Imagine walking through the mall this month and someone walks up to you and kisses you and tells you that they love you? Today we’re going to talk about why that might not be so weird in the day and age that we live in.
If it was a complete stranger, you’d probably be shocked! If however, it was your spouse you’d think it was totally natural. Why? It all has to do with context. Given the context of marriage and your relationship at that time, your spouse has the right to kiss you and express their love for you. A stranger does not have that right.
Context may not sound like such a big deal at first glance, but it’s implications are far reaching. If you err in evaluating context as a leader, it can cost you greatly. In fact, with the advent of social media and the world we live in, it may be one of the greatest skills a leader should concentrate on.
For example, how easy is it to take a text the wrong way? Even if the person sending it uses emoticons, their message can still be cloudy or misinterpreted, right?
As a leader, understanding your context is very important. Ask any pastor who has gone to a conference, came home, and tried to implement everything they learned. They assumed that just because something was working for another leader in California, the same would work for them in New York. Usually that’s not the case, because each context is different.
So how do you discover your context. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. You need to do your research. A great example of a group who attempted to do that is found in Numbers 13 and 14. In these chapters, Moses sent 12 spies into the land of Canaan to discover the quality of the land and its resources. He also wanted to see what kind of opposition they were going to face if they decided to overtake it. They were “doing their homework”.
Again, the importance of context can’t be overstated. This is especially true when interpreting the scriptures. As you study them, you need to ask important questions. What is the historical context? What is the literary context? What is the cultural context? Any preacher will tell you that until you’ve done that, you’re not ready to preach a sermon.
Taking this a step further, context is everything in relationships and leadership, world events, politics, etc.
When we lift words or conversations out of context, they lose their meaning. For example, a conversation with your spouse might be perfectly acceptable in private, but having that same conversation in public might not be.
Again, you might totally misunderstand a statement someone makes on social media and decide to disagree. Having a conversation with that person over coffee or on the phone is probably a lot more appropriate than berating them in public.
When interpreting context, it’s so important to examine the source. It’s a little different when your four year old gets mad and says they hate you than it is when a four year employee says the same words.
As a leader, it’s so important to determine context. Your ability to do so, can make the difference between a long and fulfilling career and a short one.
I wonder how many arguments with our loved ones might be eliminated if we took the time to step back and look at the context in the given situation.
I wonder how much more peace we’d have if we walked away from conversations with our peers and interpreted their words based on the context of our friendship with them.
I wonder how much easier parenting would be if we looked at the actions and words of our children through the grid work of context.
What happens is that as we go through life, the words of those we love and their actions have the potential to derail our happiness if we fail to understand context. If we’re not careful, a one time event can be interpreted as a final straw. If we’re not careful, we can decide to burn all bridges based on a single event when someone we love was simply angry or immature. Lets face it, none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes.
The better you understand your context, the more you’ll be able to help those you love and serve.
Moses sent out spies to get the information he needed. That might be o.k. if you’re looking to start a new business or a church. But if you’re looking to better understand someone, having a conversation with them might be a better place to start.
Spending time with people is also a great way to better understand your context. When you do, be sure to occasionally ask questions to get the information you need.
If your a leader, you might even consider sending out a survey through a company like surveymonkey.com.
What are the local customs of the people you serve? There’s a difference between the customs of people in Las Vegas, Nevada and people who live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Cultures also vary from place to place. While this may seem like commonsense, it’s an important consideration when determining your context.
One last thing to remember is that the experts aren’t always right. Remember the 12 spies we talked about? Only 2 out of 12 of them came back with an accurate report about the Promised Land! Here we see that the majority is not always correct. While having a team is a great way to build a consensus, as a leader, you’ll have to make the best decision possible regardless of the consensus.
Again, it wouldn’t be odd if you were in the Mall and your spouse came up to you and kissed you and told you they love you. That would be perfectly natural in that setting. However, if a stranger did the exact same thing, it would be more than just plain weird, it would be unnatural. Great leaders know this and act accordingly. They do their thinking and decision making based on the context they are operating within and lead people accordingly. Call it discernment, call it heart, call it what you want, contextual thinking is powerful!