The Thin Line Between Risk and Recklessness

Published November 14, 2016

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Leading YourselfResilience

I’m not sure where you fall on the risk scale – whether you consider yourself a risk-taker or are risk-averse, but I definitely fall on the risk averse side. I prefer predictability and the comfort that comes when things stay the same. When I need to change or when I can’t clearly see the outcome, I tend to become an anxious leader and then I begin to make horrible decisions.

But, when I hear a good talk about risk – like the one from Jossy Chacko at this year’s GLS – I begin to find motivation to take HUGE risks. And, the truth that risk in our lives fully aligns with the idea of faith brings me personally to a point where I must evaluate my view of God and what He’s asking me to do.

What I’ve found over the years is that there is a very thin line between being a risk-taking leader and being a reckless leader. I’m sure you’ve seen or worked for leaders who explain away their own poor, reckless leadership decisions with the idea of being a risk-taker. The truth is we should take risk, but we must be careful not to cross over to being reckless in our risk-taking.

As Christian leaders, we are all the more caught in a place where we must equally take risks while following God’s call for us. So, how do we know? As with most things, there’s no fail-proof way to evaluate your risk taking – but I do think there are 3 ways to determine whether your risks are faith-filled or reckless.

  1. Check Your Motivation – When you think about the risk you want to take, where did it originate and what is the core motivation for it? Is a God-given risk or could it be rooted in selfish ambition? When I’m considering a risk, I find that praying about it before taking it helps me understand my motivation better. An even clearer way to know that it’s from God is when the idea came to me during my personal, private time with God. If there’s a risk you’d like to take – personally or professionally – pause and pray about it. Ask God if this is His will or if it’s coming from a place of selfish ambition.
  1. Weigh the Benefits – With every risk you take, there is going to be a winner if it turns out well. One possible winner is you. Another is “them” (i.e someone other than you). It could be the employees or volunteers you’re leading…or it could be your customers…or it could be another beneficiary of your work. When you think about the benefits that could result from a risk, if you are the only one who stands to benefit from it, it is probably reckless. Ask yourself (and God), who stands to benefit from this risk – me or others.
  1. Consider your Commitment – This one is probably the most difficult one to evaluate proactively – but it ends up being a clear indicator of whether it is a faith-filled risk or a reckless one. When God asks us to take a risk, it is not always a short road. It is often filled with sacrifice, difficulty and ups and downs. If you lack commitment to the journey, then that’s a pretty good sign it’s not from God. But, if you find you are committed to it regardless of how tough the journey is, that can be a clear sign God is leading you. Think about your long term vs. short term commitment to the risk. Are you only going to try it for a short time and if it isn’t going well, you’ll give up, or are you committed to seeing it through?

We all want to find ourselves in the will of God. And it’s going to require risk from all of us. But, that risk doesn’t have to be reckless. If we can check our motivation, weigh the benefits and consider our commitment, I believe we will be able to move closer to risk taking that is faith-filled and God-honoring.

About the Author
Tim Parsons serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church outside Indianapolis, a host site for the GLS. His passion is to help people lead better—at work and at home.

Tim Parsons

Lead Pastor

The Journey Church (Indianapolis, IN)

Tim Parsons serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church outside Indianapolis. With a passion to help people lead better at work and at home, his church has been a longtime partner with us as a Premier Host for The Global Leadership Summit. He is the co-author of the new devotional for men, Equipping the Warrior and author of the soon to be released 40-day devotional on spiritual health, The Journey. You can  connect with Tim at timparsons.me.

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