However capable we are, most of us have unresolved issues in our lives. While we may be unaware of them, this does not make us invulnerable to them.
Our unresolved issues will often influence our desires, thinking, and choices, in quite negative ways. For example, an insecure person may want to be liked too much (unchecked desire), and so might then worry about not being liked (ungodly thinking), which could mean that they find it hard to make unpopular decisions (unwise choices). To give a specific example, an insecure leader might try to exclude ‘truth-tellers’ from meetings, so as to avoid them ‘rocking the boat’.
Left unchecked over time, our unresolved issues shape our character, causing us to repeat our mistakes, over and over again. The potential consequences of our unresolved issues become greater the more influence we have. Leaders who do not deal with their issues make more, and more serious, mistakes. As leaders of new congregations, we really do need to deal with our issues, for everyones’ sakes.
The good news is that no issue is too complex for Jesus to heal.
Kevin Prosch – a once well-known musician – wrote, after a series of catastrophic moral failures, that: “Whatever is denied, cannot be healed”. He recognised (too late, sadly) that the painful issues in his life, which he had either denied outright, or just not resolved properly, were what sabotaged his family, and his career. Thankfully, the opposite was also true – when he humbly sought help for those issues, he (eventually) found the healing which he so badly needed.
The bad news is that many of our (hidden) issues are hard to discern.
Because of this problem, St. Ignatius made the pursuit of self-awareness a priority for all of the up-and-coming leaders in the Jesuit movement, thereby creating a culture of fearless honesty, which has not only enabled them to avoid terminal self-sabotage for over 450 years – it has also inspired innumerable others to imitate many of their practices, up to the present day. That is quite a legacy!
Growing in self-awareness is a good thing.
In their book: “Overcoming The Dark Side Of Leadership“, Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima highlight five areas of personal dysfunction (i.e. unresolved issues), which are common in leaders, and especially common amongst Christian leaders. Don’t forget, we all have an ‘enemy of our souls’, who constantly seeks to undermine, sideline and sabotage our leadership and influence in the world (see 1 Chronicles 21.1; Ephesians 6.11-13; 1 John 3.7-10).
These five areas are:
- Compulsiveness (an obsessive need to conform and/or an inability to express emotions)
- Narcissism (an excessive level of self-love and/or vanity)
- Paranoia (an excessive suspicion of others’ motives and/or intentions)
- Co-dependency (an unhealthy dependence on other people and/or groups)
- Passive-aggressiveness (a tendency to only express negative emotions in passive and/or indirect ways)
Many of us will have seen one, or perhaps some, of these traits in others. The more honest of us will also be able to recognise some of them in ourselves, too. If we do spot something, the best first response is compassion. None of us were born like this. Something bad has to happen to us to make us like this. However, even if there are understandable reasons for these traits, we still cannot afford to excuse or tolerate them for very long.
The best second response to these character issues – once we have identified them – is to deal with them. This means talking things through with others, exploring them further, discovering their roots, and asking Jesus to heal our hearts. Such reflections may make us feel uncomfortable, but the reason we do so is that we may live wisely and well. They are intended to help us, not to humiliate us. Jesus is on our side. We have nothing to fear, and no need to hide.
If you would like to discuss any of these things with a Spiritual Director, please see https://joshuacentre.org.uk/spiritual-direction for more information on what Spiritual Direction is, how it works, and who to contact if you think it is something you would benefit from.
This blog contains the second principle taught to all new congregation leaders in the Joshua Centre’s Leadership Development Program (within the theme: ‘Lead Yourself’).