I never asked for this.
No, I am not writing a teen novel, nor am I about to tell you of something tragic, however some may see it: I am a born leader.
Now, I did not spring forth an infant with perfect vocabulary, and my people skills may always be a little rough around the edges. However, I have displayed from an early age the sort of passion, independence, and type A attitude that set me apart — not always in a good way. Some leaders are much more subtle as children, but I was not one of them.
Being a young leader, especially as a girl in church, definitely came with its downsides. I watched my mother overlooked, while credit for more than one of her ideas was given to my father instead. My aspirations to lead and teach were treated as adorable and naive, but were then thrust back into the place of “maybe if you were a boy.” I am very fortunate to have parents that worked with me to develop these skills for what they were, instead of punishing me for them as some of my friends’ parents did. Why these things are viewed as so horrible, I may never understand, but they are.
These traits of curiosity, passion, long term plans, and confidence did not make childhood particularly easy. I was an oddity at best around other kids, because saving up for my car and education someday just wasn’t as cool as buying the three pound bag of gummy worms. No one wanted to hear about the Walk for Life that I was involved in, they wanted to trade Pokemon cards. When I made my plans to work hard and help kids and achieve as much as possible with whatever time I had, I was often pushed out of the way, because who wants to hear a strong willed tomboy blab on about music and finances when that little girl who just walked in is wearing such a cute dress!
Growing up a leader does not make things easy. It makes them hard. But what we learn from these experiences is part of why we go on to become the heads of our generation.
If I had never been pushed aside, I would not value others’ opinions, and without that quality any leader is destined to fail. If I were not made fun of and considered an outcast, I would not understand the power it takes to stand alone. If I were never called names and told about everything “wrong” with me, I would not have developed the thick skin required to tolerate any form of exposure in this modern and merciless world. I may have been born a leader, but growing up one solidified it.
It seems to me that there is rarely a leader to emerge that did not have similar experiences to mine. Being set apart as weird or strange, called names, even ignored, or if they are female like me, exposed to subtle if not obvious sexism. But why is this an acceptable norm?
For future generations of leaders, I envision a better way. Rather than pushing these kids to the side because they are difficult or weird, let’s pull them in closer and encourage them to speak. Instead of telling loud, powerful little girls that they are unladylike for being so, let’s encourage their ambitions and show them that they are not any less capable or important than the boys displaying those qualities. Instead of shoving the beginning of Matthew 6 down their throats (Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father…), how about we start showing them Matthew 5:16 (...let your light shine before others…) and 1 Timothy 3:1 (...whoever desires to be an overseer desires a noble task…). Instead of shoving them under whatever powers may be at that moment and expecting them to submit, let’s finally be the generation to put these old habits behind us and start actually raising an entire generation of leaders, instead of trying to squash them.
Whether it is in the church or not, we will find places and people who will respect us as leaders in our own right. Unless it wants to die out, it is time for the church to make room at the leadership table.