This week we’ve been exploring gifts that change lives—things like grace, loyalty, and trust. We’ve also gotten cornered into putting them into practice. I’ve been daring ya’ll to give these gifts to people in your lives. Today’s gift is an unlikely hero: the gift of clarity.
Some people like things black and white. Others chafe under absolutes, preferring shades of grey.
Grey is the color of independence. Of choice. It invites opinions and proliferates options. While white is one extreme, black is another. Grey is always measured on a scale. Grey is about shading, nuance, and blending. There are some really liberating things about grey, especially where choosing either white or black is unrealistic, naive, or just plain wrong. Win-win situations tend to be grey ones. I want a world where there isn’t always just one right course of action.
But grey can also beget paralysis. Because deep down, I don’t believe all options are equal. There may not always be a right answer, but surely there is a best one. If so, I want it.
A couple of Christmases ago we launched an Aids/Africa campaign in our church. In contemplating which direction to take, leadership entertained dozens of ideas. One dream was to fill our church foyer with options for engaging in the Aids Crisis. We envisioned booths lining the room—one for sponsor kids, one for water wells, one for micro-finance, one for Aids Care kits, one for an orphanage, one for indigenous church leaders, one for “Aids/Africa” T-shirts… and more. Until I stepped back, looked at the jumble, and said,
“No. We’re going to do the Aids Care kits. Period. The kits cost $150 each. That’s doable. We’re going to shoot for fifty kits. That’s $7500. We’ll print up envelopes with three options: One kit, two kits, three kits, multiple kits. And I’m going to dare big givers to do some “match giving.”
So that’s what we did… and and raised $48,000, or enough for 320 kits. Without a clear target, people would have been paralyzed by choice. Even if they hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have been able to celebrate a home run together. Clarity is a beautiful thing.
Clarity is intensely personal. Give people the gift of knowing where they stand with you. Or the gift of clear instructions, clear expectations, clear metrics, and clear outcomes. If you have kids, do they understand, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what they are being asked to do? Or do you just think they ought to get it, fill in the blanks, use common sense? That’s not good enough. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Develop the art of precision in your speaking, writing, and even your thinking. Speak the truth in love. Being clear all the time is tiring, but when we don’t love truth or people enough to be precise, we’re being sloppy or even careless with something that could be setting people free.
Yesterday I told the story of a failed ministry experience early in my career. Another reason it didn’t work out was a lack of clarity. Get this—I was accountable to the Lead Pastor for my spiritual direction as a leader, accountable to an administrator for the everyday working of the ministry, accountable to a mentor for my ministry in general, and accountable to the management team for something or other. Not sure what. So… you tell me—who’s my boss? Who do I listen to? When? How? A consultant who evaluated our church that year interviewed me and concluded, “You guys are training Brad to be dysfunctional.”
So… now the dare.
Is there a place in your life that’s dysfunctional? Is it possible, even partly, that the dysfunction has grown around a lack of clarity that you could have provided? I dare you to step in, own your chunk of the muddiness, apologize, and then give clarity where it’s needed.