In recent weeks I’ve struggled with feeling the weight of so much brokenness around. I’ve seen it in too many areas. Funerals, division, anger, fear, conspiracies, and more. It has tired me out. Talking with my spiritual director, they offered this (paraphrased by me) piece of wisdom:
It’s designed to tire you out. These systems expect you to be tired out responding to the unending stream of injustice. It’s the only way they can continue on.
So much wisdom in just a couple of sentences. And a wake up call for me.
A long time ago I remember reading a leadership book that offered this pearl of wisdom:
You can either respond, or you can lead. You can’t do both.
There is a cost to this of course. Leading has to let the idea of responding go. You can’t respond to everything. And if you spend so much effort responding, you have nothing left over for leading. Of course, this isn’t an all or nothing thing though either. Leading isn’t about ignoring things. In fact leading requires you to pay attention to what’s going on.
The challenge that we have in our society is that we have a really bad expectation for leaders. We expect them to respond to everything. That’s not what leaders are supposed to do. Leaders always responding is like driving while constantly looking in the rear view mirror. Leaders can’t always offer a response to the latest outrage, disaster, controversy, and division. They don’t have the energy for that. Nor is it a good use of their talents or time.
Leadership is about blazing a trail. It’s about going forward. It’s about pay attention to what’s going on and responding to things that help advance the cause, that advance the mission. It’s about being selective in the response. Choosing wisely how to use your limited resources and voice.
Are there plenty of things that I could respond to? Sure. It’s never ending in fact. And as my spiritual director said – it’s designed to be that way. So what are we to do?
Make a conscious decision to choose what needs attention, what can be accomplished, and what should be done. Injustice is going to continue to happen. And we should rightly be upset by it. But we can’t respond to everything. And it’s not our job to respond to everything. Others need to step up too. We need to jump in where we are called. Pay attention to things going on around us. And work and move forward where we can – where we can make an actual impact. And we need to mourn those things that we can’t do anything about. I think that’s where lament comes in.
So while systems are designed to tired us out, be wise. Be intentional. And go and do wonderful things.