Apr 24, 2017
When a Co-laborer Undermines Your Leadership
Mitch Tidwell gives some biblical advice for how to respond when a co-laborer undermines your leadership.
As collegiate leaders we are given a responsibility and we seek vision. “God, what do you want to see happen on this campus?” We seek the face of God and seek how he wants to use us. We get that vision, and we seek to do our part to see that vision unfold in our midst. We rally the troops, cast the vision, and hope that it sticks.
If this has ever been you, you know the feeling you get:
Am I doing this right?
Did I really get direction from God?
Is this even going to work?
We all doubt ourselves, and when we do, we try to put on a smiling face in hopes that everyone will see our confidence and continue to follow. We can deal with that. The hard part is when others doubt our vision and even undermine our leadership. When this happens, how do we deal with it? How do we not let it negatively impact our spiritual well-being?
Moses was faced with this scenario. His leadership was being undermined because of the race of his wife, a Cushite woman, ( or at least that’s what looks to be the issue on the surface). Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, spoke ill of Moses and undermined his leadership. They said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” (Nu. 12:2, ESV).
Initially it looks like the main problem is racism; however, there was a second more pressing issue in this story. The real issue was they didn’t believe in Moses’ leadership. They wanted more influence and thought Moses should spread the love.
So how do we respond when we find ourselves in a situation when people do not believe in our leadership and they undermine it? Let’s take some lessons from Moses.
(Note: this response focuses on how you respond for your spiritual well-being. If someone continues to undermine you even when you’ve responded in the proper manner, further actions must take place which is beyond the scope of this article.)
Put yourself in their shoes before you get your feelings hurt
From the outset of the story, the Scriptures tell us, “Moses was very meek” (Nu. 12:3, ESV). Another translation is that Moses was humble. Moses thought more about others than he did himself. He was a man under the authority of God. He sought to lead the people of God under that authority. Moses was a man who knew he heard from God and was walking in the vision God had set out. Therefore, this allowed Moses not to question the vision for Israel but to maintain a steady line in his leadership.
Side note: If we haven’t heard from God, maybe they are questioning our leadership for good reason?
The story doesn’t tell us what Moses said when they undermined him, but it only tells us that he was meek/humble. Moses thought about Miriam and Aaron rather than himself! A question to ask yourself: “Have I considered why they feel the way they do?” Ask them. Seek understanding on why they are acting as they are.
Have compassion for those who undermine you
If you are being undermined, that means someone likely feels threatened by you. Miriam and Aaron believed Moses threatened their influence. Their voice didn’t have the influence that Moses’ did, so they challenged his voice. Those in your ministry that are undermining you may feel that you are threatening their position, their voice or their resources. In a sense, they feel handcuffed, void of influence within the ministry. They want to have influence and impact, however, undermining you will not get you or them anywhere; in fact, it will be a determent to them and their ministry. Miriam faced major consequences for undermining Moses. God gave her leprosy, however, Moses responds in compassion. Moses intercedes for her healing (Nu. 12:13). You, too, should intercede on behalf of those who undermine you. Have compassion for them. They want impact, but they are doing so in an unhealthy way to make change.
Compassion?! That’s the last thing I want to have for them!
Compassion is the necessary response for a couple of reasons. First, you’re blessed when you do it (Mt. 4:7). Those who give compassion, receive compassion. We’ve all undermined authority before and regret the times we’ve done it. You’ve been there, so be compassionate on them. It is in this response that we are blessed!
Second, compassion guards against a bitter heart. If we constantly gnaw at their lack of respect and undermining of our leadership we will grow a nasty, bitter heart. This will eat away at us and eat away at our ministry. The campus will suffer because of your bitter heart. Show compassion, which will allow your heart time to heal.
This response is the classic “Easier said than done!” However, respond wisely. Respond healthy. Your heart is riding on it. Your campus is riding on it. Put yourself in their shoes, don’t get your feelings hurt and show compassion and seek understanding from those who undermine you.