Not Starring You: The Support Role
My best friend is really pretty with the most beautiful hair I've ever known. When we shop together, people stop her and ask how she gets her amazing curls. I stand by and make sarcastic comments. I've always joked with her that she gets to be the lead, and it's my role as the not-quite-pretty-enough, funny sidekick friend to support- you know, in every rom-com movie you've ever seen?
My husband and I are both musicians. Except that his talent is way better and more unusual than mine is. No, I'm not bitter at all (He's my husband. He's awesome.), but it hasn't come without some struggles in my heart, if I'm honest. Because when the leader of the music tells you she's super glad your husband is around to play and "you're just an added bonus!", well, tell me that isn't a bit diminuendo-ing to your little piano heart. Ultimately, I've learned that supporting him in encouragement, cheering on and being proud of him enables him to be a better player because I know and understand the subject in a way that someone who doesn't play music does not understand it. So we have music in common to talk about and analyze. It isn't a matter of one or the other of us being "better than," it's more that we have a mutual love to share! So what if he's the cute one? heh.
I've worked a few jobs, and usually end up in a role as an assistant or support person or, as my coworker of five years asked me yesterday, "What exactly DO you do around here anyway?" I wasn't offended at all. I thought it was funny. Assisting is right where I'd expect myself to be. (But for those of you with the "assisting gift", please don't think it won't still sting a little when others get promoted - either in being openly praised, or literally, in the workplace, team, or even at your church, or, you know, when your husband takes the kids out of the house and ends up on the front page of the newspaper... yes, I speak from experience.... Learn to process those feelings properly, though, and don't let it become a bitterness. For myself, I know it's starting to become a wound when I hear myself talk to others about it. And I have to stop. Take it to the Lord. Talk to someone I trust about my feelings to see if I'm seeing it incorrectly or through the wrong filter. WORK AT IT.)
Even being a parent brings this idea of supporting role. I want the kids to feel comfortable with knowing I would always always show up for them and support them however I can. Sometimes that might mean some tough talk, but mostly it means welcoming them for who they are. They aren't me. And I'm not asking them to be. I'm asking them to be who God wants them to be, because THEY ARE HIS. I support them in seeking that.
Maybe you - along with me - sit there listening to talk after talk about leadership and leaning into our talents and gifts and skills and wonder how exactly you fit into the pretty picture that's being presented if you don't have a name, a title, a specific role.
Can I encourage you that in today's world of leadership-everything-everywhere-you-turn, don't start thinking you're not worth anything if you're NOT the leader. You're *just* the sidekick, the assistant, the co-whatever it is you're co-ing. After all, there are benefits to being the sidekick. Here's three:
-You know Dr John Watson, of Sherlock fame, right? Or as this sentence example under the definition of sidekick puts it: "Sherlock Holmes' bumbling sidekick Watson" - You get to be as supportive and loyal as Watson is. What becomes obvious through watching any movie involving Sherlock, is how messed up he is. For all his genius, he is short on social niceties, messed up in his addictions and at times, downright rude, mean and manipulative of everyone, including Watson. But Watson's loyal friendship is also what keeps Sherlock going. Sherlock - for all his shortcomings - knows someone loves him deeply and is watching out for him. I truly believe this is what then enables Sherlock to be who he is meant to be. Who is the Sherlock in your life?
-Hey! Good news: You aren't the one in authority. Listen: authority and leadership sound good, significant and super cool, but I think the lie nobody is telling us is how superficial most roles of leadership are (they're fleeting, they're often done under the microscope of other people's expectations, and yep, remember the roles are usually given to us by those other microscope-holding-people - and surprise! - did you forget how fickle people are??). We don't realize how difficult, lonesome and burdensome leadership can be. You, in a role of support, can listen, encourage, bear that burden. Sometimes that means being able to talk about things that are a total distraction. Sometimes it means taking away the idea that they have to BE ANYTHING in that moment. It means bearing their burden gladly (...and without acting shocked that they have that burden!) Sometimes it means being bold and reminding the actual leader that leadership isn't everything. You appreciate them for being there with you in that two way street of friendship.
-You get to be a Phoebe. In Romans 16:2 the Apostle Paul tells the church to welcome Phoebe because she has supported him and many others. Phoebe gets her name in the HOLY BIBLE because she helped! She supported. She wasn't the leader per se, but she did lead by example and by welcome. I'm absolutely positive she did not do this to get the attention, but she was blessed to be able to be one who supported Paul and his ministry. Imagine that! She didn't do it for Paul, she did it for the one they were both serving: the God of the universe! Both Paul and Phoebe were used by God to develop the growing Christian church.
Being a sidekick or support person doesn't mean allowing yourself to be taken advantage of at all. And it doesn't mean a certain prescriptive way you're supposed to be that support person (ahem...that goes out to wives trying to live under certain conservative rules...). Don't use the role to manipulate. Do it because God Himself is described as a helper, one who supports (Psalm 54:4: "Behold, God is my helper; the LORD is the upholder of my life.").
Friend, you may not be the leader, but you have a role that is needed as the support person. Learn to love without expectation, learn to be good at that role, learn to appreciate the place God has gifted you. Learn to be bold and speak up, encouraging one another - oh, how we forget how good encouraging words are! SAY THEM.
If your hair isn't quite as pretty as hers, or your musical skills aren't great, or you find yourself being skipped over in the accolades once again, remember the bigger picture: And Samwise Gamgee yourself up.