breaking the depersonalisation of personalities

It is a deeply sad irony that an era that so champions the individual should lead to so much depersonalisation of those it elevates as ‘personalities’. But it is ultimately unsurprising. Because at the root of individualism is not really individuals at all, but rather just one individual… the one with a capital I.

So just as the too-often-forgotten-ones in seven billion lose their names, faces and value in comparison to me and my uniqueness and needsthe overly-remembered-ones in seven billion are often inevitably robbed of their three dimensionality too…

This is deeply out of line with the heart of God towards humanity, and the heart for people we must seek to pray – and live – out of, if we want to love like Jesus. So how do we recognise when it’s happening in us and ask for God’s help to champion something different? Especially when it’s directed towards people we are urged to particularly pray for such as our leaders and politicians?

Today is the 2017 ‘snap’ General Election and, please God, the majority of the UK will be casting their vote for their preferred candidate today following around two months of intense political campaigning and commentating.

People feel strongly and politics is important. It is important to challenge injustice and unwise decisions. Sometimes strong arguments need to be made. Righteous anger even has a place. But…

… when individuals are referred to only by their surnames, reduced only to their political alignments, intentionally and deliberately spectated scrupulously and eagerly for the first sign of any mistake or sign of limitation so they can be lambasted or mocked for it… something is deeply wrong.

When it’s overlooked that there are only twenty four hours in a day and a myriad of demands and friends and family and breathing space all needing to be given by candidates alongside memorising manifestos… something is out of control.

When those considered weak or somehow unqualified are belittled and those considered strong and brilliant are so envied that their tearing down is earnestly desired… a house is truly divided against itself.

When even those professing to love God and others are happy to ridicule and vilify their leaders and potential leaders rather than expressing thanks and prayerful value for the those standing, and focusing on examining their policies and yes – to a point – and in loving respect, consider their characters as to their fitness to lead… we, the church, need to get on our knees and repent.

Surely each of us know by now – and if we don’t perhaps we need to ask some further questions of ourselves – the cost of standing up publicly for what you believe in, especially when it is the minority view; the limitations of our own strength in always living out what we know to be true; the very real struggle of balancing calling with family life; the amount of encouragement and strength you need if you’re really going to step out as a faithful pioneer for the sake of the kingdom…

Surely we – who’ve experienced grace upon grace – can model more mercy and appreciation and value to our leaders.

Surely we who follow a Lord who made a point of going after whoever was marginalised in society – including compromising, colluding tax collectors – know that first in line for the twelve today might well be a banker or a politician as much as someone in desperate financial need.

We’re putting this strongly because it feels urgent, whoever is elected. And because finding another way is so easy – and equally inevitable and infectious – when you spend time in prayer.

It’s a way we’ve been led to on our knees. Bit by bit. Stage by stage we’re starting to not just pray for leaders, but to love them too…

Not just in some amorphous, floaty way, but in a specific, deliberate way which looks for whatever is good and noble in them, seeks to understand how they’ve arrived at the views they have (even if we really struggle with them!), seeks to celebrate and bless them every time we pray or talk about them and looks for ways to engage with them that will build them up in themselves as well as communicate what we think or what we’re hoping they’ll do.

These are the decisions that have helped us – little by little – make progress on this journey of counter-cultural love…

  1. We seek to always make a point of calling everyone by their given name whenever we talk about them. We use their first name on its own in prayer as often as we can, and their full name the rest of the time, rather than just their surnames. (We’ve found looking up what their first names mean has further helped in informing our blessing of them. Engaging with who they are and how God sees them makes immeasurable difference.)
  2. We’re starting to invest in taking our time “getting to know” people we pray for/about as much as possible (especially where we disagree with their stance a lot of the time). Almost all public figures have some biographical information available so we’ve been looking it up and spending a while reading it carefully during prayer, having first asked God to prepare our hearts towards them.
    We’re deliberately look for pieces of information that reveal their distinct personhood, evoke respect or inspire empathy… asking: what talents has God clearly given them? What positive character attributes do they exemplify? What experience do they have which brings richness, or helps us understand why they see the world they way they do? What can we celebrate about them, or identify with from our own experience?
  3. We make sure we try to look at them face to face when we’re praying… as if they were with us in the room receiving prayer ministry! We’ve found that finding honouring photos of them that show them smiling – not caught on camera in an unwitting, unflattering moment – really help. And again, taking time to sit and connect with God and them, and praying for a soft heart towards them, has really helped.
  4. We ask God to help us see them as he sees them, and to give us his heart of love for them… although by this point we rarely don’t have our own sense of love and compassion rising! And we ask God if there’s anything he wants to show us about who they are or how to pray for them.
  5. We consciously try to remember these are real people with real lives. So we remember that people gain or lose jobs at elections, have to balance the sacrifice of standing and demands of the work with family needs, and have the same limitations and vulnerabilities we do to stress, over-work, public criticism, under-valuing, sleeplessness or anything else that feels like it might go with the territory.

Tomorrow, campaigning and election fever will be over. But engagement needs to continue. Whatever the result and however we feel about it, could we see 9 June 2017 as a new beginning in our hearts that transforms the nature of our thoughts, prayers, speech and actions towards and about politicians – and all public personalities – going forward.

Love doesn’t score points or impress others with ruthlessly witty one liners. Love will not tolerate scorn, derision, envy or depersonalisation.

Because love does not seek to diminish, distrust or destroy.


Love looks hard and finds the good.

Love celebrates the unique individual made in God’s image and reflecting his glory.

Love champions and extends grace, forgiveness and mercy.

Love expresses thanks for hearts and acts of public service.

Love sees and understands the cost.

Love mourns and rejoices at the right times.

Love never fails.






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