Ep 171: Three Paths That Lead to Discontentment
Welcome to the 171st episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!
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Roman Archer: Well what is going on, podcast world. Thanks so much for tuning into another episode. Here with Pastor Josh, and excited for the conversation we’re going to have today. How are you feeling?
Joshua Gagnon: Feeling good.
R: Awesome. We are going to start a conversation today and it may end today, it may go on multiple weeks. I can promise you one thing, there will not be a resolution to today’s topic. We’re going to talk about being discontent. Discontentment seems to be a big thing culturally, but especially in the heart of leaders. It seems like we’re seeing more and more leaders either disqualify themselves or even just walk away, and I think a lot of it has to do with this idea of discontentment. And you’ve been teaching us through a series of conversations this idea of discontent, both in our leadership and personally and you had some pretty cool thoughts around this.
J: When you say personally, what does that mean?
R: I think probably pulling it apart is probably pretty difficult now that I think of it, because so much of a leader’s life is intertwined, but I think there’s even major discontentment in, not just in leadership, in vocation, but also personal stuff: finances, and the house we live in.
J: Do you ever find yourself there?
R: Oh, all the time. I pretty much constantly live there.
J: Live in where?
R: In discontent. I’ve got an annual pass to the discontentment amusement park. I think a lot of leaders do.
J: Just leaders?
R: No, it definitely plays out in a certain personality, I would think. But I definitely think it’s more of a cultural thing. I think it’s something that we all struggle with.
J: Yeah, I think it’s hard not to.
R: Yeah. Yep. And so you gave these three principles, these three categories that cause discontentment, and not sure how far we’ll get, but let’s talk about the first one today: Being comparing. Comparing.
J: Being comparing? Being comparing.
R: Well, did I say being comparing?
R: Is that what I said? Or just comparing?
J: I was actually, I didn’t mean to say that out loud. I was actually thinking, how would you phrase that? Just comparing, right?
R: Yeah, or comparison, you could say comparison.
J: But you could add “being” there, right? Being compar… No, you couldn’t add being to the beginning of that sentence. Being someone who compares, you could say.
R: Being someone who compares, yeah. Comparing is something you do.
J: But you really walked yourself into a corner when you started with “being”.
R: Being discontent…
J & R: ...through…
J: ...the art…
R: ...of comparing.
J: ...of simulation…
J: Right. Um, yeah, I think for me, I think for many of our listeners, discontentment is something that’s not a new idea, although I do think it’s a root that often goes unnoticed. Many of the decisions we make, I believe, personally, as I’ve put some thought into this, they are born out of the root of discontentment. We don’t typically just wake up and think, “I’m going to screw up my life today.” Typically we don’t wait up and fall into an affair that morning because it just happened that morning, right? Typically it’s something that’s been cooking for a little bit of time. Thoughts have been cooking, actions have been evolving.
R: Yeah, there’s a journey behind it.
J: Yeah, and I think it’s the same with the mental health, emotional health, I think spiritual health, in all these areas of our life we don’t just end up somewhere, typically, in an instant, it’s a journey. And so I traced that back to what causes many of us to land in the places we land? What causes me to land different places and seasons of discouragement and as I look around our culture, our friends, I think what we find is there’s this deep root of discontentment, and if you don’t notice where the problem begins or where the root is beginning, it’s hard to overcome it, right? So you’re trying to learn, like what’s the problem? Why do I feel this way? And I wonder how many of us really it’s just discontentment.
R: Yeah. I think these three things that we’ve talked about act as an accelerant. If discontentment is already there, if there’s already a spark of it, you combine any one of these three things and it turns into a wildfire if you’re not careful.
J: Yeah, so you said comparison. Even in the day and age we live in, we’re comparing ourselves to everybody. You know, I’ve talked to some of my friends in leadership in all different arenas of influence. Some of my older friends who have been faithfully pastoring a smaller ministry, but God called them to that and they’ve been faithful and they love it. And then of course, some of my older friends who are pastoring larger ministries in the terms of how many people are impacted on a daily level. And both have said, because I was wondering if it was just social media today that really caused this comparison trap, and they said it’s definitely at our fingertips like never before, but they said, you know, and they’re 70, 80 years old, and they said, you know in my day and age it was radio. They said everybody was on the radio. And if you had a radio slot, you were happening.
J: Yeah, exactly. They had listeners, and so if you got on the radio, you were one of the happening preachers. And so they said there’s always been the ability or opportunity to compare that even in their generation as a young leader, they were comparing themselves to other people’s radio shows. But they did say it’s never been more at our fingertips at a constant basis.
R: Quite literally.
J: You can’t escape it. You just have to one, ignore it, or two, grow to a point where it doesn’t influence you. But you can’t escape the opportunity to compare in the culture we live in. You know we just passed Easter, and we had a good Easter at Next Level Church, and there were some metrics that I couldn’t have announced, and I do announce metrics on Facebook and I don’t do much Twitter and I don’t even think I have a...I do have an Instagram account. Go follow me on Instagram, would you? Help me out.
R: I don’t know what your…
J: I don’t know, I’ve never been on it.
R: Check the show notes. They’ll go back through.
J: Yeah, I’ve never been on my Instagram. I don’t even have on my phone or know how to do it.
R: But we promise if you get to a certain amount of followers, you’ll start doing it.
J: And I’ll be the most active. But I have to do it for the book release coming up. And so…
R: We have Instagram, we have all sorts of, Facebook and Twitter and all of these opportunities, and you were saying even coming out of Easter there’s this opportunity to…
J: Don’t you love when people call you from a number? Like New York, New York, some strange number.
R: Yeah, I wouldn’t answer it. It’s a robocall.
J: Yeah. So we have all these opportunities to compare at our fingertips like never before. So Easter came and I could have thrown out metrics, but I actually, and I will, I do many weekends. Matter of fact, we just had 140, 138 salvations in the last two weeks. Something like that. 118 maybe. Something like that. And so I put that out on Facebook because that’s something to celebrate, man. I want people that don’t believe God’s that moving in the church to see that God’s still moving in His church. But on Easter I put out, I don’t want to add to the Easter highlight reel. I don’t want to add to the numbers that cause so many discouragement. Because I know so many compare themselves against what God is doing at Next Level and I hate to feel like I’m adding to that, because I’ve known Next Level for years, less now more than ever, had compared itself to what everybody else was doing.
R: Yeah, well I think a quick survey of our listeners, how many listeners were excited by their Easter until they got on Facebook or Twitter and saw, and began to compare their Easter and their highlight reel and the photos of their Easter to those around you. Comparison accelerates discontentment.
J: I feel like if I never knew how God was using anyone else, I would be blown away by how God was using me. But the moment I recognize that there may be people being used in a greater, more influential way than me, I immediately start to discredit my calling based on other people’s anointing and calling. And if I just literally, if I just had no idea what God was doing in the lives of anyone else, I’d be amazed! I would be like, what in the world?! And I think we can carry that over into all sorts of arenas of our life. Financially. If I had no idea what other people drove, I’d be thankful that I didn't’t have to walk. If I didn’t know where other people lived, if I had never been to that house, if I had never seen...I’d be like, man, this crib’s alright! Like, man, this is alright, I can make this work. It’s funny, because if you think about it, if we never knew what other people had, what would we not like of ours and what would we be thankful for? There’s still things I’d still do if I knew no one else’s material things or emotional things or success, I’d still keep my home clean, I’d still work hard in my yard to make it look my best, right? All those things would still happen because those are driven by who I am and what I like. But there’d be a lot of things that I wouldn’t have and there’d be a lot of things I wouldn’t do, cause some of the things aren’t driven by just what I want and what I like and who I am, they’re driven by how I compare to others. And so I become super discontent when I compare myself to everybody else’s highlight reel. And we just like, Facebook, man, I mean is there anything more evil in daily in our lives? The gossip, the political harassment, the jealousy, the comparison, the pride. You know, comparison always leads to a few things. It’s either going to lead to pride, cause I feel really good about me when I compare myself to you, Roman. For real, when I compare myself, right now in this moment….
J: You don’t even know what I’m going to say! When I’m comparing… (laughs) When I’m comparing myself right now in this moment, I’m feeling my beard is more on point than yours. I’m just letting you know. So that’s going to create a little bit of pride in me, okay? Now, when I compare myself to you in your height, you got a few inches on me. You got a few inches. You can reach things that I can’t reach, and it kind of drives me a little nuts, and I can find a little bit of insecurity in that. And then there are moments where you can find jealousy when you’re comparing. So you’re going to find pride in comparison, it’s always going to lead to three things: Pride, insecurity, and jealousy. Which of all, I think are pretty bad. I think our spiritual enemy, known as Lucifer,...
R: Or Facebook.
J: (laughs) I think promotes, it promotes pride, insecurity, and jealousy.
R: And this all fuels the idea of discontentment.
J: Can humans have a platform like Facebook and not.. I’m not saying everybody submits to those. But can humans, in our carnal nature, have a platform like Facebook and not allow it to be a vice of comparison, jealousy, insecurity, pride?
R: No, I think as long as there’s…
J: Maybe it’s just me.
R: I think as long as there’s humans behind it, there’s going to be those values that…
J: I mean the simple fact that you are wondering what people are going to think when you post something tells, is the simple reality that there’s a desire to impress.
R: Yeah. Yep. One hundred percent.
J: And if there’s a desire to impress, there’s a desire to compare. Comparison comes from the desire to impress.
R: Yep. How many decisions have we made as leaders based on even just the idea of comparison?
J: I hate it, man. Remember what I said yesterday? We were looking at one of our locations and we were making a decision based on this location. And I said, man, what if, sometimes I feel like if we make decisions in life based on what others are going to think about our decision, would we have like a…
R: Yeah, I don’t know if they’re going to hear that on the podcast or not. Our offices are…
J: Below our auditorium.
R: And it sounds like they’re doing river dancing up there. (laughs)
J: But, what were we just talking about? What are you, texting?
R: I’m texting somebody to take a look at that. Who knows if this is going to stay in the podcast? We generally don’t edit things out.
J: No, it should stay in.
R: Yeah, it should stay in. I lost… Oh, we were talking about this location and some decisions that we need to make, and really just stepping back and saying if we disconnected ourselves from the pride of comparison, what are people going to think? What are people going to say?
J: I said, we were the elders of… That was the most silent… Those were two sneezes that just happened.
R: I learned that from my mom, to hold them in. Which I think long term is probably going to cause some medical conditions (laughs) that I don’t yet know about.
J: (laughs) You have more air in your body than it should be, we find out.
R: Maybe that’s why… (laughs) I’m not fat, I’m just full of air, cause I don’t sneeze.
J: We were saying we’ve been put into a position to be elders here at this church and that’s our responsibility. And it’s bad leadership to make decisions based on what we think others are going to think, especially when it comes to our pride and feeling good about ourselves. But that comes from comparison. It comes from pride, insecurity. Yeah I think this idea of discontentment, this reality of discontentment, this disease of discontentment is largely contributed to by comparing ourselves to everybody else. And I think as leaders we have to fight. If we could solve this, we’d all drink the Kool Aid. We have to continue to tell ourselves that we’ve been called by God to be who God’s called us to be, and we can’t live our life comparing ourselves to everybody else because if we compare ourselves to everybody else, we’re going to find reasons why we’re not happy with who it is we are. And I do feel like you can grow in it. Do you think you feel like you’ve grown in it at all?
R: Yeah, I think so. So one of the things to even wrap this conversation up was some practical ideas on how to destroy comparison. I think one would be something that we’ve done before where we kind of took a fast from social media, from even church conferences would be another one. We didn’t really talk much about it, but the entire idea that we go to conferences, which are good, and they equip, but then at the same time there’s this comparison that plays there and so we actually went through a season where we kind of stepped back from the Outreach magazines, from the church conferences, from social media, from other church websites.
J: We actually stepped back, we’re not doing Outreach this year. We just decided this week that we’re not doing it this year. The whole hundred fastest, cause we’d be in it again. But we’re not going to it again this year because it’s just like, man, in many ways that entire...I don’t know. I don’t want to say anything else.
R: Yep. So what are other ways though, practically speaking that as you’ve grown…
J: We didn’t count for a while, remember?
R: Yeah, that was another thing.
J: Did you say that?
R: No, that’s not one.
J: We didn’t count for a while. I think we can talk about not counting. Because once again that comparison, even among our locations.
R: Yeah, I think that’s an interesting component too, for multisite churches.
J: I don’t listen to many of the preachers that are like me, so I listen to people that are not like me.
R: Because it takes away that desire to compare.
J: It takes away my desire to become just a little bit more like them because I see a lot of me in them, right? So when I listen and watch preachers that are totally opposite of me, I have no desire to be like them. Because I know that that’s not who I am, but I can learn a lot from them. From their wisdom. However, if I listen to people who teach like me, I get a little bit jealous because I’m like man, that was a little bit better in that area or I find myself becoming a little bit just more like… So I haven’t listened to many preachers.
R: What about other podcasts, things like that.
J: Yeah, I like podcasts. Because those are just people being people. Those are just conversations, typically. But I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts.
R: So here’s an interesting dynamic that I know. We bring up conferences but I know one of the things that you have an aversion to is even some of the gatherings that we’ve been invited to that might not be considered a conference, but a roundtable, and one of the reasons you say that you don’t like going is because it’s a comparison contest.
J: I used to want to go to all the things because I get invited to a lot of things, and it felt really good to go to the things, why? Because I was invited and I could compare myself to those that aren’t invited. And now, all of a sudden, I don’t go to many, I go to very few things, but I say no to most things, because I have no desire to sit in a little room with a bunch of leaders in ministry that will want to tell everybody how many people they have in attendance and, I don’t even get it. I’m even getting annoyed thinking about it right now. Who cares? We’re all a part of our own elected Bible group study, right? We’re just Sunday School teachers. We’re all just running our little Sunday Schools. And so it annoys me to no degree. You get these preachers out there wanting certain types of M&Ms to come preach somewhere, certain type of water. You’d think they were Jesus Christ, and it’s like give me a break, dude. How did you even get there? I can tell you how they get there. They compared themselves to somebody who was treated that way and couldn’t wait for the day that they were treated that way.
R: So would you say a component of that comparison trap is for you’ve been learning the arenas that create that comparison in you and then being guarded against those?
J: Yeah. I have to be aware of what brings out the worst in me so I can make sure I put myself in the environments that help me be the best me. And when I get in those comparison environments, I become a bad me. If I stay away from them, I stay way more pure. And so I’ve found that many Christian environments actually make me very impure.
R: Yeah. That’s definitely a strong quote there that I would agree with. That’s tweetable. Many Christian environments bring out the worst in me. I think some of the best places for people to hide is within the church. One of the best places for hypocrisy and religion to live.
J: We wrap it all in holiness. So then all of our bragging and comparing, we say it’s all for the numbers, for God. And I agree. I do agree that numbers matter. And I’m not shy of numbers. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said numbers matter so that I can prove to everybody else how great God’s using me (laughs).
R: That’s real. And I think that’s one of the reasons why the podcast continues to grow.
J: Yeah, I want to talk about numbers, I can tell you about these numbers on the podcast and I never have told anybody other than a few people because this thing has blown up. People wouldn’t believe how many people are listening to this thing. I could boast on it all day long but I try to stay guarded against it. Then again, I just did.
R: Well I think the reality of that is just being real. And just owning that that’s a temptation that we all have. Is that it boosts our pride. It feels good.
J: Yeah, this has never really done that for me. No.
R: Do you get to see the audience, do you think that’s why?
J: I mean we have 30, 40 thousand listeners every 4 weeks. Unique. And I’ve never felt really, I don’t know. I enjoy it, it’s just a conversation. I feel like we’re all friends. Alright, we’ve got to shut this one down.
R: Yeah. We will pick this back up. We’ve got two other things, accelerants to discontentment that we’ll talk about. We’ll either get through them or we won’t.
J: Accelerants to discontentment, this kid’s got on point.
R: Get on back.