Dear Inner Circle,

Yesterday a group of business people asked me about resilience. The questions they asked made it increasingly clear that they thought that somewhere in everyone’s psychology lives a box that contains a quantity of resilience. “How do you keep the glass half full?” “How do you keep the passion for your mission alive and healthy?” “Don’t you get tired?” All these questions presuppose much the same thing. Some people are so certain of my inner resilience box that on occasion I get invited to write a book on the subject. Alas, the misunderstanding is profound. Our mission doesn’t live in me or in anyone else. It lives between us. There are times when I speak passionately about our mission of creating community with no ‘us and them’, but they are only empty words unless the mission lives between us. The good news is that when the mission lives, I find myself to be necessary, significant and not central. Every time I flourish as a human being, whether in the context of my marriage, family, workplace or anywhere else, I find myself to be necessary, significant and not central. The joy that is unleashed by knowing it’s not all about me is all the energy I need. And it’s all the energy we need at Wayside to keep doing what we do. When an occasion strikes where I think it’s all about me, I need to stand back enough to allow the mission to take the central position and to recognise it as living – not within, but between us.

Our mission is not difficult but it is counter-cultural. The last thing Wayside or any other workplace needs is people who have loads of patience for visitors or customers and loads of judgement for the colleagues working at their side. Religions everywhere have people who wish to love and serve the whole world, but have an intense dislike for their brother and sister serving beside them.
The problem is that it’s culturally normal to look for what isn’t there and criticise its absence. We’ve forgotten how to see what is there and appreciate it. Every strength is a weakness and every weakness is a strength. What we look for, we’ll find. Nothing is more important than developing the habit of speaking well of our colleagues behind their backs. Most organisations implode not through lack of money but through endless criticism. If you put poison into a system long enough you get sick and you make everyone else sick too.

A while ago I was talking to our Chair of the Board and one of our Directors. I was relaying something that Malcolm Turnbull had said. The Director asked me if Malcolm had phoned me personally or whether he’d sent an e-mail. I replied that he’d phoned me personally… and it was a lie. Why did I tell such a silly lie? I guess I wanted to seem more important in the eyes of two people I meant to impress. It worried me so much that I wrote to both that night to let them know that I’d told a stupid lie for no good reason. The result was that the Chair wrote back to say that his respect for me had grown significantly. Consider how much energy is lost “covering our a**es” instead of “embracing errors”. We mostly learn by making errors and yet we seem loathed to permit people the freedom to make mistakes.

Wayside is the place to come to witness kindness; not the idea of kindness but kindness itself. This is no ideology but a practice. Salvation comes through the feet, not the head. People often say to me in an apologetic way, “I’m not a believer” as if I gave a ‘flying fruit’ about the content of their heads. What matters is where your feet go. It matters what you do. Lately I’ve witnessed not just kindness on the part of our volunteers and staff toward people who are doing it tough, but I’ve witnessed breathtaking acts of kindness between staff. It makes my heart sing.

And that, my dear Inner Circle is our set of values that we use for guiding our behaviour toward one another within our team. Stand Back; Speak Well; Embrace Errors; Be Kind.

Thanks for being part of this inner circle.

Graham

Rev Graham Long
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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