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Understanding the Value of Acceptance in Leadership

The single greatest relational need in life is acceptance. Acceptance can easily make or break a team or organization. Many times, acceptance is at the center of the struggle for those who comes to me seeking clarity in life or ministry. Many people don’t feel accepted or valued in the way that they believe they should be. Sometimes these feelings originate from insecurities within the individual, but many times these issues come when leaders do not understand the value of showing acceptance to those they lead.

People who feel accepted will follow even the weakest of visions. People who don’t feel accepted can quickly become derailed from pursuing the greatest vision. I believe acceptance is the greatest relational need within each of us.

The word “accept” is used in the Bible over one hundred times. In Psalms, David expresses his need for acceptance from the Lord, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:14). There is something in each of us that longs for acceptance from God. The good news is that according to Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” There is no condemnation if we truly engage in the will of God for our lives and continually keep Christ at the forefront of everything we do. The Lord is for us, and He accepts us.

If we make a mistake, God will not attack us. God is for us. He accepts us with all of our flaws, and He wants us to succeed. He wants us to arrive at a place of productive gain in His kingdom. We all have the need to be accepted by God, and He is able to thoroughly meet that need.

Today, I want to dive a little deeper into our acceptance of one another. This concept is often much harder for us to grasp. In fact, it’s one of the things that makes us feel insecure and struggle to find our identities. Our need for acceptance from others can cause us to pursue the wrong things in life in order to feel accepted. Romans 8:31 says, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” This scripture is clear: If God is for us, who can be against us? Yet, many times, we still have relational issues that make us feel as if people are coming against us. I believe the reason for this problem lies within the sin issues of humanity.

Scripture specifically describes how we need to interact with one another. Romans 15:7 tells us, “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” Matthew 10:40 explains, “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” Matthew 25:40 says, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” The Lord has designed us so that nothing good happens in our relationships without mutual acceptance. Acceptance is the foundation of any relationship. Essentially, acceptance is approval, grace, and the act of saying, “I love you, I’m for you, and I value you.”

Though He exampled the power of acceptance often, Christ ultimately displayed the act of acceptance by dying on the cross for humanity. His love for us is immense. He accepted us in such an incredible way. He profoundly proved that He was for us by dying on a cross to pay for our sins.

Christ designed us so that acceptance is a fundamental need in any relationship we have. It may sound easy for us to go through life accepting one another. Ideally, that is what we should do, but the problem in most relationships lies with our need to assert our opinions. I’m just a little bit opinionated. I like things the way that I like them, and (just to be transparent) some people rub me the wrong way. I may not like their attitude or their personal flaws. As much as I try to ignore my instinctive opinions about other people, the fact of the matter is that my opinions still impact my views of people. After all, I’m only human, and I bet that you are just as human as I am.

I find it interesting that you really can’t know the level of acceptance a person has for another until there’s a flaw in their relationship or someone does something the other person doesn’t like. Everyone has ugly relational defense mechanisms that are expressed when things go wrong in a relationship. The level of acceptance in a relationship often changes when those negative issues begin to surface. If someone accepts you only when you’re doing well, they really haven’t accepted you at all. If you attempt to cover up the bad parts of another person’s life in order to accept them, you have not truly accepted that person either. Acknowledging a person’s imperfections and brokenness while still accepting them for who they are is true acceptance. Recognizing the reality of the hurt, pain, and negative issues in a relationship and continuing to move forward with love, grace, and mercy is sincere acceptance.

From a leadership standpoint, acceptance is one of the most fundamental needs of any team. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:23-25, “And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”

Paul not only taught this concept, but he also exampled it. Paul’s relationship with Titus illustrates a great level of acceptance. The Apostle Paul was the mentor to the younger leader Titus. They worked in ministry as a team. Titus 1:4 says, “To Titus, mine own son, after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Titus was far from perfect; he was human, but Paul accepted and loved him so much that he called him his own son. This is true acceptance.

We sometimes find this level of acceptance in marriage or parental relationships, but this kind of acceptance is rare in organizations and teams of people who are working together. If a person doesn’t feel like they have a seat at the table of your church or organization, they most definitely won’t be as devoted to the cause as they could be. They will not stay long in that place; or, if they do, they may only half-heartedly dedicate themselves to the mission of the organization.

One of the most difficult tasks that any leader has is to create a sense of acceptance within their organization. In its most simple form, acceptance is feeling a deep sense of love and value. Creating a sense acceptance within an organization is difficult to achieve as a leader because many times our own internal struggles get in the way of our ability to love and interact appropriately with others. I want to give you a couple of quick tips to maximize your ability to show acceptance to your team.

First of all, limit the things in your life that cause harm to relationships. Are you tired? Are you stressed all of the time? If you are, think about how that affects your life. Perhaps stress and exhaustion lead to moodiness, detachment, or passive aggressive behaviors as well as other negative actions. To be fully accepting of others, you must first work through those things about yourself that are relationally abrasive.

Secondly, reinsert the qualities that communicate love into your relationships. Be intentional when walking through a crowd or your office. Take time to connect with people. Talk to people, make eye contact, deliver words of affirmation, give a physical pat on the back or an appropriate hug. Think about what you need to do to make sure the individuals you lead feel loved and valued. These are the things that will communicate acceptance.

Finally, dwell on the words of 1 Corinthians 13:13. “And now abideth faith, hope, (love), these three; but the greatest of these is (love).” Remember that more than anything else you do, communicating acceptance motivates people to support you and the mission the Lord is calling you to.

Copyright © 2021 Ryan Franklin. All rights reserved.

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