Then fulfill my joy and be like-minded, having the same love, being in unity with one mind. Let nothing be done out of strife or conceit, but in humility let each esteem the other better than himself. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When we think of how people act in relationships, there are three kinds of people. Wilder calls them predators, possums, and protectors. We might show signs of being all three of these, but one is our main go-to.
Before we look at these types let’s define another word. Shame.
We recall Joy means gladness. When we share joy, I am glad to be with you. Well shame is the opposite. I am not glad to be with you. There are two kinds of shame.
Toxic shame is isolating and it is used by others to lie about our identity, obtain power over us, and will continue until we comply. There is no return to joy in toxic shame.
Healthy shame doesn’t try to isolate us but is based on the truth of our relationships and identity. It is inviting someone back to their best true selves.
Alright, let’s look at the three types.
First, there is the predator.
You are being a predator when you are always justifying yourself and you know no shame. Even if you are given healthy shame by someone trying to help in relationship, you deflect the shame to others, especially those who are vulnerable.
A predator pounces on the vulnerable and weak to grow their own power and indulge their own pleasure. A predator has a lack of tenderness toward the vulnerable.
Second, there is the possum. Possum is short for opossum. What does an opossum do during times of threat? The possum will run away or play dead. Because predators are on the look out for possums to exploit, possums will put on masks to try to avoid being attacked.
Possum leaders try to make everyone happy, but they disappear during times of crisis. Like the officer who hides in the foxhole during the battle instead of engaging with his soldiers and leading them into battle, possums are often emotionally overwhelmed and relationally isolated.
Then third, there are protectors. This is the model of Jesus. This is you as you live out of the heart Jesus has given you. Protectors have a strong joyful identity in who they are as children of God. They welcome others and are especially tender to the vulnerable. They don’t exploit the vulnerable like a predator, but help them grow in joy. Protectors will gently protect the vulnerable from dysfunctional behavior. Protectors help the vulnerable grow in joy. When a group is high-joy they develop protector skills automatically. They naturally resist behavior that threatens the relational bonds. Vulnerable people feel safe when they are with protectors. Emotionally mature leaders are protectors. They see value in people that others do not.
If we act like the Jesus who is within us, we are protectors. Without Jesus, we are natural predators. That is the default position for normal human beings. Trying to protect ourselves at all cost.
High-joy communities develop protectors. How can you impact your environment?