When things aren’t working out for us, even when we are checking all the right boxes, taking all the right steps and moving in the right direction; we need to call a timeout and begin to examine our motivations.
I suspect that in every great success or abject failure, we will find that a connection to the “why” lies at the heart of it all.
In successes, “whys” are connected to the outcomes for all the right reasons: our reasons, plans and goals are transparent, can withstand the “Brandeis antiseptic” and critical review whereas in many failures there is a significant disconnect where our motivations are incongruent with what is presented, or the outward appearances. Unfortunately there are plentiful examples of teachers who don’t walk their talk (for example, they teach tithing but don’t tithe themselves).
When it comes to very public failures like Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, I maintain that – while these characters are easy to dislike – they didn’t start out with plans to abuse their power. They got lost along the way.
And this compass malfunction is not limited to religious and spiritual leaders. We saw it in the boardrooms of Enron, WorldCom and Arthur Anderson (consulting) and throughout the banking sector prior to the financial collapse in 2008.
(side note: if you haven’t seen it, Enron: the smartest guys in the room is a great documentary that documents what happens when bad leadership is left unchecked & chronicles the trajectory of the Enron decline)
I can’t help fix the financial sector, but I can speak honestly about what I have seen working in religious and spiritual organizations since I was a teen where I worked in Vacation Bible School day camps and church camps and up to and including serving on synagogue boards, working as an organist/choir director for a number of different Protestant churches and as a paid and unpaid spiritual leader in a new thought organization.
In a nutshell, there are not enough people asking themselves this question:
“Why am I here? Where is my heart in this <insert decision, action, choice>?”
I was recently listening to some great music by Rickie Byars Beckwith (YouTube video below) and realized that this song needs to become the mantra, and the question we ask ourselves as spiritual leaders.
The mantra: “Let me serve in a wholly, holy way”
The question: “Am I loving/serving/ministering in a wholly, holy way?”
Some definitions (according to Dictionary.com):
- wholly (adverb): entirely; totally; altogether; to the whole amount, extent so as to comprise or involve all
- holy (adjective): specially recognized as or declared sacred; consecrated: dedicated or devoted to the service of God (Good); having a spiritually pure quality.
Each decision, each action, even each thought is an opportunity to recalibrate our sacred orientation to be in alignment with the highest Good for all; to be completely (wholly) dedicated to the service of God/Good.
We can save ourselves and our communities from a lot of headache, heartache and failure if we balance our decisions with the mantra (let me serve in a wholly, holy way) and check our egos and ourselves by looking inward and asking if the action/decision/choice we are contemplating aligns with our spiritual mission and vision in a wholly, holy way.
And so it is.