confidence in who God created us to be. If we have grace for ourselves and one another, He will be faithful to steer us.

Postscript: About a week after I released this video on Facebook, I ministered at a women’s retreat. I shared my struggle with being a Ms. Bossy-pants with a few of the ladies. On the last evening, I felt led to pray over one of the attendees from the front. It was one of those times when authority just flows and you know that God is behind the blessing He has asked you to impart. As I prepared to leave the property, one of the ladies I had shared with earlier stopped me and said, “I saw Ms. Bossy-pants tonight. She is powerful. Please don’t keep her locked up.”