I had the privilege of attending the Global Leadership Summit in August. I’ll be sharing some of my key learnings from that event in future episodes; however, attending the Summit reminded me of something I had seen back in May. It was so powerful that I want to share it with you today. Erwin McManus gave a presentation at the Global Leadership Summit in 2018. Boiled down, it led to the title of this episode. You must overcome your pain in order to step into your greatness.
If you don’t know who Erwin is, he’s a prolific author, cancer survivor, international speaker, and a pastor at MOSAIC church in Los Angeles. His latest books are The Way of the Warrior and The Last Arrow. Trust me when I say that he’s unlike any other man you know. For example, he embraces his uniqueness and he always speaks/writes in a way that uses story powerfully.
The Pain Of Average
His greatest fear growing up was that he would be average. Being raised in the shadow of a brother who seemed to excel at everything he touched, Erwin saw himself not as just average, but below average. And it wasn’t just Erwin who saw himself that way, his step-dad did his best to reinforce this with Erwin at every opportunity.
We have pithy sayings about how “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Because of that saying, many grew up believing they shouldn’t allow a label to cause them pain. That what others say or think is somehow not a part of who we become. Unfortunately, we all know that isn’t true.
Succumbing To The Opinion Of Others
How others see us can have a direct impact on how we see ourselves. As a result, it’s a battle to overcome the pain of a label or a stereotype and the mental exertion is intense – no one can do it for you. There will be times when you want to succumb to the opinions of others. And that’s a problem because when you do, you hand control of your life to another.
Have you taken the Enneagram personality test? I’ve talked about it before and you can go back to Episode 022: Are You My Type? More Tools For Building Team Trust and listen to it to learn more about it. Anyway, on the Enneagram, I’m a Three, Achiever. And so what does that mean? Essentially, I’m success-oriented, adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
Therefore, my most basic fear is being worthless. And, as a result, my second greatest fear would be someone thinking I’m worthless. Erwin’s point about fearing average was resonating with me. So these fears can lead me to unhealthy behaviors.
For me, unhealthy means associating value with accomplishment. As if I would only be loved if I am extraordinary in some endeavor. There’s a constant pressure to be outstanding in whatever I do and that is not only intense – it’s draining.
There’s an underlying anxiety about personal value and expectation of myself that I always operate at maximum efficiency. At my worst, it’s easy to lose focus and fall into busywork. Here’s the strangest part of my behavior at home with Ginger.
Because my relationship with her is secure (we are both committed to Jesus, each other, and our marriage), I will keep a positive mental attitude at work all day, only to come home and be a dissatisfied, sullen, snarky and childish with her. It’s like I’m free to let my guard down with her and it’s not okay.
So if I allow it, unhealthy tendencies for me would make me a workaholic who fears the pain of failure or humiliation. I will want to impress others (man-pleasing) and spend too much time wondering what others think of me.
Resisting Fear’s Mastery
Slyly, with beguiling intent, fear begins to shape our behavior. And before we know it, our leadership is confined to our fears! Any pain we experience as a result of realized fears, simply evidences that our position is rational. See? I knew that this was not just in my imagination.
We start to tell or remind ourselves of these stories. What pain awaits us if we step out of these confines. In the meantime, fear establishes mastery. We have become a slave to a cruel master. So, do you want to know the irony? As a result, we willingly give up our freedom. Please thoughtfully consider this point.
Anything To Avoid Pain
We are afraid because we don’t want pain. In our mind, pain = bad. Pain = limitation. In your mind, can you visualize the boundary lines being drawn? Because of the self-imposed boundary, I will choose to give up my freedom to pursue my dream. Because of my fear of pain, I will choose to allow my talents to lie dormant. Maybe I will disappoint someone, or myself. Because someone might think my effort is insufficient, then I will choose to not live in the light of experience.
And who can blame us? Erwin points out that you and I live in the mythology of greatness. In addition, I would be shocked if you aren’t daily, possibly hourly, comparing your normal moments to everyone else’s best moments. Yes, the ones that show up on social media.
This is what you won’t want to hear: pain is part of life. Pain is life. For some reason, we think that my life should not include pain. If I just do things right, then I can avoid pain. What a shallow misnomer. It’s actually just the opposite! That is, if you do things right, you will absolutely encounter pain head-on.
Walk In Your Pain
Erwin contends that you must learn to walk in your pain. There are no shortcuts. He goes on to say that you have to be willing to go through pain, crash through it, to encounter your greatness. Pain does not have to define your life.
In Episode 051: Failure Isn’t Final, I talk about how failure is not an end…unless you let it. Erwin says that your future is on the other side of your failure. And that’s hard for us to imagine when we see the significance or the size of our failure. I don’t blame you for questioning how this could lead to something good.
As you already know, I’m a Christ-follower. My faith allows me to see things differently than I might otherwise. But make no mistake, having faith does not mean that I always see things from a spiritual perspective. I don’t. It’s often one of my greatest frustrations. I want to look at my circumstances, see them from God’s point of view, and be encouraged.
I’ll bet that it happens like that 30% of the time. I’m horrified by some of the things I’ve felt given my profession of faith. But here are two final thoughts that I want to leave you with today from Pastor McManus:
You Aren’t Defined By Your Worst Moments
Firstly, God doesn’t define you by your worst moments. We have all done things that given a mulligan or a do-over, we would choose differently. That does not define you. The fact that you would do it differently might actually result in a more accurate definition of who you really are.
Secondly, Erwin said that you and I want God to meet us in our faith. But the reality is this: He meets us in our faithfulness. Your faith does not make your life easier. It doesn’t take away the pain. It makes you stronger.
The Irony Of Faith
As a result, your faith gives you the strength and the courage to step into the fear, to walk in your pain, and know that on the other side, you will step into your greatness.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
The Leader to Leader Podcast Episode 022: Are You My Type? More Tools For Building Team Trust
The Leader to Leader Podcast Episode 051: Failure Isn’t Final
Erwin McManus GLS18 Session Notes-The Last Arrow
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