Stewarding Your Interpersonal Relationships By Andrea Leigh Capuyan
A Call to Steward Well Your Interpersonal Relationships
For me, interpersonal relationships are both rewarding and challenging, especially as a steward leader. Creating strong collaborations. Fostering trust and unity. Becoming open and inviting and curious. All of this encompasses what I understand good leadership to be.
These are essentials. Moving beyond good leadership lies healthy leadership. This is where steward leadership moves me. One key distinctive of a steward mindset is the challenge to examine my leadership approach through the lens of an ‘ownership’ mentality. Through this examination often what is revealed are desires and behaviors which are at odds with truly loving and leading others well. And this becomes a pathway for on-going personal change and growth.
When I am willing to release ‘ownership’ behaviors, then I make room for humility. Humility is always the posture of a steward leader’s heart. Humility is about my relationship to others – those above me, those beside me, and those entrusted to my care.
When I think of stewardship, I imagine myself standing with open hands. Ready to receive gifts and not clutching anything that I hold. So often I think of these gifts as objects or resources, yet this picture of open hands guides me in stewarding my most cherished gifts, my relationship with other people.
My open hands acknowledge that I can’t manipulate or manufacture my interpersonal relationships. These people are placed in my hands by God. They are not MINE – not MY co-worker, not MY spouse, not even MY children. These people belong to God and are simply shared with me.
With my palms wide-open and flat, I am reminded that I can provide stability for others without being suffocating. I can be a safe, solid, sure place of rest. I can provide the platform from which someone else can take flight. I become a person of support. This image is only part of my role in relationships. Healthy leaders must also place themselves in the hands of others for rest and support. This is not just placing myself in the hands of God for His care. Experiencing this in my human relationships is how He intends it to be.
This is how we all flourish and thrive. I believe when He invites us to be fruitful this is how we do it – giving and receiving from one another with open hands.
Take a moment and hear Jesus’ words,
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
This prayer begins with God’s desires and God’s goals. Living a life of humility and service to others is laudable. Without being rooted in God one’s leadership is lacking. Servant leadership fails others if we are not first aligned to our true Master. And this is how Jesus begins his prayer.
He calibrates himself and his ‘sphere of influence’ to God. I’ve heard this alignment process described as “setting myself in orbit around God”. I like that description. He is my “sun”. The “sun” is how I orient and navigate life on this planet. I remain a steward of the earth while anchored to the gravitational pull of heaven. As a steward leader if I am not aligned with God, then how I relate with others will be off-kilter.
Far too often it is tempting for me to think of my role as a leader as the one who needs nothing, the one who always provides, and the one who remains strong. The one who bears burdens instead of the one who shares burdens. Asking for help is hard. Being willing to acknowledge and name my needs and longings leads me to dependency on God and others.
Jesus’ words, “Give us each day, our daily bread,” reminds me that I need provision and sustenance ALL the time. And God provides our daily nourishment through others. This is the pathway to intimacy. Intimacy – the invitation of ‘into – me – see’. See what I need to sustain me. See what brings me life. The experience of intimacy with God also motivates me to invite others to SEE me too – the good, the bad, the ugly. In doing so, I share with others my needs.
My relationships are compromised if I do not value the dignity of other people and honor boundaries. If I care for the needs of others and entrust my needs into other people’s care, then understanding appropriate boundaries allows me to appropriately steward this dynamic. In every situation and every relationship, I must understand and acknowledge what is my responsibility, what is God’s responsibility, and what is another person’s responsibility.
There is a distinction between those activities and decisions I am accountable to do and those things I cannot do. Whether I am talking about project management or delegating duties, or I am talking about character development, morality decisions, or discipleship – we all have separate responsibilities and boundaries.
As a leader, if I over-reach and assume responsibility for another person, I am robbing them. Relationships can become twisted and enmeshed. Violating boundaries and ‘trespassing’ on another person isn’t just about co-dependency, it causes harm. Jesus says it plainly in this prayer in Luke, it is sin. For leaders, it can become idolatry. Loving others well requires a different choice. Love is the inter-dependency and balance of needs and responsibilities between people. This kind of loving exchange creates healthy, thriving relationships.
Jesus’ words remind me that none of this is easy. It is the life-long process of being shaped and molded in Christ’s image and likeness. Evil wishes to undermine this journey. Evil deceives with illusions of control. Evil wishes to distract. The temptation is to be self-sufficient, avoidant, independent. Deprivation. I deprive – I starve myself and squeeze the life out of others. The end of Jesus’ prayer shows me that the power behind my soul’s transformation as well as the power which fuels steward leadership begins and ends in the hands of God. Confessing my trust in His power becomes my daily confession of faith.
- When you think about stewarding your relationships today, what do they look like – healthy and thriving or controlling and deprived? Maybe a little of both. What do you want to change about yourself in your relationships?
- As a leader, how are you inviting others to help you? Are you sharing your burdens, longings and needs with other people in your life?
- What are your responsibilities? Where are assuming the responsibilities of others? When do you take on ‘too much’ in your relationships?
- Think about your alignment, your needs, your responsibilities, and your confession. What changes might you need to make today? What would the other folks in your life want for you today?
In this time of distancing ourselves from one other, these thoughts about alignment, needs, responsibilities, and confession remind me that God intends me to move toward others – we are not created for isolation. This is a hard season to balance – care and control – protection and neglect. This simple prayer from Jesus, shows me the intersection of healthy leadership and fruitful relationships – a way forward.
For myself and for you, I pray that we are affirmed in our orbit around God today, and His anchor is strengthened in us as we stand with open hands ready to love others.
Andrea Leigh Capuyan, CCNL, CNAP, is the Executive Director of the Laurel Pregnancy Center in Laurel, Maryland. She is cares about leadership development and organizational culture within the small nonprofit ministry setting. She is passionate about encouraging fellow women in their roles as leaders. Defining our identity as a steward of God informs her perspective on everything – faith, leadership and spiritual transformation.
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