This is the third post in a series based off of John of the Cross, the 16th Century Carmelite monk who wrote The Dark Night of the Soul. Leaders, if they are to grow and mature into the leaders God has called them to be will experience their own “dark night” of leadership. In the previous posts I have discussed the sin of leadership pride and the antidote of humility; and the sin of leadership greed and antidote of letting go.
Many souls become addicted to the spiritual sweetness of the devotional life and strive to obtain more and more of it. They pass beyond the limits of moderation and nearly kill themselves with spiritual exercises. ~John of the Cross
Sin #3: Leadership Gluttony
The nature of leadership often makes gluttons out of leaders. The feeling of accomplishing great things, leading others, having an impact, etc., can taste so delicious, leaders want more and more. Leaders begin to crave more and more of these sensations of success, the pleasures of power, the reactions from results, the affirmation of achievement, and the self-satisfaction of making things happen.
Leaders who fall into the trap of gluttony begin to take on too much. They are always looking for more to do, more projects to lead, more areas in influence, and more opportunities to get things done. Too much more. They begin to gorge on leadership.
This desire, this gluttony, can become so dangerous for leaders that God will sometimes remove the feelings of success, value, worth, and accomplishment from a leader through a dark night experience. They rush. They lose their humility. The fail to persevere. Gluttonous leaders trap themselves in an identity based on what they do and how much of it they do.
They are not walking in true obedience, but rather, are doing what they want in the time and measure that they have chosen. They do these things not for God but for themselves, and for this reason they grow weary in them. ~ John of the Cross
The gluttonous leader is a leader asks, “What do I want to do?” The question they have lost in their overfeeding on leadership is “What has God called and commissioned me to do?”
They overeat on leadership and end up losing their joy for leadership because they are leading in ways God never intended them to do and doing things God never called them do. Having gorged themselves on the sensation and successes of leadership…they no longer enjoy it and begin to think they have failed. They lose passion for the work. Leadership no longer fulfills them.
The problem is this: when they have received no pleasure from their devotions, they think they have not accomplished anything. ~ John of the Cross
Dangerously, the feelings of failure can lead some down the path of trying to do more to satiate the need…instead of doing less and rekindling their relationship God and stewarding His call in their leadership.
For the truth is the feelings we receive from our devotional life are the least of its benefits. The invisible and unfelt grace of God is much greater, and it is beyond our comprehension. ~ John of the Cross
Gluttony is a sign of a leader who has turned their leadership into an idol and has ignored their relationship with God. They have taken a good thing and turned it into an ultimate thing. They have turned a neccessary and needed thing and turned it into the only thing.
The human heart is an idol factory that takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them. ~ Tim Keller
It is dangerous for leaders to play the part of being “respectable” instead of living the part of being “faithful.”
No leader can satiate a need through leadership that was designed be satiated through discipleship.
It is dangerous for leaders to feed themselves with leadership instead of the nourishment that comes from close relationship with Jesus. No amount of leadership, even successful, effective, useful, and impactful leadership for God’s kingdom can feed the soul. The gluttony of leadership which confuses being with doing can derail even the best of leaders.
The dark night of leadership removes a good thing so the leader can once again see the ultimate thing.
For true spirituality consists in perseverance, patience, and humility. ~ John of the Cross
And true leadership too.