A young leader asked me the other day why people move so quickly to a “defending their turf” posture when their choices or behaviors are challenged. He had just leaned into a friend—in what he thought was a helpful and loving way—and was met with a, “How dare you … You’ve wronged me … I’m the victim here,” response. He was hurt, frustrated, and confused, and he wanted to know why people—including himself when he’s the one being leaned on—often respond that way.
Well, there’s probably about as many answers to that question as there are people. And lets be honest, none of us really likes to have the way we do stuff challenged. But if we sense love is compelling us to lean in, the first question we should ask ourselves is, “Why is this so important to me?” We need to first understand what’s happening in our own hearts and head before we try to get into anybody else’s heart or head. Only after we examine our own motivations should we ask, and with a humble, learner’s posture, “Why is this so important to you?” There’s usually a pretty good reason why the behavior/value/conviction is being so strongly defended, and the closer that lies to one’s core identity the uglier the fight will be for that to change. We are on a fool’s errand if we don’t understand that connection.
I encouraged my friend to lean in—if he feels he must—by asking those questions first.
And then seek to understand why the behavior/value/conviction is held so dearly.
Only then can we truly discern if we need to keep leaning in as a loving friend or if the wiser move is to step back. Only then will we have a clearer sense of what really needs to be let go of and what—or who—really needs to be fought for.