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So, have you heard the phrase, “It’s nothing personal?”  Of course you have, and probably in the same conversation you also heard something like “Don’t take this personally…”

As a leader, I have heard those words countless times.  And quite honestly, I don’t buy it.

The truth about leadership and ministry is, it’s always personal.  If it has to do with people in any way shape or form, it’s personal.

I’m not saying that some people don’t have some worthy intentions when they drop the “it’s nothing personal” phrase, but let’s be honest. To me, the use of that phrase is often a huge copout and really a way of saying, “What I am communicating is actually personal, I just want you to be o.k. with it so I can be o.k. with it. I want to say it without you taking it to heart so I don’t have to take responsibility for the damage.”

It’s almost as if as long as you preface your statement with “Don’t take this personally…” you can get away with saying just about anything and the person is left to conclude that any offense or check in their spirit they feel in response is out of bounds and a sure sign their emotional pits are sweating with too much sensitivity.  I am sorry, did my jaws dropping or the veins popping out on my neck give it away? You just told me my face looks like my neck just threw up, and it’s nothing personal?

With God, there isn’t one thing He does, says, or initiates that doesn’t relate in some way to people. For God, it’s always personal. Love is personal, sin is personal, faith is personal, and the list goes on and on.

The problem with people and their relationship with Jesus isn’t that their relationship with Him is too personal, it’s that it’s not personal enough.

The problem with Church isn’t that it’s too personal, it’s that some times it’s not personal enough.

The problem within ministry and leadership cultures isn’t that things become too personal, it’s that they don’t become personal enough.

When we face tough conversations that require a bit of truth telling or hard discussions, maybe we should avoid the cop out road of “It’s nothing personal” and go with some better options.

Options like… “This hurts me as much to say, as it may be for you to hear it” or “I need to get something on the table here, but our relationship is so important to me that above all else, I really hope we can work this through” or “I am not sure I/we can say ‘yes’ to this right now, but I hope you don’t lose heart and feel like I/we have left your side or don’t believe in you” or “We need to move in a different direction, and I/we understand how your heart is connected to all of this on so many levels, so I/we hope if possible God can either show us how to move in this direction together or He will shows us the purposes and opportunity He has behind us going our separate ways, yet still connected in Christ.”

Finding the right words during and before hard conversations is tough stuff, but no matter what we do, maybe we need to take “It’s nothing personal” off the list of options. The moment we say, “It’s not personal” or “Don’t take this personally” is the moment we show just how personal it really is.

Why? Cause it’s always personal.