You’ve been completely off the grid for the last 4-5 months if you haven’t heard the words COVID-19. Every newscast, newspaper, nearly every government official and medical leader has been talking about it. Non-stop. It has changed the way we do nearly every part of our jobs, our shopping, our recreation and our life. The abbreviation, COVID-19, is based on this: ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ stand for virus, ‘D’ stands for disease and the 19 stands for the year it was internationally identified. On my wife’s lab test the other day, it showed up as SARS CORONAVIRUS 2 with a “Negative” result.
Why the title COVID—20/20? Because we have been blind-sided in 2020. We often associate 2020 with vision. 20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. For example, if you have 20/40 vision, it means that the test subject sees at 20 feet what a person with “normal” vision sees at 40 feet. 20/20 is sometimes called “perfect vision” because no aids are required to see better. But people can have better than 20/20 vision. I used to see letters smaller than the general “20/20” size. Now, it takes my progressive prescription lenses to get me to 20/20.
Another popular phrase is, “Hindsight is 20/20.” We see imperfectly looking forward, but we see perfectly when we look back after an event or a decision. That phrase has made me look at our experiences through COVID-19 and wonder about what we are seeing as we look back. I have five observations as I look back over my shoulder at the past several months.
LEADERSHIP IS DIFFICULT. Four decades of leadership has taught me a lot. But the COVID crisis has reminded me that leadership isn’t for the faint of heart. I knew it before. But now I’m beyond sure of it. It is difficult to lead a business, a department, a church, a nation, a platoon, a team, a city or even a family. There will always be opposition, naysayers, resisters and slow adopters. Every leadership decision today has pitfalls. People will disagree. Some will tell everyone else about why you made the wrong decision. Some will refuse to follow. Leadership is always hard but, leading through a crisis in these days, makes it downright difficult. I learned this truth from Winston Churchill, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Keep on leading.
FEAR IS CONTAGIOUS. From empty toilet paper shelves, every flush of a warm forehead, each tickle in the throat, conspiracy theories about the government implanting micro-chips in your brain through a virus test to several religious leaders proclaiming the end of the world is upon us. Fear and anxiety are a virus of its own kind. Panic and stress rise and fall with every news chart showing the rising or falling trends of new COVID cases. We have seen this play out in cities, stock markets, workplaces, families, churches, among friends, and in families. Fear has invaded nearly every crevice of our world over the last months. Great leaders in countries, organizations and families, reduce fear through clarity and good communication. We’ve seen some leaders at their best and some at their worst.
FLEXIBILITY WINS EVERY TIME. I love the ways I’ve seen flexibility demonstrated. Car manufacturers who switched to making respirators. An Ohio Amish-owned home goods manufacturer converting to construct surgical masks. Innovative parents who quickly adapted to home-school teachers. Churches transitioning from in-person worship to online worship. Restaurants moving from table service to curbside pick-up. Flexibility is the key characteristic needed to avoid breaking. Those who are flexible can usually survive and even thrive during crisis. The inflexible will always struggle to just survive.
STRESS REVEALS WHAT IS INSIDE. It is often thought that stress makes a person stronger or develops more character. I disagree. I really believe that what is already on the inside is actually squeezed out or brought to the surface when we are under pressure. Author Robert McKee writes, “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation.”Jesus put it this way, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). My point is, the stress and pressure of today’s challenge is revealing a lot of astounding acts of kindness, generosity, compassion and… just the opposite.
EMOTIONAL MATURITY IS IN SHORT SUPPLY. I have to admit that I’ve been deeply disappointed by the lack of emotionally healthy responses to our world situation. I’m saddened the current COVID crisis has too often turned into a politicized mud-slinging free-for-all. I’ve watched the personal preferences of a few elevated to life-anchoring principles that everyone should be adopting. I’ll be so bold to just call it emotional and spiritual immaturity when I watch people repeatedly drawing battle lines about sometimes trivial matters and proclaiming, they are offended by everyone on the other side of the line they’ve put in the sand. Whatever happened to calm healthy conversations about the pros and cons of a particular view, a political position or a personal belief? Most everyone wants an either/or position and aren’t willing to come up with a both/and solution (previous blog). I love the fact that one of my long-time pastor friends recently said, “As a follower of Jesus, I don’t look through either red or blue glasses, I see through purple glasses.” He didn’t bash one political party or the other. He can see both and. He wasn’t out to prove one was right and the other wrong. Both have positives and negatives. That is emotional maturity.
So, how is your vision? Looking back over the last months, have you had an “I” exam? Are there any of these 5 that you might need to give some attention to in your life? What would the people closest to you say? Have any of these five made an appearance? Occasionally? Frequently? Honest assessment is important. There is no change or growth without self-awareness. And remember, there is no growth in comfort and no comfort in growth. Blessings on the journey!
Love to have your comments for more conversation below…