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WATCH YOUR MOUTH! A New Leadership Swear Word

 —  November 1, 2012 — 1 Comment

There are lots of words that I would classify as swear words, most have four letters, would make your grandmother threaten you with a bar of soap if you said them and cause you to be unemployed if you use them in a sermon. The Bible says in clearly in Ephesians 5:4 that obscenity and and foolish language are to be avoided, instead offering thanksgiving.

Today I want to encourage you to think of another word that is a part of most people’s vocabulary should become a swear word and that word is PROBLEM. It has seven letters instead of four, but in my books its among the worst things I could hear someone say or communicate myself. I used to work with a guy who would come up to me all the time and tell me about all the problems he had, the problems with my ideas, the problems with his job expectations, with students, problems abound! It drove me crazy because it was just so negative.

So I had to make a rule for him  – no more problems. That word was now consider a profanity and was never to be used with me for 3 reasons.

1 – People Generally Don’t Like Problems: 99 problems, math problems, car problems, relationship problems, digestion problems, financial problems. I don’t like problems and I am pretty sure you don’t either. They imply something is broken, something is in need of solving but does not convey that a solution exists. Starting a sentence with “The problem with that idea is….” kills the creative process and I’ll be honest, I deeply dislike problems, I much prefer challenges.

2 – People prefer challenges: You wouldn’t go to a camp and run the problem course, you run the challenge course. Challenges are exciting, they are something that can and should be overcome. They require thoughtfulness, shrewdness and tactical skill; problems are different. When people bring problems, its almost an admission that they have not thought there could be a solution. Challenges imply there is a solution and that we need to work together to find it. Don’t bring me problems, bring me challenges, challenges get me pumped!

3 – No Parent Wants a Problem Child: The negative connotation of the word problem is no more obvious then communicating to parents a behavior issue. Imagine as a parent hearing from you that their child has been:

a – Causing problems and distracting other students

b – Challenging in the past few weeks and acting out in small group

I have seen the movie problem child, and I would not want to hear that my child was wreaking havoc at the youth group, I would like to partner with the youth pastor to find a solution instead. Telling me my student is a challenge implies that you want to make it work; telling me that they are a problem implies you want them gone.

Do you think you could get rid of that word? It means a shift to solution-based discussion, seeing problems as challenges to overcome not roadblocks to stymie growth. Try it out and watch your mouth!

Geoff – (Twitter)


Geoff Stewart


One response to WATCH YOUR MOUTH! A New Leadership Swear Word

  1. “You wouldn’t go to a camp and run the problem course…”

    Love that line, Geoff. It’s incredible how much a simple word can completely frame (or misframe a conversation). When I talk with parents, I try to avoid the words problem and issue.

    Parents are far more receptive to “working together” than they are to “fixing the problem.”

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