“Elephants in the room refer to obviously inappropriate or immature behaviors that remain unacknowledged and unaddressed.”
My life passion is the glory of Jesus and that the world might know him. A high-quality, loving, vibrant church is his primary means for that to happen (see Eph. 4:11-16 and John 13:34-35). So, like many of you, my life work is to offer leadership to the church for this to become a reality.
That is why we must become experts at dealing with elephants in the room. Elephants in the room refer to obviously inappropriate or immature behaviors that remain unacknowledged and unaddressed. Such elephants commonly roam wild and free among our teams, limiting our witness for Christ.
Why is this so pervasive?
1. The influence of our family of origin.
Many of us grew up in families where multiple elephants lived. We are accustomed to elephants, large and small, freely roaming among us.
2. We hate mess.
We fear that if we address the elephants on our teams, things may actually worsen. They will in the short term, especially for the elephants themselves. But this short-term pain is minuscule compared to what happens as the impact of elephants in the church or organization spreads.
3. We are busy.
Depending on the size of the elephant (some have been growing for years) and their openness to change (most are not very aware), it takes a lot of time and energy to move them. We forget this is what leadership is all about. This is discipleship. This is why God put us in our particular roles.
4. We are lowly differentiated.
If we are have a high need for validation from others, it is difficult to have these kinds of thorny interactions. Why? You will be misunderstood, and perhaps, disliked and unpopular for a season. This is why I preferred preaching to leading. When I preached, people moved toward me. When I spoke painful truths, people moved away from me. When I realized my deep need for acceptance and approval was now impacting the whole church, I went for a serious round of counseling.
5. We lack skills.
The ability to clarify expectations, speak clearly and honestly, fight cleanly, listen deeply, etc. are foundational if we are to love like Jesus. If we are involved in leadership discussions with elephants who often have very poor ways of relating, we must master the skills needed to love well.
My wife, Geri, and I have spent 21 years developing the Emotionally Healthy (EH) Relationships Course with eight foundational skills. This will be released by Zondervan in August. For now, it is available through our website in a DVD/workbook format called Emotionally Healthy Skills 2.0.
In a future post, I will do a Part 2 on this, talking about HOW to deal with elephants in the room.
Pete Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, and the author of two best-selling books: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church. This story was originally posted on Scazzero’s blog at EmotionallyHealthy.org.