Do you ever feel out of place in a group, where you just don’t quite fit in? I know I do from time to time. In today’s episode we’ll talk about how to deal with this kind of relationship with a group or organization, where we feel like a square peg in a round hole.
Of all the weeks in the year to tackle this topic, the last week of October is, in my mind, the best time of the year to do so. Because it highlights a famous historic figure who is the poster child for being a square peg in a round hole.
I’ll tell you about him in a minute or so, and what we can learn from him when we feel like we just don’t in.
October is a month that makes me smile. The weather. The changing leaves. Cooler temperatures.
Another reason October makes me smile is because it brings back found memories of a history professor when I was in college. I majored in history, and took mainly European history courses, one of which was the History of the Protestant Reformation.
It was taught by Thomas Miller, who always seemed to be smiling. I think because he really loved his job. He loved history, and his area of speciality – The Reformation. He was like my dentist; and he’s a Dr. Miller, too. Always smiling and humming.
I remember on the first day of class, Dr. Miller introduced himself by saying he was a Mormon, and that he loved teaching the history of the Reformation because “I can bash Catholics and Lutherans equally in this course. ”And he said so with his signature smile. He made Martin Luther and the Reformation come alive. I loved that class.
Dr. Miller had us read from a selection of Luther’s writings. I picked his commentary on the Book of Romans from the Bible. I also read from his “Table Talk” at Luther’s home. I’ll have a link to information bout this in the show notes, along with a few other resources if you want to find out more about Martin Luther.
One of the main things I remember about Luther is that as a young German monk, he began to feel like a square peg in a round hole in his relationship to the church. He saw flaws in the church of his day, and he wanted dialog to discuss with church leaders how these flaws could be corrected. But top officials in the church were happy with the status quo, and so they wouldn’t give Luther the time of day.
One thing led to another, and his battle with the powers that be within his organization, the church, led him further and further away from the organization and what it stood for.
Not giving up on the organization he loved, and wanting it be all that God intended for it, he took another route to try to effect change.
He wrote 95 points of debate, or theses, and posted then on the front door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. It was his version of Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.
He posted these point of discussion on Oct. 31, 1517, which is seen as the official start of the Protestant Reformation. If you’re listening to this podcast on the day it first airs, we celebrate the 502 anniversary of this tomorrow, on October 31st.
During the time I was taking this history of the Reformation course, I was attending a Lutheran Church in our college town. On Reformation Sunday, the Sunday closest to October 31, the church had Omar Gjurness from the Seminary in Fergus Falls, MN come one year and give talks about Luther. It was all so fascinating to me. It’s another reason that October makes me smile.
Reformation Sundays were always sermons about the key doctrines that Luther popularized: justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, Scripture alone has the basis for the Christian life. We’d sing songs Luther wrote like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” written to the tune of German beer drinking songs.
Ah, to be a Lutheran again and sing beer drinking melodies on Sunday morning at church. It makes me smile.
Through the years, Janet and I have been members of several protestant denominations, But not since college, have I ever heard even a passing mention of Martin Luther on Reformation Sunday. Even two years ago in 2017, the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, nothing was noted. I sure do miss references to our history, and the meaning it plays in our lives today.
Apart from the theology and history, Luther stands out as a square peg in a round hole in his relationship with the church in his time. He tried to change it, to make it better, to return it to its roots. But there was no energy within the organization to do so.
In the process of trying to effect change, Luther attracted quite a following. And they pushed him more and more into creating an organization, a new church, in keeping with his interpretation of scripture that had such wide appeal. Starting a new church was not something Luther wanted to do, but the circumstances of the day pushed him forward.
It wasn’t until after Luther and his followers left the church they loved, that changes were finally made and abuses corrected. But by this time everyone on the train had left the station, and there was no turning back.
Here’s what I’ve learned from Martin Luther, this dead white guy from 502 years ago, about what to do when I’m feeling like a square peg in a round hole with a group I belong to:
When we are dissatisfied with a group or organization of which we are part, before thinking about leaving the group, do what you can to help fix the problems you see. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. That’s what Luther tried to do.
Expect opposition from leaders of a group when you try to bring about change. Don’t give up at the first sign of resistance. Maybe the time isn’t right. Maybe the leaders of the group need more time to consider your ideas. Maybe the best you can do is to get 1 or 2 of your proposals accepted now. Wait to fight the battle for the rest on another day in the future.
If you’re feeling like a square peg in a round hole, there’s a good chance other people are feeling the same way. You may not be as alone in trying to bring about change as you may think. Leaders may not listen to you, but your colleagues may very well might be.
Few of us like change. But there are times when we have to face the reality that while at one point we were tailor-made for the organization we belong to, people and organizations change. We may not be the person we once were, and our organization may have changed and is no longer what it once was.
It’s quite possible we’ll do ourselves a favor, and our current organization a big favor, if we move on to somewhere else, so we can better flourish, and be all that God created us to be. And so our current organization can do the same.
Before I close, here’s the he main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence
Look for ways to be a positive agent of change in your group, but if you have no voice and no one is listening to you, consider finding a group where you are a better fit.
Here’s what you can do in response to today’s show
Two things come to mind.
One is to take a look at the groups you belong to, and ask God to show you what can you do to make them better? What savvy relationship skills will you need to employ to bring about change? Pray for ways you can be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
And secondly, in honor of the Reformation, what do you need to reform personally? What changes do you need to make in your life to be all that God created you to be? Where do you need the Lord to do the work to bring about these changes?
Thanks for listening in today. If you’re not already getting my weekly email about this podcast and other relationship resources, you can go to johncertalic.com/subscribe to get on my private email list.
Above all, remember what you were made for, You Were Made for This, to transform your relationships into he best they can possibly be
And Now for Our Relationship Quote of the Week
Unlike a disease, organizational decline is more about what you choose to do, and not what is inflicted on you. ~ Jim Collins
That’s all for today. And thank you Carol for making me smile with your organ and piano duet! I don’t know how you do it, playing both keyboards at the same time, not to mention your footwork on both sets of pedals. You are amazing!
Happy Reformation Day everyone! See you next week. Bye for now.
Resources mentioned in today’s show
Here I Stand – A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland Bainton
John’s private email list: johncertalic.com/subscribe
Luther’s Table Talk
Royalty free recording of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” https://www.smallchurchmusic.com/About-New.php