Credibility. n. the quality or power of inspiring belief.
In Fredericksburg, my friend group had some strains. People who had broken up with people; people who didn’t like other people. People like me, who spoke first, then thought second (or sometimes fifth or sixth). People who would go a little too crazy from time to time. And so on… My group of really close friends was pretty big, though. The number of people I could be really real with was, I’ve come to find out, greater than average. The advantage of this situation is that little time was wasted on small talk. We would dig our nails into some heady conversations with just a few swift words. Yes, we didn’t only have philosophical discussions. We also had lengthy comical tales and frequent recounting of “old times.”
Becky and I both agree that the ease with which we could get into serious discussions in Fredericksburg is something we miss. We don’t miss how they would sometimes turn into ridiculous arguments, but that was infrequent enough that it doesn’t really factor into our nostalgia. We miss the level of intimacy with our friends where we knew them and we knew that they knew us.
On Wednesday, I spent some time with a couple friends from here in Annapolis. It was two short hours that I wish had been ten times as long. We sought a comfortable, hetero, manly intimacy with intentionality (typically referred to as male bonding, I feel “male bonding” doesn’t really drive the point home). We know how valuable it is. During our discussions, I revealed that I am struggling with the idea of credibility.
I don’t always feel like my leadership is valuable, or credible. I begin to doubt that my leadership has the quality and power to inspire. Partly, and on some days, mostly, this doubt is rooted in how others respond to me. It is clear that they doubt my credibility by ignoring me, circumventing me or acting in a way that is condescending. There are days when this makes me so angry I just want to find the cutest stuffed animal laying about my house and punt it. Just to blow off steam.
I’m not Mary Anne. I don’t blow off steam. Instead I let it build and build until the pressure makes me emotionally detached from the people I love and makes my hair turn gray and the skin adjacent to my eyes turn tight and dry. Sometimes it makes me despondently declare that I am not credible. But that is usually done before the question prompting such an answer is even asked. Life isn’t Jeopardy! Matt, start with the question before you blurt the answer.
Well eventually, I ask the right question(s). This is usually the best way of dealing with a frustration. Asking (and answering) the right questions. Here are the questions and answers for this particular situation.
1. Am I credible? Why? This is the most important question for this situation, and it better be the one that has the most thought spent on it. Yes, I am credible because this is not my first rodeo. I’ve made a lot of leadership mistakes, and I have journals filled with ideas on what I should have done, which I use to define what I will do this time. I’m intelligent. I’m conscious of my shortcomings. I’m submitted to God’s will and humbled by His love despite my brokenness.
2. Why should they think I’m credible? Well. That question is a little more tricky. They don’t know my history. I don’t have the degree they hold to such high esteem (more on that another time). They are not aware of the gut-wrenching I’ve had. Really, the only reason I should be seen as credible is because I’m saying I’m credible and a few others who know a little more about me back that up.
2b. Why don’t they know about the things that make me credible? I don’t have a good excuse for this. I don’t really talk about it. I don’t like to talk about difficult things because I don’t like having to feel.
3. How do I become credible? This is the kind of question you want to answer with swearing. Because it’s not easy. I need to foster intimacy with the appropriate people. That’s part of what I did on Wednesday. Second, I need to show people by doing. I need to have a track record, and until that record underscores what I believe to be my level of credibility, I need to endure and still be joyful when I feel undermined.
And the awesome part about doing that? By the time my track record underscores my credibility, my credibility will have also increased because I will grow by enduring this season. I am a leader. I lead things. I want to get better at that, though, and this is part of it.
I miss Fredericksburg and the easy intimacy with friends there, and a huge piece of that that I miss is the credibility. My friends knew me, and there were enough people around that knew me. They knew my skill set and passion and knowledge, and in the right subjects, they did not doubt my credibility and I felt at times that I was successful in inspiring others.
Unless they were just blowing smoke, in which case, you can ignore everything that came before this line.