Selfless Leadership: Rachel Held Evans

Many came forward with testimonials of how her writing and personal encouragement changed the trajectory of their lives. ~Julie Zauzmer

Photo by: Maki Garcia Evans

I sat in my condo on Saturday, shortly after noon. I glanced one more time at the blog written by Dan Evans, husband of Rachel Held Evans. For two weeks Dan had been writing in her blog providing updates about her health crisis. He hadn’t provided an update for several days. I thought, “this can’t be good.”

As I scanned the recent blog post I jumped ahead to the single sentence paragraph: “Rachel died early Saturday morning, May 4, 2019.”

“No, that can’t be possible,” I said out loud, to no one. “No, that can’t be!” I read the sentence several times before the truth really started to sink in. How could a young woman (only 37) with two young children, enter the hospital with the flu and an infection, and lose her life a few short weeks later?!

Like many others, I’m still processing the suddenness of her death. I didn’t know Rachel, at least not exactly. I heard an interview on NPR with her sister who said that whenever people would ask Dan what Rachel was like, he would say “just read her books, because that’s who she is.” So maybe I did sort of know her.  

While Rachel’s writing was about her faith; the way she lived her life was a model of leadership. After reading numerous tributes, it was easy to identify a number of attributes that put Rachel at the top of my list of examples of selfless leadership. Here are four that especially stood out to me.

Amplify and Encourage Others

“Rachel used her significant platform to amplify and encourage others. She not only took her well-deserved spot at the table of writing and teaching; she also pulled up countless more seats for others to sit next to her.”

Use Influence to Create Opportunities for Others

“’Rachel held doors open she didn’t have to,’ wrote Candice Marie Benbow. ‘She used her influence to help create opportunities for people she believed deserved[d] them.’”

Engage with Grace and Truth

“Even those she disagreed with, sometimes fiercely, she found a way to engage with grace and truth. She showed us how to hold multiple perspectives in tension.”

Make a Difference

Make a difference, and that’s exactly what Rachel did in her short life. Over the weekend, #BecauseofRHE was trending on Twitter. Endless numbers of people sharing how the trajectory of their lives had changed because of Rachel Held Evans. It’s hard to imagine a tribute more evident of selfless leadership.

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