When our daughter, Caroline, was born and severe health complications quickly ensued, Carla and I were driven to our knees, crying out to God for healing. Amid fear and fright, we sought his peace. When we felt less than confident that the story we’d imagined for ourselves as new parents wasn’t going to play out the way we’d thought, we sought God’s confidence.
Here’s Carla’s story. For the squeamish, it does get detailed.
March 1, 1994, was an incredible day. My due date had come and gone, and now Preston and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new baby girl, Caroline. Caroline arrived at 7:29 a.m. on Tuesday, March 1. We were overjoyed and felt so blessed to welcome a new, healthy baby girl into our family.
Later that afternoon, as is typical after most deliveries, the nurses came into my hospital room to check on me, take vital signs, etc. After removing my catheter, they noticed something wrong: there was urine leaking onto my bed. Several nurses came in to look, doctors were called in, and shortly after that, I was wheeled over to urology specialists’ offices. During the delivery process, we found out that my bladder and vaginal wall had been torn, therefore forming a hole through both, which had caused urine to flow directly from my bladder through my vaginal wall and leak onto the bed (or anything else).
At first, neither my doctor nor the specialists knew what to do. Once the specialists had discussed the matter, my OB-GYN (who had delivered Caroline) came in to explain these findings to us. He admitted that he didn’t know how this had happened, and, although he had delivered thousands of babies, he had never seen this before. He was concerned, and he offered to pray with us.
The next day, we took Caroline home, but it wasn’t the homecoming I had envisioned beforehand. I went home with a catheter and wore adult continence garments for the next six weeks while we met with specialists to develop a plan that would hopefully lead to healing. During the weeks that led up to the surgery, my OB doctor would call to check on us and let us know that he and others he knew were praying for us. Many surgeons are egotistical and don’t acknowledge their humanness. This doctor was different. He was bold in his faith and humble in his approach, and, because of this, I was learning more about Christ.
There was a lot of uncertainty going into the surgery. Ahead of time, we had agreed to various approaches based on what they could find once I was on the surgical table. One method was somewhat invasive and another one much less so, but I wouldn’t know which method they would implement until I awoke from anesthesia. During the weeks leading up to surgery, our only option was to pray for a medical plan of action that would be successful, for skilled minds and skilled hands for the physicians, for encouragement, and for adequate care during this time for our new baby girl. We asked family, friends, neighbors, and everyone around us for prayer.
Finally, the morning of surgery came, and it was time for my family to leave my side and allow the staff to take me back. As I was being wheeled down to the pre-op room, I heard someone call my name. It was my physician; he had come to walk me into surgery. (He was not a part of the urology surgical team). He held my hand and prayed over me.
I’m happy to say that the report was good when I came out of the anesthesia later that day. The team had been able to make the repairs in the least invasive way, and, thankfully, the outcome looked very hopeful!
I cared for a newborn baby for several months following the surgery while wearing multiple urinary medical devices. Needless to say, I stayed home quite a bit. It wasn’t an easy time, but it was a season when God was allowing me some time alone with him to talk things out. I did a lot of praying.
At times, I remember wrestling with my feelings and thinking, Am I going to trust that God is good and that his plan for me is good, even if my body doesn’t function properly and I must wear these urinary devices for the rest of my life? Am I going to trust him no matter the outcome?
God was patient with me, and he allowed me to talk about these things out with him. Ultimately, after spending much time in his Word, much time in prayer, and listening to godly counsel, I began to accept the fact that, no matter the outcome, God loves me and cares for me. He will always be there for me. He is my maker and my helper.
Several months went by before I could attempt going to the restroom on my own. I’ll never forget the day I was allowed to try. Right away, I knew I was healed. God is good, not because he chose to heal me—he certainly didn’t have to do that—but because he is a good father. That’s his character. His plans are for good, even though we may not like them at the time.
Looking back, I’m very thankful he took me on that little journey years ago. I learned to trust him, and he hasn’t failed me yet.
To add to Carla’s story, I remember sitting in the waiting room with her parents and my grandparents during surgery. We were hopeful that the procedure would be successful, but we were prepared for the worst. I’ll never forget the post-surgery debrief with the surgeon. It was as if he couldn’t believe how simple the surgery was and how well it had gone versus how he initially thought the situation would be resolved. It was a miracle. We were absolutely delighted and thankful. We all jumped for joy and thanked God for his incredible mercy. The surgery was successful, and Carla’s health was restored.
Carla and I will always look back at this milestone and be thankful for God’s answer to our prayers. We didn’t have anywhere else to turn but to God, to place our hope and confidence in him for a positive outcome. Despite daunting circumstances and an undesired prognosis, we prayed to God because we trusted him. When I saw God move and do what seemed impossible, it both reaffirmed and further established my confidence in God.
What does God-confidence look like? It’s when you move from elevating God over self. The Bible says, “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence” (1 Corinthians 10:12 – The Message).
How does one cultivate God-confidence?
- Seek his empowerment.
- Request God’s wisdom to navigate unchartered territory, make decisions, and solve problems.
- Seek his strength and protection to face opposition or challenging circumstances.
- Trust he’ll provide and ensure an outcome that works for the good.
- When success comes, give credit to God and be thankful.
- If success doesn’t come, don’t let your God-confidence be shaken but let it grow through adversity.
How different would your life look if you moved from self-confidence to God-confidence? How would your home life change? How would your organization, community, or school grow? How would your world transform?
If you sincerely trust him, God will do wonderful things in you and through you. As you make a positive difference in the world, you will be in marvelous fellowship with the One who made you. You will be engaged in his enterprises, risking your life for him and his kingdom. Focusing on God and not self will make your confidence soar, and you’ll be energized to do and achieve more than you imagined possible.
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Thanks for reading. Cheers!
Pres> Read More
After I became a Christian in the eighth grade, I shared my newfound faith with everyone. I hoped my relationship with Jesus would be contagious. After a few months of sharing, multiple friends called and asked if they could come to church with me. I was so excited! Some came and responded to the gospel like I had. But others decided that the Christian faith wasn’t for them. These “friends” who’d rejected the message began to reject me as well.
On several occasions, I was physically or verbally threatened because of my beliefs. I was ridiculed and ostracized by my “friends.” Being bullied became a constant pattern in my life.
One semester, a group of tough guys began intimidating me. They’d sneak up on me and whisper, “Do you want to fight? You’d better watch yourself after school. We’re gonna kick your butt!” They were relentless. The bullies stared and laughed at me in class, followed me down the halls every day, and prevented me from getting into my locker. I was scared to death and felt like no one could help me.
I didn’t know how to fight back. I was a scrawny, five-foot-two kid who weighed eighty pounds soaking wet. The bullies seemed like they were ten feet tall. Their intimidation became overbearing, so I went to see the school counselor. After hearing my story, he began escorting me to the bike rack after school for the next month. I’d unlock my bike, hop on, and ride like the wind, hoping to get home before the bullies caught me.
One time, I was home alone, and the doorbell rang. Two bullies were at the door. They tried to pull me outside and beat me up—in a nice, middle-class neighborhood, no less! I forced the door shut. They looked for another way into the house, calling me names as I hid inside. I tried to call my neighbors for help. No one was home. I was so scared that the bullies would find a way into my house that I called the police. The bullies left.
My dad came home, and I told him what happened. Trying to help me, he called the bullies’ parents and had stern conversations with them. Well, you can imagine how the bullies reacted. During P. E. the next day, the bullies told me I’d pay for my dad’s calls. Their threats, intimidation, and pressure grew worse.
Somehow, through all that, I kept my faith and prayed for God’s protection. I trusted God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (ESV). I surrounded myself with other believers and found support. I was never physically harmed, but I was mentally scarred.
Admittedly, I’ve struggled with resentment toward those bullies over the years and wanted to get revenge. It took a long time for me to forgive them and overcome my fear and anger. Being bullied was humiliating and embarrassing. These traumatic episodes molded me at a very early age that had a lasting impact. On one side, they taught me to trust God and persevere. On the other side, I learned how to hide my faith from others as a form of self-protection.
Eventually, I grew out of the five-foot-two frame into a six-foot-one frame. I matured physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My confidence grew much stronger and I’m no longer intimidated by bullies. I stick up for myself. But when I sense someone is trying to threaten me or someone else, I have a visceral reaction (i.e. hair standing up on the back of my neck) that motivates me to fight back – stand up for myself and others. This isn’t always good. At times, I can become the aggressor. I’m still a work in progress. God continues shaping me – healing the wounds from long ago, building my faith in him and moderating my reaction to bullies. He’s not done with me yet, but I know that he’ll finish what he started.
Statistics show that 20% of children ages 12 to 18 years old experience some type of bullying – unwanted aggressive behavior meant to hurt. Bullying comes in several forms (verbal, social, and physical) and typically occurs in a few locations (school or online).
How do you prevent bullying? It can be complex. But based on my experience, I recommend the following seven ways:
- Keep the faith – I ran to God and sought his help in my time of need. He heard my cries and protected me. My faith in him grew deeper because of my experience and he continues to mend me today.
- Speak up – If you’re the one being bullied, tell a trusted adult or authority. Don’t be embarrassed. Ask for help. It took me a long time to muster the courage to admit I was being bullied. Ultimately, I told my parents and teachers. My experience may not have lasted as long or been as acute if I’d confided in someone earlier.
- Surround yourself – seek support, safety and solace with your friends and family. I leaned into my church youth group and will always remember their encouragement.
- Stick up for yourself – Sometimes you need to dig deep inside and find the courage to overcome your fear. Let the bully know you’re not gonna take it anymore. I’m not condoning violence. I am condoning a deep resolve that prevents anyone from unwanted aggressive behavior. Tell the bully to stop.
- Be someone’s hero – Don’t stand on the sidelines if you see someone being bullied. Intervene, stick up for the person being bullied, if you see something say something. I wished I had more heroes that were willing to stand up for me. Now, I try to be that hero in someone’s life that I didn’t have.
- Build awareness and a culture of safety – Teachers, administrators, parents and students can all play a role in bully prevention. Educate everyone on what bullying is and what it isn’t. Teach respect, dignity and what to do if bullying is occurring. Learn to listen. Be empathetic. Protect others.
- Forgive and forget – It took a long time for me to resolve my feelings of anger and resentment. I learned that it’s not good to hang on to grudges. If you do, you’ll become bitter. The path to becoming better is through forgiveness and forgetting the circumstances – move on.
To learn more about bullying, its effects and how to prevent it, visit: https://www.stopbullying.gov
Lastly, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Support prevention awareness through participating in the weekly campaigns. Visit: https://www.stompoutbullying.org/national-bullying-prevention-awareness-month
Have you ever been bullied? What was your experience? Send me a note at email@example.com to connect and continue the conversation.
You’re probably reading this because you’re experiencing some level of anxiety and are looking for a solution. Before you read on, take a quick self-assessment and determine your level of anxiety. . .
Anxiety Self-Assessment Scale
INSTRUCTIONS: This scale is designed for your personal use. There are no right or wrong answers. Usually, your first response is the best. For each item decide if it:
- NEVER applies to you (mark 0)
- SOMETIMES applies to you (mark 1)
- HALF THE TIME applies to you (mark 2)
- FREQUENTLY applies to you (mark 3)
- ALWAYS applies to you (mark 4)
Make sure you base your answers on how you actually behave in your daily life, not on how you would like to be.
- I feel tense, nervous, restless, or agitated
- I feel afraid for no apparent reason
- I worry about bad things that might happen to me or those I care about
- I have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up early
- I have difficulty eating too much, too little or digesting my food
- I wish I knew a way to make myself more relaxed
- I have difficulty with my concentration, memory or thinking
- I would say I am anxious much of the time
- From time to time I have experienced a racing heartbeat, cold hands or feet, dry mouth, sweating, tight muscles, difficulty breathing, numbness, frequent urination, or hot/cold flashes
- I wish I could be as relaxed with myself as others seem to be
SCORING: Add all scores together . . . TOTAL SCORE ___________
- MINIMAL ANXIETY – 0 to 8 point
- MILD ANXIETY – 8 to 16 points
- MODERATE ANXIETY – 17 to 24 points
- HIGH ANXIETY (Warning Level) – 25 to 32 points
- EXTREME ANXIETY (Warning Level) – 33 to 40 points
How did you rate yourself? Does your anxiety level concern you? How would you like to score yourself in the future? What’s the gap between where you are and where you want to be? Do you want to experience a true and genuine peace? If so, I encourage you to read on . . .
First, let’s talk about the definition of anxiety and its destructive impact. Anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (such as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”[i] Anxiety is a behavioral response to worry. Worry is “to subject to persistent or nagging attention or effort.”[ii] Furthermore, worry “implies an incessant goading or attacking that drives one to desperation.”[iii] When you worry about uncertainties, you become anxious and stressed.
The problem of anxiety is epidemic, and it exhausts mental, physical, and spiritual energy; the health cost can be high. Here are the facts according to anxietycentre.com website:
- 40 million people in the U.S. will experience impairment because of an anxiety condition this year
- Only 4 million will receive treatment, and of those, only 400,000 will receive proper treatment
- Those who experience anxiety and stress have a very high propensity for drug abuse and addictions
- 65% of North Americans take prescription medications daily, 43% take mood-altering prescriptions regularly
- Paxil and Zoloft (two of the more popular anti-anxiety medications) ranked 7th and 8th in the top ten prescribed medications in the U.S.
- Recreational drugs are also used to cope with anxiety. 42% of young adults in America regularly use recreational drugs (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
- Alcohol is commonly used to cope with anxiety
- 25 – 40% of all patients in U.S. hospitals are being treated for complications resulting from alcohol-related problems (The Marin Institute)
- Alcohol-related car crashes are the number one killer of teens. Alcohol use is also associated with homicides, suicides, and drownings—the next three leading causes of death among youth (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention)
The website goes on to outline anxiety symptoms, including:
- Often feel out of control of their health and life
- Experience higher levels of overall stress
- Often struggle with low self-esteem
- Feel nervous in many social situations
- Have difficulty managing pressure
- Have higher expectations of themselves and others
- Feel returned love is performance-based
- Often have unhealthy boundaries
- Are often workaholics
- Are more often sick
- Often have unhealthy relationships
- Visit the doctor more often
- Tax the medical system (with frequent trips to their doctor or emergency rooms)
- Are more likely to take medications
- Are more likely to have other health problems
- Are overall more unhappy
- Experience erratic emotional behaviors
- Often quick to get angry
- Regularly feel unsettled
- Regularly feel overwhelmed
- Feel disconnected or detached from reality and life
- Often feel they are just on the edge of losing control
- Often aren’t reliable (because their symptoms may prevent them from following through)
- Become inward-focused and dwell on their health condition and personal problems
- May jump from relationship to relationship in search of perfection
- May jump from job to job because of higher levels of stress
- Live a restricted lifestyle (within their self-imposed “safe zones”)
- Feel life is passing them by
- Question their faith and God’s presence in their lives
- Feel at a distance from God
Do you experience any of the above symptoms? I’m all too familiar with many of them. The challenge is that people are looking to medicate themselves, become numb, and escape the anxiety in their lives. They want peace, rest, and ease. But the great enemy of peace is anxiety[iv]. Apprehension has a significant impact on our lives and our relationship with God. For the general population, anxiety is a complex issue. For the Believer, it is a more straightforward issue and can be handled through trusting in God. People of Faith shouldn’t be filled with anxiety. Rather, they need to bring their problems and needs to the Lord with the confidence that He cares for them, and His care is sufficient.[v] The Bible says,
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.[vi] (Philippians 4:6-7 – The Message).
Peace is the enemy of anxiety. God-given peace is the inner tranquility and confidence that He is in control. This does not mean the absence of trials on the outside, but it does mean quiet confidence within, regardless of circumstances, people, or things.[vii] This peace will safeguard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus; it will keep you from sinning under your troubles and from sinking under them; keep you calm and cool under pressure.
In Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” he provided very practical advice on how to handle worry:
- Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen?”
- Prepare to accept it if you have to
- Then calmly proceed to improve upon the worst
I strongly believe that anxiety, worry, and stress can be overcome by trusting in God, turning everything over to Him in prayer, replacing worry with worship and acting as Dale Carnegie suggests. Through these things, God’s peace will fill you and enable you to handle any circumstance.
If you are struggling with anxiety right now, pray this prayer with me: Lord, I need you. Please protect me with your righteous right hand – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Calm the waters of my heart even as the vast ocean around me rages. Amid the chaos and panic, give me a sense of divine inner peace, help me trust you in all things, and know that you are in control. In Jesus’ great and mighty name, I pray, Amen!
My friend, may the Lord bless you, keep you and give you peace.
If you enjoyed reading this article and benefited by it, would you help me by?
- SHARING the post on social media
- DOWNLOAD the FREE chapter from my soon to be published book, The Discipled Leader. Please read it, share your thoughts with me and pass it along to someone who may benefit from the chapter’s Message. Click on the header “Free Chapter Offer” for more details.
[i] Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
[ii] Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
[iii] Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
[iv] Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.
[v] Ellsworth, R. (2004). Opening up Philippians (p. 84). Leominster: Day One Publications.
[vi] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Php 4:6–7). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
[vii] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 95). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.> Read More
Excerpt from The Discipled Leader: Develop Christlike Character, Influence Your Culture, Change Your World by Preston B. Poore
“His Care is Sufficient”
As a leader, keep calm in the storm
Due to the immense burdens placed on leaders like you, you can be filled with worry, anxiety, and stress. Sometimes, we leaders allow circumstances to drain our joy and peace. Then the domino effect begins: worry leads to anxiety, and anxiety leads to stress.
Worry occurs when your mind is consumed by nagging thoughts, self-doubt, uncertainties, fear of the unknown, or a potential threat. That leads to anxiety, your behavioral responses to worry, such as sweating, nervousness, and an increased heart rate. That leads to stress: the negative effect of sustained mental and physical pressure.
Fortunately, there is a way out. For the discipled leader, we are not to be filled with anxiety and tossed around without care. “Rather, we are to bring our problems and needs to the Lord with the confidence that he cares for us and his care is sufficient.”Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Peace is the inner tranquility and confidence that God is in control. This does not mean the absence of trials on the outside, but it does mean a quiet confidence within, regardless of circumstances, people, or things.”
I appreciate Dale Carnegie’s approach to handling worry in the aptly titled How to Stop Worrying & Start Living:
-Live in “day-tight compartments”: Live in the present. Shut off the past and the future.
-Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?”
-Prepare to accept the worst.
-Then, calmly try to improve upon the worst.
-Remind yourself of the high cost of worry to your health.
I firmly believe that worry, anxiety, and stress can be overcome by trusting God, turning everything over to Him in prayer, and applying the above principles. Through these means, God’s peace will fill you and enable you to persevere through any storm.
If you’re faced with chaos, a dysfunctional team, and insurmountable odds, begin praying, work through Carnegie’s steps, then consider these suggestions:
-Prioritize the priorities. Not all things can be important. Rank what needs to be done about the most impactful and essential work. Then, focus all of your energy on accomplishing the top priorities and move to the next ones. If you do, you’ll become more productive, efficient, and less stressed. Also, don’t be distracted from the work at hand.
-Empower the team. People feel more committed to working if they know they can make decisions and have an impact on projects. They will help you accomplish common goals and objectives with vigor. Do this and you’ll reduce anxiety because people will feel like they have more control and can take ownership. If you don’t, people will become disengaged because of their perceived lack of influence.
-Expand your capacity. Realize that pressure-filled situations enable you to grow and prepare you for the next opportunity. While maintaining healthy margins for exercise and sleep, lean into such circumstances. Let them stretch you. One of my favorite Bible verses is, “If you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?” (Jeremiah 12:5 MSG). The verse reminds me that all of my experiences are preparing me for the next ones, building my capacity to handle them.
If you prioritize, empower your team, and allow challenging circumstances to expand your capacity, you’ll become a persevering leader, able to withstand any storm.
If you enjoyed reading this article and benefited by it, would you help me by doing two things?
- SHARE the post on social media
- DOWNLOAD the FREE chapter from my soon to be published book, The Discipled Leader. Please read it, share your thoughts with me and pass it along to someone who may benefit from the chapter’s message. Click on the header “Free Chapter” for more details.
Thanks for reading!
Ellsworth, R. Opening Up Philippians. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2004, p. 84.
Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996, Vol. 2, p. 95.
Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying & Start Living, Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd, 2017> Read More
Panicked by the rapid footsteps closing in behind me, I began sprinting as fast as I could. My heart was racing, my chest became tight and I struggled to breathe. I was being chased by a pack of wolves. For some reason, the alpha male-targeted me and I was the pack’s prey. Maybe they sensed weakness or vulnerability. The wolf pack chased me for a long period of time and I could sense they were about to catch me.
I dripped with sweat, fearful of what was about to happen. Exhausted from the chase, I slowed and was attacked by the pack. Amazingly, I found the strength to fight back and somehow escape. I was severely injured. It would take a long time to heal and overcome my fears. I couldn’t shake my experience with the alpha male and his pack. I was always fearful that another pack of wolves was waiting for me wherever I went. Out of self-protection, I wanted to make sure no one saw any weaknesses or vulnerabilities. I didn’t want to become a target again; someone’s prey.
During my last year at Hershey Chocolate, I was targeted by Jack Boss and his pack of wolves. Jack was the Sales VP and was an intimidating figure. He had wolf-like features. One blue eye and another green. Grey hair and a skin color to match. His ears were always on alert, sensing opportunities to pounce on someone. He’d earned the reputation as a dictator. It was his way or the highway. If you didn’t conform to his methods, he’d devour you. . .Your career at Hershey would be over.
At first, Jack Boss liked me. I came out of the Sales Development program, a two-year Hershey boot camp for high potentials, and was assigned as the Hershey market key account manager. I excelled in the Sales Development role and Jack appreciated my get it done aggressive nature.
But I was over-confident and made a number of political mistakes early on. For example, I was assigned to call on Giant Foods Headquarters in Carlisle, PA, just outside of Hershey. Because of the headquarters proximity to the town of Hershey, a number of Hershey Chocolate executives including Jack Boss were involved in the account. Giant Food’s management told me that they wanted me to be the sole call point; “too many chiefs in the teepee” they said. I told Jack and he didn’t like it. But he agreed to withdraw from the account and see what would happen.
I felt empowered to make decisions with Giant Foods management. In a collaborative fashion with the buyer, we implemented key product selection and promotion changes to improve the business.
But Jack disagreed with the decisions. And, he held a grudge against me for his withdrawing from Giant’s business.
That’s when the chase began.
Jack Boss started scrutinizing every plan I developed and the decisions I made. During meetings, he’d publicly challenge me and demean me in front of my peers. I stopped being invited to key Hershey meetings. He pulled all administrative support. And, he personally reviewed all of my expense reports looking for something wrong.
Then, his pack began to surround me.
Hershey, PA is a small town. When my family lived there, the population was 12,000 people and 5,000 of them worked for Hershey. I was literally under a microscope because of my key account role. Every new product launch or promotion execution was there for everyone to see – the good and the bad. If something was wrong, I’d get the call to fix it. The scrutiny became more intense as Jack Boss encouraged his pack to contact me if something was amiss. And, they did.
I worked even harder hoping that my performance and results would speak for themselves. But it got to the point where it seemed I couldn’t do anything right. My negative self-talk was deafening and the stress was overwhelming. I remember I got a twitch in my right eye that wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t sleep and was continuously anxious. I was scared of losing my job, frightened of failure, afraid of letting my young family down, petrified of being stuck in Central PA, and worried I’d be unemployable. I began believing I was a failure, a loser. I was being crushed by Jack Boss and my circumstances. I was in a doom loop and felt hopeless.
Then, I prayed.
I told God about my circumstances, which he already knew. I pursued him, his protection, and his refuge. I asked God for courage and that he’d help me find a way out, a way to elude the wolves. And, I gradually began replacing the negative self-talk with positive inner conversations.
God strengthened me as I trusted him. He restored my hope. I found the confidence to pull things together and put an exit plan in place. I began working with an executive recruiter and eventually landed my dream job with The Coca-Cola Company. Our family moved back to the Southeast and my salary increased by 30%! God was good.
Through the interview process, I realized that my experience in Hershey prepared me to secure my new role. But I was still injured from Jack Boss and the wolf pack attacks. For years, I didn’t trust upper management. I was fearful that all managers were like Jack Boss. Out of self-preservation, I wouldn’t say much in front of them. And when I did, I’d stutter and stammer through my comments just waiting to be challenged or embarrassed. Also, I ran out of fear that something would go wrong and I’d be fired.
It took a long time to heal these wounds and overcome my fears. It wasn’t easy. God continued working in me and changing me from the inside out. Eventually, I realized that everyone I encountered wasn’t out to get me. It was okay to make mistakes. And that there are some great people leaders out there.
For the believer, what is the key to overcoming fear? . . .
Discipled Leaders Overcome Fear with Faith
Fear is a powerful human emotion that impacts everyone, including leaders. Fear is triggered when you anticipate physical harm or a perceived threat. Fear elicits physical responses like sweating, rapid heartbeat, and weakness. Apprehension creates doubts, insecurity, and low self-esteem. Fright also evokes apathy, inaction, and ignorance. Chronic fear can impact your overall well-being. Fear can cripple and render you ineffective.
Studies show that top fears include failure, success, dying, commitment, public speaking, rejection, making the wrong decision, criticism, taking responsibility, and the unknown. (Aside from dying, which of those don’tleaders face on a daily basis?) Other fears include being found out or exposed, not living up to expectations, making people mad, conflict, being honest, and fearing what others think. That’s a pretty exhaustive list.
I learned a long time ago that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real, meaning that one’s perceptions drive negative emotions and thinking. For example, everyone engages in a daily conversation with themselves. Studies show that we have “12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day and as many as 98 percent of them are exactly the same as we had the day before.”[i] This self-talk is often unconstructive and damaging. As a matter of fact, eight out of ten thoughts we have each day are negative.[ii] Do the math. That’s up to 48,000 negative thoughts daily. Don’t believe me? Think about the lies you tell yourself every day. Have you ever found yourself thinking:
I am unworthy.
I can’t lead.
I am a failure.
I’m not good enough.
No one loves me or cares for me.
I don’t belong anywhere.
I have no purpose.
This will never work.
I must be perfect.
It’s too late to pursue my dream.
The battle against fear begins in your mind. With all of the negative thoughts, where do you turn? How do you overcome fear?
A discipled leader overcomes fear through faith. He or she understands that fear or faith will rule their hearts and minds depending on which one they feed the most. If you feed your fears, they will dominate. If you feed your faith, fear will diminish. Activate your faith and seek God in times of despair, doubt, panic or terror. Here are a few suggestions for how to do that:
Pursue God: Pray, worship, and read his word. Lean into and earnestly seek him. The Bible says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4 ESV). If you pursue God in the midst of fear, he’ll encourage, strengthen, and deliver you.
Take refuge in God: God will provide protection and safety in times of distress. The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV). Look to him and he’ll shelter you.
Stop the negative self-talk: “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV). Make the intentional shift toward more Christ-centered and positive thoughts every day. What if your self-talk sounded more like:
Because of Christ, I am worthy.
I can lead.
I am successful.
I’m good enough.
I’m loved and cared for.
I do belong.
I have a purpose.
This will work.
I can make mistakes.
It’s never too late to pursue my dream.
Fear is infectious, and followers won’t support or commit to you if they sense fear within you. On the other hand, courage is just as contagious, and people will follow if they see courage within you.
Are you struggling with fear? Learn from my experience and practice the above principles. I learned that if you pursue God, take refuge in him and stop the negative self-talk, you will overcome your fears and become a courageous leader!
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My team and I were invited to a strategic business partner’s corporate headquarters to think about what’s possible and innovate. I viewed the trip as an excellent opportunity to retreat, bond as a team and shape our future.
I approached my manager, Kevin, about the opportunity. He hesitated and then said, “Most trips like these end up being boondoggles. Do you think you’re going to accomplish anything?”
“Yes, I do. I’m confident that we’ll come back with fresh ideas and take our business to the next level”, I replied.
Kevin said, “I have my doubts. I tell you what, put together an agenda with specific objectives and I’ll take a look. If I agree with your proposal, I’ll okay the trip.”
“Great and thanks. I’ll come back to you shortly”, I said.
Over the next few days, I collaborated with my team and our business partner to develop a very specific agenda and desired outcome. Then, I shared it with Kevin. A chronic micromanager, he asked us to make multiple changes to the plan. Once the topics were aligned with Kevin’s feedback, he begrudgingly agreed to let us go.
My team jumped into action and made the necessary coverage arrangements to ensure we could break away with limited distractions. We activated our email out of office messages notifying internal customers that we were out for a short time and provided backup contact information.
The next day, we loaded the van and headed to our destination. My team was beaming with excitement and anticipation. They’d been on trips like this before and understood the potential our retreat held. As we drove, we connected on both personal and professional levels. We talked optimistically about how we could advance our vision of being industry leaders and indispensable partners.
When we arrived, we were escorted into our business partner’s innovation lab where all of the futuristic designs inspired us. Next, we moved into a creative thinking lab to begin formulating ideas and developing plans.
Then, the first email hit… And another… And another. A series of 10 or more emails from Kevin appeared on our iPhones within 30 minutes. He was following up on projects, providing feedback and checking in… Just to let us know he was there.
His last email’s subject line read, TURN OFF YOUR OUT OF OFFICE MESSAGE.
In the body of the email, Kevin wrote that having our out of office message turned on sent the wrong message to leadership and internal customers. It was our job to be accessible at all times regardless of what we were doing or who was covering for us.
I thought to myself, “Ugh. Really? If that isn’t micromanagement, I don’t know what is.”
I looked around the room and saw discouragement, frustration, and anger on my team’s faces. Some became distracted and anxious. Everyone began to disengage from the creative thinking discussion mentally.
At a break, I gathered my team to ask their thoughts about the emails. They shared with me that they went to great lengths to ensure our time away would be productive and distraction free. They wondered if it was a mistake to take the trip. Kevin’s micromanagement tendencies surfaced, and the team felt disenfranchised.
I understood their concerns. I asked the team to return to the meeting and told them that I’d gently respond to Kevin’s emails. I asked them to not make a mountain out of a molehill and turn off the out of office messages. Lastly, I asked them to stay focused on the purpose of our meeting and ignore distractions.
The good news is that the team returned to the meeting and developed a visionary plan. Also, I ran interference by answering Kevin’s emails and asking the team to turn off the out of office messages. By engaging Kevin on behalf of the team, I was able to assuage his need to feel in control. We didn’t hear from him again during our trip.
Micromanagers can be burdensome. I know from personal experience. Here’s what I learned:
- Remember Who You’re Working For– If you keep your eyes on God and embrace the fact that you’re ultimately working for him, you’ll maintain a positive attitude regardless the circumstance. The Bible says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23 NLT)
- Submission Is Key– It’s easy to work for a great boss. The hard part is working for and submitting to a bad boss…. But when you do, God is pleased. The Bible says, “You who are servants, be good servants to your masters—not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason. There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God. (1 Peter 2:18–20 – The Message)
- Bite Your Tongue– I disciplined myself to communicate in a positive way and to not show irritation if I became frustrated. The Bible says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1 – NLT)
In spite of desperate circumstances, I grew leaps and bounds during the three years I worked with Kevin. I learned to cope with his management style in the short term. Eventually, I realized that Kevin’s style and mine weren’t compatible, the intense micromanagement I experienced wasn’t sustainable, and I decided to move into another role.
I challenge you to apply the above principles, and if you do, you’ll manage through a micromanager.> Read More
The phone rang. I stared at it with anxious anticipation. The call I’d been waiting for would reveal my future with the company. I’d been through a series of evaluations and interviews to keep my current job. As my heart began racing and sweat beads formed on my brow, I answered the phone.
“Hello, this is Preston.”
“Hi. This is Ted. I’m calling to let you know…”
If you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment, you may have received a similar call. And, you’ve experienced the effects of organizational change – uncertainty, layoffs, or downgraded compensation. I’ve been through 10 restructures in my career. I liken the process to running for Congress – every two years you’re up for re-election, and if you’re elected, you begin your next campaign immediately.
The topsy-turvy corporate world can be exasperating and disheartening. It can bring one to utter despair. The challenge is to remain hopeful. You might say, “But Preston, I hear all the time that hope isn’t a strategy.” If hope isn’t a strategy, what is it?
Hope is a general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled, a promise will be kept, or a better future is on the horizon. Hope provides internal energy, motivation, and courage. I’ve heard it said that someone can live 40 days without food, four days without water, four minutes without air, and only 4 seconds without hope. Why is hope such a crucial part of life and your well-being? It energizes and inspires you to keep going. Without hope, you will begin to think circumstances will only get worse and give up.
How does someone remain hopeful in the midst of challenging events?
Pray – For the Christian, start with connecting with your source of hope, God. Take your concerns to him and seek his guidance.
Don’t lose heart – In tough times, continue believing that you can succeed. Think about your past achievements and recount your strengths. The circumstance doesn’t define you. Seek God, and he will strengthen you. Jesus’ words provide confidence, “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33b – The Message)
Manage Self-Talk – Did you know our thoughts shape our beliefs and actions? Our challenge is that 7 out of 10 thoughts we have are negative. Stop listening to the lies you tell yourself and focus on your strengths. Replace the lies with the truth. What would happen if you increased the number of positive thoughts to 5 or 6? How? When self-doubt creeps in, and I’m experiencing despair, I’ve found it helpful to pause and say an affirming phrase ten times to myself. It helps change my mindset from negative to positive. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “I’m a weak and unworthy person,” say “I’m a strong and worthy person.” Or, rather than saying “I can’t do anything”, say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Change your “I can’t” to “How can I”? Also, set your mind on constructive thoughts. The Bible says, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Philippians 4:8 – The Message). If you do these things, you’ll win the battle of the mind.
Keep a long-term perspective – Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Remind yourself that life is a journey and challenges are opportunities to grow. The Bible says, “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” – (2 Corinthians 4:17–18 – The Message). Keep your head up, look to the horizon, and expect a positive outcome in the long run.
Face reality and take responsibility – Accept the fact that life can be backbreaking. Then, objectively evaluate your challenging circumstance and define the problem you face. What’s the worst that can happen? What are all of your options? How can you improve upon the worst? Once you answer these questions, take ownership. Embrace the opportunity to change and intentionally determine to grow through the circumstance. Think, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” As a person of faith, I prescribe to the thought, “work like it’s up to me and trust God like it’s up to him.”
Plan, act, and persevere – Once you’ve faced reality, taken responsibility, and determined the best option, be intentional and go for it. Put a plan together. Develop goals and move in the direction you’ve chosen. Look for quick wins and build momentum. Above all else, never give up. If you plan, act, and persevere, you’ll begin to experience success. The road ahead will be different than you expected, harder than you anticipated and potentially more rewarding than you imagined. My mentor, John Maxwell says, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.”
Back to my story… I picked up the phone and said, “Hello, this is Preston.”
“Hi. This is Ted. I’m calling to let you know you will be retained by the company.”
I’ve gone through the cycle of uncertainty to certainty many times. As you may recall, I wrote earlier that I’ve been through 10 organization restructures. As I write this article, I’m currently in the midst of my 11th org change. Once again, I’m struggling with all of the self-doubt and uncertainty that comes with the unsettling circumstance. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I do know that God is faithful and I’ve placed my hope in him. Whatever does happen, I know that he is good and will lead me to where he wants me.
My friend, when faced with a dire circumstance, my charge to you is to pray, not lose heart, manage self-talk, keep a long-term perspective, face reality and take responsibility and plan, act, and persevere. If you do, you’ll be filled with hope and succeed in whatever path you choose.
How about you? Where do you place your hope? How do you make it through tough times? I’d love to hear your story. Thanks for reading and please share this message with someone in need of hope and encouragement.
 Maxwell, John C., Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn, Center Street, Hachette Book Group USA Day One 2013, p. 93.> Read More
I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.
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