Born Yesterday is one of my favorite oldie-films. Made in 1950, and starring Judy Holliday and William Holden, it is a bit of a pygmalion story. Holliday plays Billie Dawn, a stereotypical, ditzy blond who is unknowingly used by a crooked businessman and thug to hide some business interests. Along comes journalist Paul Verrall (Holden), whom the thug hires to “smarten up” Bille so she doesn’t embarrass him in social settings. Paul, interested in the beautiful and charming, if not too bright, Billie, gets right to work. Predictably, as Paul helps Bille learn to love history, art, music, politics, and literature, they also find love for one another.
Early in their time together, Paul hands Billie a newspaper and gives her an assignment to start reading the paper every day. She winces. She says she can’t read the paper because none of it makes sense to her. Paul tells her to read it anyway and to circle anything that doesn’t make sense. They’ll talk about what she doesn’t understand tomorrow.
The next day, Paul arrives to find Billie in bed with breakfast reading the paper. It’s nearly covered in circles. It seems there are more stories highlighted than not.
Recently, I shared with a good friend a question about my spiritual leadership as a husband and father. We chatted for a bit and Vince correctly sensed that I’m in a very malleable and even vulnerable state right now. I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about what’s important in my relationship with God, and with my family, and in my work. Vince told me, “Draw a circle around yourself and pray about what’s in that circle.” We talked further and his comments helped me to understand the importance of talking to God more about what He’s doing and wants to do in my life and through me, than about what I should do about ebola in Africa, or praying for the protection of Christians and Jews worldwide, or even my wife’s and kids’ concerns.
All of those things are important. I’m not saying I don’t or God doesn’t care about those things. However, when I neglect my own spiritual, emotional, and mental health, I’m in no shape to provide leadership for anyone or anything. I guess it’s the equivalent of “Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others around you with their mask.”
So for the past couple weeks, I’ve had this circle drawn around me. Much like Billie in Born Yesterday, I don’t understand my life and direction the way God does. Billie turned to Paul because he did understand. I’m turning to God because He understands my life. After all, He created me and breathed life into me.
When I pray, I’ve been listening to what He has to say about my relationships, my thoughts, my attitudes, my feelings, my work, my decisions. He knows how these all weave together to create my day and how others experience me as a result of all those factors. He knows how they work together to form the impact that I have on others’ lives. You see, what use is it to be concerned about their lives, trying to lead them, if my own life and self-leadership is a mess?
It is said that emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to self-reflect, and understand their own thoughts and emotions, and how they influence other people and situations. That’s true, but how much more understanding could that leader have if it is informed by the insight and wisdom of God?
Are you troubled by all the crazy things going on around you? Are you carrying burdens related to what’s going on in your spouse’s life? Your kids’ lives? Does the world situation bother you? The Middle East is a mess and there’s no end in sight. Disease and death are on the march in Africa. Christians and Jews are being persecuted and killed all over the world. The American business and political scene is just as discouraging as ever.
It’s hard to not be bothered by some or all of these issues.
Draw a circle around yourself. Keep it close and tight. What’s inside the circle–your thoughts, your emotions, your hopes and dreams, your questions, your work, your health–these things are between you and God. Talk about them. What’s outside that circle is up to God.
Give yourself the freedom to let go of what you cannot control–what’s outside your circle. Focus on your own emotional and mental health and let God deal with the rest. You’ll be stronger and better equipped to make a difference.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo “Bodie newspaper” by Jim Bahn. Modified by Scott Yorkovich according to Creative Commons license. Available at Flickr.com.