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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Grandma Leadership 2.0-I'll jerk a knot in you


He's not the most popular guy on the block right now but he was funny in his day and taught some excellent life lessons. The accusations against him are sounding pretty ominous and are tragic if true. Still, at a given time he could make life humorous and there's some value in that. Bill Cosby used to say he learned his basic theology from his mother. She would say, "God help you when your Father get's home".

Well, yes, our actions do have consequences. There's always a price to pay when we step beyond the boundaries society has estabished to maintain some order to things. Mama Holmes, our grandmother, used to say it like this. She'd say, , "You better straighten up or I'll jerk a knot in you." It was usually enough to stop us in our tracks and at least move our shenanigans out of her view. Except, we think she had eyes in the back of her head.

She was teaching us about rules and the corporate good. OK, that sounds archaic in our go for broke world but, there it is, the expectation that we'd conduct ourselves within the boundaries of accepted behavior. That is, behavior by her standards and not our own. And, it was the mind and heart of a leader that tried to impress such truth on a group of grandchildren. Mama and Papa Holmes ran a mom and pop grocery store in Walhalla, South Carolina, right there on North Main Street. No, it wasn't Wall Street and certainly didn't involve high finance. The executive wash room was an out-house behind the store and the posh surroundings included a wood stove and a bucket of coal and pile of firewood. But, they had to keep inventory, order stock, sell various licenses, pay taxes, maintain a business certification, and all manner of mandated rules and regulations. There were standards of cleanliness, reports to be filed, and the constant need to exhibit decency to the regular customers who stopped in so often.

Sure, it was a different time. Back then, we were taught to color inside the lines and operate within whatever boxes government and culture established around us. Innovation and creativity weren't discouraged but they also weren't the currency of the times. Then, there was a measure of respect for our elders, people in authority, law enforcement, and other leaders charged with keeping life safe and orderly, all old-fashioned values. You said "yes sir" or "yes ma'am" those people and when Mama said she was going to jerk a knot in you everything stopped. It was her way of reminding us about the rules.

There's a TV commercial that drives me up a tree. I think it's an automobile ad and it poses an important question for contemporary consumers and an answer that is so true to our times. "Are you tired of the rules?", the voice-over asks. Then there's the reply, "Make your own". If there were children in our home I'd have the thing blocked because I can't imagine a world without some guidelines or perimeters to restrict the unbridled dark nature of man. But, there it is, a picture of the world questioning the need for limits around human behavior. So, suddenluy parents can't discipline their children in public and law enforcement officers are targeted by the criminal elements of our society. Chaos.

Leaders communicate expectations to the people they lead. There are goals and objectives and some guidelines about reaching them. Effective leaders mark the territory of what is accepted and what is not. The process of leading also involves communicating the consequences of not reaching the expected standards of the mission, and what happens when anyone violates them. At that early age, when we were self-absorbed and so taken with ourselves that we pushed the envelop most of the time, our grandmother's leadership lesson taught us to respect her and the rules of her house. It was a valuable component of leadership that shaped all of us to some degree. Depending on our age, we'd straighten up just because we didn't want to deal with the down-side of discipline. Most of us were motivated by the reward-punishment deal because we knew what getting a knot jerked in us would mean.

Want to create a church fight? Then, just start a discussion about church discipline. There will be snarling and gnashing of teeth. But, you can't read Scripture without encountering the many "one another" passages that define behaviors within the Body of Christ. There are concepts like rebuking one another, speaking the truth in love, bearing one another's burdens, confessing to one another, admonishment, confrontation, instructing, training, teaching, and a long list of expectations to insure the character of Christ in the relationships. And this, even in a world that is governed by grace. In the church world, leaders are expected to implemeent and insure that biblical standards guide his church, a place reserved for regenerate humans who can touch the world because Christ has touched them.

It's an area of dysfunction in society and the church because we've neglected to honor this very basic truth that Mama Holmes sought to teach us early. Great leaders communicte it, expect it, enforce it, and influence the world around them because they know the mission turns on it.

I'll jerk a knot in you, indeed!

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