Charles Stone has an excellent post for pastoral leaders who are trying to stay on mission, lead well, and keep a healthy balance in their lives. – Steve

by Charles Stone

Five years ago I began a new adventure…leading a new church in a new country. I accepted the lead pastor role at a great church in Canada, West Park Church in London, Ontario. This church is filled with great people committed to God and the cause of Christ. I’ve loved my time here and although I faced some challenges the first year, it has been a great experience. Before I even started, I spent three weeks preparing for my new ministry and I learned these 4 keys necessary to start well and sustain healthy ministry. I’ve also included 13 questions that help us determine how well we are leading.

I use the acronym PALM to illustrate these 4 simple keys. It describes four practices that not only make a new transition go smoother, but represent leadership priorities I recommend every good leader embrace whether or not he or she is new to a ministry role. I’ll briefly explain them and then pose some questions to help you evaluate how well you are embodying these principles.

Prioritize family and self care. This concept simply means that to lead well, we must lead ourselves and our families well. I once heard Chuck Swindoll say that a healthy ministry flows out of a healthy marriage.

  • Key questions to ask.
  1. How would your spouse or kids say you are doing in keeping family a priority?
  2. How often do you take a day off when you truly disconnect from your leadership role?
  3. Are you getting enough sleep and exercise?
  4. Are you saying ‘no’ enough to demands people try to place on your time that you know if you said ‘yes’ would not further your mission?

Avidly over-communicate. This concept implies that leaders must intentionally use multiple means to keep theirs churches and teams informed of what’s happening.

  • Key questions to ask.
  1. Do you have an intentional process you use to communicate to others progress in achieving your goals and key initiatives?
  2. How many tools do you use to communicate? Or, do you count on one method and hope it’s successful?
  3. How often do you repeat your church’s overall purpose and objectives?

Listen and learn. This idea embodies the principle that good leaders are learners and learning happens when we assume a listening posture.









From one of my favorite bloggers LEADERSHIP FREAK comes these great insights-STEVE.

BY LEADERSHIP FREAK (a.k.a. Dan Rockwell)

Foolish leaders believe they can take more out of life than they put in. Well, maybe it isn’t foolishness. Maybe it’s arrogance. Only God never runs dry.

Normal people know that everyone who pours out more than they pour in goes dry.

 everyone who pours out more than they pour in


Your energy-tank is your responsibility. Don’t expect teammates to fill it.

12 refueling strategies:

Do you enjoy hanging around someone whose energy-tank is almost empty or almost full?

  1. Schedule two or three refueling times into your day, every day, even if you aren’t exhausted. Keep your energy-tank closer to full than empty.
    • Call someone to say thanks.
    • Make a list of things you enjoy about work.
    • Step outside for a short stroll.
    • Turn the lights off and close your eyes until your heart rate and breathing slows. Sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes.
  2. Become a sprinter. Push yourself in short bursts, then refuel. Refueling is replacing energy, not just doing nothing.
  3. Serve because you want to, not because someone else wants you to.
  4. Stop taking responsibility for other people’s problems. Be available and helpful. Listen without solving. Chronic fixers are frustrated and exhausted.
  5. Evaluate yourself by how well you energize others.
  6. Commit to use only positive language for an hour, a morning, or even a whole day.
  7.  Say, “I’m glad I ______, even if it was difficult.” Give yourself a pat on the back.
  8. Avoid energy vampires as much as you can. Hang with people who fuel your energy-tank. Emulate their behaviors.
  9. Pretend less. Doesn’t it feel energizing to go home and stop pretending?
  10. Serve those who enjoy being served.
  11. Enjoy returns. It feels great to serve in ways that fulfill your purpose.
  12. Start that project that’s hanging over your head.

How do you refuel your energy-tank?

How might leaders energize others?


Carey Nieuwhof has a blog that always provides powerful and practical leadership insights and counsel. We are adding it to this blog’s blog roll.


If there was a secret weapon in leadership, would you use it?

If there was a secret weapon in leadership, would you use it?

Most of us would say ‘absolutely’—as long as it’s ethical.

So here’s a leadership weapon almost no leader will talk about. In fact, in some circles, it’s embarrassing to talk about.


More specifically, getting enough of it.

In more than a few high octane leadership circles, barely sleeping is seen as a badge of honor (I can run on four hours a night!).

But what if your lack of sleep wasn’t a badge of honor at all?

What if your lack of sleep is undermining your leadership? Making you worse, not better?

And what if it’s not just taking a toll on you at work, but also at home … making you a worse parent, spouse and even friend?

So … What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

The Center for Disease Control recently called insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, arguing it causes industrial accidents, motor vehicle accidents and even medical errors.

1. Lack of sleep can literally kill you.

And the implications are a little more serious than nodding off in a meeting after lunch. According to medical research, chronic lack of sleep can cause weight gain, age your skin, harm your sex drive, impair memory, and contribute to illnesses as serious as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and even premature death.

It’s a little shocking, but it’s not actually an exaggeration to say that a chronic lack of sleep can kill you.

2. Lack of sleep often leads to burnout.

I know for me, chronic lack of sleep was one of the key factors that led to my burnout a number of years back.

Like many leaders, in the name of caring for others, I had stopped caring for myself and my family. I thought I was super human and I only needed four to five hours of sleep a night.

I’m not the only leader who burned out. Perry Noble and I chronicle our stories of burnout in quite a bit of detail here, and the post also contains a lot of resources that Perry and I have put together to help leaders who are burning out.

3. At a minimum, it will make you hard to live with.

Even if you’re not dead, sick or burning out, lack of sleep can turn you into you a bit of a jerk.

Unrested, you’ll snap at the kids more, fight with your spouse more, and even at work, you won’t be fun to hang around.

Or at least all of the above is true for me.

Here’s what I find.

I am at my most kind when I’m the most rested. When I’m tired, I’m just not nearly as nice to be around.

If you can’t identify with that statement, it’s probably because you haven’t been well rested in, well, years.

You’ll be amazed what happens if you ever get enough sleep to finally not be tired any more. Seriously.

Sleep Is Like Money. You Can End Up in Debt.

So what happens if you’re chronically overtired?

The same thing that happens when you’re in debt … that’s what.

One of the key lessons I learned in my burnout back in 2006 is that sleep is like money.

You can run a surplus … or you can run a deficit.

And just like with finances, when you run a deficit over time, you end up with debt that you carry from month to month and year to year. A debt that needs to be paid off. 

This lesson became inescapable for me personally in August 2006. Three months into my burnout, I was having a hard time functioning.

In fact, my fatigue was inescapable. So I decided to sleep every time my body told me I was tired.

I slept a lot that August. Eight to 11 hours a night. I added to that multiple naps a day whenever I could grab them.

By the end of the month, I felt much better.

I could work again. I could breathe again.

While my burnout wasn’t fully over, I felt flickers of hope again.

Soon, I was on the gradual road to recovery.

So What Can You Do? Five Keys to Staying Rested

So how do you stay rested?

Better yet, how do you get rested if you’re reading this article and are quietly saying “oh crap?”

1. Lose the stigma.

I love that a few years ago Michael Hyatt went public by admitting that he takes naps. Thank you Michael!

Not only does Michael take naps, but so, as he pointed out, have many great leaders in history.

I have always been a napper. I even nap at work occasionally. But I feel like if someone caught me, I’d be in trouble.

That’s a bad thing.

For me, a 10-minute nap can be the difference between heading into the afternoon raring to go and dragging my knuckles wishing it was 5:00. It can be the difference between being sharp and being in a fog or being disinterested.

It’s not just the stigma around naps leaders need to lose, it’s the stigma around a good night’s sleep.

I unapologetically go to bed on time when I’m on the road hanging out with other leaders, and when I’m at home.

A rested me is a better me. Just ask my wife. Just ask my kids. Just ask my team.

2. Catch up.

You might be in your equivalent of August 2006 for me. You might need to take a week or two off to sleep.

Do it.

Or maybe you’re just running hard for a season. Catch up.

I realize you might have young kids or be in launch mode for a new project.

But here’s the truth.

You will always have a reason to cheat your sleep.

You will never have a reason to catch up, unless you decide it’s time.

So decide it’s time.

If you have young kids, trade nights for being on call with your spouse until you are both as caught up as you can be.

If you’re a single parent, ask someone to take the kids for a night or two and then sleep.

If you don’t have young kids, you really don’t have a good excuse. Just get disciplined.

3. Develop better sleep routines.

Here are few things that can help you sleep better.

1. Go to bed at the same time every night. Researchers say you will sleep better if you do.

2. Go to bed earlier. This was huge for me. Instead of staying up late to get stuff done, get up earlier to get things done. Sleep in on the front side. I try to be asleep every night by 10:30. Sometimes it’s as early as 9:30. And I’m up between 4:30 and 5:30 every morning. That’s my sweet spot.

3. Sleep in a dark room and turn off electronics. I love my phone, but it’s off (as in powered down) every night. If it’s an emergency, someone will knock at my door and wake me up. If the world ends, well, there’s not much I can do about it anyway when I’m asleep.

4. Get as good a mattress as you can afford. Get as picky about a good mattress as you can with your budget. You’ll spend 1/3 of your life on it. So invest well.

5. Don’t eat much before bed. It helps you sleep better … it really does.

4. Watch for the signs.

Since I burned out, I have paid super close attention to the signals my body tells me about my fatigue level. As soon as I sense I’m running a sleep deficit, I try to pay it off.

Here are some signs that tell me I’m tired:

1. A bad or sullen mood. Someone once said that 70 percent of discipleship is a good night’s sleep. Well, yes it is. I am more of a Christian when I’m well rested. So I watch my mood like a hawk. Being short with people, angry, sad or lacking mercy are all signs I’m tired.

2. I watch my passion level. When I’m rested, I’m excited about work, about life and about seeing people. If everything seems like a chore or an obligation, I’m out of balance. For sure, some things will always seem like a chore, but everything shouldn’t.

3. I watch my creativity. If I have trouble coming up with great ideas or great content, it’s a sign my mind is tired. I probably need more sleep.

4. I find myself nodding off. When I’m tired in meetings, driving or watching TV, it’s a sign I need more sleep. I know that’s obvious, but it’s so easy for this to become ‘normal’ I just thought I’d mention it.

5. React quickly.

I still run hard. We all have busy seasons and busy weeks, and I get tired regularly. Part of my personality is I love to push myself and push limits. I get that.

But now I react quickly when I’m getting tired.

Why don’t you try that this week?

Take a nap.

Cancel your plans for tonight and go to bed early.

Don’t wait.

You’ll be fresher more often, and you’ll have far more energy for your family, for life and for work.

That’s what I’ve been learning about sleep as a leader and as a follower of Christ.

It should be no surprise that God wants us to spend 1/7 of our life resting (Sabbath) and created us to sleep 1/3 of our life away.

Your calling, your family and your life are too important for you not to sleep.

Now you can use your new secret weapon.

What are you learning about sleep?


Ron Edmondson is an excellent leadership coach and I encourage you not only to heed his counsel, but subscribe to his blog. – STEVE


frustrationAbout once a week I talk with a minister — usually a younger minister — who is miserable in their current context. It isn’t always because the workplace is miserable. Sometimes it’s a misfit for them personally. Sometimes it is an unhealthy culture or a controlling leader.

Many times, even if they’ve only been there a short time, they seem ready to quit. Most of us have been there at some point in our career.

There are many things I love about the youngest generation in the workplace. They are intent on making a difference. They are family-oriented. They want to do meaningful work. I love all that.

One difference, in my observation, is how they respond when they find themselves in one if these miserable situations. Many seem to check out too quickly. They are ready to quit — give up — even before something else comes along, as soon as they discover they are miserable.

I’m sure that is true of other generations, but there were generations who endured an entire career in less than ideal situations. They saw work as — well — work.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not advising that either. Why spend 40 years in a miserable environment? Life is too short. Work doesn’t have to be miserable. And, there are healthy places that understand and appreciate the change in workplace attitude, especially being introduced by younger generations. That’s a positive.

But, what should you do when you find yourself in a miserable situation? How should you respond? Rather than quit, what other options do you have?

Here are 5 suggestions when a work environment is miserable:

Soak up all you can. You’re learning valuable lessons, even when you don’t enjoy the place where you’re working. I’m not sure you can see that at the time, but it’s true. It won’t be a wasted experience if you learn from it. Some if my best leadership skills came from watching leaders do leadership the wrong way. I once had a boss throw a huge sales book at my head because of disappointing numbers. I learned from that. Throwing things doesn’t work. :) (And, many other principles were learned from that leader.)

Dream your next big dream. Don’t quit dreaming. Invest your energies somewhere you enjoy outside of work. Create something inside or outside the place where you work that you can get excited about. Start your own ministry or company in a garage on your days off. Some of the best we know started that way. These extra energies will keep your heart filled, which is critical. (Above all else guard the heart. Proverbs 4:23)

Work to make life better. You may be the one positive voice that encourages others on your team. Chances are others are miserable too. Some people have better game faces. Even if that’s your only purpose in being there, that’s a worthy cause.

Strengthen your patience muscle. Sometimes the staying power takes more strength than leaving. It builds character. It builds tenacity. You may be the senior leader someday and find yourself miserable again. Leading at the top level brings that sometimes. The captain of a sinking ship isn’t supposed to jump ship. (We just have to watch recent news to know that.)

Pray and watch. Pray for discernment. For change. For delivery. For relief. For small moments of encouragement. And watch. For doors to open or things to change. God is doing something — working a plan — even when you can’t see His hand.

Are you miserable?

I’m not suggesting you stay forever. That doesn’t seem wise to me. I’m also not suggesting you quit — at least not immediately.

I am strongly suggesting you not waste the opportunities this time is presenting.


Lately I have been sharing posts that relate to a pastor/leader’s health and well-being.  The reality is that many are not and often the groups they lead are not–in part because of the model at the top.  From Ron Edmondson comes another such post from his excellent blog GRACED AGAIN which is part of my weekly reading list. – STEVE

happy jumping

I posted recently on what happens when I’m tired. It isn’t pretty. (See that post HERE.)  I hear someone say every day “I’m so tired”.  It’s epidemic it seems. There appears to be a lot of fatigue in our world these days. I know it’s true of those in ministry. Someone asked me how to deal with the issue, besides the simple answer of rest.

Here are 7 ways I have for dealing with fatigue:

Check-up – Make sure you are routinely getting medical check ups from your physician. Many health issues have fatigue as a symptom. Make sure something isn’t physically causing your fatigue.

Exercise  and Weight Control – For me, this is number one. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight helps me stay energized and feel better.  I wrote an extensive post about that HERE.

Watch what you eat – Junk food slows you down. Healthy foods build you up. I’m not an expert here, and don’t practice this as I should, but there are plenty who are equipped to help know what to eat.  What you eat does make a difference in how you feel and most of us know what foods slow us down Learn to fill your body with foods, which help you feel more alive.

Rest – It had to be on the list. Rest is the ultimate solution to coping with fatigue. The body signals that it has reached a point where rest is needed. Sometimes a short nap or extended night’s sleep is the needed response.  Sometimes NOT watching the last television show before you go to bed is a better option.

Mind-breaks – If your job requires you to think deeply, taking short mind breaks is often helpful. One reason I break to Twitter is to give me a quick break from the heaviness of thought. I also change projects throughout the day to keep my mind from wearing me out physically.  Sometimes I step outside and breathe the fresh air or, depending on the type of the fatigue, even go for an afternoon run.

Preparation – Having a plan for your day and week helps to cut down on unnecessary time wasters. You’ll work smarter and feel less exhausted when you begin prepared. Take time to organize yourself for efficiency. (Read a similar post HERE.)

Prioritize – You can’t do everything. Remind yourself that you’ll do better quality work if you aren’t trying to do it all. Try to complete the most important things on your list first, before your energy is drained for the day. Say no to things someone else can do.

Leading today (actually life today) requires a lot of energy. I meet so many people who don’t have the energy they need to get through the day. I realize there are seasons in life where this is unavoidable, but we should strive to keep ourselves healthy enough to be productive and enjoy life.

What advice do you have? What slows you down? What helps your fatigue?

Which of these do you most need to implement?

For a similar thought, read my tips for managing stress HERE.

Related posts:

  1. 7 Reactions to Fatigue (What Happens When I’m Tired)
  2. 7 Specific Ways I Deal with Stress
  3. 7 Ways to Sleep Soundly each Night
  4. 8 Ways to Keep a Leader Looking Forward


Arte Davis recently shared this post on his blog. Have you taken inventory lately on your emotional health? – STEVE

Posted on December 20th, by ARTIE DAVIS

After getting hit in the head with a bat…

it seems you would learn not walk in front of the person swinging one at you. Well, I guess I’m not that bright!

After many years of trying to be the most Kingdom building, productive, caring, loving and reproducing leader, I have been forced to face this…

Emotional Health…Trumps all Else!

We’re created in God’s image. God is an emotional being and so are we. We talk a lot about caring for ourselves in many ways:

Financially, etc…

But, if you don’t take care of yourself, and stay healthy emotionally, you can kill off everything else in your life!
That is the only area I’ve found with that kind of killing power…
in the life of a human being. Once you allow yourself to become so emotionally un-healthy, it’s almost, if not impossible for all the other areas of your life to suffer tremendous harm.
Sick Emotions Kill Relationships

Emotionally unhealthy people withdraw, they criticize unfairly and carry bitterness and unforgiveness. These kill relationships, no matter how close or far. From marriage to distant friendships.

If we are weak emotionally, we can destroy precious relationships (Been there done that!)
Sick Emotions Kill Finances

Ever hear of a mid-life crisis? An unwarranted spending binge? An unexpected bankruptcy? I’ve seen all these in those close to me, and it’s horrible. Emotionally un-healthy people, make un-healthy and dangerous financial decisions.

If you aren’t well emotionally, ask a trusted family member or friend before you make ANY major changes or purchases.
Sick Emotions Kill Passion

We are to be a passionate people. Passionate for God, for the things of God and the people of God, and those who don’t know God. All this passion takes takes incredible emotional strength. In fact, emotional strength is the ONLY thing that can fuel the passion we need.

So if we don’t care for our emotional health, our passion dies!
Sick Emotions Kill Physically

Believe it or not. Stress, anxiety and depression lead to an early, and I mean very early and painful end! Don’t go there. Your emotions are directly tied to how you feel, heal and move physically.

Emotions can wreck your body, from the inside out.

I have been un-healthy emotionally (Hit in the head with a bat) more than once! But no more! I will do WHATEVER it takes to stay healthy emotionally. I challenge you to do the same. To much is riding on our emotional health to neglect it?

So, seriously…How are you doing emotionally? See any danger signs? How can I help?Arte Davis recently shared this post on his blog. Have you taken inventory lately on your emotional health?


Ruth Haley Barton is a woman of great clarity and insight. Her books and the Transforming Center help provide a solid anchor in these turbulent times of ministry.  We have added her to our blogroll and provided one of her recent posts.  I would encourage you to subscribe. – STEVE
Part 4 Leading in Rhythm: Three Moves in Self-Examination


“A leader is a person who must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside him- or herself, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.”

—Parker Palmer

There comes a time in the spiritual life when one of the major things God is up to is to lovingly help us see ourselves more clearly in the light of God’s presence. This is a very challenging element of the spiritual life, one that many of us shrink from with more than a little dread.

Some of us have been so shaped by shame-based family or church systems that we resist entering into deeper levels of self-knowledge for fear of being debilitated by shame or swept away by remorse.  For others, our sense of worth is so fragile or our perfectionism so pronounced that we are not sure we could bear facing “the darkness within” without becoming completely unraveled. And yet…one of the deepest longings of the human heart is to be known fully and to discover that we are loved unconditionally.

Coming Home to Ourselves in God’s Presence

A natural outcome of solitude, silence, and rest in God is that we become more grounded in God’s unconditional loving presence as the ultimate, orienting reality of our lives. In that Presence, we are able to celebrate the goodness of our created selves as well as inviting God to show us those places where we are still living in bondage to sin, negative patterns, and a way of life that just doesn’t work. This is certainly what both Moses and Elijah experienced in their solitude.

One of the early results of Moses’ forty years in the wilderness was his ability to name himself honestly in God’s presence. This allowed God to begin releasing him from old patterns so that his leadership could be a force for good in the world.  Moses’ ability to name the unresolved inner dynamics that had shaped him (“I have been an alien in a foreign land”) created space for God’s transforming work in his life.

After sinning spectacularly, he had settled into a more solitary existence far outside the public view and began to change—from being an angry young man who gave in to murderous rages to being a leader who could work for justice in ways that were truly helpful. He started small—coming to the defense of some shepherd girls who were being threatened by unruly shepherds—but this time he was able to help without killing anyone.  This is leadership transformation at its best!  Eventually, he was ready to be entrusted with God’s ultimate calling upon his life.

Elijah also came home to himself in God’s presence as he became more honest with God in solitude.  He first acknowledged just how discouraged, depleted, and depressed he was and God sent an angel to minister to him right where he was. After he got some rest and some nourishment, he was able to go a step further and name “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in his life. The good news was that he had been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts.  The bad news was that things weren’t going so well on the ministry front.  The Israelites were running around tearing down God’s altars and killing his prophets with the sword—not a very good ministry report for a prophet.

The ugly news was the impact it was having on Elijah’s soul. With the words “I alone am left, and they are seeking my life to destroy it,” Elijah acknowledged how completely isolated, and besieged he felt. His ability to name his outer and inner reality accurately seemed to be a significant factor in opening him up to the encounter he needed.

Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart

Without the regular experience of being loved by God in solitude and experiencing the deep rest of God through silence and Sabbath-keeping, we are vulnerable to leadership that is driven by a profound emptiness we are seeking to fill through performance, achievement, and powering up on our world. This unconscious striving is very dangerous for us and for those around us. It will eventually burn us out since there is no amount of achievement that will ultimately satisfy the emptiness of the human soul; and the people we work with will notice they are mere cogs in the wheel of our ego driven plans.

It takes courage to invite God to search and know us at the deepest levels of our being, allowing him to show us the difference between the driven-ness of the false self and the deeper calling to lead from our authentic self in God. There is an elemental chaos that gets stirred up when we have been in God’s presence enough that all pretense and performance and every other thing that has bolstered our sense of self begins to fall away.

In the solitary place we are stripped of external distractions and inevitably we become aware of false patterns of thinking and being and doing that have lurked unnoticed under the surface busyness of our lives. We may even begin to see how these patterns have mis-shaped our leadership.  Perhaps we glimpse an ego-driven self that is bent on control and image management.  Or an empty self that is hungry to fill itself with the approval of others. We might become aware of a broken self, desperately seeking to preserve the illusion that we have it all together.  Or maybe a wounded self that has spent untold energy seeking healing where healing cannot be found.

When I Want to Do Good

All of us have a shadow side to our leadership. We start out with a desire to do good and to make a difference, but as Paul confesses, “When I want to do good, evil is close at hand.”  (Romans 7:21) Our personal insecurities, our need to be in control, our anger, our feelings of inferiority, our need for approval and applause—which can actually work for us early on—are often the very same issues that end up precipitating our failure if left unattended. The raw gift of leadership might be there (as it certainly was for Moses) along with a strong sense of what’s right and what we think needs to be done in this world. But it cannot be a force for good if it is not being refined by the rigors of the examen of consciousness (a growing awareness of God-with-us) and the examen of conscience (seeing ourselves more accurately in light of God’s presence).

Psalm 139 describes a healthy, balanced practice of self-knowledge and self-examination. It begins with waking up to the loving presence of God to such an extent that we are utterly convinced there is nothing that can cause us to fall out of that love, no place so dark that the light of God’s presence cannot penetrate it. (Vs. 1-12)

Healthy self-knowledge enables us to experience the goodness of who we are as created beings. (Vs. 13-18) This includes the ability to affirm and celebrate the uniqueness of our bodies, our personalities, the configuration of our soul and its unique way of relating to God and the world, our heritage, our background, and all of the experiences that make us who we are. For some of us, this is not as easy as it sounds!

The culmination of a healthy self-examination process is to bring our whole selves to God—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and to invite God to go with us in the search to “see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Vs. 19-24)

The Path to Freedom

It is impossible to overstate how dangerous we as leaders can be if we do not have regularly-scheduled rhythms of examen in our lives—times when we locate ourselves once again in the unconditional, loving presence of God as the ultimate orienting reality of our lives. There the light of God’s presence reveals more fully the goodness of the true self that is hidden with Christ in God and exposes that which is false within us.

Through this practice, we give God freedom to bring his healing love to the unexamined, broken places of our beings and invite him to lead us in new paths that will bring life to ourselves and to others. As Richard Rohr puts it, “If a person keeps growing, his or her various false selves usually die in exposure to greater light.” It is the only thing that really works.

Regular exposure to the light of God’s presence is the essential element of any effective self-examination process—as opposed to morbid introspection or teeth-gritting human effort. When we are not regularly living in this Light, the false self is in the driver’s seat more often than we know.

©Ruth Haley Barton, 2013. Not to be reprinted without permission. For more information regarding self-examination and self-knowledge, see chapter 6 of Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (IVP Books, 2006).

Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder of the Transforming Center.  A teacher, spiritual director, and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

How have you experienced the truth of Paul’s statement, “When I want to do good, evil is close at hand”?  How might the examen become an essential practice for your life in leadership?