The last 10% – Pray it before you Say it!

May 6th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Communication, Relationships, TOP TEN ALL TIME Posts

In my early Christian life I was naïve.  I thought that resolving conflicts should be a piece of cake.  After all, if two people are both followers of Jesus Christ and committed to doing things His way, it should not be a problem to speak the truth to one another in love and expect everything to be worked out. (Ephesians 4:15)  Right?  Wrong – I found it frequently did not turn out that way and it greatly concerned me.

In recent years one of the hot concepts introduced into Christian leadership circles coming out of Willow Creek’s Annual Leadership Summit has been the challenge to “share the last 10%.”  In other words, create a culture and encourage an atmosphere where people who rub shoulders together don’t have to hold back anything when it comes to sharing the truth of how they see things. 

Now the idea of sharing the last 10% is NOT such a revolutionary truth, it is after all scriptural.  But something about the challenge to make a corporate commitment or covenant to actually encourage, make room for and hear it really resonated with leaders –  and for good reason. 

It’s no secret that there are church landfills littered with the good intentions of those who have held back their last 10% and the disillusionment of those whose attempts to share it backfired or blew up in their face. 

My personal experience dating all the way back my early days in pastoral ministry and in church life sadly confirm that.  It honestly seemed like I had more failures than successes.  I had individuals defensively reject the difficult last 10% I was trying to say to them, only to turn the tables and share their last 10% regarding me.  That’s always fun. 

I had people walk out of my office and never return to the church.  I had people become so defensive that it irreparably damaged our relationship.  I even had one person go ballistic and physically attack me.  Now I would be quick to admit that I probably always didn’t do things the right way.  But thankfully, I have had people respond beautifully and in the process God has lovingly touched and changed both of us and the relationship for good through it.

For what it’s worth, here is what I learned about the resistance people have to hearing the last 10%.  Other than their flatout rejecting the truth of what you are saying, the two most common defense mechanisms you are going to run into are criticism of how you did it and when you did it.   “You didn’t do it in a loving manner.”  And “If you really loved me and were committed to speaking the truth you would have told me long before this.” 

However, if I were to boil every thing I’ve learned down to the distilled essence of successfully saying that last 10% it would be this –

“PRAY IT BEFORE YOU SAY IT!”  So here are the three basic things you absolutely have to pray before you say it:

1. Pray for God to prepare hearts – yours and theirs.  This advice alone is worth the time you are investing to read this blog entry.  A well seasoned saint told me this and it literally has worked miracles again and again in resolving conflict.  When your heart is right with God, you go into a difficult conversation having His heart of love for that person.  And when their heart is prepared, they will be in a place to really hear what you and God are saying to them and respond accordingly.

2.  Pray for wisdom as to how to say it.  The actual wording of what you say is not as important as how you say it.  That last 10% truth that you hope to share is like a brick. It has substance, weight and an edge to it.  Delivered in the wrong way it could be injurious to the recipient. You could seriously bruise or break something in them and your relationship if you are not careful.  You can cover the brick in velvet, with the kindest way you can say it, but it is still a brick.  I find it helpful to picture the truth delivery like gently throwing a velvet covered brick underhanded, with the full intention of making it as easy as possible for the other person to catch it. 

3.  Pray for the right timing and setting to say it.  If you are upset and your emotions are not in check, you may not say the right thing and most assuredly will not do it in the right way.  It is good to use your prayer time as a cooling off period and a way to position yourself to be sensitive to God’s timing and the best setting in which to share it.

I’d be interested in hearing your success stories in sharing the last 10%

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5 Responses to “The last 10% – Pray it before you Say it!”

  1. Dave Rasmussen May 6, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Never heard the “last 10%” until I was on the
    Leadership Team at BCC. It has been a wonderful
    and safe place, on the Team, to be able to share the
    last 10%. It has been a valuable experience.
    Tom, thanks for being a great example for us.

  2. I would add to your point about getting emotions in check, that if I have a strong sense of urgency motivating me, it’s an indication that I am possibly being motivated by something other than the Lord. I’ve learned to be very suspicious of myself when urgency is part of the equation, at least in regards to a confrontation.
    It seems that often, even when we diligently follow these guidelines it still does not get ‘heard’ with the same heart/spirit that it was given. For years, even after I learned some of the finer points of confrontation, I assumed that I was still doing it ‘wrong’ and would pick through the finer points of my delivery and timing. I got to the point where it would have taken a burning bush to motivate me to attempt it! That’s not right either. It was insecurity about my own ability to do it ‘right’ (a sort of reverse pride) or a fear of man that got me to the place of not being able to fully speak the last 10% as a normal behavior in the first place. I’ve learned that even if I do it ‘wrong’, the hearer, has a responsibility as well, and that I have to become more comfortable with being misunderstood or unheard. Along with that, came a stronger awareness of grace when I am the recipient of the last 10%. I have to allow others to tell me, to allow them to do it “wrong” in the telling, to lay down my pride and again, to be willing to be misunderstood. When we come to a place where we can equally extend grace towards others in our delivery, without projecting how they ‘should’ receive it, as well as extend grace when we are on the receiving end of the last 10%, we have the best chance of a healthy community.

  3. Judy – Your point about the responsibility of the hearer is well taken. It is definitely something I would like to give some scriptural study to and develop as a future blog post. Thanks.

  4. Can you post to me more in depth definition of “last 10%” or point me in right direction? thanks.

  5. The last 10% is the content in a persons communication that is often withheld for fear of rejection, misunderstanding or fueling conflict. It is the expression in total honesty and openness of a persons hidden feelings, thoughts or opinions on a given subject without fear of the results. Other figures of speech that might equate with it are “being brutally honest,” “to speak ones mind,” “hold nothing back,” and “let it all hang out,” sharing “the whole enchilada” etc.

    Imagine having a difficult conversation with someone and coming to a point where, out of deep conviction you know what you ought to say next, but hesistate because of the reaction you might get from your listener(s) if you do – then you are wrestling with whether or not to say the “last 10%.”

    Hope that helps.

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