The other side of Judy’s question last week is how she and/or other group members could have reacted. That’s the hard part.

When we’re insulted or misunderstood, or when a person behaves badly, as Judy’s leader did, the problem is that we’re often caught off guard. We’re so shocked we don’t know how to react, so we don’t say anything. We let the comment pass while we sit in stunned silence. And then, when we get home and get some space on the situation, we rehearse a dozen things we should have said. But we didn’t. We simply sat there, mortified.

I think it’s too much to ask most of us to respond well, especially the first time the insult happens. If, on the other hand, this leader makes a practice of insulting someone every week, you can plan ahead for the next time it happens, whether to you or someone else.

You don’t want to stoop to her level, but there are some responses that might be acceptable. You might simply say, “That’s an interesting observation, Sharon. Perhaps you can explain why you believe it’s pride rather than envy.” Or, “I appreciate your observation, but I really do believe that my feeling was envy.” Since Sharon isn’t used to being countered, such a response will often be enough to quiet her.  She might think before she speaks next time.

Another way to deal with an insensitive leader is for someone else in the group to pick up on the insult and come to your rescue. This is a good role for the co-leader. Even though she may be more connected to the leader, hopefully she will recognize a dig when she hears one. It would be easy for her or any other member to respond, “Wait a minute, Sharon. I think Judy is saying something else. Judy, can you say more about what happened and how you felt?”

I encourage all members to develop enough ownership in their group to be alert for slights and hurts to other members. And that’s not just to keep the leader in check. It’s to keep everyone in check and to make sure that each member is truly heard and respected. That’s everyone’s responsibility, and even more so when the leader is a problem.

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1 Comment so far

  1. judy squier on March 21, 2007 3:35 pm

    I just read your response to my “strong leader problem” on your blog and feel like I had a counseling session.

    You are so Right On – and your responses were instructive and affirming – I could have used that help the next day and not lost a week as I struggled to process why my Bible study felt like a slap in the face.

    I am going to study your response so that I can be better equipped to hopefully be used by God to move alongside a great teacher – to affirm her strengths and strengthen her weaknesses. Please pray that I would have the right attitude and that God would build a bridge out of what is now a wall.

    Thanks for the tools to return to the study – which by the way I have skipped for the past two weeks. No longer does it feel like I’ve been minimized as a human being, I feel energized. With your wise counsel, I see an opportunity for both the zealous teacher and myself to grow. Please pray that what is now a cold silence will become honest, healing dialogue.

    Bless you, Pat –

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