Garrick wrote a nice post on favoritism at Ministry Matters.
I wrote up a small comment, but after it got past a couple of paragraphs, I decided to blog on the topic as well.
I had said: Favoritism is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes it is so blatant that it causes pain, uncertainty and doubt on the person who thinks they have become victim to favoritism.
I remember being faced with that in youth sports, first in ‘all-star’ selection in little league, then later when I played on the Varsity Baseball team, and realized that I couldn’t break into the starting line-up based solely on skill, but because my family didn’t contribute to the boosters at a high-enough level.
Such things still happen in church, because we are human. Flipping through the channels last night I caught a bit of the movie ‘Drumline‘. The Band Director Dr. Lee is talking with the leader of the drumline, and the conversation goes something like this:
Dr Lee: Do you remember why I made you section leader?
Sean: You said, it seemed that I liked the sound of the line above the sound of my own drum.
Dr. Lee: I’m not sure what happened, it might have something to do with Devon, or maybe something else, but it seems you’ve lost sight of this *pause* Which is okay, because at some points, we all lose our way. But if you don’t get past this, and start to go back to what made you section leader, you won’t be able to lead anything, not even this little drumline.
I found that poignant, because the character of Devon had to do a lot of learning too, but the plot of the movie focused on the relationship between the selfless leader, and the talentedly brash follower. Leading isn’t a skill, leadership doesn’t fall on the person that can do it the best. Leading is the art of getting people to do something that often they’d rather not do. But Dr. Lee is right, if a leader shows favoritism, then that directly effects their ability to lead. It subverts their efforts to bring together a team. The best leaders, at times, are also alone. Which seems contradictory, but it isn’t. If we find ourselves guilty of favoritism, it is best to come clean, and apologize, commit to being more fair. (even if the reality is unfairness for all)
What about the other end, what do we do when we are the target of favoritism? I think the best path, is to do our best in the role we are in.
Back in High School, I tried out for the varsity baseball team, for the winter I practiced and practiced baseball. I got into shape, threw and fielded, swung the bat, went to a skills camp. When tryouts came, I played hard, and made the team. I was thrilled with being able to call myself a varsity player, to be able to play the game of baseball at a high level. My weakness was that I could play many different positions, so I never really hit one hard, and I wasn’t fast enough to play outfield well. The problem was the infield lineup was set, the firstbase position had a decent player that could hit for power (I was a slapshot, get on base hitter), secondbase was filled by a good player (that also happened to be the son of the JV coach), shortstop was filled by another great player that also was the star point guard in basketball. Thirdbase, a hard charging scrappy player that was always practicing. The chink in the armor was the firstbase position. He could hit for power (linebacker in football, and we are a football school) but was a lazy practicer. I saw that as my opportunity, but couldn’t dislodge the static lineup. I sat on the bench through pre-season, games that didn’t matter, and the whole season, finally getting a start in the final game, when all the seniors started. I had all of three at-bats all season. We had a losing season, and the first baseman had a horrible time all season long (as I remember it) I even asked the coach to be ‘sent down’ to JV just to get to play, but that wasn’t an option my senior year. The year in my heart was a dissappointment.
However, my peers didn’t see it that way. There is an award given out by the players each year, Mr. Hustle. I voted for the starting third baseman, but the majority of my peers, put my name on the line. So if you stroll through the awards gallery at my high school and look a the Baseball awards, and Mr. Hustle for 1986 will show Jon Stueve (hey, they even spelled it right… :)) ( I also got the lion’s share of basball pictures in the yearbook that year… ha ha neener neener…) So sometimes taking your role, even in the face of favoritism, and doing the best you can, can end up with good results. (even an object lesson to share in a blog. :D)