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The Price of Low Differentiation

Posted on June 17th, 2015

Differentiation is hard.

Not differentiating is even harder.

Differentiation involves remaining connected to people and yet not having your reaction or behavior determined by them. Our primary task, like Jesus, is to calmly differentiate our “true self” from the demands and voices around us, discerning the vision, pace, and mission the Father has uniquely given us. Jesus, of course, models for us a 100% differentiated person.

Engaging this challenging, interior work with God is great. The price for not doing so is even greater. The following are my top ten costs:

  1. Our church, ministry, or organization slowly declines. Our resistance to make unpopular decisions with ineffective people and programs limits our ability to do the mission God has called us to.
  2. We damage the community. A lack of clarity around expectations and roles permeates the community. Disappointments and frustrations are not talked about honestly and respectfully.
  3. The wrong people exercise power and leadership. In lowly-differentiated organizations, unhealthy people rise to positions of authority. And those with the power avoid the “difficult conversations” that might result in conflict with these individuals.
  4. We perpetuate immaturity. When we differentiate, we force people around us to face themselves. Geri’s differentiation forced me to face my immaturity and begin to grow up 19 years ago. While it wasn’t pleasant, she gave me a great gift (and New Life). She also birthed Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.
  5. We grow resentful. We say yes when we want to say no. We do for others what they can and should do for themselves (i.e. overfunction).
  6. We live in dis-ease. When we don’t courageously live the unique life God has given us, and try to be someone we are not, His joy eludes us.
  7. The integrity of our ministry diminishes. We don’t address “elephants in the room.” The gap between the outer and inner life of our ministry widens.
  8. We waste God’s resources of people’s time, energy, and money. Our lack of courage inevitably results in bad stewardship.
  9. Anxiety rubs off. Anxiety in systems rubs off on people and is transmitted and absorbed without thinking –whether in a family, team, church, or organization. Leaders who are a non-anxious presence become circuit breakers, lowering the voltage of the environment.
  10. Playfulness decreases. One of the best measures of an anxious environment is a diminishment of play and laughter.

What might you add to this list?

For a few pointers on how to dismantle the false self and allow our true self in Christ to emerge, see chapter four in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

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