Leadership & Formation #9: Hills to Die On

Leadership & Formation #9: Hills to Die On

flag_at_summit_400_clr_4930.pngWestern culture has redefined tolerance as unconditional acceptance and affirmation.  Anything shy of total, unqualified acceptance and affirmation of the opinion, ideology, personal perspective, or lifestyle choices of another is labeled as intolerance. 

The true definition of tolerance, however, is withholding whatever power you have against what you find objectionable. This means that we withhold whatever influence we can bring to bear on an issue for a more prudent engagement, a higher priority, or an assessment that opposing the issue will cause more damage than good.  The power we are withholding may be the authority we have, the resources at our disposal, the network of influential contacts we can employ, the status we hold, the reputation we enjoy, or the knowledge we possess.

Every conflict, difference of opinion, or assault on our beliefs and values requires wisdom to determine whether or not to engage with whatever power we have available.  The ancient scriptures give us guidance when they remind us to be wise, to evaluate the circumstances, and to assess the possible outcomes of engagement.  We can choose not to make an issue of the matter for the sake of peace, grace or forbearance.

If we choose to engage we must always “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  For those of us in the faith we must “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Every effective leader of character has determined, in advance, what hills to die on, what hills to bleed on, and what hills are not worth climbing.  Doing so provides a framework of knowing when to engage regardless of the circumstances, when to engage in consideration of the circumstances, and when to withhold engagement in spite of the circumstances.

Hills to Die On…

You cannot die on every hill.  Dying may not require your life but it may require something just as permanent or painful. Choosing to die on a hill may mean that you are willing to embrace the consequences even if it means you will lose the goodwill of others, marginalize your advancement prospects, or even lose your position, ranking, or job.  The hill I choose to die on may not require my life but it may require sacrificing popularity, acclaim, prestige, acceptance, or affirmation. It may require that I set aside my dreams and aspirations for a higher value. It may mean I may be marginalized or even ostracized.

What hills are worth dying on?  First, they should be few in number.  Second, they should ensure laws will not be violated.  Third, they should honor our faith.  Fourth, they should uphold our central beliefs and values.  In other words the matter is too important to ignore because it would mean that your character (or faith) is compromised.  Finally, they should protect the defenseless, unloved, and marginalized. 

These hills are not always a matter of public engagement.  They may be a private or personal commitment such as a commitment to live out certain beliefs and values having decided which ones are non-negotiable.  They may include putting the welfare and wellbeing of our family as our highest priority in that we will never compromise this commitment for any reason.  They may include a commitment to submit to some cause, people group, or belief system that will stand in authority over our lives informing and conditioning what we do.

What hills are you prepared to "die on?"

Hills to Bleed On…

You cannot bleed on every hill.  If you bleed on too many hills you will "die" prematurely.  I have known people who make an issue of every issue.  It isn't long before what they say is automatically discounted regardless of its importance.  If you make an issue of every issue no one will take seriously any issue you have made an issue.  "For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him."

Hills to bleed on is a metaphor for issues and concerns for which we are willing to take a stand given the circumstances.  They are situational in nature and change in terms of how we will respond.  Environmental factors condition whether we choose to say something or do something.  Given the alignment and significance of the contributing factors we may choose to engage but not willing to “die” for the issue.  These issues are selected based on their importance, their affect and/or effect, and whether not engaging will give tacit approval to the outcome of the event or circumstance.

One day you may choose to engage the issue while at other times you may choose not to engage.  This does not mean you are hypocritical or a ‘weather vane’ moving in a direction of prevailing sentiment or political correctness. It simply means that you have measured the circumstance or event and have chosen that it is not a hill to bleed on.  At other times, the circumstance or event may be a hill to bleed on; that is, to risk your reputation, to negatively impact your relationships, or to lose respect or esteem. 

What hills will you bleed on if the circumstances warrant?

Hills Not Worth Climbing…

There are many hills not worth climbing.  They may be important but are they urgent?  I would suggest that there are far more hills not worth climbing than you may know.  This does not mean that the matter before you is not important or worth consideration.  It simply mean that you are not the one called to address it.  The circumstance is someone else’s hill to die on or bleed on.

The intrinsic ‘worth’ of the issue may be significant but you are not the one to deal with it.  You may hold certain convictions about it, may disagree or agree with it, may have something to contribute regarding it but have decided it is a hill you will not climb.  Reasons for this conclusion may be decisions you made regarding the hills to die on or bleed on beforehand.  This is not one of them.  Or the criteria for engagement, which you have decided beforehand, is not met.  Or engagement will do more damage than constructive help. 

If a situation arises where you are trying to decide what to do the following criteria might be considered.

  1. Is it a hill I have already decided to “die on?”
  2. Is it a hill I am prepared to “bleed on?”
  3. Is it a hill someone else should “die on” or “bleed on?”
  4. Is it a hill I have already decided not to climb?
  5. Is it majoring in minors?
  6. Will it sacrifice my integrity?

What hills are not worth climbing?

Each man and woman must decide for themselves what hills they will die on, what hills they will bleed on, and what hills are not worth climbing.  Over the course of your life they will change.

As for me I have decided what hills I will die on.

  • My Faith - The Gospel (Titus 2:11-14)
  • My Family - Responsibility (1 Timothy 5:8)
  • My Focus - Purpose (Ephesians 2:8-10)
  • My Fidelity - The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The hills I will bleed on will be the hills God calls me to bleed on.  My hills will be different than your hills.  The hills I will bleed on will be His hills and not my hills.

The hills not worth climbing are everything else.  I have learned over time-I am in my 60's now-that I was dying on too many hills, the hills I was bleeding on were my hills and not His hills, and the hills not worth climbing were far more than I originally thought.

What hills will you die on?

What hills will you bleed on?

What hills are not worth climbing?

To be continued…

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