A life-giving woman knows that pain is part of leadership, and she understands the necessity of guarding her heart. Proverbs 4:23, says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. “ A position of leadership puts you out front for all to see, watch, and judge. I enjoy horse racing, and used to attend the races at Keeneland in Kentucky. When a horse would come out of the shoot, my eye would always follow the horse that was out front and in the lead. John Maxwell, the guru of leadership books, writes in his book, Leadership Gold, “When you get kicked in the rear, you know you’re out front.”
A life-giving leader knows that she doesn’t have the luxury of “closing up shop and going home” just because she gets, “kicked in the rear,” her feelings get hurt or she gets criticized. The challenge is to resist quitting the race but also to resist hardening your heart. The tendency is to give up and stop engaging life. We want to put our jammies on, curl up in a blanket and eat chocolate when we are struggling and defeated, but the life-giving leader presses into love, takes another risk, and embraces another relationship.
One of my pastor friends experienced a great deal of relational pain when several of the members of the church where he served, became critical of the church and left. When I was talking with him about how he was handling the heartbreak of several members leaving, he said to me that although it was very painful for him personally, he would not stop loving others and engaging in people‘s lives. In other words, he didn’t take himself out of the game. He pressed into love, and continued on with his race.
The greatest tactic of the enemy is to get you to stop loving others, stop ministering to others, and to retreat to where it is safe…out of commission, and out of life! John Eldredge writes in Desire, “Do we form no friendships because our friends might be taken from us? Do we refuse to love because we may be hurt? Do we forsake our dreams because hope has been deferred? To desire is to open our hearts to the possibility of pain; to shut down our hearts is to die altogether.”
In order to keep your heart soft and life-giving, you must maintain a forgiving heart toward others. Jesus said in Mark 11:24-25, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you hold a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” (NIV). The writer of Hebrews warns us, “Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you for as it springs up among you it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” Hebrews 12:15 (LB). “Express. Don’t hold it in. Talk about it. Because if you don’t get it dealt with now, if you let it begin to boil, it will be harder to deal with later. Emotional anger unexpressed will lead to sinful bitterness.“ [Joe Champion, Rocked, pg. 27].
Remember, no matter your circumstances, the state of your heart will determine the direction of your life and your leadership. Guard your heart!