I started helping with the local high school football team here in Williamsburg. Ironically it is Lafayette High School after playing football at Lafayette College. So, all my Lafayette stuff has the wrong mascot (Leopards not Rams) and colors (Maroon and White, not Navy Blue and Vegas Gold).
In every high school and college locker room across the country, there are sayings on bulletin boards and posters. These quotes may not be as professionally displayed as motivational posters on company walls; however, they are far more impactful than words as they really are living credos. The saying at Lafayette High School is, “the best ability is dependability.”
Dependability is the quality of being trustworthy and reliable. Being a dependable person means being a man of your word. As my father always told me, “Say what you are going to do, do what you said you would, if in either case you don’t, take accountability immediately.” Research over the years, tells us that roughly 93% of the impact we have on people in terms of credibility and trustworthiness is formed from the effect our nonverbal behaviors have on them. It is not what we say, but we do.
The first step in dependability is showing up, the second step is SHOWING UP. Yes, we need to show up and be present to make a difference; but just being present is not what ensures the difference. With the High School Football team, having incoming 9th graders show up twice a week in February to workout is a sign of dependability. However, what they need to learn next is that showing up is ‘table stakes,’ it is what they do while they are present. Do not go through the motions but make a difference. After meeting expectations, focus on exceeding them.
In addition to showing up, I am a big proponent of showing up early. Being early reveals integrity and self-discipline, it shows respect for others, it assures we are ready to be at our best when called, it shows we are dependable. Being dependable means putting work in every day. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.
‘Doing what we can, with what we have, where we are’ is a great line from Teddy Roosevelt. However, the quote continues, “make the best use of your circumstances to pursue your goal.” So we need to add, “to the best of our ability” to that first line. I also like Maya Angelou’s quote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Showing up is being dependable, till we learn that we need to do more than just show up.
Being in sales for most of my career, I have seen the dependable sales rep be there to take orders or to service an unhappy customer. Conversely, I have seen the sales rep who proactively works with the customer to find the right solution. He becomes a dependable resource his client can trust. I have also seen the sales rep that “shows up and throws up” by over talking about themselves or their company without regard to the customer’s needs.
It is more than being in the right place at the right time. A receiver that runs the right route isn’t any good if he doesn’t make the catch. It is about making the play, being dependable for the outcome. A father attending their child’s school program doesn’t matter if his mind is still at work and nose is buried in his smartphone.
The crowning achievement of teamwork and unity is the effectiveness of an interdependent reality. Esprit de corps is the common spirit existing within a group that inspires enthusiasm and devotion for the honor of the group. We must be able to depend on each other and commit to our being dependable. Bill Russell, the all-time great Boston Celtic said, “By design and talent we were a team of specialists, and like a team of specialists in any field, our performance depended both on individual excellence and how well we worked together.”
Luke’s Gospel has the most direct scripture tied to dependability (16:9-15). “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Luke is calling out a key characteristic of the Christian disciple, as Jesus instructed, complete dependence on the Father.
I did not always understand the story found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, where Jesus curses the fig tree. I thought Jesus was a bit harsh on the tree because of the verse “not in the season.” However, the tree was “in leaf” and this foliage signaled that it should have had early figs. However, it was all leaves, no fruit. It created an expectation that was not delivered. It represented Israel’s spiritual health of vivid blooms and showiness, but no substance. Their faith was undependable.
The Holy Spirit was sent as our advocate to glorify the all-satisfying dependability of Christ and his Word. The Holy Spirit accomplishes this quietly beneath the surface and stimulates our Christian faith as the conscious cause of love. The Holy Spirit simply causes acts of love in the human heart with clear, on-going causal connections between that love and faith in Christ’s promises. Christ’s all-satisfying dependability is honored through love.
Our communities need leaders, volunteers, doers they can depend on. A group that inspires enthusiasm, devotion, and does more than just show up. Working every day. Laying bricks every hour. Bricks that have been created through love and faith in Christ’s promises.