Occupied With Discernment

If you woke up over the weekend to find out that a park or downtown area of your city was filled with people marching and carrying protest signs you probably had the same initial reaction that I did:

“What are those people carrying on about?”

Your second reaction probably had to do with how long you’ve been alive.  For anybody who lived through the 1960’s or ’70’s the reaction was probably one of underwhelming disinterest.  For you this protest was probably like flipping past an episode of “America’s Got Talent”,  you’ve not only seen this kind of thing before, you’ve also seen it done much better.

If you are too young to remember the kind of demonstrations that included draft cards, fire, and the public brandishing of brassieres, you may have felt the twinge of concern that arises from fear, the fear of the unknown.

When we see or experience something we don’t understand, we tend to have a fear based reaction.  This is our survival instinct kicking in.

If you are confused, agitated, concerned, or frightened by the recent “Occupation Protests” it’s probably because you don’t understand the reasons why so many people are “sitting in” or “marching through” places like Wall Street in New York City.

If you don’t understand them or what they want, you aren’t alone.  Many of the protesters are as confused as you are.

Recent surveys of the participants reveal that while most are frustrated with what they perceive as “a corporate agenda of exploitation” they are unclear as to how these agendas are specifically carried out, and what should be done in response to it.  In layman’s terms, the common theme that unites them sounds like this, “I am suffering because people are doing bad things.  They should stop it immediately.”

Here’s a quick primer on their movement before we continue:  A Vancouver B.C. based anti-consumerist group called Adbusters called for a September 17th protest against “social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government…” plus  a lot of other bad stuff that is going on.

The locus of their complaint centers in their belief that 1% of the world’s richest Americans use their wealth in personal efforts to maintain their lofty positions through financial strong-arm tactics: Wall Street money sets American foreign policy.

Their September 17th Wall Street protest has not only demonstrated considerable staying power, it also spread, via media and social networking, to other major American cities.  Because it is decentralized and “grass root” in its efforts, there is no spokesperson to present its demands or unify its core purpose.

Think of it as an inverse Tea Party movement without a pretty face.

Knowing a little more about the ideology probably helps you feel a little less concerned because information helps combat the fear of the unknown.  In all probability though, you have probably become concerned with how they hope to achieve their purpose.

What is the “win” for a group of people who’s only real definition of winning is that someone in charge makes some people stop doing something?

Because of this lack of cohesion and focus, other organizations have stepped up to fill the void.  In early October, The New York Times released an editorial about the group stating:

“It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies. Because they have not, the public airing of grievances is a legitimate and important end in itself.”

Maybe the win is just protest for protest’s sake?

You’ve likely experienced a situation like this in your family, at your job, or even in your local church.  Someone woke up and decided that they didn’t like what was going on.

Their solution was that the people in charge needed to make changes. Immediately.

They made demands.

When things didn’t change they motivated other unhappy people to join them.

You considered giving them what they wanted.

Then you realized that couldn’t happen because no one knew what they wanted.

They just knew what they didn’t want.

They lacked discernment.

One of the most important things that a leader does is to bring clarity to the thoughts and emotions of a group.  Leaders on both sides of any argument have a responsibility to sharpen the focus of a group to understanding:

Why they feel the way they do,

What they hope to achieve,

How they hope to achieve it.

Until this happens, passions are inflamed, questions are raised, grievances are aired, and nothing constructive is accomplished.  Fomenting dissent, even when you are morally right, doesn’t always lead to change.

There is a distinct difference between complaining and progress, and the difference is usually revealed by good leadership, or the lack thereof.  Why are many families, workplaces, and churches explosive breeding grounds for discontent?  For the most part, it’s the molotov cocktail of bad leadership and discernment.

Good leadership has an ability to see beyond the problems and engineer  solutions… before grabbing the reins.  Good leaders don’t merely offer solutions, they also build consensus around how to achieve them.  People groups who work, live, and thrive in harmony do so because someone courageous and generous steps up to help others:

Label their emotions,

Put their dreams into words,

Present strategies to achieve them.

If you aren’t doing these things then you aren’t being a leader, you’re probably just a grumbler.  You aren’t really an agent of change, most likely you’re a bringing progress to a halt.  If this is how you lead, will your actions be inspired by conviction, or will they be informed by fear?

The difference between seeing a problem and a solution is discernment.  Attempts at Godly leadership will fail without securing Godly discernment.

What is it about your family, friends, coworkers, or church that is frustrating you?  Can you articulate it? Have you asked for help? Have you thought of a solution and offered it? Have you rallied other leaders towards a positive change?

If not, ask God for discernment…  and don’t start a revolution until you get it.

“Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”  The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.” -I Kings 3:7-10

6 Responses to “Occupied With Discernment”

  1. Jesse October 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Great post, you really hit it on the head with these protests. My favorite is when people “agree” with the protests and want to join. I question what is that they agree with if the protests themselves don’t even have an agenda.

    I think it is key to think of this in terms of leadership, if a group wants something there needs to be a leader. Great job of shifting this to our personal lives.

    • Jon October 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      Thanks Jesse. I had to make it personal because I woke up one day realizing that If griping could actually accomplish something, I would be the most accomplished man in the world…

  2. Sharon O October 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    This whole scene is aggravating to me, why should they have the right to ‘camp out’ and disturb others when in reality they will not change anything. It is a waste of time and expenses that could have gone towards a better cause such as the homeless, the hungry in our city and also the children who have little of what they need. I don’t understand any of their complaints because I simply don’t want to. We have laws and I wish we would enforce them.
    Loved your writing as always you challenge me to think.

  3. Jon October 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Remember that they may actually change something if they figure out how they want to achieve their goals. A leader might emerge and make them more efficient… until then it’s more like ready fire aim.

  4. Matt B October 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Great post.
    The thing that stands out to me in relation to the text at the end from Kings is how much diligence is required for discernment to last or sustain. Solomon was a foil to Davids faithfulness in a lot of ways. I have to stay vigilant all the time to be sure my leadership is going somewhere that is more than the lack of something “lame”
    Thanks for this.

    • Jon October 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

      So true bro, I often find myself reacting out of fear as opposed to living out of faithfulness and conviction.

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