Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Turning OFF the Critic

Another Sunday in the books. Four services, thousands of attendees, hundreds of volunteers, even a dozen commitments for Christ, and yet I couldn’t shake this gnawing sense of dissatisfaction. In fact, this aching feeling was becoming common every Sunday night as I drove home tired and spent. For all the effort and all the good, it still felt not quite good enough. For all of our great planning and preparation there were still problems. For all of our good communication, volunteers still didn’t always show up. For all of our backup measures, systems still failed in the moments they mattered most.

Rather than see the good that was happening in our ministry, all that wasn’t working was exceedingly overwhelming me. A critical eye consumed me.

As leaders, we are wired to see potential. We are constantly looking for ways to improve or expand the ministries we’re a part of. Potential and possibility drive us. Most of the time these are good things. But the dark side of this part of our leadership is that it can also make us quite critical. We fixate on what’s not working and see all the little things that we wish had gone better, while failing to see all that is going well.
The dark side of our leadership is that it can make us quite critical.
Can you relate?

This is a tension in ministry leadership that I have found incredibly difficult to manage.  While it’s important to evaluate our work and seek to use our gifts to the best of our ability, we also must be cautious of how only viewing our work through the eye of a constant critic begins to impact us.

A constant critic:
  1. Lacks hope. Overwhelmed by all that isn’t working well, you lose hope for the potential of improvement.
  2. Forfeits joy. Anxiety and frustration become common expressions both internally and externally.
  3. Feels defeated and unsuccessful. It becomes more and more difficult to define wins.
  4. Loses influence with others. Critical spirits repel rather than attract.
When I recognize that I’m slipping into a critical spirit, I’ve learned I need to challenge myself to seek to find what’s good. Even in the most difficult of circumstances or the most challenging Sundays there is still good. We have to teach ourselves to find it.
Critical spirits repel rather than attract.
It may be remembering how many notes were played correctly rather than fixating on the one that the guitar player got wrong in every single service. It might be celebrating the three services where the transitions went perfectly rather than replaying the one that was a train wreck. It could be thanking the volunteers who showed up on time rather than remaining annoyed with the one who never showed up at all.

It’s not that we ignore items that need correction or coaching. It’s not that we get complacent and permit mediocrity. It’s about creating balanced perspective that celebrates what’s good while acknowledging the growth opportunities yet before us.

A simple way that I practice this balance is keeping a “What’s Good?” list. I naturally keep a list of the things that need improvement, so why not also keep a list of what was good about the day? Seeing those lists side-by-side creates perspective.

My “what’s good” list reminds me of how God is at work in my life every single day. Everything may not have gone the way I thought it should go, but there are still so many things that are good and for which I should be grateful.
Everything may not have gone the way I thought it should go, but there are still so many things that are good.
Proverbs 17:22 (MSG) simply says, “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.” So this Sunday, as you head home tired and spent, challenge yourself to replay what was good.

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