Back in July, we held the first Scholé Sisters retreat with the topic of leadership. During my talk, “Lead with Your Strengths,” I made the analogy of being a shepherd rather than a sheepdog.

The shepherd and the sheepdog both have a similar goal: to take the sheep from here to there.

But they do so in very different ways. Whereas the shepherd guides and calls and directs with inherent authority yet also with a gentleness that understands the sheep’s needs and foibles. The sheepdog, on the other hand, leads and directs with barking, nipping heels and scaring the sheep into submission.

The shepherd is calm and firm and confident. The sheepdog is jittery, harsh, and hostile.

Have you felt the sheepdog come out? I know I have. Nipping at heels to make kids do what I want is an all-too-common occurrence. Not only do I resort to such treatment when I am stressed and frazzled, but I’ve also found it to be true that “parenting,” leading, directing in a sheepdog style stresses and frazzles me even more.

In that moment of sheepdog-like frenzy or harshness, we’re attempting to control our children, when it is ourselves we need to control. No wonder it is stressful.

The only kind of control we’re given by God is self-control.

Christ, is, of course, the Good Shepherd, the best model of teaching, leading, and guiding. He led by taking the worst on Himself. He repeats Himself without losing patience. He doesn’t lose His cool when His closest disciples just don’t get it, even though He was pretty clear.

Sometimes we think we’re being submissive by being the heel-nipping sheepdog. Let Christ be the Shepherd; I’ll be His sheepdog, enforcing His commands at all costs.

However, if Christ is the Shepherd, we are His sheep, not His sheepdog. We must humble ourselves still further. His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. In turn, it is by our following that we lead.

A friend I made at the very same retreat meet up in the Portland area sent me a message after listening to the post-retreat Scholé Sisters Q&A podcast episode. Her family raises sheep, so she knows a little something about both shepherds and, more particularly, sheepdogs.

Read part 2: Sheepdog, listen to your shepherd.

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