A Leadership Snare: Discernment versus Skepticism

Are you a skeptic or a discerner?
Are you a skeptic or a discerner? (iStock photo )

Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy. And my skeptical attitude is almost always the culprit.

I'm the first to confess ... I can be more of a skeptic than a discerner. And that's a humbling truth.

The act of discernment is simply recognizing something by sight or other sense. And since discernment is not my greatest strength, I've learned that I need to surround myself with those that have stronger discernment than me. Doing so has proven to be extremely beneficial in my leadership.

But I've learned over the years that there is a difference between discernment and skepticism. Discernment is a valuable filter. Skepticism is a dangerous snare.

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Discernment reveals facts. Skepticism reveals opinion.

Discernment questions to discover truth. Skepticism questions to prove fallibility.

Discernment is motivated by truth. Skepticism is motivated by self-preservation.

I confess that I can be a skeptic. And I see how it hinders my ability to lead myself, and those around me. But how do I break free of my skeptic tendencies and allow the more valuable gift of discernment to surface?

I think it begins with a healthy self-inventory. Am I willing to ...

Focus on Facts
Skepticism is based upon unrelated or incomplete facts. Am I willing to withhold judgment until all facts are revealed? Am I willing to assume the best in the absence of all the facts? Am I willing to refrain from filling in the gaps with opinion or conjecture? I'm better served and a better leader when I choose to focus only on the facts as they reveal themselves and refrain from clinging to my own opinion.

Trust First
I'm better when I choose to trust until someone has proven themselves not to be trustworthy. There's no reason to assume ill-intent unless the facts reveal it. That's the interesting thing about discernment. It reveals motives.

Elevate Someone Else
I can't fully support someone when my goal is to be better than they are.

I want to truly help those around me win. If that's the case, I have to set aside my own self-preserving desire to beat them to the punch. I have to be willing to elevate their needs above my own. I have to remember that when I help them win, I win too.

Walking that fine line between discernment and skepticism isn't always clear. But I've found that when I cross the line toward skepticism, it always boils down to my own motivations. When I keep my self-serving motives in check, skepticism is held at bay. When I don't ... skepticism takes over and my leadership is hindered.

What about you? How does skepticism creep into your leadership?

Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children's ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. For the original article, visit ginamclain.com.

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