What My Mother Has Taught Me About Servant Leadership 

My mother is a breast cancer survivor.

I was only 10 years old at the time that she went through chemotherapy and radiation.

In an effort to keep me from worrying, she did her best to hide the pain, suffering, and fear that comes with that battle.

Thus, I never fully appreciated or understood what she endured.

Well over the last five years she has been fighting infection after infection in her hip and heart.

Multiple failed hip and pacemaker replacements have left her with a weak heart and no left hip.

She fights exhaustion.

Endlessly tired, but unable to sleep for a more than a few hours.

She fights pain.

If only it was discomfort.

But instead there is the constant, never ending pain.

And then those moments of shooting torturous pain.

She fights a mental battle.

Setback after setback as the infections come back.

The loss of her mobility.

And she must face the reality of her own mortality.

My Mother’s Resilience

My mother’s mission in life is very clear.

She wants to serve God and her family.

All 7 kids and 15 grandkids.

She loves her family by touring all over country visiting each one of us.

Her visits usually consist of long chats, large quantities of food, and a guaranteed 5 pound weight gain!

But now traveling has become impossible at times, her energy has waned, and her ability to cook and bake limited.

Completing the daily tasks associated with living, like getting dressed and using the bathroom, have become exhausting and life consuming.

Throughout all of this my mother has not lost hope.

She continues to echo the same message over and over again: “I am going to beat this. I am going to be back on the road, visiting you soon.”

And she never complains, only continues to downplay any exhaustion or pain she feels.

My Mother’s Example 

The hardest challenge for her by far is that she has had to accept more everyday that she is unable to express love for her family in the way she knows best and that brings her the greatest joy.

However, unanticipated and unintentional, her battle has served our family in a way far greater than any dinner or visit could give us.

She has been an example to her children and grandchildren of true mental toughness and love.

She has shown us how to persevere through pain and setbacks.

She has shown us how to to be grateful, even when there are so many things she could be be angry about.

She has shown us how to treat others with love, even when you might be feeling tired and irritated.

She has shown us how to live everyday with enthusiasm and joy, even in the face of death.

It May Not Be The Way We Want It, But It’s The Way We Have It 

My mother definitely did not sign up for all this suffering so she could show her love for us!

She didn’t pick it out of a recipe book or find the directions in google maps.

However, it is how she has been called to serve so she perseveres.

Leadership is about loving others.

And often, those in leadership have this image or desire of serving others that is glamorous or easy.

But that type of leadership is not always needed or possible.

We want to coach everyone to be an all star.

We want every team to win a championship.

We want every player to accomplish their dream of a college scholarship or a pro career.

But they need something more from us.

Somedays, we may just need to listen, not preach.

Some seasons, we may just need to be a constant source of encouragement through a losing season.

Irregardless of the situation, we always should be a positive example in their life by living out what we believe in our hearts.

My mother’s struggle is a reminder to me that I may not always be called to serve others in the way I want.

But loving others is never glamorous, easy, or on our terms.

And we shouldn’t forget that as leaders.

-J.P. Nerbun

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