Collision of good intentions

“… complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:1-4 ESV)

One of the nice things about working in a church or Christian ministry is the tendency of most employees and volunteers to work self-sacrificially for the sake of each other and a common Kingdom cause. It is typical for a sense of shared mission and calling to outweigh the prospect of higher wages and benefits elsewhere. We believe that what we are doing has eternal significance, and it’s worth going the extra mile – and not even seeking reimbursement for that mile!

It’s great to be around nice Christian people who generally want to give coworkers the benefit of the doubt when misunderstanding surfaces. Sometimes, however, conflict results from what I call a “collision of good intentions”: I’m trying to help you and you’re trying to help me, but we are really making each other’s work more difficult. The golden rule sometimes gets counterproductive! The clear path out of this reoccurring problem is to create transparent communication channels in every direction, regardless of reporting lines. As interpersonal pressure builds, we need to articulate what we need from others to get our job done and then listen well to what it takes to help our coworkers do theirs.

Philippians 2:4 assumes that we are looking after our own interests and calls us to look “also to the interests of others.” This echoes the commandment to love others “as we love ourselves.” Self-awareness, some healthy boundaries and the willingness to communicate respectfully – and with self-respect – make a good combination for serving others and working together effectively.

Let’s be grateful for the kinds of conflict that arise from good intentions. Most people work in conditions where that’s never the problem!

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