How to Turn the Tables on Discouragement

There’s a very real and destructive pandemic under way. I could be talking about COVID-19, but I’m not. I am talking about a pandemic I hear in almost daily coaching sessions with Christian leaders. This pandemic is called discouragement.

Discouragement is never far from Christian leaders, but COVID-19 has taken this plague to a whole new level.

Change, loss, uncertainty, complexity, conflict and extra workload are all contributing factors.

The symptoms of discouragement are many. Passion, energy, focus, faith, boldness, vision, motivation and joy can all be squelched by discouragement.

Discouragement can also be a doorway to darker thoughts and the temptation to escape in unhealthy and unholy ways.

Worse yet, discouragement is contagious. Since leaders usually set the culture, when the leader becomes discouraged others will be infected.

Turning the tables on discouragement is a key role for leaders, especially Christian leaders. Here are three practical strategies to help:

1. Celebrate What and Where You Can

My leadership team meetings often start with two questions: 1. “How are you doing?” and 2. “What is a win we can celebrate from your department?”

The first question provides a gauge on how each member of my team is doing. The question expresses care, deepens community and helps identify areas that may require care, prayer, celebration or troubleshooting.

I ask the second question because there are always problems and challenges that can stir discouragement. I personally need to hear where there are wins. Whether big or small, hearing where we are moving forward and seeing God at work sparks energy, momentum and thanksgiving. These are life-giving ingredients for starting a meeting, especially if the meeting requires difficult conversations around complex issues.

You can also start a daily list of “wins.” Look for at least three things to be thankful for from today and keep a journal list. Give thanks to God for these wins each day. And look back on the list when you start to feel discouraged.

Whether big or small, hearing where we are moving forward and seeing God at work sparks energy, momentum and thanksgiving. Click To Tweet

2. Take on the CEO Role

If you are the leader of a team or organization, there’s a role you need to take on during this pandemic—Chief Encouragement Officer. More people on your team and in your community need encouragement than ever before.

Most leaders overestimate the amount of encouragement they believe they are projecting and underestimate the amount of encouragement people need. You simply can’t go wrong turning up the temperature on encouragement.

Instead of focusing on how discouraged you feel (which is about you), be an encourager (which is about others). When you start encouraging others, your outlook will change for the better. So who can you encourage today? Who could you thank, help or bless?

Where possible, try to point people to stories and examples of God at work. If you are a pastor, interview a congregant (frontline worker, business person, senior, etc.) on how God has worked in their life during this difficult time. People are longing more than ever to be encouraged by stories of God at work.

To help you find words to encourage others, you can download this free 150 Encouraging Words tool.

Most leaders overestimate the amount of encouragement they believe they are projecting and underestimate the amount of encouragement people need. Click To Tweet

3. Take God at His Word

Based on what Christ has accomplished, the reality of his presence with us each and every day and God’s promises of eternity to come, Jesus-followers are incredibly spiritually wealthy. As Tim Keller has said, we are spiritual billionaires. I don’t share this truth to minimize the sometimes very difficult earthly circumstances we can find ourselves in. I share this truth to give perspective and hope.

If God has already made you a spiritual billionaire, what can the world give or take away that makes a difference? What can you earn, or even squander, that will make a difference? Who God is; what he has done; what he has promised to do; and who he says you are need to be your foundation. Leaning into these truths is a game changer. It puts Jesus at the center.

Who God is; what He has done; what He has promised to do; and who He says you are needs to be your foundation. Leaning into these truths is a game changer. Click To Tweet

Cheering you on!

Dr. Steve A. Brown
President, Arrow Leadership

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