You can’t live joyfully if you blame yourself, and others for that matter, for everything bad that’s happened. Stuff happens and it is incumbent upon us to live beyond the tough stuff.


When Joyce, my wife died I blamed myself at first. I think all of us who have lost someone in an untimely way goes through this to some extent. “What if…?” What if I’d not taken the time to take a shower? What if I hadn’t dropped my shaver and then taken the time to clean up the shavings that fell all over the floor and down into the HVAC vent that morning? What if I’d not slept in the recliner that night, thinking she would rest better? What if I’d called for help sooner?

What if I’d been more forceful with the ER doctor the day before? Maybe I believed him because I didn’t want to insist upon it and pay the co-pay for a needless third MRI, just because she had a run-of-the-mill headache.

What if I had loved God more? What if had a more excellent faith? What if I had prayed more, or better, or differently? What If I’d said different words? What if I’d taken more spiritual authority? What if I had not stolen that little plastic 47 cent figure from G.C. Murphy when I was 13 years old on a dare? What if God had loved me more? What if I had been worthy for God to have loved me more?

Yeah, some of you know the routine. You’ve stood and looked in your bathroom mirror and cursed yourself and called yourself names, because had you been smarter, had you been better, had you been…

What if…?

Its odd how we make things about ourselves. Its actually a little arrogant to assign ourselves a central role in so many of the things that happen in the world.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past 4 years. I was given the gift of a looking glass into which I could peer and really see myself. At first I did not like what I saw. This preacher of the love of Jesus for 30+ years, the whole “no condemnation” part — over and over again. Yep, I was that guy. Gradually I started seeing another image in that mirror looking back at me. The transforming image wasn’t a despicable man responsible for losing the most precious gift I had to that point been given; rather, I began to see a familiar face somehow miraculously merging with my own. I began to see Jesus in my face.

I began to identify just a wee little bit with his sufferings. I began to identify just a wee little bit with his compassion and humility. I began to identify, in an infinitesimally small way with the man-Jesus who hung torturously on a cross and looked heavenward into the face of his once dotingly adoring heavenly Father saying, “My God….Why have You forsaken me.

I could not identify with the immensity of His pain, but I could identify with his massive “why.” Our “what ifs” are rooted in our “whys”.

Here are a few related leadership principles that will help you live joyfully and better lead those you love:

Everything Is Not Your Fault

You can’t live joyfully if you blame yourself (and others for that matter, which is another post) for everything bad that’s happened. Stuff happens and it is incumbent upon us to live beyond the tough stuff. Admittedly, some things ARE our faults, but the majority of the things for which we blame ourselves are not our fault, and fault isn’t even the main point if we want to heal and move into our purpose.

[shareable text=”You can’t live joyfully if you blame yourself for every bad thing that happens.”]You can’t live joyfully if you blame yourself for every bad thing that happens.[/shareable]

My dad taught me to take responsibility for my actions. own up to my mistakes. Admit you were wrong and move on as best as reality will allow. But as godly leaders, we often take internal responsibility for things that were not ours to control. I could not alter the events of November 17, 2012 (the day of my wife’s passing). They were written in a book before the foundation of the world. That does not mean that I don’t try, it is simply an acknowledgment that I cannot control everything.

You see, you can’t control the actions and decisions of others, nor can you rewrite the consequences of the things you cannot control.

Don’t Second Guess the Past

“What if” is a game that must not be played in reverse. Learn to learn from the past. Understand the future in the context of the past. Be stronger, better, and equipped from the things you’ve learned and experienced, but be very cautious with the creation of alternate scenarios, because alternate scenarios lead to alternate realities. We live where we live, reality is reality.

Instead play “what if” forward and positively. What if today I love my wife like it is the last day I will have her with me? What if I apply myself diligently to the revelation I’ve received? What if I live faithfully and trust God’s grace? What if…? What might happen if…? and then live it.

Live in Partnership with God

Outcomes emerge from our obedience to God’s directives. I am of the conviction that things and people are only eternally transformed through a God-revelation. I cannot expect to bear great fruit outside my gift, and neither can I position myself to effectiveness contingent upon my earning it.

You can’t create something transformational if you think yourself unworthy of God’s grace. You can’t lead with A profound spiritual horsepower until you’ve been beaten up, probably several times, and learned that you just cannot make it through tough stuff unless you have some help. This fixes both your reliance and sufficiency on God.

I’m going to do my best, but I really can’t change much. I for sure cannot change the things that are behind. I can only learn from them. I can only use them for a context to understand the things to come.

If I can’t change much in my past, then why am I obtuse enough to think I can really orchestrate my future. Oh yeah, I will be disciplined, I will be determined, I will not quit, I will hear the heartbeat of the Father and I will doggedly and obediently pursue his plan, but I play just one instrument and my Father is the conductor. I have to trust that he will give me the right part, the right music, and the will to be tenaciously obedient.

Nothing I did or did not do that day affected the outcome. Sometimes I wish it had so I would understand better. I was along for the ride on a very bad day, but that ride is still taking me to … I’m not sure where, but I choose to position myself to live joyfully, and trust that the destination is a very, very good place.