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Coming to Grips with Our Dysfunction

Moses lived between two worlds—born a Hebrew, yet raised the son of an Egyptian princess. He no doubt had to develop some coping mechanisms to deal with what must have been a giant identity crisis! Evidently one of his coping mechanisms was to repress his anger. In Exodus 2, we see a graphic portrayal of what happened when his anger was finally released. He was clearly out of control when he slew the Egyptian—what Ruth Haley Barton calls “a snapshot of Moses’ leadership before solitude.”

We all develop mechanisms—as Moses did—to protect ourselves from wounding elements in our environment. Leadership is a refining process because the demands of it will force us into situations where negative behavior patterns are revealed. At that point, we have a responsibility to acknowledge what drives that behavior.

For example:

·    A leader whose father was stern and demanding may be performance-driven, thinking subconsciously that if she works long and hard enough, she will gain the approval she craves. This can become a debilitating source of exhaustion.

·   A leader who believes she was not wanted at conception or birth will doubt her self-worth and develop patterns of hiding her true self from others. She is distant and aloof, thinking that will prevent people from getting too close so she won’t have to risk further rejection.

·   A leader who has experienced profound loneliness, abandonment or loss learns to be perpetually busy as a way of avoiding hurts that are so deep she cannot face them.


·      A leader who was raised in a legalistic, works-oriented environment develops perfectionist tendencies that keep her feelings of shame and inadequacy at bay. But the longer she goes without acknowledging this, the more likely she is to hurt herself and alienate others with unrealistic expectations.

·      A leader raised in an emotionally volatile and unpredictable environment may refuse to take the kinds of risks that are necessary in every spiritual journey, because she lives in fear.


More often than not, our reflexive reactions are more connected to the past than our current situation. When, by God’s grace, we become aware of negative patterns, our response should mirror that of Moses: he fled into solitude. Yes, he was fleeing from Pharaoh, but I think he also fled because the stark reality of what he was capable of scared him to death.

Sometimes leaders must experience a similar breaking point before they become serious about pursuing God in solitude. In times of crisis, God calls to us to abandon our agendas and be still before Him. When we lose our way—and most of us will at some point in our journey—solitude is the only way to find ourselves again. Our leadership can’t accomplish what we intend until we are first refined in solitude, where we allow God to work beyond what we ourselves can do.


Reflection Questions

What defense mechanisms may you have erected in your life to protect yourself from being wounded?


In what areas of your life have you not given God full access because you are afraid of what He might ask of you?


All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®. COPYRIGHT ©1973, 1978, 1984 BY INTERNATIONAL BIBLE SOCIETY®.

“Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership” is published by the National Women’s Department at women.ag.org, ©2020. Permission granted for personal use or within a teaching setting. Do not reproduce.