In 2022 I felt like I went on a remarkable journey of self-development.
I think Ryan Gottfredson frames it best with his term “vertical development.”
I am learning concepts and becoming more aware of my story and it has become more clear to me how I can personally develop as a leader (or as an individual) and how others can do so as well.
To hear more details about my personal journey and this concept listen to the recent interview with Ryan Gottfredson.
This vertical development journey has made me more aware of a specific “tried-and-true” strategy of coping with hard times, that we continue to perpetuate, when I don’t think it is working as well as we think it is.
I am referring to the common advice to fix your own troubled heart by looking for others to serve.
Here is an example of someone describing this strategy.
Yes, we have heard it many times before…
If you are experiencing a tough time look for someone else to serve.
It has been mentioned many times in chapels across the world and even in general conference.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
This strategy of overcoming depression and adversity by turning to another and serving them isn’t completely flawed.
However, it can become an unhealthy coping mechanism that holds us back from real personal development.
Let me explain further…
We all deal with hurt, violation, or abuse in our past that creates an emotional wound that can become inflamed.
It could be in a dramatic context like having a childhood past that included sexual abuse.
Or this inner pain could simply be caused by the day-to-day frictions of life that build over time.
This inner wound that can become triggered or inflamed then leads to a typical day becoming too-much-to-handle.
We can’t cope and do the simple things life requires of us and this can lead to a disruption in personal relationships, depression, anxiety, etc.
In this state of mind, if we turn to “forgetting yourself and serving others” the following acts of service can suddenly be an unhealthy coping mechanism that numbs the pain rather than addressing the wound.
Over time it builds on the perception that Christ’s healing power is only available to those who are doing more and more.
Just like Christ didn’t require the woman at the well to take water to someone else to feel healing, He doesn’t require you to serve serve serve in order to partake of His healing balm.
I’ll be the first to admit that serving others does offer a form of spiritual and emotional dopamine that can turn a day around.
Especially in the leadership context.
A marital conflict caused by emotional wounds created long ago can start to feel better when you have to go to the church that night and help other people with their problems.
It’s easier to address others’ problems with service rather than doing the hard work to fix core issues in your own life.
We will never be the leaders capable of effectively serving others until we have done the work to serve ourselves.
We must do our own work.
This leads to a clarity that we are saved by God’s grace and accepted by Him fully no matter what we do today.
In that state of mind, when we face a tough day, a spike of depression, or adversity that is tough to figure out, then we can forget ourselves and turn to serve others.
This is possible not because we have forgotten ourselves; but rather because we have surrendered ourselves and our wounding to the Redeemer for His healing touch.
This doesn’t mean we halt all serving opportunities until we have done months or years of self-work.
It means we check in with God every day to explore our soul to make sure we aren’t coping by serving others to numb a wound but serving to perpetuate the healing we have already received from Him.
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