All of us have a shadow side. We often don't like to admit it and don't like to think about it but unless we manage our shadow side, it hurts us, those we lead and can even destroy our ministries.
A sign of good Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is understanding our strengths, weaknesses, temptations, places where we are at risk to sin, and the unhealthy parts of our lives that we hide from others. Unless we pay close attention to our areas of weakness and darkness those areas come back to bit us.
Shadow sides are different for different people but here are some examples:
- Deep insecurities that cause us to need constant affirmation and are responsible for defensive attitudes toward those who disagree with us.
- A need to have our way which hurts team
- Areas of hidden sin that we have not adequately dealt with
- Isolation from others where deep friendships are not fostered, leaving us without people who can speak truth into our lives
- Anger that lies close to the surface
- Arrogance that comes from a measure of success
Essentially our shadow side are those parts of us that are not healthy whether spiritually, emotionally or relationally. No one is exempt - it is part of living in a fallen world.
Shadow sides need to be understood and managed if we are going to be healthy individuals and leaders. It starts with asking some hard questions like, "where am I vulnerable to sin" and "what aspects of my responses and inner life do I not like?" It is also helpful to ask those who know us best, our spouse, a close friend and colleague to identify potential areas of dishealth that they see in us. It is also one of the things we should consult God on - asking Him to reveal to us truth about our hearts that we need to know.
The next step is to regularly evaluate those areas we have identified and to develop strategies for ensuring that our shadow side does not hurt us or those around us. That may mean counseling to better understand ourselves. It may mean candid discussion with a close and trusted friend for a deeper level of accountability. It may be as simple as an awareness of our areas of vulnerability so when we come close to those areas we can deal with them.
Someone has said that we need to spend as much time dealing with our shadow side as we do our strength side. I tend to agree with this because left unacknowledged and unchecked it is the shadow side with comes back to hurt us and can deep six our lives, families, and ministries.
Understanding ourselves and dealing with our shadow side requires the time to think deeply and reflect on who we are, how God made us and where we struggle. Scripture is a great mirror for this reflection as we encounter life as God intends it, hearts as He desires them to be, motives (good and bad) and compare our lives to the holy and healthy life we encounter there. That is why the best leaders are deeply reflective leaders. They have taken the time to understand themselves because who we are as leaders spills out in our lives and leadership. Managing the inner life is the key to managing our outer life.