Servant-leaders need the attribute of healing. God gave us a body that amazingly heals itself, given time and proper treatment. Hearts and souls may not heal so amazingly apart from tender mercies, kindness, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another. The lesson is that humans suffer hurts both from self-infliction by deliberate sin and from other-infliction by those who brutally use us for their own purposes. Lest we forget, we can also inflict others in the same way.
Leaders have the responsibility to remember that their words can slice and dice, and their actions can wound the best of followers. Because humans are fallible, these kinds of wounds will happen. Whatever the leader does after the confrontation or a misspoken, hurtful word illustrates the caliber of character the leader possesses. When the leader notices a wounded fellow-worker and does something to alleviate or soothe the hurt that is a mark of a great leader, or more specifically the character of a great leader.
The empathy attribute, another characteristic of the servant-leader, helps the leader recognize emotional hurts, and the healing attribute helps the servant-leader make whole that which is broken. The hurt may not have been inflicted by the leader at all. But the key is that recognizing the hurt, understanding the ramifications of the hurt, and taking the time to minister can make all the difference to the one hurting. Sometimes we can get so caught up in achieving our goals, we unconsciously put blinders on in order to focus on the project at hand.
When I was selling advertising, I had a client who was one of the most verbally abusive men I had ever run across. He was complaining, unreasonable, and foul-mouthed. His advertising in the phone book was up for renewal so I had to service his account. When I finally finished with him, I hung up the phone almost in tears. I had done nothing to deserve that verbal attack. I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder, and turned to see my manager standing behind me. She motioned for me to come with her.
Behind the closed door of her office, she comforted me by affirming that I had treated the man with the utmost respect, and that I truly had done nothing to deserve the attack. Her active leadership was effective and healing for me. Soon I was back in my office handling other clients’ advertising. That affirmation and those encouraging words were all I needed to rebalance and brush off the client’s rudeness, like flicking dust from my shoe.
There are many examples of Jesus healing in the physical sense, but one example stands out that illustrates both empathy and healing. Jesus and His disciples went to the city of Nain where they came upon a funeral procession. Jesus saw the plight of a lonely widow whose only son had died. He stopped and commanded, “Young man, I say to you arise!” The dead man sat up and Jesus gave him to his mother (Luke 7:11-17).
How sweet for that mother!
Jesus noticed her plight, even with all the other concerns pressing in on Him. Jesus expressed His compassion for the mother through this miracle; though He raised the son, the mother was His focus.
When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” (Luke 11:13)
Grief is a common experience in this fallen world. In Jesus’ day it was customary for sons and daughters to provide for their elderly parents. This woman was a widow so she had no husband to care for her. Her son was dead. What would happen to her? How would she provide for herself?
Imagine that moment when Jesus watched the mother’s face light up with joy as her beloved son was restored to her!
There are other wounds that people suffer besides grief, especially in the workplace: Rejection, fear of losing one’s job, dealing with difficult co-workers, dealing with a difficult manager, even bullying in the workplace. The list can be quite long. The servant-leader should be watchful for all followers, not only those within the inner circle, just as Jesus cared about the children (Matt. 19:14), widows (Luke 7:12), and the outcasts (John 4:9), for He desires mercy (Matt. 9:13).
There is a natural inclination that humans have – to seek balance and wholeness in this fallen world, which comes from being created in God’s image. The shared understanding between the servant-leader and the one being served and led is foundational to healthy leadership, and healthy leadership promotes healthy relationships.