When I was in college I was blessed to study under, and be mentored by, some of the Godliest and wise men and women I have ever had the privilege of knowing. There were two, in particular, who had an incredible amount of influence upon me: David Olshine and Hule Goddard. I've written a little about Dr.Olshine before. He's like a second dad to me and I'm not sure if there's another man on Earth who I respect, admire, and owe as much to as him. But today I want to discuss something that Hule once told me.
Hule said that, in ministry and in life, we need to be careful not to overstep our relational bounds with people.
Perhaps this requires further explanation...
In every relationship that we have, we have earned a certain amount of currency. (I happen to think that the currency of relationships is trust.) The amount of currency earned places each relationship at a certain level. Our behavior towards a person should be appropriate given the relational level that we find ourselves on. For example, if you just met someone, you might not hold their hand as you walk down the street. Relationally, you're not there. That's a behavior reserved for couples or parents and children, not recent acquaintances. That's not to say that you can't move forward into a different relational level. You just have to put in the work to earn more relational currency.
Recently someone who I greatly admire and respect, but have almost no relationship with, thought it appropriate to call me out on how I chose to handle a certain situation. Not only did they feel it their place to tell me that I was wrong, but they wanted to be the one to advise me on how to make it right.
This put me an interesting position. I immediately went on the defensive and didn't want to listen to anything that this person had to say. The problem was that this person was not wrong, but I felt they had no right to speak into my life. Call it wrong timing or wrong messenger, but the message was received poorly.
I eventually came around and decided that the wisdom that this person had was important for me to hear and humbled myself and received it. But I've struggled with this person's methods for some time.
How much authority do we have in someone's life when we know that they have made a mistake but we have no relational currency to "cash in" and let them know? If we know that someone has chosen wrong and we have wisdom to share, does that give us the right to force it upon them? I have no idea. In the end, I am incredibly thankful that this person has spoken truth into my life. I just wonder if it would have gone down a little smoother if they would have taken the time to earn my trust...