doing battle with discouragement

Photo Credit: Michael Payne – Unsplash

Life has felt heavy. COVID. Politics. Racial divisions. Natural disasters.

I feel the weight of these many issues, and somedays I have to battle to find hope.

On a large scale, most of this is out of my control, hence the heaviness of it all. However, there are ways that I can engage and get involved in my small scope of the world. When these pressures add to the “blah” of my day or contribute to my “cloudy” brain, I try to focus less on what I cannot control and more on what I can.

I can control my attitude.

I can choose gratitude over grumpiness. I can practice curiosity over judgment. I can loosen demands to have things go my way and humbly accept what others might desire or need. I can listen to music that uplifts my soul. I can seek Jesus’ heart perspective for other people and circumstances and pray before responding. I can vulnerably ask others to pray for me. I can lean towards trust and hope instead of worry.

I can control my words.

I can talk less and listen intentionally. I can ask more questions and offer less advice. I can work less at convincing others of my viewpoint and willingly accept the complexity of differing opinions. I can take time to reflect and journal. I can speak with love and encouragement instead of argumentativeness. I can pause before I say or write something mean or sarcastic and refrain from adding negativity to a situation. I can complain and criticize less. I can ask for forgiveness when I am wrong and let go of grudges against those who have hurt me.

I can control my actions.

I can turn off social media and TV inputs that are combative, angry, and hate-filled. I can seek out education, new learning, and diverse perspectives instead. I can lift my head, make eye contact, and smile at the person near me. I can willingly go to places that are awkward and uncomfortable for me to understand life journeys that are not like mine. I can give generously to those causes I believe in and to those who have been hard hit. I can look for ways to volunteer and serve those who have needs.

As I was writing this post, I began to recognize how much I can do. I cannot change the whole world dynamic, but I can change my small corner. I cannot do all of this every day. It is a continual battle, and sometimes it feels like the dismay will win. But other days, I get to experience a bit of victory. The discouragement has less power in my life, and I sense that I am contributing a good, healthy, and positive influence where I can.

How do you fight off discouragement? How do you contribute in a healthy way?

grace. grace. and more grace.

Image credit: j-w-Ju-ITc1Cc0w-unsplash

This word keeps coming back to me. G R A C E.

If you look up the word in a dictionary, grace has a number of varied definitions. These are not the idea I have in mind.

  • Simple elegance or refinement of movement – “She moves with grace.”

  • The extended time given for a payment – “You have a one week grace period.”

  • A short prayer before or after a meal – “He said the grace.”

  • A formal title for a duke, duchess, or archbishop – “May I introduce Your Grace, the Archbishop.”

However, another definition of grace is “courteous goodwill” or “an attractively polite manner of behaving”. Followers of Jesus know grace as the free and undeserved favor we receive from God. We are encouraged to offer that favor to others also. 

This idea of goodwill and favor is what keeps showing up in my conversations.

I am continually aware of the desperate need
for grace, for myself and others.

FOR MYSELF

Despite my deep desire to forget that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, we are still there. It is still affecting many of our daily choices, opportunities, interactions, and thoughts, yet I often forget that I cannot hope to feel, act, and perform in the ways I did pre-COVID. I get upset with myself for any lack of energy, pervading discouragement, or items that I have not crossed off my to-do list.

That kind of negative self-view and even self-judgment or self-condemnation does nothing positive to help me. It only robs me of the little energy I have, increases my discouragement, and causes my to-do list to appear more unmanageable than before.

I want to treat myself with goodwill and favor.
Deserved or not, I need GRACE.

FOR OTHERS

Generally, we’ve become quite the certain-we-are-right, quick-to-judge-others, critical-of-anyone-different, angry, downright-cruel people these days. These negative attitudes and views of others are all too evident in every media platform available. I’ve experienced it in-person at stores and restaurants and from drivers on the streets.

I’ve also noticed it in my own heart. 

Before I take time to ask questions or get to know someone’s story, I judge their intentions and their actions. Before I know their background, their present or past struggles, their personality, values, or feelings, I offer my opinion, my excuses, my fury, and my criticism.

Those reactions are not helpful to others. They rarely need my ideas; they already know the right things to do. They do not want my excuses; they’d prefer my humble apology and willingness to listen. They certainly do not desire my anger or my critique. They need compassion and love.

I want to treat others with goodwill and favor.
Deserved or not, they need GRACE.

What will help me behave politely and kindly to myself? Grace.

What encourages me to treat others in a way that is attractive to them? Grace.

When do you most need to give yourself favor? What helps you offer goodwill to others?

live by your convictions

Margaret Thatcher 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher
13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013

The former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, died last week. She was the only woman to have held that prestigious and powerful position in the UK, and she earned the title, “Iron Lady” because of her strong leadership style.

The life summaries and tributes to her make it clear that she was not a “Mr. Nice Guy” kind of leader, instead she often alienated people into “love her or hate her” opposing factions. No matter what opinion I may have on Mrs. Thatcher’s political career, I can learn leadership lessons from her life.

In some of my early leadership experiences, I was very self-conscious, with a profound desire for people to like me and to agree with my decisions. I believed passionately in our vision and mission and wanted others to enthusiastically join with me to achieve our goals. I often took criticism very personally, and I felt that rejection was against me and my character, instead of against the idea or process. Mrs. Thatcher clearly understood that does not work for leaders: 

“If you just set out to be liked,
you would be prepared to compromise
on anything at any time
and you would achieve nothing.”

I have learned – the hard way – that I will never please everyone with my decisions or plans. People are very different in their preferences and perspectives, and often have completely opposite, conflicting ideas about how to move a project forward.I need to listen carefully to the differing opinions and weigh out their value, but then I must make the decision I believe in. My leadership goal cannot be to please people, but rather to lead by convictions.

“I am not a consensus politician.
I’m a conviction politician.”

Margaret Thatcher

At the end of the day, I may only be able to say that given the knowledge, experience, and guidance that I had at the time, I made the best decision I could. No matter the outcome of the decision, when I am swayed to do something I do not truly believe is right, I am often haunted by regret. Whenever I choose to lead by conviction, I have peace in the end.

Do you struggle with wanting to please others? What helps you live by conviction?

_____________

A few other places to read about Margaret Thatcher…

http://www.margaretthatcher.org/essential/biography.asp
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/people/margaret_thatcher
http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog/2013/04/former_british_prime_minister.html