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