Lessons for Taming the ‘Tigers’ in Our Midst

How to deal with damaging people in your church.

Caging and taming “tigers” who emerge under our leadership is among the most difficult, and revealing, issues for us, as “tigers” test our level of differentiation like few others. I define a “tiger” as someone who invades and damages the overall health of our community due to their own lack of awareness and immaturity.

I frame this idea from a parable called “The Friendly Forest” out of a book by Edwin H. Friedman called: Friedman’s Fables. Friedman was a well-known ordained rabbi and a practicing family therapist who applied family systems concepts to synagogues and churches. The fable describes a tiger who is allowed the join a Friendly Forest community of animals but, by his presence and nature, threatens a lamb who eventually feel obligated to leave the community.

A number of questions emerge out of this story such as: Why do the other animals excuse the tiger’s nature and try to make the lamb adapt? If the tiger eats the lamb, whose fault will it be? And to what extent are destructive effects of evil the result of immature systems and immature leadership?

Here are three important lessons about what good leaders do to cage “tigers” in their midst:

1. Good leaders summon the courage to “cage the tiger” out of love for their community. What was needed more than anything else in the Friendly Forest was healthy, differentiated leadership — leaders who know their values and aren’t swayed by disagreements and pressure from others.

2. Good leaders clearly define the values and boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior for those they lead. Establishing, and gently enforcing, the values and expectations for our teams and community, while difficult, is the role of leadership.

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3. Good leaders receive the gifts from God that emerge out of these kinds of intense conflicts so they can grow and mature into greater Christlikeness.

These crucibles of difficulty (and crucibles they are) burn immaturities out of us and are places where God infuses wisdom and character into us. They deeply change us—if we stay with Jesus in them and learn from them.

Read more from Pete Scazzero »

This article originally appeared on EmotionallyHealthy.org and is reposted here by permission.