Currently listening to Seth Godin’s ‘Tribes‘ on Audible and this quote hit me:
Dr. Laurence Peter is famous for proposing that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” In other words, when you do a great job, you get promoted. And that process repeats itself until finally you end up in a job you can’t handle.
I’d like to paraphrase the Peter Principle. I think what actually happens is that “in every organization everyone rises to the level at which they become paralyzed with fear.”
The essence of leadership is being aware of your fear (and seeing it in the people you wish to lead). No, it won’t go away, but awareness is the key to making progress.
He goes and says fear of failure is overrated! “What people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame. Criticism. … Fear of criticism is a powerful deterrent because the criticism doesn’t actually have to occur for the fear to set in.” After hearing or seeing others be criticised you hesitate and play it safe and escape the death that comes with criticism for coming up with something somebody didn’t like.
While Godin is talking leadership, I think there’s great insight to why Christians don’t seek to proselytize and do more evangelism. Oh sure, you may not be as successful as Billy Graham. But that’s not the real de-motivator. Will you be criticised for believing and saying something that somebody thinks is stupid / dumb / (fill in your own adjective here)?
Godin calls those who get past the fear of criticism, “heretics“. He defines them as “engaged, passionate, and more powerful and happier than anyone else.” They reach out to others and put their ideas on the line – they pin their 95 theses to the Church door.
Godin’s heretic has weighed up the cost of criticism versus the benefit to themselves and others of the idea they want to promote and decided that the criticism is worth it.
This seems to be what happens in the Gospels as the disciples listen to and watch Jesus. When Jesus explains that following him will invite ridicule, criticism and persecution they have to count the cost. In the Book of Acts the early Church figures this out and they decide the cost is worth it. In the eyes of first century Judaism and Rome they become heretics. Stephen is stoned to death, James is beheaded, Peter is imprisoned, and Polycarp (AD 130) is burnt at the stake. For 2000 years the blood of these martyred “heretics” has fueled the Church.
Will you count the cost of being a heretic to get past your fear of being criticised for sharing the gospel?