Frustration and Goals

My wife and I went to a seminar at a local church last weekend.  The seminar was called “Stress Fractures”.  As you can probably tell, it was about how to deal with the stress which can fracture your life.  The counselor who put the seminar together said she originally wanted to call it “All Stressed Up And No Place To Go”.  I thought that would have been a great title for the seminar.  I also thought it was a great joke, one I wish I had come up with myself.

There were two sessions in this seminar.  The second was called “Increasing Frustration Tolerance”.  In this session, the teacher (a licensed therapist) gave us some instruction about how to manage frustration, which is something everyone (including disciples of Jesus) have to do.  It may even be something disciples of Jesus have to do more than anyone else.

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It is also something I struggle with quite frequently.  And one of the things this therapist said has really helped me with that struggle.  One technique he gave for managing frustration was “having a hierarchy of goals”.  You are probably familiar with the phrase “hierarchy of goals”.  I believe Abraham Maslow presented a similar idea (in fact, I think someone behind me whispered “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Goals” when the therapist used this phrase).  What this therapist was talking about, though, was significantly different from what Maslow was presenting.  He wasn’t talking about physical needs leading up to self-actualization, the most basic needs graduating up to the more complex needs.  He was just talking about the things you want to accomplish.  He gave this example of such goals:


After we looked at this example for awhile, the therapist had us make our own list of goal.  My top three were identical to the example: 1) relationship with God, 2) relationship with wife, and 3) relationship with daughter.  I think everyone’s were.  My next three or four were largely the same.  My bottom ones were wildly different.  For me, quiet time is a goal, as is a clean house.

Once those goals were done, the therapist told us that getting frustrated about things that hinder the lower goals is something that destroys the upper goals.  In other words, eating cheesecake (to use his example) can destroy the higher health goal.  Or, to use my example, getting upset because my house isn’t clean can destroy my second and third goals, my relationships with my wife and my daughter.

And that really worked for me.  I don’t know why.  If I knew why some information or analogy works for some people while others does not, I’d be a far more fruitful man.  I just know that did work for me.  I just know that lodged itself in my mind and has been coming up ever since.  When I start to get worked up now, I think about my goals.  I particularly think about those top three.  I evaluate whether my frustration is worth the damage it will do to those top three goals, and I then act accordingly.  As a result, I’ve been happier the past week.  I also think I’ve done more to reach those top three goals.  And what more can you ask for than that?


Despite the well-known and empirically-proven fact that all Christians are hypocrites (Image result for emoji wink), I am truly bothered (and sometimes bewildered) when I find myself falling into wrong.  This is particularly true of wrongs I never thought I’d fall into.  Such a wrong is inconsolability.

I’ve seen people be inconsolable in my own time.  I’ve seen it and I haven’t like it too much.  I’ve seen it in the Bible as well.  Perhaps the best example is that of Jacob:


You might say, “Well, you can hardly blame Jacob for being inconsolable at that moment,” and I would agree with you if I weren’t a critical, judgmental Christian (again, Image result for emoji wink).

Honestly, the fact of the matter is that I’ve never liked such inconsolability, whether it is Jacob’s or some modern person.  I’ve always thought it was faithless or melodramatic or who knows what.

Until, that is, I began feeling it myself.

I’ve been inconsolable the past couple days.  My inconsolability has been different from Jacob’s.  I’ve not told anyone I’m going to mourn until I die.  But I have been resisting encouragement lately.  Some of that encouragement comes from my mentors; one of my mentors was trying to encourage me yesterday.  Some of it comes from God itself; in my reading yesterday, I came across Genesis 8:1 (Then God remembered Noah), which I thought was an encouraging word from the Spirit Himself.  In both of those cases my reaction was, “Eh, I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t want to believe it.”  I knew I should both hear it and believe it, but I didn’t want to.  I didn’t want people (or God) to try to encourage me.  I didn’t want to be encouraged.  I wanted to be inconsolable.

Understandable.  Maybe?  It’s always understandable when it’s us, isn’t it?  But it is still wrong.  Yes, this hypocritical, judgmental Christian is admitting he is doing wrong or, perhaps more accurately, has fallen into wrong.

And I don’t know how to handle that wrong, quite frankly.  I could say something like, “We should not be inconsolable” or “We must be willing to be encouraged.”  Such a something would be true enough, I guess, but I don’t think it would be effective.  It’s kind of like telling people to, “Calm down.”

If I had to guess (and I have to here; I’m in uncharted waters, after all), I’d say it might be more effective to remind ourselves who our God is and what His story is.  It might be more effective to remember that our God is not only telling a good story with a good ending but is inviting us into that story/ending.  I say might.  Feelings are feelings, after all.  Moods are moods, and getting out of bad ones is a hard thing to do even for the faithful people of God.  That is the best I’ve got on this one, though, and honestly I don’t think it is half bad.