So, we are up to statement number 3; the halfway mark.
Today’s myth is going to be a bit sticky. Let’s talk about this: “A leader never gives up”. Woah Mel! I can hear you groaning through the network. I know what you are thinking, “that can’t be so”. Of course, leaders don’t give up. And if you are going through life giving up on everything, get out of here! Do not read this – please go and finish something now!
Certainly when it comes to fruit, the tenacity of a leader is a big part of the equation. And it’s more likely that we have a problem in society with people giving up too easily. But I’ve also seen the other extreme, where leaders refuse to move on, which is equally a significant problem.
The problem with statements like ‘NEVER GIVE UP’, is that there is no adequate excuse given for hanging up the towel. But we know in life that there are many circumstances that warrant suspension. Because saying ‘yes’ to one thing, inevitably means a ‘no’ to others. For instance, what if James and Sally who were married for 15 years were separating. The most significant contributing factor to their separation is their jobs, which are entirely demanding of their time and attention to the point where they aren’t able to invest in the relationship. Most people would say that if they want the marriage to work, they may have to reconsider their work situations. Would we judge any of them for ‘giving up’ on their job?
What about Russell. All 3 of Russel’s kids have severe depression. Russell travels monthly overseas and his wife passed away recently. He’s had to travel at critical times when the kids were still grieving. Would we tell him to change jobs? Probably. Meanwhile Russel’s telling himself that He shouldn’t give up.
What about Janet who has been slogging at a terrible strategy for the last 10 years. She’s literally losing all her money and the market doesn’t seem to want what she is selling. We know it’s a terrible idea. All of us, are cheering in silence “give up Janet”. But Janet just can’t do it, because what sort of leader would she be?
When I am personally faced with challenges, that mantra “never gives up, never gives up, never gives up” dances around my brain like a pretty carousel. “Mel – if you hold on just a bit longer, your breakthrough is on the other side.” That’s what we tell ourselves. But what if it’s not? Ahhh!!! Now that’s a scary thought. Because we know all too well the reality – sometimes people don’t get their breakthrough. Sometimes people do pass on from cancer. Sometimes people get kicked out of jobs. Sometimes marriages fall apart.
Ok, ok. Let’s bring it back to a more positive place lest we get too uncomfortable.
I’ll admit saying things like “A leader never gives up”, is inspiring. It connects with this driven ambitious part of me that wants nothing more than to see total success in every matter I put my hand to. I don’t want to be beaten, and ‘giving up’ would be admitting defeat in the war against failure.
But we aren’t necessarily called to be ‘successful’ in everything we do. We are called to be faithful. Sometimes faithfulness is taking on the new path that God has put before you, not staying on the path that’s obviously come to an end.
The fact is life and leadership is not as simple as this oversimplified mantra. Ecclesiastes tells us that:
“there is a time to search and a time to give up”(3:6)
“a time to tear down and time to build”(verse 3)
“a time to plant and a time to uproot” (verse 2)
As with most things in leadership, the greater truth is that wisdom and discernment is needed more than absolute statements.
You know someone who gave up? Jesus. What?!! That sounds terribly incorrect right. But he did! He gave up the comfort and pleasure of heaven to come to earth. A place of perfect love and companionship. He didn’t have to come to earth, he chose to. He could have waited for another more palatable plan to present itself. But He didn’t. On the flip side, He didn’t give up when it came to the cross. He endured every pre-cross moment to be on the cross, and complete His major goal: sacrifice for all. There is a time for everything. And discernment and wisdom is needed to know when it’s time to give up and when it’s time to hold on. See, sometimes giving up isn’t failure, sometimes it’s surrender. Sometimes it’s giving something up TO GOD, rather than just quitting. And one thing I am confident of: SURRENDER always precedes breakthrough.