Mark Driscoll, lead pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, resigned a little over two weeks ago. While I feel great compassion for Driscoll and his family, I also believe his is a cautionary tale with important leadership lessons for us as coaches and our clients.
In a statement released by the church’s board of overseers, Driscoll had, at times, “been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner . . . Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.”
Not immorality. Not illegal behavior. Not a lack of giftedness. A quick temper, harsh speech, and a domineering style of leadership were his undoing. Simply put, heart issues derailed Driscoll, and they can derail you.
Think about it. Heart issues have been the downfall of presidents and nations. Perhaps that’s why Solomon wrote, “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
As coaches and leaders, we must be willing to look beneath the surface of our lives.
What’s Beneath the Surface?
Peter Scazerro, in his excellent book, The Emotionally Healthy Church, explains that although he daily spent time reading his Bible, praying, and journaling, he was not taking a “deep, hard look inside,” where transformation happens.
He makes this observation:
Only about 10 percent of an iceberg is visible to the surface. That is the part of our lives of which we are consciously aware. Note, however, that the Titanic sank because it collided with a section of the submerged 90 percent of an iceberg. Most leaders shipwreck or live inconsistent lives because of forces and motivations beneath the surface of their lives, which they have never even considered.
Sadly, Mark Driscoll is not alone. Many leaders drift off course because they’ve failed to look below the surface of their lives and deal with issues of the heart.
The Journey Inward
So, how do we begin the journey inward?
Scazerro urges “unmasked, painful honesty.” In addition to doing regular heart checks, he suggests two primary components to looking beneath the surface: awareness of what you’re feeling and doing, and asking the “why” (motivation) question.
Do regular heart checks. I am not advocating excessive introspection, but I am suggesting that we could all benefit from regular heart checks. To guide the process and invite the Holy Spirit’s revelation, I regularly pray Psalm 139-23-24a, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me.”
Cultivate an awareness of what you’re feeling and doing. Ask yourself at various times throughout the day, “What am I feeling?” Jesus felt emotions strongly and freely expressed them. In today’s vernacular, Jesus was emotionally intelligent. What about you? Am you feeling annoyed with a client? Angry? Judgmental? What do your feelings tell you about the state of your heart?
Jesus also knew who He was and what He was doing. He broke free from the expectations of family, friends, and the wider religious culture to fulfill His purpose.
When we ask the “why” question, we are examining our motivations. For example:
- Why do I dread meeting with that client?
- Why do I want to succeed so badly? Do I equate success with love and acceptance?
- Why do I resist confronting that client on her lack of follow through?
- Why do I prefer email to calling? What am I avoiding?
Asking questions like these reveals the hidden recesses of the heart. But sometimes, it isn’t enough. Life-altering behaviors, such as abuse and addiction, require the help of a mental health specialist. In cases like these, you can’t do it alone. You need the help of others.
While it is never easy to look closely at the darkness in our hearts, what we find there shouldn’t surprise us. Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).
But it is in the very act of facing the truth, that we find freedom (John 8:32).
I can’t help but wonder if looking beneath the surface might have made a difference in Mark Driscoll’s life and the lives of the people he led. What difference might it make in ours?
Do you look beneath the surface of your life? Why or why not?