Settling for less
August 16, 2006
On first reading, this makes sense. How ridiculous to settle for less than I deserve.
Its apparent logic is that it flows from our cultural intuition. In a world managed by personal rights, one would be out of sync to admit to getting less than "I deserve."
A few years ago, I fell for that line. I was buying a car. Jack the salesman said, "Brian, you deserve this car." And I bought it.
Christian leadership by nature is called on to think in counter intuitive ways, that is, counter to assumed wisdom. Read it again: "The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for."
The critical part is "deserve." Who is to say what I deserve? Compensation for work done is based on a variety of tests. Do I get paid less than I deserve? Yes, if measured against some others. Do people treat me with less honour than I think they should? Sometimes.
My argument isn't that Christians should get lower wages, less approval or recognition, or that we should be doormats. It's what's going on inside my spirit that matters.
Some time ago I was speaking at a conference, and I fell into an emotional funk. Do you know what ruled my feelings? "People don't rightfully appreciate me," I thought. The inside-my-brain conversation centred on what I thought I deserved.
Leadership is vulnerable to the need of being approved. For many of us, it's an enormous part of our compensation. What I found embarrassing in reflecting on that moment was that as quick as I was to see the folly of Maureen Dowd's line, I completely missed mine.
Giver of good gifts, loving Benefactor of gifts I don't deserve, lift me from the foolish demands I make on others to give me what, in my fallenness, I think I deserve. May instead the energy of this limited and frail life be directed not in getting what I think I deserve but rather in giving what you want others to receive. Amen.
The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.