I’ve never been a huge acronym guy, but sometimes things will hit me that just help things make sense to me. Recently I was engaged in some quiet time as this thought came to me about being a GEM. This principle can apply to a child, a parent, a spouse, a leader, a minister, a coach, or a variety of others.
By nature, we are selfish people. We want things to go our way. We want to be right. We want to be heard. We want to be valued. We want to be recognized. We want to be understood. We want people to think like we think. We want people to agree with us philosophically. But this is not the path to physical, emotional, or spiritual maturity. This is also is not conducive for building healthy relationships.
What I want to share with you is a healthy strategy to add value to others and build healthy relationships in every facet of your life, including your own home! I want to help you think more deeply about personal growth and spiritual growth. I want to help you become a better leader. I want to share with you the principle of becoming a real GEM. It is the principle of living your life with grace, empathy, and mercy.
The first step is to live your life full of grace. The Bible says, “as you sow, so shall you reap.” I know that I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what season of life you are in, mistakes are inevitable. Think about the last time you made a mistake and think about how much you hoped that no one would get upset with you because of your mistake. As a leader, I deal with this issue quite often. Grace is actually the power of Jesus Christ working through you to act like He would act in any given situation. Without Jesus in our lives, it is hard to operate with an attitude of, or even and understanding of grace. I’m not saying it is impossible, it is just more difficult.
To be a GEM would mean that you would desire to carry out these traits. One of Webster’s definitions of grace is a “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” To give grace is truly to be kind to other people, even when something they are doing is frustrating you. It is to be courteous to people in the midst of disagreements and misunderstandings. It is to sometimes be lenient when you had every right to be hard or severe. The Apostle Paul said, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” This takes emotional maturity.
The second quality of becoming a GEM is empathy. Empathy is one of the most underutilized traits of leadership. Personally, I believe that empathy is the greatest trait a leader should carry. This trait should stand out in a leader’s life more than any other. Empathy is having the capacity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. In the middle of conflict, misunderstandings, mistakes, disappointments, hurts, offenses, miscommunications, and so on, do you have the ability to slow down and imagine what that person might be going through? Do you consider all of the other external circumstances that were affecting their decision making at the time of whatever took place that is bothering you? Do you consider who might have hurt them in the past that has caused them to act the way they are acting right now? Do you consider who it was that might have taken the smile off of their face? Do you truly try to sit down with someone and listen to them intently, attempting to imagine being precisely in their situation, and imagine all of the things that have led them up to their current situation? Do you care enough to not have to be right all of the time?
Great leaders are not always right. Great leaders are also empathetic. One can not have faithful followers without being empathetic. One can have followers that do so based on fear of wrath or fear of being ridiculed; however, this leads to nothing but turmoil. Every time I meet with a person, I am constantly trying to imagine all of the things that are going on in their life. I am imagining what is going on in them internally. I am imagining what external factors may be influencing their current actions, statements, or behaviors. All of these things are part of what is a making them feel the way the feel, and part of what is causing them to make the decisions they are currently making. They may not all be right, but I sure will have a better perspective concerning the whole situation. Empathy is the key to healthy relationships between leaders and their peers.
Mercy is the word that defines the last letter of being a GEM. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” This is the most profound statement about mercy that you or I could ever live by. We all want mercy! There’s not a person on earth that has ever lived that hasn’t wholeheartedly desired mercy hundreds of times in their life. Mercy is the very thing that we want when we totally screw up! Think about how many times you have messed up throughout your life. When we, as kids, mess up in our growing up years, we desire mercy from mom and dad. When we are in college, we constantly want mercy for the mistakes we make in our transition from adolescence to adulthood. When we are in our twenties, learning how to navigate this brutal world, we constantly run in to situations where we need mercy. When we get pulled over by the patrolman, we instantly kick in to a mindset of desiring mercy. When we mess up in our marriage, we desire mercy. When we mess up in our jobs and careers, we desire mercy. And the list goes on.
Quite simply, Jesus said that if you sow mercy, you will reap mercy. Therefore, the more you extend mercy to others who mess upon in and around your life, the more mercy you will receive. This may even include what you say about others from afar. It may include the hateful and judgmental things you say about the President, a coach of your favorite sports team, or a famous person on television. If you make unmerciful statements about them, you might find yourself reaping unmerciful statements about yourself. Jesus also said, “the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
In summation, think about working on these three things. Think about these three traits coming together like a cord of three strands. A rope is always stronger and more durable with three strands woven together. Many leaders do one or two of these well, but it really takes all three working together to become emotionally mature. By operating with these three traits in your daily life, you have the potential to become the kind of leader that adds lifelong value to others around you.
I want to add lifelong value to others. I don’t want to just lead someone for a moment, get what I need out of the situation, and dispose of them. I want them to only think one thing about me when I am no longer in their life: “That guy added value to my life. That guy taught me some things about relationships that has transformed my way of thinking for the rest of my life.” Of course there are even deeper desires for what I want the people who have been close to me in my life to be able to say when I am no longer in their life: “That guy took time to understand me. He was compassionate and he really cared about me.”
These are only goals of mine in relation to the way I live my life as a leader. Whether or not I achieve them, time will tell. I can’t read my own press clippings. These are only things that I desire to be said when I am in an obscure place, or I am in heaven with my Father. But I do want to live and leave a legacy. I want to be a GEM, for God, and for others.
Confucius said, “The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man without trials.” It won’t be easy but it’s worth it so that your life can sparkle like a precious gem. My hope is that you want to be a GEM in the lives of others as well.