One of the things that saps the energy and vision or a leader is dealing with draining people.
Draining people come in all shapes and sizes but they usually have exceptional gifts such as: (1) the ability to know more than you do, (2) the gift of criticism and/or (3) the capacity to get under your skin!
‘Nice’ people do not like to talk about these kinds of realities, but if you are not careful, the impact of negative people can hit you and your vision by surprise.
I know that you do not have any draining people in your orbit, but if you did, here are a few truths that will help you keep a healthy perspective, offer grace to people, and decide when to put limits on people:
- People’s reactions often say more about them than they do about you. Moses was dealing with difficult people in Ex. 16:8. Fortunately, he realized that the actual issue was between them and God “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD” (see also Num. 16:11). He was taking some of the brunt of that pressure because he was an intermediary on assignment from God. On any given day you may just happen to be in the orbit of someone with unresolved issues! Some people remain difficult no matter how nice you try to be or how good your intentions may be! Do not take it personally. We live in a fallen world, so as a result we will always be running into broken people.
- Some people respond positively to truth and others do not. I have had to set aside the naivety that if I could just be a good enough communicator, then peoples’ positive response to God would be assured. There are many examples of mixed responses to God’s instructions in the Bible, but one will suffice on this point. In Ex. 9:20-21 the servants of Pharaoh were warned of a coming catastrophe. Even though the caution was clear and credible – some believed God and were prepared while others did not believe and suffered loss.
- Sometimes people/groups lack the collective will to change. In II Kings 17:39-40, God’s people were assured that God would deliver them if they feared him, “however, they would not listen but they did according to their former manner” (emphasis mine). This rejection was not aimed at the messenger – rather it was an exposing of people’s stubbornness. The story goes on to show how their wilful obstinacy was then tragically perpetuated among the next generation.
- The things people claim need to be validated. Not everyone has motives as pure as the driven snow or the will to follow up with what they promise. One example of this in the Bible was in Joshua 9 when the Gibeonites intentionally misled Joshua. This lack of discernment cost Joshua dearly. We live in a world where the motives and intentions of people need to be validated. We have to adjust to this reality en route to fulfilling our God-given mission.
- Not everyone will respond favourably to God’s best. Only two of the twelve who did reconnaissance in the promised land were full of faith, while the ten others “discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the LORD had given them” (Num. 32:9). Their attitude became an encumbrance to others, so they were held responsible for the negative effect they were having on the people of God. When God gives a directive, some may have their foot on the brakes and others may have their foot on the gas pedal. God holds every person accountable, and will reward or correct each of us according to the choices we make to obey or resist His purposes.
- God-honouring people sometimes face resistance. Even in the case of Moses, one of the most remarkable leaders in human history, “they neither listened nor obeyed” (2 Kings 18:12). It is possible to be a good leader in spite of leading in a toxic environment, as was the case with Gideon when he led with courage in spite of the fact that some of his followers “accused him fiercely” (Judges 8:1). He could not control their caustic choices, but he could choose his own reactions!
Do not let people issues take the wind out of your sails! Learn to love all people while at the same time having your eyes wide open so you can guard your heart and your mission!