Investment Strategies for Relationships?

invest in peopleToday’s Leadership Wired eNewsletter includes an article by John Maxwell entitled Investment Strategies for Relationships.  In it he says people fall into three broad categories:

1) Takers – They receive and never give.  They have a me-first mentality.

2) Traders – They receive and then give.  If someone helps them, they feel obligated to return the favor.  If they help someone else, they expect a favor in return.

3) Investors – They give and then receive.  In the long run they reap the goodwill of those they have helped.

Maxwell goes on to advocate living as an investor in relationships and explains strategies for doing that.

An investor certainly sounds a lot better than taker or trader.  If you’re running a company or organization, it makes sense to invest in your people – provide opportunities for advancement, additional training, and so forth.  But is that the best we can do?

Financial investors are still investing for their own selfish benefit.  They are still trying to get the best return on their investment.  If an asset gains in value it’s viewed as a good investment. If it drops in value or grows to slowly its viewed as a bad investment.  Is that really how we want to look at people?

Do you think Jesus healed the 10 lepers – knowing full well that 9 of them would run off without even saying thank you – because he though he would reap their good will in the long run?  Do you think Mother Theresa served the sick, poor, uneducated, and destitute people of India because they were a good investment?  I don’t.

I think there’s a 4th way to look at people, which goes beyond investor.

4) Selfless lovers of people – They give out of love without conditions or expectations.  They don’t expect anything in return, not even long-term, and not even a thank you.  They don’t even expect the recipient to use what their given wisely.  Sure, they hope the people they give to and help will make the most of the opportunity, but to base one’s willingness to give on the likelihood of that would make it conditional, and genuine love is unconditional.

In all fairness to John Maxwell, he does say investors “give purely for the joy of giving… not as part of a cold calculation, but as a habit.”  But that doesn’t sound like an investor.  To me that sounds like a selfless lover of people.

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