There are some problems for which the solution is a win-win for everyone. However, they are rare. The most significant solutions are win-lose. Someone is going to lose in the short run. That’s the problem of life. You’re going to lose more often than you win. How one handles those losses make the difference in living a meaningful life versus one of emptiness and disappointment. Servant leadership (including leading yourself) is not the act of making everyone happy because that’s not possible. Rather, it’s showing up day-in, day-out to help others (who want to) get to a place where they are happy to be. No one can get there alone. We need an advocate. We need a helper.
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.– John 16:7, 13-15
The Holy Spirit was sent to be our Advocate. He is our Helper. He’s available to everyone, however, not everyone will seek His counsel. For some, we will open our minds and hearts to Him. For others, they will need intermediaries, their “neighbors,” to who they will listen. Jesus modeled what it was to be a neighbor because He had the Spirit of truth in Him. We have access to the same Spirit of truth and can exhibit the same behavior. When we do, we’re operating in the Neighbor-Zone. There are five actions to serve others in the Neighbor-Zone:
- Show up.
- Don’t just tell people you love them. Show them. Don’t just talk the talk. Walk it. Humble yourself and meet them where they are, no matter how low that is.
- Make time for relationships.
- Never be too busy to stop and care. Serve your family, colleagues at work, and neighbors in your community with intentionality.
- Comfort the brokenhearted.
- Meet people in their uncertainty and fear. Don’t get frustrated by it. Consol those who are grieving. Ease doubts. Speak words of peace, love, and life.
- Redeem mistakes.
- If anyone is without sin, then let them throw the first stone. The fact is, no one can make that claim. No one is perfect. No one’s value or identity should be bound to their past mistakes. Move on. Forgive. God reconciled us to himself through Jesus and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
- Instruct and empower.
- “Go and do likewise.” That was the command Jesus gave to get in the Neighbor-Zone. It was the response to the question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” He was referencing how the Good Samaritan treated the beaten man found on the side of the road … with compassion, mercy, and grace.
By taking these action steps, you will enter the Neighbor-Zone, a way of life that reveals the secret thread that forges friendship despite enormous differences in class, temperament, culture, race, sensibility, and personal history. A friendship that is about something. An underlying commonality that builds the most powerful, cohesive team. When you get in the Neighbor-Zone, you genuinely humanize others and are able to serve them as Jesus served when he walked the earth.