Your Two Biggest Enemies

March 10, 2014 — 2 Comments

As a spiritual leader you have two formidable enemies. Each picks at you daily, constantly, relentlessly.

If left unchallenged each will undermine your ability to lead people onto God’s agenda.

What are these two enemies? It’s not your culture. Or whatever -ism is in vogue this year. Or problems in your organization. Or other well-intentioned leaders vying for power or control (of course they would never say it quite that way).

Henri Nouwen, in The Way of the Heart, a classic work on authentic spirituality that mines the insights of 4th and 5th century desert fathers and mothers of our common faith, suggests that the two main enemies of the spiritual life are anger and greed.

Anger and greed are by-products of my compulsive self — my false self, or old nature — that craves affirmation from constant activity and others’ approval. Nouwen writes:

Whether I am a pianist, a businessman or a minister, what matters is how I am perceived by my world. If being busy is a good thing, then I must be busy. If having money is a real sign of freedom, then I must claim my money. If knowing many people proves my importance, I will have to make the necessary contacts. The compulsion manifests itself in the lurking fear of failing and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same — more work, more money, more friends.

[These compulsions] are the inner side of a secular life, the sour fruits of our worldly dependencies. What else is anger than the impulsive response to the experience of being deprived? When my sense of self depends on what others say of me, anger is a quite natural reaction to a critical word. And when my sense of self depends on what I can acquire, greed flares up when my desires are frustrated. Thus greed and anger are the brother and sister of a false self fabricated by the social compulsions of an unredeemed world.

I’m taking some time this week to reflect on the impact anger and greed have on my leadership. A mentor once told me, “Ken, people can’t follow anger.” James tells us that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

How do you fight against these two enemies of your leadership? 

 

2 responses to Your Two Biggest Enemies

  1. Ken,

    Thank you for your insightful words and putting the spot light on the deeper streams of our hearts.

    I am very much in the school of learning my own heart but for me first its to be aware that I am angry…I never ceased to be surprised at the power of self deception and denial.

    Next as I realize that something is going on in my heart..to take that to Jesus and sit with it with Him…I seek to Imagine or better said see with the eyes of faith that I am in His presence and begin to look at what is in my heart with Him..like opening a box and seeing whats inside, asking Him to help me see what are the desires and longings that the anger or hurt is pointing to..then as that comes a little more in focus acknowledging and owning what I find there good and bad..finally then to ask Him what I can do..one step today with Him..in light of that desire or that longing.

    Sometimes the anger is at myself, which often points out deeper pride issues in my heart, often it is at my circumstances which points to my own feelings or powerlessness, sometimes it is leveled on others… Regardless sitting there with Jesus and asking Him to reveal the deeper desires and to give me just one step forward..often can turn the anger I feel that would other wise poison my engagement with others into an indicator, a light on my dashboard revealing deeper heart issues of pride, fear, and feelings of powerlessness. Being aware of the indicator can then lead to receiving from Him deeper understanding and one way or step to express those deeper heart desires and to engage the day from the heart with Him…

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