There is an alarming trend that has taken root in our society. It is the distrust of pretty much everything.
Think about how prevalent the lack of trust has become:
Do not trust the news.
Do not trust medical authorities.
Do not trust businesses.
Do not trust churches.
Do not trust government organizations.
Do not trust Hollywood.
Do not trust Facebook or other social media.
Do not trust Wall Street, Silicon Valley, or any foreign power.
We simply do not trust.
Of course, there are some exceptions to what I listed above. I may trust a certain news site, a certain medical authority, etc., but this is largely based on my preferences and beliefs not based on authority.
The overall trend can be summed as questioning just about everything about everything and everyone.
I am not immune to this either. I recently slipped into an unhealthy questioning of an event going on at our local church. This was silly because I know the leaders there well and have served as a Trustee in the past (I only mention because the experience allowed me to see behind the “curtain”). My questions were basic and not unhealthy in themselves—let’s be clear that questioning can often be healthy. What was not healthy was that my questions came with cynicism. A cynic is someone who has negative opinions about other people and the things other people do. So, my questions came with an expectation that something negative was going on at church. The event came and went, and it was fantastic. None of my fears (cynicism) were realized. So, the only thing that went through my head walking to the car was that I should have trusted the church a little more prior to the event.
This thought is worth sharing because I talk with a lot of leaders and most indicate that they are struggling with trust these days. Not only are they questioning everything mentioned in the list above, they are also questioning the motives of their people. After two years of anything but normal, there is almost a collective expectation that other people will let them down.
None of this is healthy. Questioning everything is not sustainable in practice. The cost to relationships are probably higher than most expect. The return on the energy spent being cynical is almost always negative and what does the cynicism produce in the end?
As we turn towards the end of 2021, I am starting to think that the greatest gift leaders can give others is the gift of positivity and perspective. At our core, leaders have to see out and up, meaning they have to look out on the horizon. In addition to this, leaders have to cast vision as to why going from where we are today, to where we need to go tomorrow, is both worthwhile and meaningful. The last two years have conditioned us to be sedentary and wait for normal to return, and ??? We don’t know, so we wait and often we get cynical (as I did above). Many are irritated, or so it seems. Therefore, it will take leaders to pull us out of the pit we are in. Yes, real, gutsy, vulnerable, leaders. Not the positional ones and definitely not the weak ones because this is hard work. Only the ones that can clarify the difference between what REALLY matters, and what is only noise. The ones that do not react to everyone else, but rather have an inner-compass that keeps them grounded and moving forward. The ones that DO trust because they know the person, or organization’s track record. And, because they also realize that without trusting, there is no leading. No one follows someone that does not trust them in return. It is too simplistic to say that the problem we have can be characterized by a lack of leadership, but, a society filled with distrustful noise is exactly that, a society with no leadership.
While I cannot speak for you, I am going to look into the mirror, take ownership for my piece, and work on leading others better in 2022 than I did in 2021.
With a little more trust, a little more grace, perhaps, we can find a little more peace in the year to come.