I’ve come to love the Proverbs 31 woman. I realise now she is the sum total of everything we could be, rather than everything we should be. Solomon’s mum wrote to advise him about the kind of wife he needed to look for and we have misunderstood that in epic proportions. Far from being a real person, she is our permission to be anything we are called and gifted to be. There is so much to say about her entrepreneurial skills, her wisdom, her courage, but for this article, I’m focusing on how she dresses.

Proverbs 31:25   … she is clothed in strength and dignity…

Wow! I bet that looks good on her. Any woman, regardless of her wardrobe, who walks in strength, carrying her own dignity and giving others theirs, is really worth admiring. However, it’s not always easy to acquire that kind of clothing. Too easily, and when we least expect it, insecurity attacks our strength and our dignity, and that too, shows very clearly.

We all have degrees of insecurity and for the most part, we will have them till the day we die. But having those areas, and hanging them out to dry for everyone to see, are vastly different things. No matter how gifted or talented you are, no matter how powerful your title, it is remarkably easy to allow your insecurities to run rampant, not realising the degree to which that then contributes to your own devaluing in other peoples’ eyes, maybe even to the degree of ruining the relationships you really hoped would succeed.

There are times in all our lives, regardless of the status we have achieved in our profession or relationships, when we feel overlooked, ignored, underappreciated, used, invalidated, and threatened. People who have learned to control their emotions are able to sail their ship safe to harbour through these times, maintaining their dignity and strength with calm and peaceful actions, even if it means going back to their room later and having a good cry, (me) or calling up a girlfriend to pour it all out (also me). They respect themselves too much to trade their strength and dignity for the luxury of letting their emotions loose in a public orgy of self-pity, rejection and immature reactivity.

We all have seasons when old feelings of rejection come flooding back to the surface of our lives. We thought we’d dealt with them, but really, they are only ever submerged, waiting for an opportune time to  try again to derail our relationships and reputations. What’s a girl to do then?

It’s at these times that your choices to clothe yourself in dignity and strength must come to the fore. It’s vital for your wellbeing, your career and your relationships that you don’t default to age old patterns such as:

  • Domineering the conversation to demonstrate your wit and wisdom in an attempt to show your importance. This default doesn’t understand that generally it’s showing the reverse, that you are threatened and insecure.
  • Slamming the door on your way out of the room.
  • Refusing to take part in the discussion or conversations and when asked what’s wrong say: Nothing!
  • Passive aggressive comments such as:

           Oh well, of course they’d choose her.  I offered, but obviously I wasn’t good enough.

           No, I didn’t know about the lunch, apparently it’s just for the important people.

This perspective may or may not be true, but either way, putting it out there for everyone to see is much the same as wearing a gorgeous outfit without realising your old flannel petticoat is showing from underneath.

  • Talking to everyone about how you’ve been slighted. I don’t mean talking to friends, because we all need friends to pour our hearts out to, but if you find yourself telling the same thing over and over to anyone who stands still long enough, it’s vital for your own self-respect, as well as their respect for you, to pull yourself up. Make the adult choice to share your hurt with just a few, starting with the Lord.
  • Leaving without saying good bye. No matter how you explain that later, it’s always suspicious.

Let me repeat: we all have times of insecurity, but a great attribute of leadership is to be able to ride out that negative flooding in our brain and heart without acting on it. It’s entirely possible that the way you’re perceiving the situation is just a perfect storm of circumstances that have conspired to make you feel that way. However, it could be true, and if that’s the case, it may be time to look for another people group to belong to rather than torture yourself with ongoing feelings of not being valued. Whether it’s true or not, the default we need to practice and master should be the putting on of strength and dignity and walking it out in your big girl panties.

The other point of view is that it might just be the way things appear at the time; incidents conspiring to convince you that you are not valuable. Someone else’s victory doesn’t mean your defeat. It’s vital that we learn to celebrate each other’s good news, as well as support them in their defeats. This is maturity. If you are only able to commiserate but not able to celebrate with them, your petticoat is showing.

Regardless of whether the rejection is true or not, it’s vital that a leader makes the choice at these times to summon all her courage and go to that event, that party, that meeting, and act exactly the same as you would if you didn’t feel the way you feel. That means, whatever else you decide to wear, put on your strength and dignity. Acting out of rejection is obvious to any discerning onlooker and shows a degree of immaturity which you would probably prefer not be seen, especially later when you’ve cooled down.

As a person who has led many, many teams, I can tell you that seeing a gifted person whom I was considering for inclusion, an appointment to a team, a promotion or an opportunity,  acting out of threat and insecurity is a huge warning sign to me that going ahead with my plans is dangerous. They could drop the ball any time they start to feel rejected.

Moodiness, self-pity, hitting out in a reactive manner and snide remarks are all a dead give-away that, despite their great capacity and giftedness, this may be someone who will take up far too much time in having to be reassured and cajoled into behaving with dignity for the sake of the team and the project. I prefer working with a less gifted but more mature person.

Everyone has instances of feeling insecure. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether we can handle it with strength and dignity … or not. If you struggle to control your insecurities, seek out someone you can trust to work it through with.  Make sure it is someone who not only has the maturity to help you navigate the rejection you feel, but who has dealt successfully with those issues themselves.

In the end, it may be time to move on from that place to somewhere your contributions will be celebrated, but rather than doing it in a fit of pique, you’ll be able to do it in a mature manner. The decision to move on needs to be made from a place of hearing God, not out of anger, humiliation and the stories you’ve told yourself in your head.

Teach yourself to operate in strength and dignity  – you’ll find it will take you much further than making everyone else pay for your insecurities.

(This article was first published in Liberti Magazine UK)

Bev has been a senior church leader for more than three decades both in Australia and UK. Speaking internationally at churches and conferences, she is passionate about the need for strong, loving and effective Christian leaders to influence their worlds. Her insights into Church life and leadership have fitted her well to help churches and organisations transition well from one season to the next.

She has a Masters degree in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary USA, writes for various magazines and is the author of two books – Speak Life and Shut the Hell Up, and Catalysts:You Can Be God’s Agent For Change.She has mentored scores of leaders. If you’re interested in engaging her to help develop your leadership gifting to the next level, you can contact her at bevmurrill@icloud.com

Bev is the founder of Christian Growth International, Liberti Magazine UK, Cherish Uganda,  Kyria Network for women leaders UK and Australia, and Scarlet Women. She has transitioned these organisations to new leaders with great effect and is often consulted regarding the principles of a good leadership transition.

If you are interested in having Bev speak at your conference, church or leadership team, you can contact her on bevmurrill@icloud.com or via this website.

 

PHOTO ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Brian Blythe – Almondine

Scott Hart – In Security