LEADERSHIP LESSON NO. 41–“Slough Off the Petty Stuff”

I would have said “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” but someone has already said it–and made a truckload of money from a best-selling book by that title. But, the point is the same.

Someone offended you. I’m not talking about an attack on your person on the one hand or an imaginary slight on the other, but a real one nevertheless. They overstepped their bounds and shot down a project you had been working on. When they did, it not only frustrated your efforts but saddled you with the work of cleaning up everything you had done.

Sound familiar?

I took a phone call from the assistant to a distinguished church leader, asking if I could set up a breakfast meeting the following Monday. This would be his first visit to our city and an opportunity for our pastors and other key leaders to meet him. I made some phone calls and e-mails, asked my helpers to assist in getting certain ones to the meeting, and worked with the marketing manager of a local hotel to set up the breakfast. She and I swapped e-mails, sending credit card information and contracts back and forth. Finally, everything was set.

Late the night before the event, a phone call informed me that the event had been moved to another location across town. One of my colleagues had inquired at the hotel about the breakfast with a desk clerk who had no information about it, but who told him there must have been a mistake, that they did not do such things. My friend panicked, lined up another site for the breakfast, and informed our distinguished guest and his party about the new location.

Apparently, it never occurred to him to check with anyone.

After recovering from this late-night phone call, I had some work to do. Since my files were at the office across town, I made a list from memory of everyone who had been invited to the breakfast. Early the next morning, I began calling each one to inform them of the change in plans. Then, I drove to the hotel just in case I had missed anyone. There in the lobby sat one of our pastors, waiting for the others. I sent him on his way, then stayed longer to make sure no one else came.

Since I had to be at a church across the river in mid-morning, I missed the breakfast and meeting the out-of-town guest.

Later, I learned heard that we had a good turnout, the breakfast was excellent, the meeting went well, and the guest made a positive impression.

The only one who was inconvenienced was me.

At this point, I had a choice to make. I could sulk and stroke my wounded pride, or get on with the day since nothing was lost. Everyone had had a great meeting, the guest had accomplished his purpose, and all was well.

I sloughed it off. No harm, no foul. No offense.

An hour later, I was teaching Paul’s “Epistle to the Romans” at Oak Park Baptist Church and thoroughly enjoying myself.

“Love is not quick to take offense,” Paul tells us in the Love Chapter (I Corinthians 13).

“Joe, what did you mean by what you said to me yesterday?” The member who had caught me as I came out the door of the church was Jessie Rodriguez, a terrific little woman with the greatest attitude and servant heart. Jessie was always ready to help anyone in need and reveled in working at the church. But if she had one failing, it was the way she gathered up imaginary slights and let them fester in her mind.

I said, “Jessie, did we talk yesterday?” She furrowed her brow, then gave me a verbatim report on our conversation from the previous day.

When she finished, I said, “That’s all I meant, Jessie. There are no hidden meanings to my words.” After that, she was all right. Until the next time.

Poor Jessie. She was a wonderful friend in a hundred ways, to everyone except herself.

Life is too short to hang on to slights and offenses, whether real or imagined. Besides, if we could know the heart of the person who crossed the line of good judgment and offended us, we would pay it little mind. They meant nothing by it.

After my Dad died, I gathered up several cassette tape recordings I had made with him over the years and sent to a friend in Tomball, Texas, who had volunteered to transfer them to compact discs. Then, my secretary burned several copies of each one. I bought a nice little case for the CDs and gave my brothers and sisters a welcome surprise for Christmas. But each one came with a warning: “Let no one else listen to it.”

Some of the conversations on those tapes were what we might call “privileged information.” The cassette recorder had been laying on the dining room table or in the front seat of my car and had picked up all conversations within earshot, whether intended or not. A couple of times, we recorded family gossip pure and simple. It was harmless from our standpoint and the speaker meant nothing wrong or hurtful. It was the kind of idle talk which family members do in the privacy and security of their homes.

Except in this case, the tape was running. (And yes, I’m aware that there are now laws against this sort of thing. But there weren’t when I did it!)

Now, if the subject of those conversations were to hear what was said–even knowing it was spoken 15 years ago and the parties meant no harm–some relationships might be at risk.

However, if the offended person knew the love we have for him or her, it would override any offense being taken.

We hope. It should.

I’ve heard of bosses setting up recording devices to hear what the employees are saying about him. That’s probably illegal these days too, but we could save such misguided and insecure CEOs a lot of trouble by telling him two things: you don’t want to hear it and they don’t mean anything by it. So, let it go.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33) That being the case, don’t go manufacturing any troubles for yourself where none exist.

3 thoughts on “LEADERSHIP LESSON NO. 41–“Slough Off the Petty Stuff”

  1. Reminds me of a saying a friend of mine shared with me that I have tried to live by:

    “Don’t pet the sweaty stuff and don’t sweat the petty stuff.”

    And, unfortunately in my past I have been one to “eavesdrop” on what others were saying about me and yes I was hurt and disappointed a few times. I would have been better off not knowing.

    Thanks for the reminder Joe.

  2. Joe,

    You really DO need to put these observations together along with some of your best Leadership Sermons and have them edited and put in a book. Maybe an e-book on line but all together somewhere.

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