My mother used to say “When you smile the world smiles with you, when you cry you’ll cry alone.” The first time I heard her say that I thought, “That can’t possibly be right. Is everyone pretending then? Is anyone telling the truth?”
When God called me to encourage those in leadership I have found that leaders are the loneliest people in the world. The reason is because they are expected to take care of everyone else and tend to stuff their own needs. The first time this reality bruised my heart was when my house flooded. I had been teaching a Sunday school class and asked the director of the class if she would rally a few members to help me. Her response was, “I just wanted you to know one of the members said she didn’t think it was right for you to use your influence to appeal to the class to help you in a personal need.” I was immediately embarrassed that I needed anything and put up a mask that I really didn’t need help after all and that I was fine.
In talking to leaders I find them doing a similar thing. When they took the risk to expose their vulnerability they are talked about behind their backs and find that those around them resent them for being in a place of need. They hear comments like “Are you still depressed?” and immediately feel compelled to hide their depression.
My heart bleeds for leaders because I detect their loneliness. I think my radar is especially sensitive to loneliness because I’ve felt so much of it when I left my country.
People tell me that Jesus should be enough. I’ve concluded that may be that is the case for an introvert but I do better with someone who plays the role of Jesus in the flesh. Some people have never experienced that relationship. Others were given such a gift for a season. Ultimately I believe that loneliness will be fully eradicated when I’m face to face with Jesus. Until then I give myself permission to grieve my losses with a safe friend who doesn’t rush me and for those who don’t relate all I can say is, “They must either be emotionally stronger or have never experienced a loss of someone who was an integral part of their lives. I am reminded of a pastor who publicly admitted he could never relate to people who suffered from depression and then God allowed him to experience a depression that came out of nowhere. He said he never again made light of depression.”
Those in leadership positions need a safe friend who cares. Is there someone you need to write a note to just to say you remember their loss with them or that you understand they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and trust God’s power in them to make the right decision? Is there someone you need to stop criticizing what they should have done and open your eyes to see a leader who is still leading with a broken heart and pray for him or her instead? I can think of ten people I need to write. What about you?