I recently got to see and hear Nadia Bolz-Weber right here in Cincinnati.

Nadia is a priest. A famous one. I think her new title is Public Theologian.  Nadia spoke for 30 or so minutes and then opened for the floor for discussion. One woman boldly stated she was a 34-year-old Methodist Pastor who needed some motivation.  Nadia laughed and said, “Jesus!” Through the following reply, she talked about internal versus external discernment.

She said she personally trusts external discernment so much more because we as human beings have the capacity to talk ourselves into anything.  And she is not wrong. She shared that external discernment is listening to where you are invited and looking for where doors are opening. As a best-selling author, she told us she never went looking for a literary agent or publisher.  They came to her. She shared that no one has had her career trajectory. Like a true pioneer, she can’t point to a single person that has gone before her. So, she has to look for the open doors.

Today a friend reached out to me because she was struggling with her current job.  To be honest, I was super glad she had arrived at this moment. I see big things in store for her.  I see her trying to figure out where to go and what to do next. I wonder if the current place is the best place for her and her growth.  

Okay, hold that story while I tell you another one quickly. Recently, I was talking with a different friend about strengths and personality tests.  We were talking specifically about Strengths Finder. She leaned over to me and said, “you have WOO don’t you..?” WOO is an acronym for Win Others Over.  I cringed. “I do have WOO, but I don’t love that about myself.” I said.

“WHAT!?” she replied.

“Everyone needs someone with WOO.”

She went on to explain that without someone with WOO in our lives we risk becoming complacent.  This really changed my view of this strength. Now back to my friend who is struggling with job choice.  I sat there reading her text and wondering how to respond. Do I do the empathetic thing and just ask a lot of questions to draw more out of her and sit with her in her struggle?  OR do I challenge her? Do I remind her that I think she is bigger than the job she is in.

This got me thinking back to Nadia and external discernment.  I am a BIG advocate for empathy. I think we have a lot of work to do in this arena in our relationships with others.  But I also think we need to say when we think someone is doing a badass job. We need to invite people into conversations and jobs and to the proverbial table.  We need to tell people when we see their gifts.

I recently went through a big discernment.  Luckily for me, I had a lot of people inviting me to the table.  It was affirming. I also think that people feel comfortable inviting me to the table and affirming my gifts because I affirm their gifts.  Its the culture of our relationship.

We need to tell someone when we think their work is bigger than they are giving themselves credit for.  We need to tell them when we appreciate the way they show up in the world. We need to compliment their best work.  This is a part of their external discernment. They get to decide what to do with that, but help them see the invitation.

Lord knows its easier to be quiet and Lord knows we all could use a healthy dose of invitation and representations of our gifts in the world.

If you find yourself thinking, “but Maggie no one is affirming me anywhere” I want to suggest three things.

  1. Start affirming other people. Create a culture of affirmation in your relationships. Affirmation begets affirmation and love begets love. (if it doesn’t, that’s a different blog post about boundaries and a new tribe)
  2. Remember what Brene Brown says, “If you search for your unbelonging you will find it every time.”
  3. Start looking for your belonging and affirmation. You will find it.