Defined by a Prefix

I was reminded the other day of a young man I met years ago who was a “born leader.” I can’t describe for you all of the traits he portrayed, which verified this for me; I can only say that is was obvious. This young man didn’t appear to have to work at being a leader; it just seemed natural. I thought it was just who he was. One of the obvious ways in which this ability routinely showed itself, was the way he was able to make sure everyone was included in whatever we were doing. It was amazing to watch this 11 year old do this week after week without any apparent effort. This brings me to my title: Defined by a prefix.

 So I ask this question: Are you a person who tries to be inclusive or is your tendency to be exclusive? Do you seek to bring new people into your circle or are you someone ‘circling the wagons.’ The difference in the spelling of these two words, inclusive and exclusive, is only two little letters. But the difference those two little letters make in defining who you are, is huge!

This problem is not associated with age, or social status, or intellectual ability. In fact, despite all the cultural differences we see throughout the world exclusivity remains pervasive. That’s because our natural inclination is to be inwardly focused.

So if our natural inclination is to be focused on ourselves, why does this 11 year old always appear to be reaching out? Although it appeared to be quite natural we must admit that at least some of this character trait was taught and then nurtured along, most likely by his parents.

But they must have instilled more than an ideal based on how you interact with others. If you have ever tried to control, demand or guide another’s actions or attitudes you know this is true. The more I think about it the more I realize that part of this young man’s ability to include others rested in his confidence, in who he was. He was content. He was satisfied. He was comfortable. This allowed him the freedom to bring others into his circle. He had no need to protect himself. He had no need to build himself up. He really could just be himself. There is a lesson there for all of us.

Being content with himself allowed this young man to focus his attention outward. It allowed him to look for opportunities to bring others into the group. He made it look easy. For the rest of us it seems more difficult. We must work at it. We must force our gaze to turn away from ourselves. We must be looking to bring others into our circle. The funny thing is, while we are working hard to make this happen those around us might just think we’re acting natural. Of course we will secretly know we’re not.

God created us to be inclusive. So, the next time you find yourself in a group, look around. I think you might be surprised at how many people are longing to belong. If an 11 year old can make including others look easy, we have no excuse for being exclusive.


About Michael VanDerLinden

Father of five, Air Traffic Controller, Currently taking Seminary classes
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