Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't "Just do something"!

The shootings in Tucson, Arizona last week are a tragedy and something has got to be done!  I suspect most of you agree.  However, a knee-jerk response to emotional events is rarely the correct action to take.  In fact, our emotions often lead us to want to resolve, prevent, or respond to crises at all costs and without consideration of the long term impact of those actions.

The media and pundits emphasis on "rhetoric" and talk radio as the instigators for these shootings is irresponsible and nothing but conjecture.  Proposing laws to prohibit images of political figures with cross hairs on them may not seem like a bad idea in light of recent events, but freedom of speech advocates should be outraged.  While there are certainly important issues to discuss, and lessons to be learned from these tragic events, we would benefit form some separation from the emotion of the moment.

The same type of knee-jerk responses often happen in business and politics.  When we lose jobs to the competition, when economic circumstances change, when our plans fail, or market assumptions change, leaders must resist the pressure to 'just do something, anything!'

A study of the life of a man named Nehemiah, in the Biblical book that bares his name, provides us with some solid steps for facing any heart-wrenching circumstances.  Nehemiah learned of something that both stirred and surprised him.  It probably shouldn't have.  Nehemiah was 900 Miles away from the situation, the situation hadn't changed recently, and it didn't really affect his day-to-day life.  Its often the same with us.  Circumstances rarely change in an instant, though it is often a single event that brings us face-to-face with reality.  The demand for action, whether internal, or from the cacophony of voices around us finally become deafening.  We feel as if we must act or we will burst.

This was Nehemiah's situation.  He was brought face-to-face with a first hand account of the devastation, the turmoil, the dishonor of the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem.  These people were without protection, without an advocate, and subject to the corrupt and evil men in the region.  This situation reflected not only on the individuals, but on everything that Nehemiah thought was right, good, and honorable. Namely, on God himself.

Nehemiah's response is a terrific formula for us. (Neh 1:1 - 2:18)

1) Pray.  His first action was to seek God's will and ask Him to restore honor and protection and bring justice to the land.  He also prayed about how he could help and he asked God for favor.  I hope you've prayed for Congresswomen Giffords, the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and the nation.  Have you prayed about how you can help, what you can do?
2) Gather trusted supporters. He sought support from those who could best help him.  In his case, his employer, who also happened to be the King.  He sought a leave of absence and resources to accomplish his task. He also took his brother and others along: men he could trust.
3) Perform a thorough Assessment. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, he didn't announce his plans right away, but took a complete survey around the city to understand what needed done and get a good idea of the work.
4) Announce your intentions and plans.  Knee-jerking often relies upon thin logic and others quickly see through the veneer.  A tempered, thoughtful assessment of all the facts will ultimately lead to a sounder conclusion. One that others will more readily agreement to and support.

It is upon this foundation that good decisions can be made about circumstances we encounter.  Don't allow the tyranny of the urgent, the demand for action, result in knee-jerk responses and poorly formulated conclusions.  Real leaders take the path tempered by patient assessment and godly wisdom.

John Von Thaden


  1. When we start having knee jerk reactions we end up usually kicking something or someone near and dear to us. That results in a series of domino events that collapse the paper thin walls we have built in our own minds eye. The reality of the situation then causes us to take stock of where and what we've entered into.

    Likened unto an unmarked mine field we're suddenly stumbled into we're faced with the life and death decision of moving forward or back. Slowly forward means probing inch by inch until we hopefully reach a safe area. Retracing our steps without setting off any hidden mines can be just as tricky. The solution to this dilemma is actually pretty simple. Stay out of unmarked territory until it has been marked and cleared by the experts.

    The problem is always that we are in a hurry to get somewhere and we just want to run ahead. That's how we got into the mine fields of life in the first place. We simply need to just slow down a bit to allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in all of our ways. If we will do this then we will be acknowledging God way and not our own. Then our trust is transferred from our ways to His. We stop trusting in our own frail human abilities to move safely ahead as we start walking in the footsteps of the Master and Guide.

    Those who are following in our footsteps can then walk confidently. Knowing that we were willing to lay down our lives in the clearing of obstacles that lay in front of them.

    Just like our Lord told us that we knew the way but we could not follow Him there yet. But we would be on that same path in just a little while. But we needed to know that He would be with us never leaving nor forsaking us.

    In other words He left us a clearly marked map and we see that His way through is marked our for us. We can walk confidently in this world without fearing our next steps as He has marked the danger zones we will come upon on the map.

    It contains all we ever need to know to get us moving to the safe areas in life. That map is the Bible and many went in before us laying down their lives to make sure that we would be safe to follow. The Author of that great map is also your guide along the journey called life. Our choice is simply to follow that map or get in trouble finding the way on our own.

    We must now walk forward knowing that we are clearing a path and marking danger zones as we pass through them in our own journey through this life. Then and only then are we able to declare "Come and go with me to my Fathers house." Then there is truly joy in the journey and pursuit of righteous along that path that truly leads us home.

    God Bless you as you travel the Kings Highway on your way home. DDS

  2. Thanks for the comments Dave. Appreciate them, and you.