John of the Cross, the 16th Century Carmelite monk who wrote The Dark Night of the Soul, described how God often works upon the soul of a believer—not in the way of joy or light, but in the ways of sorrow and darkness. The “dark night” is part of the spiritual journey of anyone truly seeking to grow in his or her maturity.
To desire spiritual maturity without the dark night is like an athlete hoping to become a champion without training or an author expecting to produce a great book without thinking ~ Richard Foster
The same is true for leaders. 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.
There is a time in the life of every leader where God will bid them to come and grow deeper and in so doing; God will remove the previous joys, confidence, and sense of purpose and fulfillment that were previously there.
According to John of the Cross, this is happens through the trap of seven different spiritual “capital sins.” This post will look at the first of these seven sins.
Sin #1: Secret Pride
Young leaders, or newly confirmed leaders, can quickly become prideful. They are quite satisfied with themselves, their position, and their results. They will not confess weakness or mistakes. These new leaders often fall into the trap of pride and unknowingly hamper their growth as a leader. They think highly of themselves and are very pleased with themselves.
They become content with their growth. They would prefer to teach rather than be taught.
In the “dark night” God will remove their sense of success, their sense of confidence and assurance as a leader. God will bring doubt, lack of confidence, and confusion. God will humble a leader in the “dark night” until the leader thinks less of themselves and their leadership and they will begin to again see how great God. They will put behind them the false narrative of their own greatness and ability and come to see in deeper more meaningful ways just how great and powerful God is.
The humility the “dark night” brings to a leader is the antidote to their secret pride and a gateway to God doing even greater things in the life and leadership of a leader.
As Winston Churchill once said, “Mountain tops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.” God took a prideful young Moses into the desert for 40 years. It was only there, in that “dark night,” that God prepared Moses to lead others through the desert for 40 more.
As leaders we should not fear the “dark night” but hope for it. For it means that God has more in store for us and intends to prepare us.
It is hard to hard to carry your cross and your pride at the same time.
It is hard to drink the cup and swallow praise at the same time.
Pride, self-centered ambition, and self-importance inevitably crowd out the love of God in the life of a leader. God uses “dark nights” to keep leaders humble and Jesus-centered, ready for even greater leadership.
We can take comfort that in the “dark night” of a leader…Jesus humbles, but never humiliates. God takes our pride and produces humility.