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Some of the qualities that people will applaud in your life are the very things that will wreck your soul.  Rewind.  Read that last sentence again.  Let it soak in and let it serve as a red flag warning in your life.

Being productive is a great characteristic—and I was always patted on the back for my strong work ethic—until it turns into drivenness and workaholism.  Then it becomes toxic.  Ambition is wonderful when it is motivated by God’s glory and governed by the Holy Spirit.  But when it gets hijacked by our ego, it is lethal and leaves devastation in its wake.  Having good people skills is a wonderful quality for people who work in ministry—until we begin to live for the approval of other people and find our significance in what other people think of us.

The result can be that you end up wearing your dysfunction as a badge of honor.  For example, I secretly loved it when people would talk about how hard I worked.  But what other people didn’t know was there was a shadow side to what they perceived as a strength.  I consistently pushed beyond the lines of a healthy work ethic.  I worked all the time and had no recreational interests, no sense of healthy rhythm, no acknowledgement of my limits, and an out-of-control pace.  My soul and my family paid the highest price.


Great Strength Shadow Side
Commitment to Excellence Obsessive Perfectionism
Speaking Gifts Unhealthy Need for the Spotlight
Attention to Detail High Control
Visionary Leadership Use People in the Name of Vision
Servant Hearted Co-Dependent & Approval Addict
Gets Along with Everyone Conflict Avoidance


When you don’t pay attention to your soul, you will try to manage your brokenness by adjusting and rearranging the externals in your life.  In my life, I always tried to deal with my drivenness by tweaking my schedule.  I thought if I could just figure out how to work smarter, I could satisfy my compulsive need to be productive and also live out my stated values and priorities. But it never seemed to work.  I always felt compulsively busy, and I always felt like I was cheating my family.

One day the Holy Spirit took the spotlight off my calendar and put it on my soul.  He began to ask, “So Lance, why are you so driven?  Why are you always compulsively busy?  Why can you never say ‘no’?  What’s behind that?  Let’s talk about that!!”  That moment started me on a path of understanding that began with the realization that my drivenness wasn’t a calendar issue, it was a shadow issue of the soul and an emotional health issue.

The darkest part of your shadow side is found lurking around your gifting. What makes this so insidious is that we learn from an early age to mask our lack of emotional health.  Others usually see it earlier and more clearly than we do.

François Fénelon, the French author, said, “We have an amazing ability to self-deceive. Your self-interest hides in a million clever disguises.”  

That is so true.  I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this issue of self-awareness.  And I have come up with a list of things that will keep you blinded to the issues of emotional health.

  • Minimize the importance of the soul and the inner life

  • Stiff-arm people who try to speak into your life

  • Ignore your own emotions and feelings

  • Don’t consider how your lifelong scripts have shaped you.

  • Don’t explore how your past (family of origin and experiences) have impacted your present.

  • Don’t have any space in your calendar or your life.  Constant busyness keeps you from being reflective and having the space to be with God and hear God.

  • Find your worth and significance in your accomplishments and achievements (doing) rather than in their relationship and identity as a child of God (being).  

Facing your shadow side is not only about self-awareness, it is also about courage.  Facing your shadow side and addressing emotional health is not only disruptive and uncomfortable for you, but it is also unsettling for those around you.

Let me explain.  Let’s suppose you are the person on the team who has always been the available, accessible, get-it-done, go-to individual.  You have established a kind of social contract with your team.  When people need something, they often call you, and you drop whatever you are doing to respond to their need.  Part of your motivation is driven by an authentic desire to serve.  But then you begin to realize that some of your response is driven by some codependency tendencies as well as an unhealthy people pleasing.  The situation has become unhealthy, and it is taking a toll on you and your family.  You now decide that you need to implement some healthy boundaries to protect your own soul and the health of your family.  You are going to start employing the word “no.”  You are going to turn off your phone at nights so you can be present with your family. You just changed the social contract… and trust me, not everyone is going to be thrilled.

Let me give you another quick example.  Let’s suppose you are the person on the team who has an engaging, warm, winsome, likeable personality.  You are a bit of a pied piper, and people love being around you.  However, the honest truth is that you have always skated by on your personality.  And it has created some dysfunction. For you, your shadow side is a lack of diligence and a tendency toward laziness.  And as you become more self-aware and seek honest feedback, you discover that your shadow side has done some damage to the team.  While people truly like you, they resent the fact that you don’t seem to be a hard worker.  And they begrudge feeling like they have to cover for you sometimes.

I believe the greatest gift you will give your team is your own healthy soul.  I also believe that the healthiest people on your team hold in tandem their brokenness and blessedness.  They are not in denial about their shadow side, and they live with an acute awareness that they are still very much a work in progress.  But there is no frantic striving, because they live in the settled reality that they are unconditionally loved and accepted.  In fact, living with an awareness of their brokenness makes their blessedness that much sweeter and richer.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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