This is the final part in a series on tension and tragedy.
It’s an understatement to say that racial issues are polarizing. And especially with the United States in the middle of a heated upcoming election, there will be intense emotions and debate about many important topics. I’m a fan of the process of honestly hashing these things out, but it can often feel ugly.
As leaders, we want to engage important issues, and do so respectfully. But many times, we might feel that engaging means taking sides, and we’re not always prepared to do that. Could we offend people or get in trouble? Do we need to educate ourselves more before we take a stand? This can lead us down a path that’s paralyzing. What can we do?
Fortunately, I believe there are some very constructive things we can do as leaders, even when we don’t feel educated … and without having to “take a side” on every issue.
Here are three ideas:
- Simply affirm the importance of the topic.
We don’t have to take a side to point out that things aren’t “as they should be” (i.e. with violence and hate). There is more power than we think in simply bringing attention to the significance of an issue.
- Take on a facilitator role, not an expert role.
We can encourage dialogue about the issue by asking good questions. For example:
- What is painful as you see things happening, and why? Where does it tap into your personal stories and background?
- What do you think are the root causes of the issue?
- What might be some constructive solutions or next steps we can take?
As leaders, we don’t need to be the experts giving answers all the time. It can be even more powerful to demonstrate a posture of humility in learning, as we draw out great wisdom from a group that we’re leading.
- Point others to a diversity of constructive resources.
This does not mean we should send people heated opinion articles about the events ‒ that is usually not constructive. It does mean we can send people some resources from a few diverse leaders on how we can navigate differences of culture and opinion with honesty and respect. There are a lot of great resources out there that can help us.
So if we’re feeling the need to take action, these are actually three very significant things we can do as leaders.
By the way, I speak somewhat from experience here, as I’ve worked in ethnic and cross-cultural ministry for over a decade and have partnered with others to write articles on these challenging topics. Also, a couple of years ago I wrote an article about a racial issue (An “Open Letter”) that caused a lot of emotions and stirring among the Asian American community. That’s actually where I borrowed the three points I listed above.
I’m continuing to work on resources related to these topics, as they are so relevant and important. I’d appreciate your encouragement and prayers, as this is not something I take lightly! I’ll keep you updated. Thank you as always for reading and sending me your feedback and messages!