Where you ever around someone who spoke words of truth into your life whenever you where around them? Perhaps they don’t even know they are doing it, yet somehow, every time the conversation ends, you know the Holy Spirit used them to teach you something new, shed light on an area that needs to be addressed, or just give you wisdom.
Personally, I am very blessed to have several women like this in my life. A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of them on the telephone (about a totally unrelated subject) when the Holy Spirit used her to teach me a leadership lesson that I needed to start putting into practice immediately.
What was the lesson?
As my friend put it, “There are things that you go to the mat on, and there are times when you just walk away and let it go.”
A simple statement---yet in that moment, it hit my heart like a laser beam of truth saying, “YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS NOW!”
What exactly does it mean to “go to the mat”?
Please let me assure you that when my friend made this reference I didn’t make an immediate connection to any sports analogy or wrestling reference. Instead, my mind went to a popular chick flick “You’ve Got Mail”, in which Meg Ryan’s character is told that she needs to “take it to the mattresses”. (If you’ve seen the movie you know that she didn’t know what it meant either---someone had to explain to her that it was a reference to a movie quote meaning “fight to the death”.)
In the movie, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan’s character) had to gather up her courage and do just that---fight, fight, fight. Of course, this didn’t come easy for her. Much like me, this character preferred being “nice”, “agreeable”, and getting along with people. In the movie, you see that she actually has to give herself several pep talks before she’s even able to go out and make a speech in an attempt to fight for the business she loves.
If I’m going to be honest, I’m a lot like the character in this movie.
I don’t like conflict. Too often, I tend to run from it, avoid it, and do all that I can to bring a peaceful resolution.
Yet, like this character, I am learning that there are times in life when peaceful and agreeable isn’t always possible. There are times when you have to “take it to the mattresses”.
There are times when you have to stand up for what is right and oppose what is wrong.
There are moments when it would literally be a sin to bend and compromise. When ethics and morality are at stake, you just can’t “go with the flow”. When people and causes you love are in danger, you have to be willing to fight, to protect, and to defend---to take it to the mat.
Like I said, this is hard for me---but I’m learning.
Of course, other people have no problem “taking it to the mat”. Instead, they have the opposite problem. Rather than hating the fight, they take EVERYTHING to the mattresses. EVERYTHING is a big deal. They believe every minor infraction, every disagreement, and every slight offense needs to be fought to the bitter end.
However, neither of these approaches to dealing with conflict is beneficial to the character of a good leader. Instead, a truly godly leader will learn to find balance. As my friend said, a godly leader needs to learn when to take it to the mat, and went to walk away and let it go. Essentially, a godly leader is one who chooses their battles.
So how can we practically put this lesson into practice?
1. Decide ahead of time what things are worth the fight.
As I was talking to my friend, she told me that she decided long ago that she will not compromise on matters of personal integrity or anything that will hurt her family. There are lots of things that come her way that might annoy her or that she would do differently, but she needs to let them go. However, she will always defend these two areas.
What areas are so important to you that you will defend them at all costs?
It’s important that we make this decision before we hear the cry of war. Otherwise, we’ll be tempted to make emotional decisions instead of wise, logical ones.
Your assignment: start spending time making a list of things that you’re willing to “take to the mattresses”. In your life, what’s worth the fight?
2. Be willing, when possible, to let a few things go.
Throughout the life of the leader, there will be infinite opportunities to “go to the mat”. A godly leader knows that before you accept the challenge, you need to go back to Step #1 and consult your list of things that are worth the fight.
What do you do if the battle you’re choosing to enter isn’t on that list?
Walk away and let it go.
Yes, I know, sometimes this is really hard, too.
I’ll admit that even though I don’t really confrontation, there are times when I have to check myself to make sure that I’m not majoring in minors and going to battle over the wrong things. The truth is that there really are some things in life that we can let go. Whenever the opportunity for peace presents itself, we should follow the words of the Apostle Paul (and the theme song from Frozen) and just let it go.
Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
1 Corinthians 6:7b, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”
3. When you are called to “go to the mat”, fight fair.
Unfortunately, all of us will face times when we need to “go to the mattresses” on an issue. However, when these times come, it’s important that we fight fair and not resort to fighting dirty.
What’s the difference?
Fair fighting means that you go directly to the source of the problem and calmly and rationally stand your ground. Don’t use back channels or use the power of gossip to fight for you. Instead, be honest, be upfront, be clear in why you are taking the stand you are taking. Talk directly to the person who is causing or can help resolve the problem, not about the person causing the issue.
When you have to “go to the mat”, do it with integrity. Control your temper. Guard your tongue.
After you’ve done all of that—continue firmly standing your ground defending what is right and refusing to participate in what is wrong.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” Ephesians 6:13
4. Allow mentors to help you develop your fight strategy.
I am a HUGE believer in the benefits of having a strong mentor in your life---someone who won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but will tell you when you’re wrong, how you could do things better, or how to avoid major catastrophe.
When it comes to the topic of “going to the mattresses”, it’s a good idea to run your viewpoint and strategy past your mentor to see if any adjustments need to be made from their perspective.
Perhaps they see something you’ve missed and you don’t really need to go to the mat.
Maybe they can offer some insight into how you can confront your situation more effectively.
Certainly, they can share what they’ve learned in their years of experience dealing with similar situations.
If nothing else, they will be able to help you remove the EMOTION from the situation and handle yourself in a godly, wise manner.
“Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.”
“Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”
5. Allow God to Bring the Victory
As godly leaders, one of the lessons we need to learn is that even after we’ve “gone to the mattresses”, in the end, we need to leave the results to God. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, how much advice we seek, how well we handle ourselves, or how persuasive our arguments may be, we cannot always change the viewpoints or decisions of other people.
Reality is that in some situations, the only thing you can do is take a stand, express your viewpoint, refuse to compromise in your own actions, and leave the rest to God.
Yes, I know this is frustrating!!!
It would be so much easier if we could MAKE other people see the truth and do what’s right, but we can’t always do that. In these situations, after we’ve done all we can, we need to stop physically fighting and starting using the spiritual weapons that God has given us to fight.
Rather than resorting to dirty fighting, we need to stop and pray. Hand the situation and the person over to God and allow Him to work in their lives.
Granted, this doesn’t mean that you compromise your convictions. There just has to come a point in some cases where you walk away and ask God to change the hearts and minds of others.
It’s at this point that we need to remember that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…that we need to put on the full armor of God and pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, trusting that it is God who brings the victory. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
So what do you think?
Are you someone who likes to “take it to the mattresses” or someone who’d rather run away?
Have you decided what you’re willing to fight for, or do you still need to work on that list?
Do you fight fair or do you need to learn to fight in a godly manner?
Who do you go to when you need to discuss “fight strategies?”
Which of these areas do you need to work on so that you can be a more effective leader?
Personally, asking and answering these questions required me to make some changes in my life. Yet, because I want to be a godly leader who wants to help people reach their full potential in Christ, I’m working on making the adjustments.
As you read this article, I hope that it will inspire you to make the needed adjustments in your life. Just as my friend passed her wisdom on to me, I’m passing my newest life lesson on to you in the hopes that we’ll all become the leaders God has called us to be doing the work He has called us to do.
Lead well, Ladies!!!