Looking for Gold, Not Dirt, In Relationships

Looking for Gold, Not Dirt, In Relationships

Wendy and I were senior leaders in Round Mountain, Nevada, in the 1990s. They were transformational years us. We loved the area, but, most of all, the people. Many of Igniting Hope Ministries most important truths came from our time there.

Round Mountain is home to a very high-tech, open pit gold mine. They move hundreds of tons of dirt a day, but no-one is talking about dirt. They only focus on the gold in the dirt. As Wendy and I considered this, we decided to use this as a key in our leadership by looking for the gold in people, rather than looking for the dirt (because people tend to not mind us moving their dirt as long as they know we are looking for gold).

Great influencers see people according to their potential, not according to their past. In Judges 6 an angel saw the gold in an excuse-making, dirt-speaking Gideon. In the Gospels Jesus saw the gold in twelve men whom the experts would overlook and say were not good choices to be on His core team. In 1 Samuel 22 and 2 Samuel 23, we see David believing in 400 “3D” people who were plagued by debt, discontent, and distress. We have God’s grace in us to do the same.

Why is it often challenging to stop focusing on the dirt in people? Here are some reasons we might become a dirt remover in relationships, rather than a gold finder:

  1. Unresolved Disappointment When We Have Trusted People in the Past – Any time we determine our beliefs from past experience, we are headed toward a slippery slope of decreasing victory and influence. Yes, all of us have been “burned” by trusting someone who ultimately let us down. Jesus Himself had a Judas who betrayed Him. (If our goal is to prevent a Judas, we will probably never have eleven world changers.) We cannot let our painful relational experiences cause us to only see dirt in people. Certainly, we don’t ignore past experience when considering who will have the greatest access to us or influence under us, but we must continue to look for gold in those around us.
  2. Law-Focused Instead of Grace-Focused – If we believe the kingdom is moved forward primarily through good behaviors (works of the law), rather than by good beliefs (faith), we will tend to try to teach the dirt out of people, instead of helping them with their beliefs about God and themselves (see Galatians 3:1-5). In my book, The Culture of Empowerment, I say empowering teachers will tell people 80% who they are and 20% what to do. (I am referring to behavior issues with these percentages.) Non-empowering leaders will focus primarily on behavior (dirt) and try to mainly teach it away from them.
  3. Elder Brother Mindset Instead of Father Mindset – In the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, there are three main characters (the father, the prodigal, and the elder brother). The elder brother mindset and father mindset are important to consider in this message. The default of an elder brother mindset is to first see what is wrong with a person or place, but the default of a father mindset is to first see what is right with a person or place. Elder brothers are competitive and greatly mistrust people’s motives. They tend to be opposed to grace being given to “sinners” because they are legalistic. This perspective will believe that constantly seeing dirt is true spiritual discernment.

I believe the readers of this blog are people who are overcoming these three tendencies and are gold miners of people’s potential. Here are three ways to increase in this, by asking these three questions:  

  1. What do I like about this person? Hebrews 10:24 says “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” Asking this question is a great way of considering people.
  2. What is the positive aspect of negative traits I see in them? When we realize most negative traits in people are an immature representation of a positive trait, it transforms our view of people. It can also be transformative in the way we view ourselves.
  3. What can I say to them to encourage them? Hebrews 3:13 reminds us to “encourage one another daily,” and later in Hebrews 10:25 to “encourage . . .  all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.

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