I said to myself, “Slow down! Don’t react!” I had a few choice words I was ready to unleash. A snappy defense to put my verbal attacker in place. They deserved it. But I knew from past mistakes that this would only escalate the conflict, intensify the anger, and make things worse. Deserved or not deserved, I did not want this relationship to be strained even more. To lash back in the moment, though hurt and disappointed, would not lead to the results I was looking for.Pastoring people can be
Pastoring people can be messy. Whether it’s staff members or members of your congregation, over time you will walk through your fair share of misunderstandings, disappointments, and temptations to respond in anger.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.” Luke 17:1
Jesus tells us that people will disappoint. It’s not a matter of if, but when disappointment will come. With this in mind we need to have an action plan in place for when disappointment comes.
When others disappoint, it’s easy to slip into a reactionary mode and respond in a wise manner. Here are five common mistakes people make when disappointed by others.
1. Pre-mature Written Communication.
Jane’s husband had been filling as youth pastor at their church, while the senior pastor looked for a new youth pastor. Jane had great hope that the pastor would look no further and hire her husband. Frustrated when the senior pastor hired a young man from out of state for the position, Jane, with little thought, fired off a text message;
“Why didn’t you hire my husband as the youth pastor?”
Jane’s text message not only embarrassed her husband but caused awkwardness in their relationship with their pastor. Writing words to express disappointment can be a terrible idea. The recipient of a text or email that expresses disappointment will often read the negative words over and over again. Written communication is also easily misinterpreted. Words of a text can take on a much harsher tone than what we meant for them to convey. When we communicate by voice or even better face to face, the warmth of our humanity in itself can often rise above the cause of our disappointment. Whenever possible avoid responding to disappointment by using written communication.
2) Mistake number two, Arguing.
When we’ve been disappointed, understanding where the other person is coming from should be our first response. Our knee-jerk reaction might be to defend our reputation, to respond with a good argument as to why we are right. But rather than becoming argumentative in self-defense, begin first with a sincere desire to understand where the other person is coming from. Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen share in their book “Difficult Conversations,”
“Arguing creates another problem in difficult conversations: it inhibits change. Telling someone to change makes it less rather than more likely that they will. This is because people almost never change without first feeling understood… To get anywhere in a disagreement, we need to understand the other person’s story well enough to see how their conclusions make sense within it. “
3) Mistake number three, Burning Bridges.
A desire to completely cut off all communication when you’ve been hurt is common. Our tendency is to want to erect an emotional boundary that will shield us from further hurt. So we isolate ourselves from the offender. We burn relational bridges with phrases like “I don’t want to see you again.” “This is it, it’s over between us.” These pain-filled phrases unnecessarily burn a bridge. When disappointed we must avoid actions and words that will potentially lead to a place of no return. In the heat of the battle, if not on our guard, we say things that make it difficult to later return to a normal relationship. Or we assume that a permanent ending is in our best interest. But unresolved conflicts tend to go with us, and in the end, the only real solution to disappointment is going to be reconciliation. You are going to need a bridge to which to return. Don’t burn your bridges behind you.
4) Mistake number four, Only Looking At The Surface.
Early on in our careers while my husband and I lived in Hong Kong, we enjoyed the excitement of helping develop a new ministry. Thinking we were at the height of our ministry, I shared with the Hong Kong team, “I can’t imagine our lives being any more effective than they are right now!” Time passed, relationships became strained, disappointment came, and a change in ministry was necessary. I was left wondering if our future would be as exciting as our past. All we could do was step out in faith and wait upon the Lord. A change in location was coming, a new ministry would be necessary. On the surface this disappointment seemed to lead to something less than we had had previously had, but in the end, God used this change to launch us into a new ministry that has surpassed our every dream. Following disappointment, on the surface it seemed we were leaving the best thing ever. But God knew it would be through this challenge in relationships, this disappointment, that a better plan would be revealed. When facing disappoint with others, there is often something deeper at work below the surface that can lead to new ministry opportunities.
5) Mistake number five, Holding On To Offense
Holding on to an offense can be subtle. Just when you think you’ve gotten over it, all is forgiven, ugly thoughts can come racing back and startle you. “Oh, I am still holding on to something here. Offenses can be like a sticky glue that cling to us even after much effort in their removal. We hold on to offenses for a variety of reasons
- Gives you a feeling of power over the offender.
- Puts you in the position of being the victim, making you the good guy and the offender the bad guy.
- Allows you to distant yourself from the pain, instead walking through the discipline of forgiveness and healing.
- Keeps personal pride in tact often blinding you from an accurate account of what took place.
We have all been disappointed by others. How we respond will impact our own emotional health, the well being of the offender, and in the end move us towards reconciliation or away from it. You can keep the problem small and be on the road towards forgiveness or you can complicate the problem with an emotional reaction that adds layers of pain for you and others. Our ability to avoid reactionary comments, verbal or written, will make the difference on how quickly we are able to forgive and move forward with our ministries.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14,15