When We Disappoint Someone

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things (Hebrews 13:18, ESV).

I confess something that I did last week that on second thought, I shouldn’t have done.

I spent time reviewing things that disappointed others during my ministry.  

It was a deep rabbit hole that I should have avoided. After 49 years the list was endless! Some leaders seem oblivious to their inadequacies. I have the opposite problem – I remember them too well.

In fact, during my rabbit-hole adventure, I found it easier to think about failures than victories.

All of us experience guilt.  

Our inappropriate actions wound. At other times, our good decisions still hurt others. As leaders we offend with both good and bad decisions.

I began to come out of the rabbit hole by realizing that some of those decisions were good decisions. I then listed the following observations that should be helpful when we disappoint someone.

  1. I’ve seen too many quit a good relationship, leave a good job, or resign a ministry position after disappointing others. The most heroic aspect of any relationship is continuing through disappointment by either extending or asking for forgiveness.
  2. Good decisions made as a leader will offend someone. A willingness to go forward, while realizing that you will disappoint, is great leadership. A clear conscience is the difference between having guilt or living in peace with an unpopular decision.
  3. Acting honorably should guide all decisions. If we have offended someone, there in an honorable but difficult path for reconciliation. If we are going to offend someone, the decision should reflect an “honor” of that person. 

And to be honest, the more I thought about individual offenses, the better I was able to consider that it was your fault!!! Oops – that’s called “self-justification. But it pointed me to another lesson about disappointing others.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell if a decision or action that offended someone was your fault or basically the other person’s problem.

This is where my wife has been so helpful. Also, the elders of the church that I once pastored. And the Board of Discipling Another, where I serve as a leader now. 

Accountable relationships are important.

I need encouragement when I make good decisions and feel guilt, and exhortation when I make bad decisions and feel guilt too. Guilt is not a fruit of the Spirit – it should never be left simmering in our souls.

Yet guilt comes from both good and bad decisions.

Honesty, through integrity relationships, discerns the difference.