The skies seemed a little darker, colors seemed duller, and try as I might, I kept seeing what was going wrong, unable to see anything that was going right. You’ve been there – in a season of discouragement. Maybe it was a specific time in your leadership journey, maybe it was simply a rough season in life. We are all going to get discouraged, and that’s okay. It’s when we don’t know how to process our discouragement that we can end up with a toxic soul.
Jason and Jeremy Isaacs recently published the book Toxic Soul, a guide to leading without losing heart. The book is actually written for pastors, but much of the book is applicable to all leaders, and even applicable to life in general.
In any context, discouragement can lead to disappointment – in yourself, in your leaders, in God. Disappointment eventually leads to defeat. No one intends to end up living a defeated life. So how do you prevent it?
Recognize where discouragement originates.
When we see something coming, we are able to prepare for its arrival. We will not always see what is coming in life, but there are patterns that you can watch for. These are the three main patterns of discouragement that Toxic Soul highlights:
Most leaders are very results-oriented. We dream big dreams, cast vision, and then work diligently to see progress toward our goals. It is very easy to become discouraged when results don’t look the way we think they should. Two thoughts about that:
- Maybe you’re measuring the wrong things.
- God cares far more about who you are than what you do.
Often, our preferred reality doesn’t match our actual reality. Life is hard. No question about that. It can be lonely and exhausting and confusing and discouraging. We add to the struggle when we attempt to accomplish everything on our own. We were never intended to live life completely alone. When we do so, the reality of our limits comes crashing in. Maybe you’ve lost integrity, forgotten to focus on others rather than self, or have removed yourself so far from others that where you once had teams of people, you now look behind you to see only a few remaining stragglers.
Another reality? Everyone faces criticism. Sometimes it’s for mistakes we’ve made, sometimes not. When you find yourself pulling away from others in a season of discouragement, choose instead to start leaning in. Pour into people. Surround yourself with truth.
Who you surround yourself with determines who you will become. At times, we become discouraged in our relationships because of who we do have in our lives. Other times, it’s discouraging to realize who we are missing in our lives. Both can lead to a toxic soul. I love the idea that Isaacs offers when it comes to letting a relationship go. He says, “make the decision today to launch people instead of lose them.” (p. 169)
You have a choice. You can choose to allow the discouragement in your life to define you, leading to a toxic soul, or you can choose to process your discouragement in a way that grows you.
I have some growing to do.