Successful Leaders Consistently Add and Delete

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Maturity in life comes through a series of adding and deleting.  The words and phrases I use are basically a collection of words that I have heard over the years and decided to begin using them (or at times just started without realizing it). They became part of who I was.  I have had many friendships that have come to an end because I moved or schedules changed. I have enjoyed many things only to eventually find them in a closet destined for Goodwill.

Yes, life is full of additions and subtractions and it makes us who we are. Your life, in many ways, could be summed up with these two words:  Add and Delete.

There may be some things in your life that you need to hit the delete button on.  Easy to say and hard to do.  We can all pick a habit or a situation that we just want to get rid of.  The reality is, in many ways you can do it!  If your situation can’t be deleted, such as an issue with a family member’s personality or a rough patch in the workplace, then here’s what you can delete – your bad attitude.  You are in control of how you think and respond to issues around you.  Here’s another option – add in something, a dose of grace, mercy or forgiveness for this person or situation.

We all know too well how these two words – Add and Delete – apply to our life schedules.  In fact, the biggest problem is when we don’t delete and only add.  I don’t know why it’s so difficult to purge our schedules, but it is.  We wait until we feel the full effects of being desperately over extended, then we quit it all.  The motivation to delete comes from an overwhelming burden with pain far worse than letting someone down and we just stop, mid commitment.  I’ve experience this before and I’m sure you have too. But I think there is a better way.  If you feel led to add something in, you also delete something.  In fact, I would say a healthy, more vibrant life does most deleting than adding.

What if you were typing and you messed up a word.  Then instead of hitting the delete button – one of my favorite keys on the keypad – you just retyped the word correctly?  No one would be able to follow you.  Your communication would become ridiculous.  That’s the way our schedules become, lots of addition, no corrections.

Here’s the worst scenario:  you’re involved in a host of things that don’t have really any impact on your life. Your schedule has become so full, you can’t even find time to do the things that are on the top of your priority list. The important things that matter to you, able to move you forward and help you to be obedient to God’s call on your life or make a bigger difference in the world are forever placed on the back burner with little hope for attention.

Take heart, even the strongest and largest organizations in the world deal with this.  A friend of mine just told me about a website that keeps track of all the secret menu items at fast food restaurants.  They’ve added new, but haven’t taken away.  It’s off the menu, but it’s still on the cash register, employees still need to know how to make it, it’s still there.  The old Subway sandwich cut, the pizza sub, a grilled cheese at McD’s, the poor man’s Big Mac – fascinating.

Other organizations do this too – especially the church.  We cling to what we know and continue to add and build on the schedule until we have completely maxed out the time, availability and energy of the those are connected.  We have added but haven’t deleted.  Churches are called to grow, but there is a difference, as Thom Rainer points out in his book, Simple Church, between adding and expanding.  Not to confuse this post, but if you expand a program or ministry, that’s growth with a vision. Adding tends to congest the situation.  (Pick Up a copy of Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples).

All this to say – strength comes in deleting.  You must become good at saying No.  What does this mean?  It means, putting on the brakes, stopping, deciding you can’t, and verbalizing the word “no”, in a variety of nice and pleasant ways.

Scriptures are full of calls to add and delete.  Here’s an example from Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (4:21ff):

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”  Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.  If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own,guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

So what do you need to delete?  With the freed up space in your life, here are some good things to invite God’s spirit to fill your life with: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

How does that feel?  You dropped what sucks life and have added something that gives life.  As a leader, you must, must, must create room for the important things.  You are the only one who can make that happen in your life.

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