Tension is something most people naturally avoid. And that’s only because they’re sane. I mean who would willingly, intentionally create or even feel comfortable in that kind of uneasy atmosphere? Most people live in a world where we dodge, avoid, acquiesce, sweep things under the run, compromise convictions, and even lie to keep ourselves from the tension that any level of confrontation brings.
When I was younger, I’d say I was a pretty good candidate for being the poster child of people pleasers. And if you didn’t like that, I’d take it back and replace it with whatever made you more comfortable. I simply wanted those around me to be at peace, comfortable, and happy. And if they weren’t I would feel that tension. I’d have gotten a neck tattoo that says in that fancy tattoo-y script: “C’mon you guys. Let’s just not fight, okay?” But getting a tattoo would’ve made my mom unhappy. Sooooo.
But as I’ve grown and stepped into various leadership roles, positions, and responsibilities, I’ve learned that influence and leadership demand tension. In fact, its a key ingredient in forward motion. I’ll go so far as to say that if you don’t have tension, you better check the pulse of your organization, your ministry, or your vision. Without tension we’re sitting slack and while all may be well and at peace, all may very well be quickly withering without tension.
Now, let me be quick to differentiate between tension and drama. Drama is juvenile. Tension is matured. Drama is shallow end. Tension is deep sea. Drama is petty. Tension is intentional. Oh. Wait. Did you just see that? Let me roll it back and type it in slow-mo for you.
“Tension….is….in…ten…tion…al.” When you want to get fit, you better get intentional. When you want to reach a goal, it doesn’t happen when you dumb-luck it. Anything that you want to do, desires intention. And with intention comes tension. And there’s the nugget I want you to unearth here: Growth demands tension.
Effective leadership influence demands that you–yes you–actually create tension. While others may do all they can to smooth things out, you have to create wrinkles. You have to make decisions that trip people up. You have to look at what currently is, say “Uh-uh.” and make the difficult move that makes others say, “Hey, wait a minute.”
Let me be clear. Your motivation isn’t to be a jerk. We all know jerks. Don’t be one. Ever. Your motivation is to create an atmosphere where tension is always present; where the right questions are landing like well-placed punches to face and torso of the status quo. Questions like…
- Why are we doing this (at all)?
- Why are we doing this this way?
- Who defined the win in this area?
- If we stopped __________, who would notice? Who would care?
- What is the thing we think but aren’t saying? The thing that needs to be said? The thing that will kick the next door open, the door that leads us to greater effectiveness, momentum, fruitfulness, etc.?
Of course these questions are broad but that’s only because I don’t know your particular situation. (If you want to talk more, let’s do that. Reach out and let me know how I can help more specifically.)
One of my favorite verses in the gospels is John 2:15:
“Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.”
The words “Jesus made a whip” evokes a completely different view of Jesus than we normally hold to, doesn’t it? We always view Jesus as a Swedish looking, attractive dirty-blonde, long hair (conditioned of course), blue-eyed, soft skinned, slightly effeminate, sweet talking, white-robe-with-baby-blue-Miss-America-sash, manicured, dandy fella. With muscles, sure. But his muscles were mostly used to pick up toddlers and daisies, right?
“Jesus made a whip.” Now THERE’S a tattoo idea.
Can I paraphrase that? Jesus created tension. Born from anger, born from conviction, born from vision of what should be not lining up with what currently was… Jesus made a whip.
Any fisherman will tell you that a day without tension on the line is a sad day of fishing. So where do I need to up-end comfort? What parts of my ministry, my relationships, and my priorities need a healthy dose of tension? If you think back over history you don’t see the Changemakers looking around and saying “Yeah, looks good the way it is.”
So, let’s get tense. Let’s not shy away from making decisions that rock the boat. Yes, that boat you share with lots of other people who will consequently feel the rocking and quickly figure out who’s rocking the boat.
What has been that shouldn’t be?
What hasn’t been that should?
What one step/decision/resolve can you make in the next 5-10 minutes that will bring about the oft-dreaded tension that growth demands?
I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and tell me your tension story. Let’s celebrate it together.