It can be disheartening when someone says this to you (assuming they you really do have peoples best interests at heart and are not just lazy or indifferent) but it goes with the territory I’m afraid. A large part of being a leader is disappointing people. I’m not sure anyone explained this to me before I entered church leadership, but I have found it to be consistently true. People get disappointed because you do not promote them, or because you promote someone else. People get disappointed because you do not share their enthusiasm for a particular pet project. People get disappointed because they feel you haven’t given them enough attention. The list goes on. Sometimes people get disappointed simply because you are disappointing; which is a disappointing reality!
And of course, often the boot is on the other foot – when those who have leadership over us don’t handle things very well, which also happens on a routine basis.
Another thing I have learned, however, is that it is usually not so much how things were handled that counts, as how we respond. There is not much I can do about how someone has handled an issue, but there is an awful lot I can do about how I respond to it.
Because of my pride (Adam’s root sin that has infected us all) my perception automatically tends to be that if someone does something with which I disagree then they have “handled it badly.” Conversely (and still because of my pride) when someone does something with which I agree I tend to think they have “handled it well.”
Actually, there are four possible scenarios in how this might play out:
1. A situation is handled well, and I agree with it
2. A situation is handled badly, and I disagree with it
3. A situation is handled well, and I disagree with it
4. A situation is handled badly, and I agree with it
So, perversely, my natural, prideful, response will be to be happy (and feel that something has been handled well) in both scenarios 1 and 4, and I will be unhappy (and feel that something has been handled badly) in scenarios 2 and 3. Which simply illustrates that it is my response that needs attention more than how the thing was handled.
Getting this right requires real maturity, but I have seen even very senior church leaders responding badly. And it requires constant vigilance – just this week I was on the end of a “handling” to which my first (prideful) response was, “that wasn’t handled well,” until I pulled myself back to reality and saw that it was actually my response that needed working on, rather than the way the thing had been handled.
Of course, this is not to say that we should be casual about how we handle things. As pastors our aim should be to handle people and their issues with grace and wisdom – but even the most gifted leader never gets it right all the time, and this should be acknowledged.
So whether you are the one who has disappointed someone else, or is feeling disappointed by someone else, the key thing is how you are handling it.
Repentance and forgiveness in Christ seem to me to be the only appropriate response!
This is the first article of the Handled Series.