The Power of Staying in a Difficult Situation
In the worlds of business, nonprofit, church, and universities there are plenty difficult and frankly terrible places to be. I know people working in situations where they are regularly threatened, criticized, belittled, and ignored. In my experience, it’s not so much about physical violence, but incredibly poor leaders who have no clue how to inspire their team. As a result, there have been plenty of situations where I’ve advised people to move on. Situations where there’s simply no way to move forward, and to stay would destroy them creatively and spiritually.
But I also have enormous admiration for people who choose to stay in tough situations and try to turn them around from the inside. I’m reminded that the Christian God is the only god who was willing to “come inside” the human race by becoming a man. Rather than stand outside humanity and reward or punish us like the gods of other religions, Jesus came to the earth and became one of us. Certainly as a perfect God, He must have felt like he was dealing with idiots at times. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for the God of the universe to willingly limit his infinite ability and live like a man – bound by human laws, and surrounded by fallen and broken people? To eventually suffer and die at their hands?
And yet He did it, and by seeing it through to the end, He turned everything around.
I often criticize Christian attempts at media, whether it be through television, movies, or online; but at the same time, helping Christians create better media is my life’s calling. I’m not doing it as an outside academic or critic with no skin in the game. The observations I point out are the issues I deal with everyday. A wrong word in the wrong place, and I lose a client or my career is over. But I continue because being on the “inside” gives me unique insight, and allows me to have more influence for change.
And one of the most challenging lessons for me to learn is to see a bigger picture. If you can learn to love difficult people, it suddenly becomes much easier to look beyond mistakes, shortcomings, and even attacks.
So if you feel stuck in a difficult situation, before you decide to move on, consider how much impact you could have from the inside. Certainly there will be frustrating days. Sometimes I think if I have to look at one more bad Christian media project I’ll jump out the window. But then I realize that being in the trenches everyday, working with people who are sometimes flawed and broken (like me), is the best possible way to make a difference.
Sometimes, my biggest heroes are the ignored, neglected, and invisible people who are quietly turning things around inside very hard places.
Phil Cooke is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.” Find out more at www.philcooke.com
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