Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Pressure- How do we respond?

“People are feeling pressure.” I hear this from other leaders from time to time.  Someone wrote me an email saying this yesterday. I confess, I don't really like hearing that said about me or about Frontier Missions or coaching, etc. It causes me to think more about this issue today.

Friendly accountability in discipleship and/or coaching relationships does create this dynamic of pressure sometimes.  So does having goals that we then track and then use to evaluate ourselves and our work. Is that bad?  Is it sometimes good to feel pressure? Or is pressure always a bad thing?  When is it bad? When is it good? 

This “pressure” comes from two sources- one internal (from within ourselves) and one external (from others).  We need to look at both.

I’ve definitely experienced the “pressure” people are referring to. Before I answer this for others, I have to look at my own life.  Below is a chart with some real examples from my own life as a person who is trying to fulfill God’s calling and vision and as I am making goals on my own or with a coach. The table shows both a healthy and an unhealthy response to some examples. 

Type of Pressure
Internal- from ourselves
I didn’t complete my goals this month
Conviction – says I realize I didn’t do everything I committed to do. I’m sorry and want to do better with God’s and others help. I will try again.
Condemnation- says I should have done better, I'm a failure. I am going to stop making goals because I'm afraid to fail again.
Internal- from ourselves
I was busy, sad and tired, then got in a fight with my spouse,  so I didn’t do what I had said I would do in ministry this week.
Open & Transparent- I will own my areas of weakness and struggle and ask for help from God and others.  I recognize I must make some changes in myself and my life in order to move forward with my life & ministry goals.
Hiding and Blaming- I will pretend everything is okay in my life and hide my problems from others.  I will blame my lack of progress on others, on my situation, and on how hard the work is that I'm trying to do.
External- for Leader
Person on the team is not completing goals or making appropriate progress
I need to look at what I am expecting of them and whether or not those things are reasonable within their limited capacity and time. I may need to further equip,train or resource them in some area to see the results I'm hoping for.
They must be lazy and have a character issue. They need to work harder.  I never get good people on my team, just these problem people.  That is why our team isn’t seeing the results we wanted. 
External- for Coach
Person I'm coaching is struggling repeatedly and not following through on commitments made
I will ask questions to understand why this is happening and see how serious they are about wanting to making changes to go forward.
I don’t like this person and they are not worth my time and effort. I will drop them and move on to “better” people who work harder.

I could go on with many more examples as a person, as a leader, trainer or coach and also things I’ve experienced from leaders as far as pressure. I'm sure you could add your own examples too!

It is natural to feel pressure both from within ourselves and from others when we are working toward a vision or goal.  Responding in healthy ways to that pressure is so important!

Some would say “Pressure is bad.  Get rid of the pressure!”  From my perspective, though that is one option, it is not the best option.  It may relieve the temporary discomfort one is feeling, but it doesn’t help us develop as leaders, disciples of Jesus and become the effective, powerful, fruitful people God created us to be or to fulfill the destiny He has for us.  

Instead, we need to learn how to embrace pressure in healthier ways.  We need to reach deeply into our relationship with God, to find our identity in Him, knowing that He loves us unconditionally, that we are His beloved in whom He is already well pleased.  Our performance doesn’t change how God feels about us or how much He loves us!  Because of this powerful truth, we are able to own our mistakes and weaknesses and look at them honestly and openly- first within ourselves and secondly with others.  We can admit that we haven’t done what we had hoped we would and we can ask for help in trying again.  We can admit we lack skill in a particular area, and ask someone more skilled to train and equip us.  We can stop blaming others for our lack of progress and we can refuse to give up on the God given vision He has assigned to us. 

Or, we can forget about God’s unconditional love, believe the lies the enemy wants to tell us and choose the easier path of less resistance.  We can resign ourselves to not having any goals or expectations on ourselves or others.  We can choose to never evaluate, never track what we are doing in light of our desired (and God’s desired) results.  We can make excuses and blame others and our circumstances when things do not move forward.

Believe me!  I’ve been deeply tempted to move into the second pathway and have sometimes gone there.  It's not healthy and its not God’s intention for us!

Lets grow up into maturity related to the feelings of pressure that come up when we are in friendly accountability relationships.  Lets let these “pressures” help us become healthier and stronger in our understanding of God’s love for us. Lets ask Him for the help and grace to respond to pressure with wisdom, grace and truth. 

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