Leadership Falls and Three Inner Foes of Flourishing
This is no one’s favorite topic. Leadership falls are depressing. Leadership falls are tragic. I have been in personal relationships to some extent with at least two people who have had substantial falls. They break my heart.
The biggest reason to talk about falls, is to help ensure less of them happen.
As I have thought and prayed about the biggest contributors to falls, there are typically some external factors such as building campaigns or financial pressures (which are often closely related) or other external pressures that appear to expose vulnerabilities that weren’t as evident before the pressures intensified.
In other words, before the external pressures hit, it would’ve been very difficult to tell that a leader was vulnerable.
Looking for Vulnerabilities before the Storm Hits
But that doesn’t mean we can’t look for the vulnerabilities before the pressures increase.
If we actively look for vulnerabilities to a fall before the storm comes, we are much more likely to have the inner capabilities, relationships and structures in place so that should the external pressures increase, we will be that much more able to withstand the storm.
That is my prayer for all Christian leaders: that as God allows trials, and as warfare intensifies, that our precious brothers and sisters in Christ (including you and me) will come through the trial more radiant, more alive in the Lord, and more able to bring greater glory to God.
How does this tie in with Flourishing?
I would say that whenever there is a substantial fall, it means that the priority of flourishing was somehow put way down the list.
It means that somehow Satan snuck in through the intensity of circumstances and underlying vulnerabilities and as a result, becoming more alive in God, accepting limits, and somehow trusting God and honoring Him above all else was (likely) imperceptibly and substantially devalued. Bad news.
When we devalue the importance of godly flourishing, Satan grins.
So what are these Three Inner Foes to Flourishing?
From my vantage point there are three inner foes to flourishing.
As you read through the list, I encourage you to see which one(s) fit you the most. Then of course I encourage you to pray about them and explore them further!
#1 Foe: People Pleasing
People pleasing, as the phrase implies, is when our fear of disappointing others gradually supplants our desire to please God and our ability to trust Him.
As our roles grow, and as more people start to depend on us, the temptation to please others can stretch us beyond our human limits.
If we continue to give into that vulnerability, over time our most important relationships (such as our marriage) take greater hits. On top of that, as we overextend chronically, our judgment becomes more and more compromised. Then if someone really compelling comes along, not upset with us for ignoring them over our job, we are so much more vulnerable to fall in that terrible trap.
So, discovering the lies in our hearts that make people pleasing tempting is critical to honoring our commitments to time with the Lord and to our most important relationships. That is vital to overcoming the foe of people pleasing.
#2 Foe: Self-Reliance
Candidly, this one can be much more difficult to spot. To be clear, I’m not saying there’s not a place for healthy independence. By self-reliance I mean a tendency to do a couple things excessively: First, to not delegate tasks appropriately and therefore place too much of a burden on one’s self. Second, on the relational front, it means a tendency to not appropriately let a few key others into your struggles. While the first one is something to look at, it’s the second one that can be the most deadly.
When I think of the greatest contributing factor to substantial leadership falls, I believe the inability to let someone into their struggle before it goes too far, is the greatest personal Achilles heel.
If the person could share with a trusted friend: “I’m starting to drift from my wife, I’m getting overwhelmed by work, and temptation is getting more attractive. Will you please help me get back to where the current isn’t so strong? How many more folks would be in such better places if they could have just said something like that? Lord have mercy.
What can be the most tragic part here, is that the vulnerability to self-reliance is often unconscious, or at the very least subconscious. People often just don’t see how self-reliant they really are.
When leaders grow up in a home where personal disclosure, vulnerability or healthy dependency are frowned upon, it can become almost a reflex to not share a struggle. And when you can’t share a struggle, you can’t get help. And if you can’t get help, Satan grins.
So, I encourage you to pray about your comfort level letting one or two people in to your weaknesses. Let them in with small, more vague disclosures that don’t really put you at risk. Then take bigger steps as they prove safe and trustworthy. If you can do that before things get crazy, you have greatly increased your odds of coming out on the right side of the storm.
#3 Foe: Ego/Excessive Ambition
This one is easier to see. When ego is king, at some level it’s all about you. Somehow the longing to be esteemed, to be powerful, to be in charge, has usurped the desire to bring glory toThe the One who is really in charge.
This can often be masked or covered up by having a lot of passion for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom. But at the end of the day, tragically what has happened is that God is no longer trusted to be the true provider of the greatest longings of our heart.
If you find yourself feeling more and more of a substantial need for control or power, or a need to be esteemed, please invite the Lord into that place.
I encourage you to look for ways that you did not get the affirmation or esteem that you longed for in earlier years. I encourage you to invite the Lord into how much power really matters to you.
if you can acknowledge and surrender the deep desire for affirmation and power, God can come in and fill you with the peace and joy that far surpass what any human title or status can bring.
Among other things, God allows tests or trials to help us mature in Him and see the depth of our need for Him.
I encourage you to pray about and talk about your greatest inner foes to flourishing. They are real and won’t go away on their own.
At the risk of appearing self-serving, (the bigger goal really is to help people really flourish) if you believe you need more help, one option to consider is the online class on flourishing that will start next week. We will dive deep into these foes and give you some of the critical tools needed to overcome those nasty foes and make real progress in flourishing.
If you are curious, here is the link for the class: http://thrive.finishwellgroup.com/
Enrollment closes next Monday morning.
Whatever you decide, I wish you the best in becoming more alive in God. Not just for you, but also for those who deeply love, and those you were called to serve.