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A Sobering Reality for Pastors and Leaders

By July 14, 2016Church, Leadership

There is a sobering reality every pastor and leader needs to understand. Knowing this one can protect your career – help keep you from burning out – and guard your heart.

I see this impact leaders from all generations – but, I must be honest – I probably see it even more in our youngest generation of leaders entering the workforce.

You ready for the sobering reality?

The longer you do what you do well the less praise you’ll receive for it.

Have you experienced it? If you don’t understand this principle you’ll often feel disappointed – like no one cares – like they didn’t even notice the good work you are doing.

The fact is everyone loves to praise the new guy – the guest appearance – the surprise home run.

(One of my favorite examples – the guest speaker who has delivered the same message 42 times and has gotten really good at it. Everyone says “best sermon ever”. Of course – they have practiced it a few times.)

But, when you’ve been there a while – when you try to do well every week – when you hit home runs almost every time up to bat – people stop cheering as loudly.

Once you do exceptional for very long it becomes the new norm.

It’s expected. It is now your new average. Everyone expects you to be wonderful – every time. They’ve gained a certain confidence in your ability.

And, you can naturally expect to hear less approval. Less “good jobs”. Less “that was amazing” comments.

It’s not necessarily you aren’t doing a good job anymore. You’ve simply set a new bar of expectation.

Of course, part of improving is to continually raise our own bar of expectations, but if you’re realizing this sobering reality – you’ve done something right.

And, for that – I must say – Congratulations!

I intend this post to be an encouragement, but also to serve as a warning of sorts.

The quietness of the new norm can make you think you’re no longer appreciated. If you’re not careful, you’ll begin to doubt your abilities or the success you are still having.

Those emotions – and the reactions to them – are normal, even if they aren’t true.

I’m not ignoring times when you aren’t doing your best. Don’t be an unaware leader.

I’m not trying to convince you not to be normal. That would be abnormal of me.

I am encouraging you to seek your affirmation beyond the verbal praise of man.

I am saying if you live for the praise of others, you’ll eventually be controlled by their praise (or lack thereof).

And I am reminding you – you may be doing everything right, but seldom hear all the good you’re doing.

This is part of leadership. And, the leader who can lead just as passionately towards a noble goal, without the praise of others – even perhaps in times when criticism seems more dominant – is on track for success.

Have you ever been in a “normal” season of producing good work, but not feeling valued for it?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Paul says:

    I really need this at this very moment. Thank you so much. God Bless.

  • Ron, excellent post. Many pastors and executives suffer from the stress it takes to overcome the new "norm." I appreciate your wisdom and candor.

  • Keith says:

    I have called many aspects of this: "The curse of competence"

  • Cheryl Pugh says:

    As you said, “I am saying that if you live for the praise of others, you’ll eventually be controlled by that praise (or lack thereof),” can also mean that you can be controlled by their disapproval (or fear of disapproval) as well. Easier said than done, but we should aim to please God first and fear God alone.

  • Thomas says:

    I have noticed that other many pastors including myself go through a season of feeling un-appreciated during the months of January, February and March. Not being able to do much outside and the short days color my perception of how the congregation is doing, and how well I am performing in my calling as minister. My perception begins to even out toward the end of March beginning of April. I have learned to anticipate my skewed perception and have asked several friends to monitor my work and my attitude and give me an honest assessment of how things are going in the congregation and in my ministry.

  • kmac4him

    Awesome Wisdom. Thanks! So true, it is the “human condition” to want a pat on the back. I wanted it just like the next person did until God grew me out of needing it! It was really a slight posture adjustment from horizontal ministry to vertical ministry. Being called to God 1st and being HIS 1st! Being1st, doing 2nd! In vital-vertical relationship with God, my doing was in followship of HIM and unto HIM alone I did. 🙂 I found that the Holy Spirit has a way of filling to overflow every void created by our “human condition”! AWE-GOD! Cling to HIM, dig your roots deeply in His Kingdom!

  • edburton6801 says:

    When you wrote – "…if you live for the praise of others, you’ll eventually be controlled by that praise (or lack thereof)." Reminds me of a Nine Inch Nails song lyric: "Bow down before the one you serve, you're going to get what you deserve." It also reminds me of what Tim Keller says about this: (paraphrasing) "You are controlled by whatever it is that you worship"… It's so true! When Christians talk about being free in Christ – this is often what comes to mind for me first… being FREE from the pursuit and desperate desire for the praise and approval of others. Knowing that God is pleased with me and loves me no matter how well I do, how good I am, etc… is true freedom! 🙂

    (this may be a bit of a stretch…) but the dynamic you're describing in this post is the reason why Karaoke is so attractive & fun to some people. Many people work thankless jobs and get little to no praise or affirmation or "thank you"'s…. but you can be anybody, walk up to a mic, and sing a song (poorly or well), and you get applause and encouragement from the other people in the room. 🙂 It's small, but it's unmistakably attractive and uplifting to get encouragement of any kind. Especially after risking potential embarrassment by singing publicly. I've NEVER heard anybody get "booed" after singing karaoke.

    thanks for reading my LONG comment.. haha – thanks for blog & tweets 🙂

  • edburton6801 says:

    Good word! Thank you Ron 🙂