*This article was first published on the Church of Our Saviour blog on October 2016.
During my time as a full-time Youth Pastor in Church of Our Saviour Singapore, I sought primarily to help young people shape their inner lives the way I felt mine was shaped – by focusing on what we thought was wrong with human beings. To me, it was about knowing the sinful nature of man and learning to lean on God’s grace and mercy. I have many stories about my own insecurities and fears, and how God has transformed my life.
I have come to realize now, that focusing on the ‘bad’ is not just inadequate but seems to have a detrimental effect especially when engaging people for the purpose of discipleship.
Many of us (myself included) are often quick to point out the shortcomings of others and then offer solutions (inner healing, counseling, etc.) to overcome them. When we do this, we fall short of empowering people to use their gifts and talents. We may be skilled at explaining the sinful nature of man but what about describing what a victorious Christian life should look like? As a leader, I have discovered that revealing the truth about our human weakness is definitely necessary but to focus on those weaknesses is hardly the encouragement that one needs.
An article in the Business Times on 01 August 2016 highlighted that more than half of Singapore companies have experienced staff who are physically present but mentally absent. According to the research, this phenomenon, termed “inner resignation” has been observed in 57 per cent of Singapore businesses.
Employee Engagement is a key issue in society today. It seems that in church, it is no different. It is not a wild idea to suggest that only a small proportion of church members feel engaged.
In my personal observation, our obsession with human weakness has hindered us in engaging and discipling people in the workforce as well as in church. Similarly in biological families, an increasing number of young people feel the disconnect at home because parents repeatedly only highlight what is wrong. Affirmations and encouragements appear to be a rarity.
Here’s another alarming fact. The World Health Organization has indicated that by 2020, depression will be the number 1 disease with the greatest negative impact on the global community. We are well on the way because depression currently sits at number 2 and by 2020, many of our young people will become adults.
There is a growing realization that in order to know how to overcome depression, we must study people who live meaningful, fulfilled and happy lives. Understanding the factors that are needed to help people stay positive has prompted the development of a branch of psychology known as “positive psychology”.
So, what if we focus on what’s right with people?
In the beginning of this year, I realized that I have spent the last 10 years focused on looking at the ‘wrong’ in people. I decided that I needed to realign my focus on what is right instead and I’ve since left ministry to set up my own company. I now help others discover their strengths through programs on employee engagement and student development using a tool called StrengthsFinder.
I pray that a paradigm shift takes place in our mindsets because I strongly believe that helping people discover what’s right with them is just as important as discovering what’s wrong. Looking at what’s right is critical in learning how to live a victorious life.
With this new outlook, how can we journey forward together especially as a church community?
1. Focusing on strengths
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the body of Christ, how we are all made uniquely and how we need one another to function to capacity. Each one of us is empowered with God-given talents and gifts to make a difference and be the salt and light in our community.
By focusing on our strengths, we start to respect the strengths that different individuals have so that we can go deeper in living out the concept of the body of Christ. In this way, we can build a culture of honour within the body of Christ. By learning to appreciate our unique talents, we can serve one another and even respectfully admonish and give constructive feedback. We earn that right to speak because people know what they are appreciated for. By focusing on our strengths, we catch people doing good as opposed to only catching people doing wrong.
“A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or a physician knows the instruments at her disposal. What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths – and call on the right strength at the right time.” – the late Donald Clifton, author of Strengths-based Leadership.
2. Cultivate an attitude of gratefulness
The bible commands us to give thanks to God. Giving thanks changes our inner attitudes and helps us to be positive and hopeful in Christ. In a society where there is so much malice, bitterness and anger, cultivating a thankful heart helps us to appreciate one another. It also allows us to love and to receive love.
Try this exercise of giving thanks, 15 minutes a week. Do this with your family, do this with your friends. Do this for 10 consecutive weeks and observe the effects.
Questions for self-reflection:
- From a scale of 0-10, how aware are you of your own strengths?
- Reflect and think about how you are using your strengths for each of these areas: marriage, family, work, ministry.
- How can you be more intentional in cultivating a thankful heart?
Written by Victor Seet
Activator • Communication • Strategic • Self-Assurance • Command
As a Gallup Certified Singapore StrengthsFinder coach, Victor is passionate about strengths engagement and now runs his own training company, Strengths School™, based out of Singapore. He has been actively giving Strengthsfinder leadership and team building workshops to businesses and schools in Singapore as well as Hong Kong, China (Shanghai, Nanjing) and India.