This is the suck side of management: professional distance.
I mean, seriously. Familiarity breeds contempt. And they say it’s lonely at the top for a reason: it is a very narrow place to sit down. Not conducive to conversations.
See, in the past, my camp co workers have also been my friends. Close friends. I mean, who better to identify with you when your 3rd grader throws up in the middle of the night than the guy who had it happen to him the week before? There’s this sort of trench combat community that arises from a group of people being stretched in the same ways at the same time.
But now, my co workers are folks I supervise. It’s not like I cherish the position. I’ve never loved lording anything over people.
Now to be fair, I hardly “lord” as it is. My policy decisions are more like changing the Wednesday night game from one variation of Corral the Towel to another. But still, I have this notion that I can’t get too close to the people around me. I need a respectful distance so that people feel comfortable with following my lead, popular or unpopular as the decision ends up.
So I started to get lazy. And then I started getting frustrated.
See, I have two old friends here (we are all 5-year camp veterans) who have equivalent roles to mine. One oversees the work crew and kitchen; one runs the day camp program. Tim and Josh are both dear to me, but a week or so ago, I found myself getting continually irritated with the way they interacted with me.
Then I came across that old part in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus is fending off some tricky questions. Some dudes ask him if they should pay taxes. Jesus tells ’em to give the coins to the dude who’s picture’s on it. Some dudes ask about marriage in heaven. Jesus tells them it don’t matter. Someone’s all like, hey, who gave John the Baptist the right to preach and stuff? Jesus traps him in his own logic.
Then this scribe comes up. He’s probably an important guy; after all, he’s one of the few literate dudes in that entire civilization. He asks what the greatest commandment is.
Jesus tells him. Love God. Love God a LOT. Then turn around and love your neighbor at least as much as you love your own self.
And to the scribe’s credit, he gets it. He agrees with Rabbi Jesus. And Jesus tells him that since he gets it, it proves this scribe dude is not too far from the Kingdom of Heaven.
It hit me later that day while I was running. I’m not very sure how close I am to the Kingdom sometimes. I don’t doubt the fact of my salvation, but I do doubt my behavior, my proximity to the Lord. And I especially doubt it when I feel removed from my staff and rankled with my co-workers.
But if I’m loving God to the max and people to the max, I’m closer than I know. I’m actually living it out. And then I got this brainflash like: oh carp! I’m frustrated with my two friends… because they’re making efforts to interact with me. They are taking initiative. And I haven’t been caring enough to take intitative… back.
Honestly, with camp being so relationally-based, I may not even need to feel that removed from my staff. But at the LEAST, my job doesn’t give me permission to sit back and not invest in the folks I care about. I’m supposed to pursue those relationships. I’m supposed to fight for them.
So I decided to get serious about it. And things got a lot better. It helps to communicate, I guess.
Point: even if it is lonely up top, at least it’s not isolated. If it feels that way, that’s my fault.
And there’s plenty of room in the Kingdom anyway.