I had a small class today on conflict management and it got me to thinking about leadership. I remember when I served in Plains I was called to the hospital in Americus. A member had died. Normally this was not shocking – I did it all the time. But this night the deceased was Miss Allie – the mother of Rosalynn Carter.
I was sitting in a chair in a small room talking and chatting. President and Mrs. Carter entered the room and he sat in the chair next to me. By this time in my ministry at Plains the awe of him being there was gone. It was cool – but by this time they were just Mr. Jimmy and Miss Rosalynn and they seemed comfortable in that role as did the people of Plains. I remember this night not to name drop but for what I saw. At one point I looked around the room and several people – myself included – had their legs crossed and most even had their arms crossed across their chests and were even slouched somewhat. But I will never forget Mr. Jimmy – I looked back over my left shoulder and noticed him.
He was in his upper 70’s at this point – he had nothing to prove to anyone and at that moment he could have been any man in their upper 70’s comforting his wife on the death of her mother. But this man in his upper 70’s stood out because of how he was sitting. He wasn’t slouched, no arms were crossed or legs. His whole demeanor even in a time of mourning was an air of confidence. His mother in law – but more importantly his bride – the love of his life – her mother was gone. And he supported her without even opening his mouth.
I thought about this story today because I think it relates to conflict management. I think we can learn that there are times when those around us need us to be strong. And sometimes we can do that without even opening our mouths.
I have become quite a worrier. I fight it with every fiber of my being. Because I know people I love need me to be strong. There are also other times where people need to be strong for me – but we should never lose sight that sometimes the best way to begin conflict management has nothing to do with how eloquently we can debate a point. Sometimes it’s just having a confident demeanor and being strong for those that need us to be strong.
The story for me is about being a strong person of faith. Sometimes we do it for ourselves and sometimes we do it for those we love. But let me close with this thought – sometimes conflict in our lives can be diverted best by what we don’t say than what we do say.