Leadership Hurts!

reducing the pain of carrying a cross

I am crushed by the criticism. I get so tired of all the hats I wear, jobs I do, and time I spend. I’m exhausted by the weight of responsibility I have.”

Leadership can be a burden. It will be painful — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Dealing with the Pain of Leadership

  1. Begin with the attitude: pain is normal and part of leadership. Jesus illustrated that. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17, 18, NKJV). Suffering is normal for people helpers. It is part of preparation and qualification of leaders.
  2. “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Jesus often took time from His tasks to talk to His Father. He poured out His heart, disclosing His feelings to God: “He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me’ ” (Matthew 26:37, 38, NIV).
  3. Care for yourself. Part of my frustration has been ignorance of how to proceed in my work. Classes, books, podcasts, seminars, asking many people for help, and talking with a trained counselor have been ways to minimize my hurt by being better prepared for difficult opportunities.
  4. Rest. Mark 6:30, 31, 45, 46 are passages authorizing Sunday afternoon naps and other times of rest. [tweetthis]Adequate time off can improve my time on and will produce less hurt of myself and others.[/tweetthis]

Leaders Hurt Others

Doctors and dentists often inflict pain on their patients to help them. Coaches command exercise and practice that hurts athletes they’re leading. The pain isn’t cruel. It’s part of the process of winning. One description of leadership I like: “A leader is someone who increases his toleration for pain in himself and others.”

But a godly leader won’t cause hurt needlessly. Guy Greenfield wrote the book, The Wounded Minister: Healing from and Preventing Personal Attacks. In the first part, he discusses people who hurt ministers. He addresses the attitudes and behaviors that hurt God’s servants. One of the greatest causes of hurt are leaders who know it’s going on and do nothing to stop it. In the last part of the book, he has two chapters on ministers who hurt others. I need to examine myself as a leader. It’s possible for preachers, elders, deacons, and teachers to inflict needless pain on other Christians. Leaders should be aware of this possibility and not participate in any hurt that won’t help.

How can I hurt others less?

  1. Explain when hurt is a help. “This will hurt and be difficult, but the result will be growth.”
  2. Confess and apologize when you hurt someone — even when you didn’t mean to do it. Leaders sometimes respond to hurt they inflict by saying, “Well I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Some children were riding with me to the church building one night. A young girl held the post to the back door of my car as she was getting into my car. A boy in the front slammed the door closed on her fingers. There was a piercing scream! He opened the door, released her crushed fingers, and apologized all the way to the church building. He didn’t mean to do it. He didn’t know her fingers were there. He had no evil intent. But he hurt his good friend. And he apologized and apologized and apologized because he had hurt her. Leaders should do the same — not be defensive and arrogant with the reply, “Well, I didn’t mean to.” [tweetthis]Hurt hurts when you didn’t mean to hurt. I should feel pain when I inflict pain even when I didn’t mean to do it.[/tweetthis]
  3. Learn how to hurt less. [tweetthis]Many operations can be completed with less pain when we use the medication of conscious kindness.[/tweetthis] I need to do the most good with the least pain possible.

How have you managed the pain of leadership?
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2 thoughts on “Leadership Hurts!

  1. Good thoughts Jerry,
    In my experience in various leadership rolls part of the preparation was the training I received before being given the responsibility. What that did was to give me the confidence to take up the challenge. I have been blessed to teach leadership courses in the various roles in and out of the Lords church. In my judgement this is a subject that is greatly lacking in the various leadership roles in the church.

    • Thank you Ben. I appreciate your great contributions and pioneering (one of the first youth ministers in the brotherhood).

      I think you are on target. When I know it’s normal to be abnormal, I don’t feel as weird when everything isn’t fun. I try to incorporate this in New Shepherd’s Orientation workshops. I plan to continue to mention this principle in this blog.