That Thing People Do…

I mean the act of “thinking of others.” We all do it. Walk past a person on the street who is shivering and hungry and think “Oh poor soul, who’s going to feed them?” Or, for the people who never walk on streets like that, when your friend has an upcoming birthday and you think “Ah, they would love this extravagant gift!” but when the special day comes, you realize that you haven’t left yourself time to make that thought a reality and they end up getting a gift card–if you have time to get to the store. It’s all forgiven, though, because it’s the thought that counts!

Good King Louis XVI also lived by that philosophy, just wanting to “do well by his people” (Burns, 2007, p. 100). History shows how that thought counted… In 1789, the 35th year of his reign, the bloody French Revolution began. I suppose three and a half decades of hierarchical privilege wasn’t long enough for him to make that thought a reality for his people.

Labberton (2010) writes a poetic exhortation about truly seeing your neighbor, especially the invisible ones who are not like us. He says,

We look out on the world with the lenses of our instincts and social grooming. We think we see the way others do, or even more frequently perhaps the reverse: that others see the way we do (Labberton, 2010, p. 47).

Perhaps this was King Louis XVI’s problem. Surrounded by tradition and a centuries-old monarchical system, he could not understand his people no matter how badly he might have wanted to help them. His reality was far removed from theirs and he made no effort to put himself in their shoes and truly see his fellow man.

The saying “It’s the thought that counts” is an invitation to laziness, not leadership. Thinking never creates any change. Yet so often in leadership positions we stop at just thinking about all the changes we would make.

And accomplish nothing.


  1. Burns, James MacGregor. (2007-12-01). Transforming Leadership. Grove/Atlantic, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  2. Labberton, Mark. (2010-11-18). The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus. InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

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