So I did a little “research” on saboteurs this week to give you a better look at what they do and how they operate. I read some useful articles about Saboteurs usually in relation to a specific scenario, like saboteurs at work, saboteurs of your diet, and saboteurs of creative projects, so I’ll try to give you some general categories in ways that apply to calling.
Saboteurs are usually found in the ranks of bosses, family members, mentors and work colleagues – people who, by the nature of their position, already have some influence or authority in your life.
A Saboteur’s goal is to undermine and discourage you and he or she does this is several ways:
This is probably a very blatant form of sabotage. While the Saboteur’s destructiveness is obvious and easy to identify, it does not make it easier to deal with. By sheer force of personality, the angry Saboteur bulldozes your calling, says your ideas are terrible, yells at you for messing up, tells you you’re a failure and insults your character. If you try to move forward and work around them, Angry Saboteurs may impose their own demands on you or interrupt anything that is important to you. In the wake of this kind of attack, you’re left defeated, emotionally exhausted and unable to move forward. Productivity and team spirit among colleagues die.
John Schuster provides an example of this in a work situation. This kind of Saboteur sets you up to fail. Maybe a manager or a mentor, they give you a project and encourage you to pursue it but then withdraw all support, divert resources and make sure you’re left totally stranded in an overwhelming amount of work. These Saboteurs don’t want to see anyone else succeed. They bury you in stress and hopelessness while finding ways to make you believe this situation is entirely your own fault, that you needed a lesson in humility and that you’re obviously not cut out for the dreams you think you’re capable of achieving.
This kind of Saboteur is probably a close friend or family member. This person says that they believe in your calling and want you to pursue it, but then make you feel guilty for every step you take. They’ll make you feel selfish and imply that you’re not balancing your time properly. They’ll let you know they’re making sacrifices and that it’s not easy. Sooner or later, dealing with the problems in relationship consumes you, breaking your focus and enthusiasm. The Guilt Saboteur will have you wondering if you are in the right about your calling at all. Maybe this isn’t your calling, you think, if it’s causing this much trouble and if I’m having to spend so much time justifying it. This Saboteur won’t be happy until you admit you’re wrong, stop what you’re doing and agree to follow their schedule.
Most of us have a pessimistic friend or two. Usually this isn’t a big deal, but when it comes to your calling, it can have serious consequences. This person probably is not malicious in anyway, and probably really does want to help you, but they undermine your ideas and your courage to follow callings because they can’t stop bringing up worst case scenarios and real life disaster stories that clearly prove that you should not move forward. Their favourite line is “I’m just trying to help you be realistic.” They make you doubt yourself, doubt your research, doubt your abilities and maybe even doubt your motives because they’ll always find a downside or a long list of cons. Any pros will quickly be shot down. If the Pessimistic Saboteur is a little bit malicious, you’ll hear “I told you so” the minute you have a small setback.
One article called this type of Saboteur, “The Expert” – they’re people you go to for advice and counsel. People who have much experience in whatever you’re interested in doing. So you go ask for advice, suggestions and blessings because you look up to this person. Instead of receiving a balanced perspective and some solid advice, you hear that your idea probably won’t work, that what you’re envisioning is not the direction to take, that it’s all been done, there isn’t room for a new voice and that it’s unfortunately probably a useless endeavor to try to proceed. This will all be said in a way that implies that they’re really saving you from wasting your time. And these saboteurs may actually believe they are helping you too. Underneath however, their motivation for discouraging you is driven by their own insecurities. These saboteurs feel threatened by your presence and seek to preserve the status quo and their position within it. They probably aren’t conscious of trying to crush you, but they’re not interested in having anyone rock the boat.
So how do we deal with them?
Sometimes the only thing we can do is a leave a situation. If we’re dealing with extreme cases of sabotage, we might have to quit a job with an abusive boss, end a manipulative mentoring relationship or friendship.
In less severe cases, if we’re able to identify what’s happening, let’s say in a situation where someone is guilt-tripping, isolating or discouraging us, it might be possible to have a direct conversation about what’s happening. This may be enough to stop them, or at least give you better armor to deal with their sabotage attempts. These situations also teach us a valuable lesson about who we partner with, who we ask for support and who we look to for advice. The people we trust to be our community as we follow our callings should be carefully chosen (but this does not mean we choose only yes-men and friends who won’t offer constructive criticism!).
When we are blindsided by external sabotage, it usually sets off our own internal saboteurs which reinforce the devastation. It triggers the cycle of lies that each of us wrestles with, that we’re failures, that we’re hopeless, incapable, and probably ridiculous. We start to think our callings must be a joke and wonder why we thought we could ever be part of something worthwhile or meaningful. If the sabotage works, we are paralyzed. To beat the Saboteurs requires the courage to move forward through the perfect storm of doubt, stress, fear and discouragement.
So how do we combat the lies and move forward courageously? We must affirm and cling to the truth. This means careful and honest personal assessment and a commitment to facing weaknesses and character flaws instead of denying them. It means carefully discerning your calling with patience instead of rushing after half-baked dreams or ambitions. It means finding a community that speaks the truth in love.
Any thoughts on this? Have you experienced one of these Saboteurs? How have you dealt with sabotage situation?