When things don't go as we want or plan discouragement can quickly follow. It is easy to think that if we could change our circumstances our discouragement would go away. Unfortunately, changing our circumstances often requires that we change ourselves.
I want to be a great doctor. Good isn't good enough. I want to be the best and always have which is why for years patient satisfaction surveys were incredibly discouraging. I remember when I got my first survey results from the medical group. According to the survey I was average, smack dab in the middle of the pack. I was depressed. How could that be? I had worked so hard at doing everything right, harder than the doctors I worked with, but I scored lower. What happened?
What happened was that although I was practicing good medicine, consistently doing what was right for my patients and prescribing appropriate treatment, I was falling short in a key area.
I was a jerk.
Not intentionally, I actually cared about people. In spite of my caring I was at times arrogant and condescending . I knew the advice I was giving was correct so I did not have enough patience for patients who were fearful or uncertain, I a result I came across as brusque and uncaring . I loved medicine and I loved people, but the truth was I loved them a lot more when they agreed with me! When they didn't... well, not as much.
I could chalk up my poor scores to many things, but the core problem was me. I lacked true compassion and as a result did not listen and respond in a loving way. I had too high a view of myself and too low a view of others. For patient perceptions to improve, I needed to change. This was not easy, as pride and confidence in my opinion were deeply ingrained. Yet if my discouragement over my evaluations was going to end there was no choice. I needed to lay aside my pride, my sinful self-righteousness.
Turns out that the writer of the book of Hebrews figured this out long before I did. As he encouraged people to hang on and endure the trials of life he told them that to avoid spiritual weariness they would need to throw away the thing that tripped them up, the sin that “clings so closely”.
We tend to blame God when we trip up, but it is never His fault. So often when I am discouraged the root cause is my own stupid sin. (Is there any other kind?)
About 5 years ago I started praying, purposefully and intentionally, that God would help me love my patients and be more kind. (It probably does not come as a surprise to anyone else, but I learned that listening and caring are a part of love and kindness!) God worked in my life by allowing me to become a patient myself, to struggle with anxiety and pain. I learned from my daughter as I watched her deal with health and emotional issues, seeing how hard she worked for baby steps of progress. With these new experiences came a change of heart that allowed me to throw aside my arrogance and pride and become a more caring physician. I still try to do the right thing in all circumstances and work hard to get my diagnosis and treatment plans correct, but now it is in the context of caring about patients and making sure their concerns are heard. I have changed
Once I laid aside my self-righteousness and sense of superiority, my survey results improved and my discouragement evaporated. For the last four years I have consistently rated in the top 10 percent of the doctors in my medical group.
How about that? So often it is when we insist on doing things our own way and hang on to sinful thoughts and behaviors that we get discouraged. The writer of Hebrews told us what we need to do in such situations. We need to throw these bad things away! We need to change!
This is the fourth post of a series on Dealing with Discouragement. If you have been touched by these posts, please share them with a friend. If you would like to subscribe to this blog and receive future posts by email, click on the subscribe link. Beneath my photo upper right on a computer screen or scroll to the bottom on your mobile device.