How would you define brokenness? I’m talking about the emotional or relational kind. I thought about this when I read Insanitybytes22’s (“IB”) post, “Rewire Ye Olde Hardware.” If you haven’t read it already, you should go there and read what she says. It’s very good. But, along with how we define brokenness, I ask, aren’t we all broken somewhere?
We only have to peruse social media and the news channels to see how easily offended and churlish and polarized we’ve become, and just how ubiquitous this brokenness actually is in our society. What I’m talking about is so deeply entrenched in us that even the thought of being called “broken” is offensive for most of us. It’s too easy to identify brokenness in others’ addictions, pain, depression, abusive behavior, and other mental disorders, and be totally oblivious to our own dysfunctions. IB brings up a great point about this.
“If you are like me, you may not even be aware you are a broken-hearted captive. I’m a real survivor and a stoic, and also a caregiver, so like you know, we ain’t got no time for these problems, and we’ll tend to run a bit like the energizer bunny until we finally just faceplant, depleted and broken.”
What she’s describing is one very common version of brokenness that we call “normal” in our individualistic performance-driven world. Most of us are not even aware of it because it’s the fishbowl we’ve been swimming in. And that’s what makes these subtle forms so insidious and potentially toxic. Left “unrenewed,” they raises their ugly head in times of crisis or conflict.
I’ve not only seen this ugliness within myself with all my own issues of rejection and abandonment, going from passive to passive aggressive, and back again, but I’ve pretty much had it modeled for me in leaders over the last forty-plus years of my professional career. Let me briefly share this trajectory with you.
When I was in college I had a psychology professor who threw tantrums whenever we weren’t responding to her as we ought (where I learned the meaning of “physician heal thyself!), I’ve had bosses you would never dare question because you would incur their wrath. It was the proverbial “my way or the highway” environment. No joy in that world! I’ve sat in very awkward executive boardroom meetings where everyone in the room was on pins and needles because there was one director who could not control his temper. It was like sitting next to an active volcano! It made us very ineffective as leaders because the elephant in the room could not be addressed without much pain and conflict.
When I left the corporate world to become a full-time pastor, I saw the same “normal’s” manifest at church leadership meetings over the years. We once had a leader who thought anger was a virtue and would fly into a rage whenever he didn’t get his way on an issue that was important to him. People like this manipulate and hold everyone else hostage with threats and withdrawal of support.
When are we ever going to learn that anger and manipulation aren’t good leadership qualities? It only reveals a very fragile relational immaturity. It also exposes our fear-based thinking by our response to this aggressive behavior.
Of course, everyone understands these overt signs of brokenness. But don’t we all have some of this lurking deep beneath the “civilized self” we wish to project to the world? If you’ve seen the movie, “Anger Management,” you’ll understand what I’m trying to say.
So what does relational maturity look like? Relational maturity looks like a soul at rest under all circumstances. In other words, you’re the same person when things are going well and when all hell is breaking loose in your life. Your demeanor creates an environment of calm in the midst of the storm. Paul describes this wholeness as the fruit of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal.5:22-23 NET)
First, notice that love and joy are prominent here. I think you could say that all of these attributes spring from a heart that’s secure in the knowledge that they’re loved and, therefore, know how to love.
Also notice what’s not on the list. For instance, outbursts of anger is actually on the other list. This one describes a life of self-indulgence motivated by fear and insecurity.
19 The cravings of the self-life are obvious: Sexual immorality, lustful thoughts, pornography, 20 chasing after things instead of God,manipulating others, hatred of those who get in your way, senseless arguments, resentment when others are favored, temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions, 21 being envious of the blessings of others, murder, uncontrolled addictions, wild parties, and all other similar behavior. (Gal.5:19-21a TPT)
Paul said these are obvious. But are they obvious to us? What does that say about this fishbowl we’ve been swimming in? To me, it says that when we cannot find joy we will look for the counterfeits in order to find pleasure and peace in some dysfunctional way.
But, as I said last time, the good news is that this part of our brain can be re-wired, or reformed. And where our “joy center” resides is the only part of our brain that controls the more primitive emotions that are ready to pounce within us.
In Why we should always be thankful, I said we actually grow in our capacity to be at rest under all circumstances by activating joy whenever we go through difficulties in this life. This is James’ point:
2 My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!3 For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. 4 And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking. (James 1:2-4 TPT, emphasis added)
This cultivated rest which produces joy and peace within us creates an atmosphere that frees everyone around us from some of the fear that binds them. These are the relational qualities that should be admired and sought out in leaders…in everyone. Imagine what our world would be like if they were. Some would say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. 🙂