7 of the Most Dangerous Leadership Mindsets I’ve Observed

Businessman Slipping on Wet Floor

I’ve seen it so many times.

A leader could be doing everything else right and one flawed mindset can overshadow – jeopardize all the good leadership principles we know.

One constantly repeated action. One trait. One habit. One mindset.

And, sadly, many times it’s not even the person isn’t a good leader – it’s one mindset gets them off track. And, so I believe leaders should constantly be working on bad mindsets which keep them from being as successful as they can be.

Here are 7 of the most dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed.

In full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of some of these – sometimes for a season – sometimes until someone helped me discover I had a poor leadership mindset.

Allowing small details to overwhelm a view of the big picture.

There will always be details, which have to be handled, but the smaller a leader is forced to think, the less he or she can focus on the larger vision ahead. I can get bogged down in minutia which wastes my energy and drains me. Sometimes it’s a systems problem that requires too much of my time and sometimes its a failure to delegate. Interestingly, I have personally found, when I’m free from the responsibility of handling as many details, I’m more likely to notice the smaller things which greatly need my attention.

Seeing the glass as half-empty.

A negative leader will almost never be successful long-term, simply because people will not care to follow. Some people have this mindset all the time (and I don’t personally think leadership is their thing), but this mindset can also last for a season – especially when there are numerous setbacks around us either in our personal life or where we lead. It could also occur in times of fast change, when the complainers seem to outnumber those offering compliments. If we aren’t careful – we can let negative mindsets carry over into every other area of our life – and start to view our world this way. It’s very difficult to follow a negative-minded leader.

Not enjoying the journey.

Never taking time to celebrate will eventually derail good leadership. High achieving leaders can often fall into this trap. I get there at times and have to be reminded – either through personal discipline or when others speak into my life. I’m always seeing the next big opportunity ahead and striving for constant improvement. I can fail to recognize current success while continually searching for future potential. The problem is a constant forward push isn’t sustainable long-term. It burns people out, makes them feel under appreciated, and leads to a very low team morale. People need a break – they need a plateau where they can rest, catch their breath and celebrate the victory already achieved.

Expecting more from others than you’re personally willing to give.

I once worked with a leader who had high expectations for everyone – not only in quality of work, but also in how many hours they should be working. The problem was this leader didn’t appear to have high expectations for himself. He would work just enough to bark out a few orders, but then he was gone. And, because he was mostly an absentee leader, even if he was working when he wasn’t around (and I personally knew he was often working out of the office), no one believed he was. He created a perception of laziness. It was frustrating for everyone trying to follow. They felt used. People following a leader with this mindset mostly stay for a paycheck.

Assuming all the credit.

And, this is especially true if the leader’s mindset thinks he or she deserves it. There is no success on a team without the efforts of others. When a leader takes all the accolades or rewards for himself, the team becomes employees of a boss rather than followers of a leader. Work becomes a job, not a career. It could be simply in the language of the leader. If “I” did it – if it was all because of “me” – “they” may soon, even if in only in their motivation – let “me” do it on my own. Shared success is paramount for a leader’s long-term success.

Never shutting down.

You can’t do it. You can’t. You may think you can always be on – do everything – be everywhere – but, you can’t. Superman couldn’t. Jesus didn’t. Don’t try. (Someone reading this still thinks they can – okay – you’ve been warned.) And, I have to be honest, this is one of the hardest ones for me. It usually comes when I don’t discipline myself to say no, worry too much what people think – especially the ones who expect me to be everywhere or think I should know everything which happens in our church. Thankfully, I’ve matured enough I won’t let the season go long without an intentional shut-down. (And, for me, this usually involves me getting out of town. As a potential workaholic, there’s always something to do as long as I’m here.)

Isolating yourself from others.

The mindset which thinks a leader can’t let others too close to them is one of the most dangerous I’ve observed. Leadership can be a lonely job. But, it shouldn’t be the job of a loner. We need people. We need accountability. We need community and those who can speak into the dark places of our hearts and lives. And, I’ve seen with so many leadership failures – even with so many pastors. When we become islands to ourselves we are an invitation for the enemy’s attacks.

Those are a few dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed. Any you’d care to add?

7 Hard Paradigms I Had to Learn to be an Effective Leader

Pastors need to know these.

Manager (businessman, coach, leadership) plan to increase company performance.

One of the hardest parts of leading for me has been the things I’ve had to learn or do which may have been contrary to the way I would have naturally done them – or wanted to do them.

For example, I like to be in control of my surroundings. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control. (Strength Finders says control is a “strength” of mine.) There have been several incidents in my personal life which have shaped this in me as a person. We are shaped by our past experiences.

Yet, as a leader there are many times I don’t have the privilege of being in control. To some this may sound like the opposite of being a good leader. Good leaders – some falsely believe – have everything under their control. Learning to empower people, however, has proven to actually be a better leadership model for me.

So I decided to share some of the hardest paradigms I have had to learn in order to be effective as a leader.

Many of my pastor friends – especially in church revitalization work – need to learn these.

Here are 7 hard paradigms to be an effective leader:

I had to develop the ability to say no more than I get to say yes.

I love to say yes. It’s easier. It makes people happier. It’s such a more positive word. And, I’m a positive person – the glass is always half full for me – three-fourths even. But, I’ve learned always saying yes makes me very ineffective as a leader and eventually leads to my burnout. How healthy is this for our team?

I have to live with sometimes being unpopular.

The natural tendency is to believe the leader is well known and, frankly, well liked. I’ve learned, however, every decision I make seems to make some people happy and some not so happy. I’ve even made some people angry with some of the decisions I have made – even some which in time proved to be the best decision, but initially were hard to accept. Change always produces an emotion – either good or bad emotions.

I have to move forward sometimes in uncertainty.

I’ve never been able to have all the answers before a decision has to be made. If I could, we would totally remove the faith factor and it would stagnate us. This doesn’t mean I don’t collaborate with others, do my homework, and certainly I should pray. But, I’ve learned to be an effective leader I have to be willing to go into unknown territories. I must even let people “experiment”. (We do this a lot.)

I had to get comfortable challenging mediocrity.

In case you don’t know, you can ruffle someone’s feathers if you challenge the way they’ve been doing something. This includes if what they were doing wasn’t working and they’ve “always done it this way”. But, I’ve learned as a leader it’s part of my job to challenge us to improve – in all areas. Development must be a part of an effective leader’s day. Granted, sometimes we can push too hard or too fast, but it’s incredibly difficult to recover from complacency.

I had to lower my pride and admit I can often be wrong.

I came into leadership, as most leaders do, believing I had some answers to offer. And sometimes I do. But I’ve also learned my team often knows more than me. In fact, if I surround myself with the right team then my team always knows more than me – at least in the individual areas they lead. I have to yield to them and empower them for us to achieve our maximum potential.

I had to come to a reality I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything.

As a creative, my mind has a tendency to wander. If I’m not careful, I’ll try to be too involved in everyone else’s work and the work I’m supposed to do suffers. I want to help the discipleship ministry, the mission ministry, the music ministry, and the administrative ministry of the church, and every other ministry – in an in depth way. Granted, I need to be involved at some level, and part of my job as leader is casting vision for the entire church, but micromanaging never produces healthy or the best results. Disciplining myself not to always have an opinion has proven to be a more effective form of leadership.

I also had to learn this is another area where a leader may become unpopular – especially pastors. The church expects us to know everything and be everywhere. But, again, doing so makes me far less effective overall.

I had to realize that sometimes the best thing to put on my calendar is rest.

I’m from a generation and a family history of work. I’ve been working steadily since I was 12 years old and I like the 6 day a week model of the Old Testament. Rest doesn’t come without discipline for me. How can doing nothing be a good thing? It seems counter-productive to me. I’ve learned, however, without proper rest, I’m eventually very ineffective as a leader. There have been days – extremely busy days – where the best decision of my day was to stop take a nap and start again. Needing proper rest is true of days, weeks, and seasons in order for my leadership to remain effective.

Those are some paradigms which come to my mind I have had to learn – sometimes the hard way – to be effective in leadership and to last long-term. I’m sure there are others. Feel free to share your own.

What paradigms have you learned, which have helped you be a more effective leader?

7 Thoughts for Parenting a Young Family During the Presidential Election Season

And other scary times of life.

teen siblings brother and sister watching tv close up indoors portrait with remote control

Can we just admit this has not been our favorite presedential election season? I’ll admit. I’m one who tends to see the more positive in every scenario and it’s honestly difficult to do this time.

A man with a young children asked me recently how should he and his wife parent their family during this season. Great question. Regardless of whether or not your choice for president is clear, tensions have never seemed higher. This is true even among believers. Children surely have sensed the tension in us. 

I don’t have all the answers – and, my children are grown – but, I have a few. 

Please understand. This is not a political post. This is a dealing with life around you as a parent post. And, I would suggest these for other times when their world is scarier than normal. 

Here are 7 suggestions for parenting children during this presedential election:

Help them see hope.

There is always hope, right? If you’re following after a Savior named Jesus who has overcome the world – there is always hope! Children will seldom be more hopeful about their future than you are hopeful about yours.

Don’t shelter them.

Everything should be age appropriate, but pretty much every newsstand and every television has something about this election. They hear it at school and in the restaurants and stores. They see you react to Facebook posts. There really isn’t much of a way to escape it completely if they are old enough to carry on a conversation.

Don’t overexpose them.

I certainly don’t think I would sit an elementary child in front of the television every night – and, really, this is regardless of what’s on television. Again, the child’s age is important as well as their interest level. When I was in elementary school I actually cared about current events. I wanted to watch the news. I do think as parents we should monitor not only how much they watch, but also how it seems to be affecting them.

Allow them to ask questions.

It’s probably best to see if they have questions and let them guide the discussion with how much or how little they want to know. No question should be off limits and I don’t think there should be many “we’re not going to talk about it anymore” rules. If children are curious enough they will find information somewhere and where better than from you?

Read Scripture together and pray for and with them.

The ultimate answer for our day is the truth which never changes. I find great comfort in the Psalms. Children love to read. Find a good Bible for children and read truth together. And, I have often heard and said, “Prayer doesn’t always change the circumstances, but prayer always changes me.” The same is true for children. There is a comfort in prayer – when you “take all your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” Children learn faith from you. Share your faith with them. (The Scripture and prayer time will help you also.)

Teach them Biblical principles of how to respond to the world.

Regardless of the times, we are to love our neighbors, care for others, and strive to live in unity. We even have to respect authority – unless it differs from the commands of God. Those are timeless Biblical truths. You can certainly teach them principles of government you adhere to also, but mostly we should be shaping the character of our children – of course, ultimately into the character of Christ. And, wow, wouldn’t it be great if the character of Christ impacted our politics today?

Have some fun with them.

You need it and so do they. The fact is when we’ve been living under the cloud of our times like this election has done for many of us our own energy level might be drained. You may be missing some enthusiasm you usually have. But, children need to laugh and play. They need to have fun within the safety of their parent’s strength. Maybe turn off the television, play a game, or do watch something which causes everyone to have a big belly laugh. Coudln’t we all use one of those about now?

Those are just a few thoughts to get you thinking. I have written similar thoughts before on helping children respond to fear from tragedy. You can read another post HERE. What would you add to my list?

(And, I’m really not looking for political commentary here – just trying to help some young families parent.)

7 Hints You’re About to Make a Bad Leadership Decision

No keyboard key finger

Have you ever made a bad decision in leadership?

Of course, we all have. It is actually part of the way we grow as leaders. I’ve made many bad decisions in my leadership.

Thankfully, the longer I lead, the more I have developed some warning signs I’m about to make another. There are certain clues which help me pinpoint a potential bad move – even before I pull the trigger of decision.

Please understand, these aren’t full proof. They don’t mean you are definitely making a bad decision. But, they are hints you might and they are worth considering before you make your next decision – especially major decisions.

Here are 7 hints you’re about to make the wrong decision as a leader:

The decision makes everyone happy.

Chances are you’re settling for less than best if everyone is happy. The best decisions almost never please everyone. They involve change and sacrifice. Change is uncomfortable for someone – always – and seldom universally accepted.

This doesn’t mean you don’t attempt to bring the most people into agreement with the change. If you don’t you won’t have followers for long. But, you should base the final decision not as much on what is popular as much as what is right. This requires the hard work of leadership. 

It’s an easy decision.

Some decisions are. Most aren’t. Especially major decisions. The hard decisions require prayer, wrestling through the options, and collaborating with others.  Making hard decisions is actually where we need leadership most. If everything is easy – you don’t really need a leader.

You are making the decision alone.

Plans fail for the lack of counsel. With many counselors plans succeed. (Proverbs 15:22) I’ve seldom regretted my decision – even when it doesn’t turn out as I might have wished – if I know I have invited others into the decision-making process. There is a certain comfort in shared ownership. This doesn’t mean I don’t have to stand alone at times, but not without first consulting people I trust. (For a great example of these, see how David allowed his men to speak into a decision in 1 Samuel 23:1-5) 

I’m going against my closest advisors .

Not only do I need to invite others into the decision-making process – I need to heed the people’s advice I invite. This is another I’ve learned the hard way. It is rare I will make a decision where the group of advisors I have recruited have advised otherwise. In fact, I look for unanimous consensus. Again, as a leader, there have been a few times I had to make decisions no one else could see at the time – but, those were always times I was confident God was calling me to do something. (Such as in the conclusion to the David story I mentioned previously.) Short of this confirmation – I depend on the wisdom of collective voices.

I am making the decision too quickly.

Some decisions – especially the major ones – need time to gel in your mind and heart. Most major decisions need a good nights sleep – or several. If you’re being rushed into the decision, you’ll likely make some mistakes. Of course, there are times you have to move swiftly. Whenever possible, though, give the process adequate time.

I am making the decision too slowly.

The opposite is true also. When you’ve wrestled with it long enough – and you know the right thing to do – some decisions just need to be made – even without having all the answers. I’ve been guilty of missing opportunities because I got locked in decision paralysis and didn’t make the call I already knew I should make – and, honestly, it’s many times because I know the reaction to the decision will not necessarily be popular. 

My gut tells me otherwise.

You have a gut for a reason. Most likely it was developed over years of experience. It’s usually dangerous to ignore it.

Of course, the key is actually being self aware enough to consider these hints. But, next time you’re about to make a major decision, put your potential actions through this grid. I’m speaking from experience of many bad leadership decisions. It might help you avoid some of my mistakes – and make better ones.

What are some ways you diagnose a potential bad decision?

10 of the Greatest Leadership Questions Ever Asked

what is the answer

Have you ever heard the phrase, “There are no bad questions”?

In leadership, this might be true.

I have learned in my years of leadership – I only know what I know. And, many times I don’t know much. There are often things among the people I am trying to lead which I need to know – and, for whatever reason – I won’t know unless I ask. Which means I must continually ask lots of questions.

One of the best skills a leader can develop is the art of asking the right questions – and, even better – at the right times.

Here are 10 of the greatest leadership questions ever asked:

How can I help you?

What is the biggest challenge you have to being successful here?

Do you understand what I’ve asked you to do?

What am I missing or what would you do differently if you were me?

What do you see I can’t see?

How can I improve as your leader?

If we had authority to do anything – and money was no barrier – what would you like to see us do as a team/organization?

Where do you see yourself someday and how can I assist you in getting there?

What are you currently learning which can help all of us?

How are you doing in your personal life and is there any way I can help you?

You can rephrase these for your context and within the relationships you have with people with whom you serve. You can certainly add your own questions. But, if you are attempting to lead people, may I suggest you start asking questions.

5 Steps to Discern a Change in Ministry Assignment

Time for Change - Ornate Clock

How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?

I get this question a lot and have previously addressed it, but recently I have received it more frequently so I decided to update this post.

Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life. As with most posts I wrote, I share out of my own life experience. It’s the best framework of understanding I have.

I think it is important, however, to realize God uses unequaled experiences in each of our lives. Your experience will likely be different from mine. There was only one burning bush experience we know about in Scripture. At the same time, there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.

This has been the process that I have experienced as God has led me to something new.

Here are 5 steps in discerning a change in ministry assignment:

Wonderful sweet success

Each time the door of a new opportunity opened it began opening (looking back) when things were going well in my current ministry. In fact, people who don’t understand the nature of a call (and some who do) have usually wondered why I would be open to something new.

Inner personal struggle

I usually have not been able to understand what God is up to, but there is something in me (and usually in my wife at the same time) where I know God is doing something new. While I do not know what it is, and not even if it involves a change in my place of ministry, I know God is doing a new work in my heart about something. Almost like the king in Daniel 4 who needed an interpretation, I know there’s something out there but at the time I can’t discern it. (I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit though to help me.)

Closeness to Christ

Brennan Manning calls it a Dangerous love of Christ. During the times leading up to a change of ministry assignment I will be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back and I can see this clearly, but at the time I usually am just enjoying the ride and the closeness to Christ. Many times God is giving wisdom to share with others and (looking back) I can see that some of it was actually meant for me.

Opportunity presents itself

The opportunity often seems to come from nowhere, but with multiple experiences now I can see the pattern that has occurred each time. It is only after these first three experiences where God brings a new opportunity my way. This is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because, again, it usually comes as a surprise. I have yet to be completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ, because it always involves a leap of faith on my part, but this process prepares me to be ready to say “Yes Lord – Here am I – send me.”

I surrendered to God’s call

After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has had us on, and Cheryl and I agree on where God is leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. I have certainly delayedy response, wrestled through the difficulty and comsulted many advisors, but never refused. That does not mean it is easy to leave my current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we are in the center of God’s will for our life.

A special word to the spouse:

Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in our current ministry, but she has always lined with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. I wrote about that tension from the spouse’s perspective HERE.

Have you shared these experiences?

What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?

5 Ways Ministry Has Changed in 20 Years

It's gotten harder...

Pastor praying for congregation

I began this blog a number of years ago for one primary reason of encouraging other ministry leaders. I came into ministry later in life – after a long business career – and, so I’ve always seen the role differently from some who have been spent their career in ministry.

Recently I was reflecting on how ministry has changed in the 15 years I’ve been in vocational ministry. This reflections was a result of two conversations. One was with a man who wondered with me why things can’t be like they used to be. Specifically such as why many ministers (like me) don’t preach three times a week anymore – and why the pastor doesn’t make all the hospital visits. The other was during the interview with Pete Wilson, who recently resigned from his church after recognizing the signs of burnout. During our conversation I remember saying, “Pete, ministry has surely changed in the 20 plus years since you entered?” He agreed.

But, how? How has ministry changed? What’s so different about being a pastor today versus 20 years ago?

I’m certain this is a list under development, but I decided to jot down some thoughts.

Here are 5 ways ministry is different over the last 20 years:

Access to the pastor has dramatically increased.

The volume of communication has to have dramatically increased for ministers as it has for all of society. I get hundreds of emails every week. My church interacts with me on Facebook dozens of times a week. A large number of our church has my cell number – and are free to text or call me regularly. I get Twitter DM’s daily. I am even contacted through LinkedIn by people who attend our church. I can’t imagine people handwriting that many notecards in days past or even typing out that many letters. It means I get more suggestions, questions, and complaints. And, honestly, it probably means I get more encouragement. But, certainly with social media and technology improvements the pastor is easier to find than ever before – and all of this communication takes time for the pastor to respond.

The type of ministry we do has dramatically changed.

I’ve read numerous articles – and talked to educators – about how the teachers role has changed from the 50’s until today. God bless those who choose to serve in public schools. The classroom has certainly gotten more difficult to manage in recent decades. It has become more difficult, because society has become more difficult. Running in the hall and chewing gum being some of the biggest discipline problems of the past. Now they deal with drugs and guns in the school. And, the same is true for ministry. Who would’ve thought pastors would be dealing with guns in the church. Or abductions of children from preschool. Security has become a major issue for pastors. And, this is just one of many examples of how societal changes have impacted the role of a pastor’s work.

(And, frankly, hasn’t every career changed in the last 20 years?)

Family needs have changed.

Pastors have to deal with children who are facing pressures every other child faces. And those pressures are bigger today than they were 20 years ago. According to one Time magazine article I read, anxiety among children has dramatically increased in the last 30 years. Nine of ten children ages 8 to 16 have accessed pornography, many wile supposedly doing homework, according to another study. Time management is much more of an issue for families today than it was when my kids were at home. All of those impact the ministries of the church and the interactions a pastor has with families. 

People are less committed and the message is less received.

It takes far more energy to get someone in the doors of the church then it would have 20 years ago. The competition for time is so much more severe. Travel ball, dance competitions, and community activities which used to never occur on Sunday are drawing people’s attention. And, keeping people engaged during a sermon is so much different. People can now watch a message – great messages – 24 hours a day. And, they can follow the world on their phone while we preach. 

Leading people is harder.

It just is. I’ve been in leadership for over 30 years. Leading people used to involve loyalty and commitment simply because of position – or paycheck. This was true whether someone had a paid or volunteer position. This isn’t always the case anymore. It’s made us lead better, but it takes far more time than it used to take.

Bottom line. The world has changed. And, so have the expectations and demands of ministry.

Please understand, I’m not complaining. I work for God – if I’m going to complain it will be to Him. (I’ll be like the grumbling Israelites.) I’m simply pointing out an observation. Working with 100’s of pastors every year – seeing the stress they face – watching many churches treat them horribly because they don’t meet all their expectations of time and commitment – I simply want to speak into something I see.

During pastor appreciation month – pray for those in ministry. Support them as you can.

Pastors, what other ways has ministry changed for you since you’ve been in ministry?

7 Reactions to Grief Which May Surprise You


Over the years I’ve walked with dozens of people through the stages of grief. Grieving is mostly associated with loss – it could be the loss of a job, a relationship, or even a life. Whenever we lose something we value we grieve. It’s natural, healthy, and expected.

I have learned no two people grieve exactly the same way. For me, for example, I’m often a delayed griever. I may not even cry at the immediate loss of a loved one, but in the days to come – as I process the loss – tears may flow at seemingly random times.

There are no rules of how to grieve. The only encouragement I give is to grieve with an end in mind. Grief should ultimately lead us to a deeper trust in God as we seek Him for comfort in our grief. But, the way you grieve will be different than the way I grieve.

I’ve also discovered there are reactions to grief which often surprise people about themselves. I’ve spoken with parents who see their children experience significant grief for the first time – and they are surprised by their actions. We really don’t know how we will respond in grief until we are placed in the position of deep sorrow. This is especially true the younger people are and the less experience they have with grief.

And, there are certain reactions to grief which we simply don’t expect. Everyone expects sadness, for example. But, some of the other emotions may catch us by surprise. That’s what this post is about.

Here are 7 parts of grief we don’t always expect:

Regret. You wish you to spent more time with the people you lost. Or done things differently when the business fails. You think of things you should’ve said you didn’t say.

At some point you must reconcile the regrets with truth. Time has past. There is nothing you can do to go back in time. “Back to the Future” was a movie, not reality, which is why Cher sang “If I Could Turn Back Time”. One of my lifetime and favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.” The past is the past. How are you going to be in the future? There’s a valid question to work towards in grief.

Anger. At God. At other people – even unrational anger. Even at the person you lost.

I’ve known people who hold on to anger for years. It makes them miserable and everyone around them miserable. They held to a part of grief – a very natural part – but, never reconciled their pain to God. In time, the goal should be to leave all hurt at the foot of the Cross, allowing God to soften even the most angry heart.

Confusion. You can be the most together person ever and you may still struggle to understand life when wrestling through grief.

During the immediate days of grief a person should be slow to make decisions which have long-term consequences. Allow people you trust – maybe even a counselor – to help you make sense of life for a while. In time, and with God’s help, life will become clearer again.

Frustration. It seems as those some people simply don’t understand. They don’t say the right thing. They don’t come through as they’re supposed to. You can become frustrated at close family members, extended relatives, friends, even the church.

The truth, as I’ve discovered, is sometimes people don’t know how to respond. Plus, in time of grief we might have unrealistic expectations of others. We can forget others have their own issues they are working through in life. Life keeps moving, although for you it might seem the earth has stopped turning.

Comparison. When you are suffering it may seem no one has ever suffered as much as you are. And, they don’t understand the level of your pain. This is natural also in the early days of grief, but if left there we can almost respond to others unfairly, ignoring pain in their own life. It isn’t usually true we suffer alone – everyone has pain in their life, but grief is full of lots of unexpected emotions.

Actually, there can be a healthy side of comparison if we use it with the right intent. One thing I like to do as a pastor is connect those in grief with someone who has experienced a similar loss, but is further along in the process. Grief support groups can be helpful for this. In time it may be comforting to know there are those who do understand. I think this is part of what Galatians 6:2 means when it commands, “Share each other’s burdens”.

Doubt. The most faithful person can develop deep questions of personal faith. They may wonder where God is – why He allowed what He did. God is always trustworthy and always good, but our emotions can can cause us to believe otherwise in times of grief.

This one may require the assistance of others, but certainly involves saturating our hearts and minds with truth. I find the Psalms especially helpful in these moments. I love the truth of Psalm 56:8, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” God truly does care.

Disillusion. I’ve witnessed people in grief transfer some of their emotions into other aspects of their life. They may develop distrust of people they previously trusted. The point here is we transfer emotions – and because emotions can be unpredictable – we don’t always transfer them well.

Here is another one where it is helpful to have someone who can walk through these days of grief with us. A trusted friend is so important – someone who knows us well enough to encourage us – even challenge us when we prolonged too long in irrational thought.  Grief may lead us to be more wise in our discernment, but it shouldn’t lead us to a place of paralyzation to enjoying life in the future. Ultimately, even the deepest pain should guide us to a place of hope and joy. James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”

I think it’s helpful to know these may be reactions to grief. If you are experiencing some of these, you might consider whether they are an expression of grief.

Any you would add from your experience?