I don’t remember the first time I had the revelation. I know that I’ve had it several times in the last few months and it always catches me by surprise.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’m doing. I love that college students confide in me and I love meeting them where they are and walking them to what’s next. I love challenging things that they think they’re pretty confident about and watching the wheels turn to accommodate new information or a different perspective.
But I get a little smirk on my face when somebody makes a broad, sweeping, idealistic statement and I’m pretty sure they really don’t know the ramifications, consequences, or necessary pre-cursors related to their grandiose idea. I love the idealism. Really, I do!
The smirk never lasts long, however. Because then I remember, “I was that kid.” I was that kid who, 10 years ago, made the grandiose, idealistic statements without a clue as to what had to happen before my ideal was met. I was the kid who, without factoring any trace of history, whether it be personal or organizational, boldly charted the course ahead. My mantra was, “If he/she/they/it would only…” Of course, the “if only” statements usually pointed at how brilliant and insightful I was and how things would be much better when I was in charge.
Well, now I’m in charge… at least as much as an intern can be. Now, I look back at 19 year old Benjie and realize that he’s the kind of kid that I would want to smack in the face. He wasn’t teachable. He wasn’t humble. His idealism blinded him from reality. He wasn’t patient with people. Instead, he shut people off who didn’t see things his way. He probably hurt a lot of people in the process and missed out on a lot of opportunities to minister to others. He certainly was an awful leader when things didn’t go according to (his) plan. He lacked perspective and really didn’t want anyone to give it to him. All that mattered was what went on in his head, because that is where the best ideas lied (double meaning intended).
I went to Catalyst this week. In one of the sessions Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ was asked, “If you could go back 20 years, what would you tell yourself?” His response, “Nothing. My mistakes formed me.” That’s easy to say when you wind up being a successful mayor in a metropolitan city! I would take advantage of the opportunity to burn these words on my 19 year old brain:
Listen to advice and accept instruction,
that you may gain wisdom in the future.