Those Three Transformative Words (Not the Ones You Think)

I have had a very trying week. If you want to know the biggest obstacle in both my work and personal life, her name is Sarah McCoy. It’s me. I get in my own way. Like a bassett hound puppy running downhill, though my motives are pure I keep tripping all over my feet again and again and again. 

The work that I do is community-oriented and intense. I do not – in fact, I cannot, simply encourage community among everyone else while remaining how I have been for so many years. This work has been like exposure therapy for my standoffish self. I mess up all the time; sometimes outright and sometimes as the result of circumstances that I didn’t take into account. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what I do as a result. 

Sometimes people look at me when I am explaining my work, especially when I say that this work is symbiotic (though I rarely use that word) as though I  don’t really mean it. They don’t know me. They may think I am the type of person for whom it is important to make things sound prettier than they are. They have no idea how I have been changed by this in ways I never could have imagined, and that I both look forward to and am anxious about what changes are ahead for me. 

A year ago I did not admit that I was wrong (though I knew it). Life had taught me that tenacity was more important than tenderness. I now have my moments of hardness but equally as many of softness.


The most important thing I have learned is the freedom in being fallible. It is so important to say, “I was wrong,” “that went poorly,” and “how do I…?”


Equally as important is the ability to honestly celebrate others. I don’t mean shallow praise. I mean wholehearted celebration. It is easy to celebrate others who are doing very different work than you are. It is a true leader who can truly be glad for a colleague or a friend doing very similar work to theirs. 


This week I have spent a good deal of time autopsying some things that didn’t go so well, being pro-active so that similar things don’t happen again, celebrating others, and also being kind to myself even though I am far from perfect. It’s a lot to navigate and I’m so thankful I no longer feel I have to pretend I have it all together at all times, and that I have a cheering committee* when I need to talk it out. 


I’d love to hear what you have learned, professionally or otherwise that has really made a difference for you.


*Churches especially and some business have “steering committees.” I have what I call my “cheering committee.” 


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