In-Sight: Hitting “Below the Belt”

In boxing it’s illegal to hit “below the belt.”  Serious injuries can occur and moreover it goes against established rules for the match.

In human relations it’s also illegal to hit “below the belt,” and I have said more than once that we are never allowed to violate the fruit of the Spirit in our relations with others.

But there is a problem, and it’s one leaders are particularly prone to create.  The problem is that some folks wear their belts around their foreheads, so that almost any part of them is “below the belt.”  This includes their eyes and ears.

This means that when someone tries to “convince, rebuke, or exhort” (2 Timothy 4:2) them, they never receive it as anything other than unjustified, negativism criticism intended to do them harm.

You can spot these kinds of leaders, because they use emotional language to misinterpret the situation:  “I am so hurt by what you’ve said”……”You have wounded me deeply”…..”I’m so grieved that you (of all people) would say that about me.”  Their belt is so high, the only response they can make is to play the role of the victim.

Of course, there are times when we are mistreated and do mistreat others. When that happens, repentance is in order.  But that’s not the point of today’s posting.  Today, we’re talking about a form of leadership unaccountability that cannot receive or process any well-intentioned attempt to speak an edifying word into a toxic situation, so the only option is to claim that the word was a “below the belt.”

Those of us who lead must stop and ask ourselves where we are wearing our belts.  If they are so high that we’re largely unwilling and unable to hear friends trying to speak constructive words to us or so high that we cannot see what they are trying to show us, we need to stop and put our belts back where they belong—around our waists, where some things are truly “low blows,” but where most things are attempts by people who care about us to make us healthier, more authentic, and even more effective than we think we already are.

The next time we’re tempted to yell, “You hit below the belt,” we need to first see where the belt is.  If it’s too high, we may have refused to “take a punch” God intended for us to receive.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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