Others May, You Can Not

My mom used to say this phrase to me often as a kid and especially as a teenager:

“Others May, You Can Not”

Needless to say this used to frustrate me A LOT because it was usually in relation to something that I wanted to do, something that most of my friends got to do and mom said ‘no’ followed by the infamous phrase.

Now, there’s a good chance that I’m remembering mom saying this much more than she actually did, but the point is that it stuck with me. It started a thought process that I have taken into adulthood.

Because what I’ve learned is that this is still true.

I’ve been pegged as a leader ever since I can remember. I was the kid that was put in charge when no other adults were present, I was the kid that was leading our church’s VBS program at the ripe old age of 14 – and when I say I was leading it, I truly was developing the program, recruiting the volunteers and teaching a good portion of it myself (I know some of you are laughing because you think ‘Jenni with kids, are you kidding?’, but yes… I digress). I was the 15 year old who managed the local Ice Cream Shop. I had three employees (including my sister who went on to be the next manager), did all their scheduling, did all the purchasing, handled the deposits and ran the store for weeks at a time while the owner was away.

Not much has changed in adulthood. I’ve usually been in positions where I’m a little ‘in over my head’, but for some reason this is where I continually find myself and I thrive in it.

There have been days when I’ve been frustrated by the fact that ‘others may, I can not’. But what I’ve discovered is that I’ve been given a tremendous responsibility in many seasons of my life and with that empowerment comes great responsibility.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. And from the one trusted with much, much more will be expected.”

Luke 12:48b

This scripture haunts me all the time. As a leader, I am held to a higher standard. What may be ok for others, is not ok for me. What may be inconsequential for another, has greater consequences for me.

This is the responsibility of leadership.

As a leader, how are you handling your responsibility?

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  • Jan Owen June 23, 2008  

    There are a few things I just don’t allow myself because of my position and where I am serving. Here are a few examples:
    1) I don’t allow myself to meet with, have lunch with, ride with another man other than family. I might sit in my office with the door open and chat but anything serious that requires privacy also requires a third party.

    2) I don’t drink alcohol – but I don’t think a glass of wine or beer is wrong. I have many friends who enjoy that and I am happy for them. But it would be a stumbling block for me to do this where I am at now. It seems stupid sometimes but I’ve had to make the choice just to not do it at all to keep it from being an issue.

    3)I don’t go to R rated movies – well I went to see “The Passion”! (does that count?). I’ve seen some on tv but I don’t rent them or see them in theaters as a general rule. (there have been a few exceptions but not many) This (along with #2) really surfaced as a rule of life for me when I was involved in leading student ministry.

    4) I refrain from writing about certain topics on my blog because it would be hard for my church body to understand I think. Some issues I could discuss with fellow leaders, but it would burden my church. So I refrain.

    5) I have learned that there are difficult things about being in ministry that others don’t need to know about and I don’t need to share. As with #4 it is burdensome to them, and it’s not their burden to bear. I’ve tried to spare even my closest friends the ugliness that can crop up in ministry because it may cause them to stumble. So I have friends in ministry, others on staff, and a counselor that get to hear my garbage. Even my husband does not need to hear it all – it’s his church too and I want him to enjoy attending. And my children certainly do not – they’ve seen and heard enough even with me shielding them.

    Those are the things that immediately leap to my mind……

  • Jan Owen June 23, 2008  

    oh, and I also sometimes don’t reply to others comments or blogs because of this……i’ve learned to keep my mouth shut alot more – and I HATE it. But I have to be aware that I am being watched at all times and anything I do or say will be interpreted in light of being the Minister of Worship Arts at The Brook!

  • Jenni Catron June 23, 2008  

    Jan, these are great examples and exactly the kinds of things that I have had to consider as a leader. I think each of us has to determine where the boundaries are considering those we serve, the culture of our ministry/organization, etc.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • brandiandboys June 23, 2008  

    Jenni – you always deliver “much” as a leader. Watching you function in your leader element has taught me so tons!

  • fullofboys June 23, 2008  

    I think the answer to whether leaders are held to a higher standard is a resounding yes. This has been a topic among several people I know lately. The fact is, as leaders everything we do or say can sway people. I think we are accountable for everything, whether we write or say it. People are looking to us and while we are never perfect, we should always attempt to show Christ in everything we do.

  • Ron Edmondson June 23, 2008  

    Good question for all of us to consider. I think the balance here is to hold ourselves to a higher standard but not to forget that grace is not beyond that level of accountability. Sometimes I think we fall on both extremes. We don’t hold ourselves to a high enough level and at other times we don’t extend grace to leaders who have fallen. Sometimes that standard is too much to live up to.

    Grace and Truth should be our standard. Jesus did this as our example in leadership with how he handled Peter.

    Thanks Jenni

  • Lisa June 23, 2008  

    To me a leader is one who walks the walk, not just talks the talk. One reason you are so effective as a leader is that what we hear proceed from your mouth and what we read on your blog matches the life that you lead. As a leader you are on display for the entire world to see, read, listen to and watch. Even things said in jest or written jokingly can be misunderstood. Those in ministry leadership are held to an even higher standard, right or wrong. Yes, they are “people”; they represent Christ and the church. So do the walk and talk match? Thank-you Jenni, for the Christlike way you exemplify leading by example!

  • Marla Saunders June 23, 2008  

    Jenni, I’m pretty sure your mother and I subscribed to the same parenting philosophy! I also heard that phrase many, many times. And now I’ve heard it slip out of my own mouth with my kids.

    As much as I didn’t want to hear the “you can not” part of the phrase, as a healthy, well-rounded adult I’m thankful for the hedge of protection that phrase provided to me in my youth. I’m not saying that i didn’t ever step outside the bounds of obedience, because I did. But in general, the attitude behind that phrase reminded me day in and day out that I was not my own, I was bought at a price and more was expected of me.

    As leaders in adulthood now, our lives will still be hedged with protection if we listen to that simple phrase. Jan had some great points in her comment, and there are ever so many more examples. Nearly all of the visible moral failures in leadership would be avoided if we listened to “Others may, but you can not.” Not only that, we’d probably be healthier (“Ohers may skip the gym…”), richer (“Others can buy that…”), and friendlier (“Others can be snobby, you can not.”). On the flip side, if you are prone to perfectionism you have to be careful that you don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself as a result of that little phrase.

    Good post and good questions.

  • Marla Saunders June 23, 2008  

    Haha…I meant to say your mother and my MOTHER…not your mother and I! Sorry!

  • Jeff Henderson June 23, 2008  

    Jenni, great entry. Thanks for sharing.


  • Jenni Catron June 23, 2008  

    Thanks for the great discussion everyone!

  • Pete Wilson June 23, 2008  

    I couldn’t agree more Jenni. Luke 12:48 has always been somewhat of a scary verse for me. I realized very early in life that the gift mix God gave me would require me to steward my life in a unique way.