Consensus building is a “buzz word” in our work lives. Some of our leaders have a gift for doing this, gathering groups of people with conflicting opinions on complex issues and helping them reach agreement on a fair compromise to future direction. Working in the environmental field we got to see this process in action in many situations. I was personally involved in a technical advisory group in Jacksonville, appointed to a board by a local trade organization to help local regulators and stakeholders reach consensus on changing wastewater regulations.
At the end of the day, building consensus in our lives leads to self-respect and garnering the respect of others. First, let’s look at the process of how consensus is built in the professional world. Then we can look at an idea of how to apply it to our daily lives, and discuss the implications of using this process to build respect in one-on-one relationships, and within groups.
Typically, an issue is identified and stakeholders are gathered. A discussion ensues, and concerns are identified. A collaborative proposal is drawn up on each issue, and a determination of consensus is sought. If true unanimity is not reached, the process either continues, a pseudo form of consensus is reached, or the group may disband, typically in frustration. Obviously the stakeholders have to want to participate – if they don’t come to the table, there’s not much hope for a process like this to work. I’ve left out considerable detail on this process, but that’s the jist of it.
Fortunately, we can take this simplified version of consensus building and easily apply it to our personal relationships. The consensus process is directly applicable to our personal lives as it shares a desirable and important outcome: Consensus building, as opposed to an adversarial process, is a collaborative and cooperative process that fosters better relationships, interpersonal connection and unity.
Recall I’ve stressed the importance of surrounding ourselves with like-minded people. That may look quite differently for each of us. Remember, that thing about the 4 circles? When we think of the church today, we consider it to be one body. That doesn’t mean that everybody has to agree on every single issue. That would be impossible. My point of view will not always be shared by everyone here today on Planet Earth. Similarly, one congregation may not always agree with the rest. However, we should be able to get along and show each other respect, right? Whether you’re a church person or not, most of what I’m sharing with you here can be applied in your daily life. The people we find in the inner circles are critical to making sound decisions in our daily walk.
We generally share the opinions and habits of our closest friends. Consider your 5 closest friends and you’ll find out a lot about yourself and how you’re living your life. Settling into a groove in these relationships, these close associates tend to influence us, taking us down or building us up. We also may at times influence them, in the same manner.
Carefully consider what’s at stake…
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. Proverbs 27:12
Building consensus in our daily life is much more than just surrounding ourselves with people who will tell us what we want to hear. I once had a friend who would seek advice of her friend who would most likely tell her the desired answer. Similarly, she would hang out with different people depending on how she chose to behave on that particular evening. If you’ve thought through these close associates they will help keep you accountable to your morals and values. This should be fairly consistent.
Church people, as a group, are like families. They’re typically fairly dysfunctional. What we learn in a healthy organization, be it a work environment, church or even in our families, is that:
- we all have to learn to deal with and relate to people who are different than us,
- showing respect to others will help you in all of your relationships, and
- there are many thoughts that we could debate that, in the big picture of eternity, aren’t really all that relevant.
Remember our list from 1 Peter…
Live in harmony, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble, be a blessing, love life, do good, seek peace and pursue it, and do it all with gentleness and respect.
Consensus is reached in our everyday life when we are wooed to agreement, either within ourselves, with another person or within a group, on a course of action to take at a crossroad.
Reaching consensus within ourselves could be overcoming indecisiveness, that feeling of being torn between two or more possibilities. This may be achieved with the assistance of close friend or spouse. Or, we often have to come to agreement with a significant other, about parenting or financial issues. Finally, we may find ourselves being transformed by a group of people who come together to discuss a Bible verse. Here, I’ll throw out a specific example:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:1-5
These verse suggest we should look out for each other. That’s a good thing. Recognize there is a fine line between admonishment, or helping a brother out, and self-servitude. Maybe think of that line as the boundary of respect. In relationships, we often should try to:
- carefully consider our motives so that we’re not acting out of jealousy, hatred or selfish ambition.
- choose our words carefully to make sure that we are always building up, showing positive interest in and encouragement to those people only when we are in a place to help out.
The Lord will honor those who choose to honor Him. Your words and actions send out an important message to the people around you. Be sure to choose them wisely, just like you would the people in your close relationships, and you will be well on the way to living a life centered on respect. Remember the concept of building consensus. Respect and consensus will bring positive changes in your personal relationships.
How important do you think consensus is within your close, personal relationships?
Do you often consult close personal friends or your spouse when faced with a challenging dilemma?