See Am still blind.
A colleague and I went to meet with the elders of a church to talk about their future. Ordinarily that was my role in the Presbytery, but this colleague had some exciting insights to share. In a nutshell, it was a disaster.
The elders felt humiliated, dismissed, and blind-sided. They had worked hard to move forward in a new direction with the help of their Committee on Ministry liaison from the Presbytery. It was so bad that the COM liaison quit the next day.
And on that next day when the colleague and I met to debrief, I wondered if we’d attended the same meeting. The colleague thought it went “great!” She had introduced new concepts with role playing and fresh ideas. She offered guidance to help them. At least that’s how she saw it.
What I’d seen was a fiasco that would hurt that congregation’s relationship with the Presbytery for years to come, destroying the goodwill created by their long term COM liaison. My colleague hadn’t read the room. She didn’t realize that those leaders were expecting a different, planned agenda. She didn’t see the “what the hell?” looks on the elders’ faces. She didn’t realize that she hadn’t even introduced herself or explained what she was doing there. She was blind to what was really going on in that meeting and she didn’t even know she was blind.
[Note: I hesitate to share that story because it gives the impression that I always “get it” and I don’t. I’m constantly working on my own vision and I need people to tell me when I’m deceiving myself.]
Adam Grant in Think Again refers to a rare brain disease called Anton’s Syndrome which results in people going blind but they don’t realize they are blind. They literally believe they are seeing what’s being produced inside their brains even though it’s not real. You can read more here.
It’s hard to convince an overly confident leader that what they are seeing is not real.
Adam Grant notes that – while all of us have our blind spots – many of us cannot see our own weaknesses. We all have a little Anton’s Syndrome. “The bad news is that (our blind spots) can leave us blind to our blindness, which gives us false confidence in our judgment and prevents us from rethinking. The good news is that with the right kind of confidence, we can learn to see ourselves more clearly and update our views.” Amen.
- The longtime pastor who is told by the Personnel Committee that some changes are needed but the pastor is blind to those realities and doesn’t take them seriously.
- The volunteers who consider themselves church pillars who cannot see that their efforts are actually hurting the congregation.
- The parishioners who are convinced that “the way we’ve always done it” is the only way but their refusal to embrace rethinking how ministry actually happens in the 21st Century is unwittingly killing their church’s future.
Again: there is good news. If we – as people of faith – are confident that Jesus Christ will always have a Church even if it doesn’t look like previous versions of Church and if we have confidence that the reign of God is upon us, we are free to rethink our understanding of who and what we – the Church – are called to be and do.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.
How to see? Stop being defensive. Pray. Trust colleagues who love us and the Church to tell us the truth.