I had an ah-ha yesterday, one that is going to impact my thinking for quite awhile.
The word “Jeffrey” means “peace” or “the peace of God.” When I learned that as a child, somewhere inside I took on that word as a kind of mantra, wanting to live out the meaning of my name. Jesus said peacemakers would be called “sons of God.” I liked the sound of that. To this day, it gives me a sense of wholeness to be able to say to people “Go in peace” and mean it. I like keeping the peace, and take proverbs about turning aside anger with a soft word pretty seriously.
As good as all that sounds, my peacemaking can sometimes be little more than an excuse to avoid reality and/or conflict. Stephen Sondheim says it best in Into the Woods: “Nice is different than good.” Peacekeeping can slip into cowardly niceness pretty quickly. For some reason, God has this front and center in my mind these days, and I’m having to change some of how I approach things, saying truth more quickly and forcefully than I’m used to, and it’s not terribly comfortable. All I can ask my friends to do is be patient as I figure this out. But truth is where I want to live, holding kindness high as I live there. But Carly Fiorina’s statement at the Summit hit me between the eyes: “Truth is the kindest form of management.” She meant management in business, but I think it’s true in whatever you’re managing, including yourself.
“Truth is the kindest form of management.” – Carly Fiorina
So my friend yesterday tells me a story about back in the day when he was afraid of bees and stings. So to conquer it, he became a bee-keeper for a season, working several hives, eventually handling them easily, without gloves, etc. Great illustration of getting past fear, yes? He then went on to say that he learned what he didn’t know, that bees have breeds just like cats and dogs, and that these breeds of bees have different personalities. To oversimplify, no doubt, more aggressive bees, the ones more easily agitated, the ones more likely to sting you, the less peaceful and less kind (maybe?) make more honey. The docile bees are good workers, and make good honey, but there’s a difference in quantity and productivity. He went on to say that he felt he personally was a bit more like the more aggressive bees, that as passionate as he is (and this friend is passionate for the Kingdom of God), his aggressiveness probably produces more stings in relationship than a more docile approach.
People and bees. As I think through the implications of the metaphor, that perhaps some people who are passionately, even aggressively, making honey, so to speak, can sometimes sting me as I buzz around my little docile hive…well, that made sense to me, and gave me a deeper appreciation for certain personalities I’m traditionally averse to. Moving forward, I’m going to pay more attention to the people who sting me a bit as they do what they do, those good folks who are out busting themselves to make honey, but in the process perhaps bruising my personal sensibilities. So they sting me. God forbid I slap at them in such a way that slows down their honey-making.
Then it hit me: in the metaphor, I’m the more docile bee. Am I comfortable with that? I’m not sure, but I don’t think I’m as comfortable with it as I’d like to be. It’s probably a prideful move, but I want to be productive, make as much kingdom honey as they next guy. And going back to where I began this post, maybe my peaceful behavior (too often) is little more than a smokescreen for fear and indulgence. Maybe I like eating honey far more than making it. Not to beat myself up, but in later days, hard truth is needed, even if it stings.
Getting busy making, looking for nectar…