I'm not sure where or when I first heard this word, but it came to mind recently as I was thinking through leadership lessons I’m learning. It carries a tone of frustration in its meaning - being anxious or dismayed, typically because something around us isn't as we expected it to be.
I was also reminded of "The Gap" - an illustration I often refer to when helping others deal. That gap between expectation and reality is where frustration lives and breeds (yes, breeds).
EXPECTATION | < "The Gap" > | REALITY
Maybe it's the long winter blahs. Maybe it's my own perception. Maybe it's _________. But whatever the reason, it seems to me that there is a spirit of consternation in the air. And as understandable as it may be, we as leaders need to guard against it with all our might.
It's a tightrope (tension) we walk, isn't it? In my circles we value transparency and truth. That's a really good thing. We don't want people to be fake or put on airs around us. As a pastor & leader, I want to really know how people are feeling, what they’re thinking, and how I can come alongside them. And, I would hope you would desire the same in those you lead.
But at the same time, we have been given so much that we do not deserve. Gratitude should be our default emotion in spite of the trials we face. How can we help one another stand out as an exception in this dark and dreary world? How can we encourage each other to be salt, light, and hope? How can we lead others through the temptation of consternation?
If you were to place your conversations with others - at home, church, the workplace, and elsewhere - on a scale, to which end would they lean? Are they more in the camp of salt of the earth, light of the world, hope, inspiration, life-giving encouragement? Or do they lean toward the discouraging, complaining, shared frustration, life-draining, nit-picky, dis-heartening - consternation - side of the coin?
We all fall short, and my goal is not to give you yet another reason to be frustrated! But, there is another way to approach the more disappointing realities of life - frigid temps, snow days, failed expectations, and all. I believe we are called to live above that fray, to offer an example of life to others that strikes them as being different in a very good way. Ruth Haley Barton called it "a way of life that works." We are called to live peaceful, thankful, loving, gracious lives. Here are a couple things that help me when consternation would be the easier choice:
- honestly believe the wisdom of the serenity prayer: (check it out - verse two is relatively unknown and really good!) some things I can change, most things I cannot - it is the "grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed" that I think most people struggle with - I need to be OK with stuff I can't change (for instance, there is not a thing in the world I can do about the price of a gallon of gas, but some folks get downright nasty about it - they feel totally justified in their actions - they allow it to ruin their day - I refuse to give stuff out of my control that kind of negative power)
- be brutally honest in my reality checks: it's related to #1, but discerning the difference between what I can change and what I cannot is hard - accepting the complexities of people and life and faith and government and healthcare and more is very difficult - realizing that it's not about me, I'm not in control, and that my perspective on how things could/should be is only one of many, many, many options - taking a stance of humility and grace when the culture expects power, decisive action, and firm positions is draining - being counter-culture as an ambassador for Christ is a narrow, tough road to walk - in a very real sense, I need to be careful when my motivation is to try to make it easier or make things the way I want them to be - that's where the brutal honesty comes in
- share my frustrations, concerns, and critical input in a positive, constructive, helpful manner: oh, and I share in limited doses so that those around me know this is not a place my heart dwells
- see life as an adventure, not an errand: Jon Acuff hits the nail on the head in this brief post
- believe Paul's exhortation in Philippians 4:4-9 with all of my heart: it is one of my favorites - they are literally words to live by - life is filled with good and bad - they are both just about everywhere we look - constantly thinking about all there is to be thankful for leaves little room for consternation to breed in my heart
- confess & ask forgiveness when I've crossed the line: I really dislike doing this - so much so that it helps me to stay on track most of the time! - but when I mess up, when I cross into consternation, even begin to revel in it, it's time to talk it out with a trusted mentor and/or those I have offended
I'm sure there is more to write on the subject, but that's enough for now. Be encouraged - be encouraging - be salt, light, and hope today - especially in our role as leaders, because others are looking to our example.