Keeping it Real

Who would have thought a year ago that COVID-19 would last a year? We now know that it could last years and even become a part of our life indefinitely. I must confess this makes me both angry, and anxious. 

Can you relate to these feelings? Just in the past two days I have encountered people who are mad about the politicization of everything, anxious about various aspects of their life, and flat-out exhausted. Worse, people in all walks of life are biting at each other’s heals. 

We were never meant to carry all of this for 52 weeks, let alone indefinitely. So, in the next two posts I am going to address two topics that leaders often shy away from discussing: Anger and Anxiety. 

I must confess a few things before getting started however. First, I am writing as someone that has struggled with both anger and anxiety, this year. I suppose, as the author of this blog, I should present the “Instagram filter” equivalent of my life, but that is not me. As the below will indicate, I have honestly struggled at times this year. 

Admittedly, this post will be somewhat therapeutic for me to write. So, thank you for being my virtual therapist. My hope is that by exposing my feelings, you will feel free to do the same. Whether you do so privately in your journal, or to a trusted friend, is up to you. I have chosen the latter, and would encourage you to just get it out in some way or fashion. 

Second, the two questions that follow are directly from Pete Scazzero. His writing, and weekly podcast, have been extremely helpful to me in this season of change and loss. I am not nearly smart enough to come up with the two questions that follow, so all credit is his. So, without further ado here they are: 

When you feel angry, ask yourself two questions: 

  1. What am I sad about? 
  2. What am I afraid of?   

Let’s tackle these in order. 

Sad? Here is a quick list of things I am sad about: Disunity over a disease, the politicization of every aspect of life, racism, church infighting, loss of two Hoffer team members to unrelated health issues, the transition of a team member, the division over the election, plastic resin availability, the loss of my friend’s daughter to cancer. 

And that is just the start, but I will stop there.

When this sadness bubbles up, I can feel myself begin to get angry. I can raise my voice on my kids, or even in a meeting. I can “power-up” to show people who is boss (and simultaneously become someone others do NOT want to follow). I can be cold and distant to those I love the most. Yet, I can rationalize that I am just “angry” and with a little sleep, and possibly some good coffee, I will be relaxed again. 

At least, that is what I tell myself. 

But, here is the (real) deal. 

Most of the time, I am not angry, I am sad. This clarification is vitally important because it identifies the potential root cause. 

Then again, it could also be that I am afraid… 

Afraid? Here is a quick list of things I am afraid of: COVID-19 never going (entirely) away, sharing political beliefs, sharing vaccine viewpoints publicly, the vaccine in general, further supply chain disruptions to our business, my kids getting seriously sick, not measuring up, political divisions fundamentally destroying our country, and the Chicago Bears drafting yet another Quarterback (just trying to lighten the mood!). 

Here again, I can exhibit anger publicly even though what I am actually feeling is fear. In fact, I can power up, demonstrate whose opinion matters most, and come across in a, let’s be blunt, very insecure way when I am fearful. 

Yet, let’s be honest one last time, others perceive this fear as anger, and anger is the more socially acceptable “sin” of a leader. 

When was the last time you admitted you were scared in a conference room full of people you lead? 

I never have either.  

I am owning it here however……. it is in writing. 

Sometimes, my “fear” is dressed up in a Marvel costume that tries to disguise it as “anger.” 

So, where does that leave us for this post? 

First, I challenge you to do some inventory of your thoughts and feelings the next time you feel “angry.” Ask yourself what you are sad about? Also ask yourself what you are afraid of? Then, as I said at the outset, I challenge you to either write the answers down, or share them with someone you trust. 

Second, and here is the legal mumbo-jumbo, if after journaling on what you are either sad about, or afraid about, you still feel angry, you could actually be angry. If so, “proceed with extreme caution.” In fact, a good idea is to go back to my idea mentioned above (sleep!). 

In short, do not burn down an entire forest when you want to get rid of one weed. 

Be gentle. 

And speaking of being gentle, be gentle on yourself when you are journaling about what you are sad and/or scared about. 

You are not any less of a human by realizing that you have feelings and emotions. But, you become someone worth following by discovering what those feelings and emotions really are. This happens because introspection is rare these days and people crave being around those individuals who are real.

There is a chance that even after taking a deep dive into the questions above you still feel an overwhelming dread, or an unsettling feeling of anxiety inside you. Next week, I will share some things I am doing to counter these feelings of anxiety. 

In the interim, take a deep breath. 

People follow those who are real, not fake. To that end, I challenge you to get real about your sadness and fear. 

You, and those closest to you, will be better for it.