“Understand that people are like golf balls or badminton birdies.” So said a friend giving a tip for effective leadership. You barely tap a golf ball, and it rolls clear across the carpet. You whack a badminton birdie with all your might, and it only moves a few yards. People in Jesus’ church can be like these when you confront them about a matter.
Some people are quite sensitive; a little tap is usually all they need. One gently spoken word will move them to thought and action. Swing too hard, and they’ll flee far from you.
Other people don’t get subtleties; you have to be blunt and hit pretty hard. Direct words cause them to see reality and change their ways. Swing too softly, and they will not progress in life.
Is it an oversimplification? Yes, but sometimes those of us who are badminton birdies need to have things spelled out in black and white in order to at least start understanding nuances. Golf ball personalities need to learn these things lest they be sensitive to everyone in the church except for the badminton birdies who fail to pick up on their “obvious” hints.
If we want to obey Jesus’ words “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12), then we need to understand how others wish to be confronted. And, we shouldn’t be frustrated when they don’t respond the way we do based on our particular personality.
Praise God that the body of Christ “does not consist of one member [or one personality] but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14)! Each kind of personality has great capacity for strength, and each has a great capacity for weakness. The body cannot say is does not need one or the other. Rather, the body must learn what to say to one or the other in need.
Jesus spoke the truth in love differently to Peter than he did to John. He knew these men, and he knew what each needed. We too need to love people by understanding who they are and how they respond. Then, when we address them in the moment of need, our words will hit the sweet spot just right for everyone’s growth in holiness, and the words of Solomon will ring true yet again: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).