I used to think the answer to this was no—no way! Leaders need to care, have compassion… But over this year, I’m learning that the wiser answer to this question – can leaders care too much, is YES, in particular ways we can. Here’s why.

If you don’t know, I lead a part-time Basic Leadership Practicum (BLP) school in YWAM Burtigny. It’s a 2-year school with students (aged 18 to 30) able to join us at the start of any new quarter. They have very different personalities, callings, experiences, levels of understanding of who they are, who God is and how much potential they have. Currently, most have been here for over a year, and one joined us recently. 

During this time, my love for them has deepened and deepened. I see them through our Heavenly Father’s eyes and see their potential. I love to laugh and cry with them as they walk through challenges and successes in their lives. Then I spend time in prayer for them as the Holy Spirit leads me to intercede on their behalf. I am blessed to get to do what I do as my job/ ministry.

The Potential Problem

The problem for me, because of my love for them, I want to see them make wise decisions and have breakthrough’s in areas they’re struggling in. I want them to get the most out of these 2-years. The difference now is that in some areas, I have grown to care more about their growth than at times they themselves do. Partly like a parent does with their children. 

Yes, it is good to believe in them, champion them, and do what I can to provide teaching, insight, and opportunities to help them grow in character and practical leadership. But, when it becomes more, it can be too much. It spills over into frustration, disappointment, and even grief when the choices they make aren’t the ones I’d hope they make. To see them choose the lesser / easier path or let opportunities to step out of their comfort zone drift by. 

Therefore I have become aware that in my eagerness and resulting disappointment, it’s at risk to be perceived as something negative. Which is so the opposite of my intentions! 

From their perspective

When I step into their shoes to see things from their perspective. I totally get it. During work hours, it’s impossible to do everything and not listen to our ‘self’ when all it wants is to take a break or do something fun instead of reading a book or volunteering to lead an intercession time (for example). Stepping out of our comfort zone or asking for help can be scary, risky or brings up emotions from the past they’d rather forget. Never mind feeling the unspoken (and spoken) pressure from a leader to do it. It can have the opposite effect—to bring up feelings to want to, need to rebel, say no, keep control, and retreat to a safer space. To decide my leader doesn’t understand me and what it would take to do what is being asked—expected too much. Cause if they did, then they wouldn’t ask this. Some of them are more sensitive to others’ emotions. They feel more frustration towards them (the situation), not the rooting cheerleader. 

Yes, words of encouragement and how this will help them develop are needed. But also the respect that they are adults. Aware of what their choices mean. Who have total control to accept the invitation to perhaps do something new or say—No, it’s ok. Maybe next time. 

As leaders, we need to understand that everyone has a different capacity level. Even just living away from home takes time to get used to (never mind a foreign country, culture or continent). It’s easy to forget how much time and effort it takes to get used to a new living situation on top of new responsibilities before you add in other unfamiliar experiences. 

This season

So in this season, I am learning to care—less. Consciously respecting my student’s decisions and be less in some areas. Taking all my caring and desires for them and give them to God. To surrender them at His feet and trust. And be faithful with what I’m asked to do. And what He is asking of them, they too will be diligent to do. An invitation of opportunity is just that, an invitation. To celebrate when it’s accepted. And to let go of when it’s passed up. 

What I can do, is take more time on my knees to intercede for them. To stand in the gap and ask Jesus to help them overcome their fears, challenges and see it from God’s perspective. Then be there with arms open wide when they want to come and talk. To speak words of life and encouragement to them from our Heavenly Father and what I see them doing well. 

It is a strength to care, but it’s even more potent when it’s in step with God’s love and patience towards them. We are all on a life-long journey of discipleship. I, too, am a disciple of Jesus, with so much more to learn also. Do I care more about my growth? Or could I channel more of my energy and passion into the things God has for me too?

Balance needed

There is a balance to be found. To still care, to step in before a potential danger becomes an awful reality. But not too soon to miss self-correction and learning from mistakes. God spoke a lot to the Israelite’s about blessings and curses. The consequences of their choices—I have learned more from my mistakes than when I sailed through something. But I greatly appreciated the support and care I had from my leaders when they were there for me in the results of my actions. Perhaps only now am I understanding the cost it took for them to let me make those mistakes. How it was a greater love than I had realised. To seem like they cared less to give me the freedom of my choices but totally loved me regardless.

For me to care less, also means for me to have my heart in God’s hands. Where He will protect me from being hurt or disappointed. To not have it tied to someone else’s actions. To remember I am accountable for my actions, not theirs. Yes, I can still feel for them, especially when they are hurting and have compassion. But guard my heart so the enemy can’t take the opportunity to try to hurt me in some way.

My prayer

My prayer for all of us is that we would daily ask God what His priorities are for today:

  1. Have an attitude of being on my knees in surrender before His throne.
  2. Focus on the things He asks me to do.
  3. Trust Him with everything else, in His timing and in His way.

To be fierce in my love but gentle in how it’s shared. So it’s received in the best way possible. Unconditional love is without conditions attached. Finally, be there when the consequences aren’t what was hoped, but be there with and for them. 

After all, God cares way more than we do—but he’s given us free will. Freedom to be and express. So I need to care less in order to show my love to be received as love. 

I hope this helps you understand my answer to can leaders care too much. Why at times we can and need to be mindful of even if our intentions are good, too much can be too much.

If you would like to know more about the BLP, here’s where you can find out more information on our BLP-YWAM-Burtigy webpage.

If you’d like to read more on subjects relating to this one. I wrote a blog some time ago about The Drip, Drip Effect. How all our little choices make up who we are today and who we’ll become in the future. It’s an excellent complement to this one.