Leading Ethically Only is an educational outreach of Leadership Ethics Online (LEO). Essays range widely--from ethical analysis of the news, to ethical challenges to leaders in society, to personal reflections of an ethical nature. We welcome your thoughts and criticisms to make us better.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Emotions, Ethics and Leadership: Smothering Ourselves to Death

Today, I was riding in a vehicle with my son, Nathaniel, and I was commenting on how much I appreciated his passing along various works by the wonderful Brian Tracy.  I told him how paradoxical listening to Tracy is for me.  On the one hand, I need to hear what he has to say, as a corrective.  On the other hand, I hate hearing how many mistakes I've been making!

Nathaniel's Comment

Nathaniel made an interesting observation that triggered this blog.  He said, "What was that parable by Jesus about the man who 'buried his talents'?"  I immediately exclaimed, "Yes!  That's right!  Only I did not 'bury my talents.'  My emotions buried me!"  He instructed me to write this blog, so here am I, writing to you, reader!

For readers unfamiliar with the New Testament, he was alluding to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14-30.  The talent actually was not an "ability" as we think of today.  It was a large Roman currency during Jesus' time.  The Roman talentum was worth around $30,000 (USD).  According to Jesus' story, a master distributed eight talenta to three slaves.  The first was given roughly $150,000 (5 talenta); the second, $60,000 (2 talenta); and, the third, $30,000 (1 talentum).

The first man invested and doubled his money.  The second did the same.  The third buried his $30,000, to save and not lose it; however, he earned nothing additional.  The owner of the funds, who entrusted all three with his money, was upset with the third man who did nothing but bury his opportunity for profit.

Burying Our Potential:  a Common Curse

Why did I say to Nathaniel NOT that I had buried my talent, but that my emotions had buried me?!

Yes, sometimes leaders bury their potential, and produce very little of value.  Yet sometimes leaders are buried by their emotions.  That is, they become covered up with their lives out of control.  This is involuntary inactivity and production.  They do not take their talents and willfully hide them.  When life gets crazy, they become covered over with emotional chaos and its debilitating effects.   Have not most readers have had at least one event in their lives which so devastated them they were unable to function for a time?

Dig Out Now!

In my case, I had a series of debilitating experiences within three years--wrongful termination, the end of a long-difficult marriage, and the death of my beloved mother.  I was buried by a constant barrage of strong and negative emotions for several years.  And I was debilitated, emotionally wrecked.  Sometimes, death seemed better than life.  There were times when in the darkness I asked God, "Why am I here?  What shall become of me?"  Before one knows it, several years have passed, and still one's life seems fragmented.

Covered over?  Yes, most of us know what it means to be covered over, to be buried by circumstances.  Yet we all need to be reminded of some things, in order to "dig out."

  • Suffering is universal.  Everyone experiences it, though when WE do, we feel isolated.
  • Suffering varies in degree and kind.  Suffering may be universal, but not all suffer equally.
  • Sufferers worldwide survive the worst suffering.  Imagine seeing your family slaughtered before your eyes.  Imagine being unjustly imprisoned for thirty years, then released.  Suffering can be unimaginable.  Respect whatever suffering others endure:  it is their suffering.
  • Suffering is usually survivable.  Suffering does not lead always to death, or destruction.  It has a cycle.
  • Suffering is something we can help reduce and stop when we give a helping hand to someone else suffering.  Some of us can outlive our suffering.  Yet ALL OF US can do something to provide assistance to lessen the suffering of others--from a comforting presence, to an appropriate word, to a cooked meal, to a daily phone call.  This is valuable, and adds value to our own lives.
Breathe Deeply!

Are you weighed down today?  Are your abilities to complete your responsibilities being crushed by things under control?

Take it from a fellow sufferer!  There is hope.  Breathe deeply.  Look around you, carefully.  You will see people who need you.  Extend your hand.  The very act of helping fellow sufferers will, paradoxically, lighten your own load.  Make today count.  Be a leader.  Be ethical.  Dig yourself out of suffering's incapacitation by acts of compassion towards others.  It works.  Love for others in pain returns love and healing back to us!

1 comment:

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