Our family is a huge fan of the TV Show Psych, where a quick-witted smart-aleck with a photographic memory deceives the Santa Barbara police department into believing he has supernatural crime-solving abilities. My kids can probably quote some Sean Spencer quips better than they can the Bible (I’m not proud of this).
Sean’s sleuthing partner is a high-strung, by-the-book, straight man named Gus, who’s opposing personality quirks provide a hilarious contrast and some of the show’s funniest moments. Gus is a self-described “sympathetic cryer” who can break into tears at the slightest show of emotion from anyone, even random strangers he doesn’t know. He just cries because they’re crying.
I can relate.
I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding my moist eyes when Colts release a bald eagle during the pre-game National Anthem, when the pastor shares a moving story during his Sunday sermon, or when my wife makes me watch an episode of “This Is Us” (don’t tell her I said this), but I’m sappy by nature. It’s how God made me.
This expresses itself in interesting ways in my life, with my family, friends, and in the workplace. I’m empathetic by my God-given design. I feel what other people say to me. I can easily put myself in their shoes and see things from their perspective, even when they’re wrong. This can manifest in beautiful ways and help me connect deeply with others, both as a colleague and a leader.
But this exact same empathy can also sprout from a sinful root.
I like to be liked, and sometimes I will fall in line with someone else, not because I buy into their perspective, but because I don’t want to experience the discomfort of disagreement. That “niceness” isn’t always aimed at their good but at my comfort. Sometimes my empathy causes me to encourage and agree when truly loving the other person should manifest in confrontation and correction.
The same God-given quality can be beautiful and it can be broken. It can be for the selfless good of others, and it can be for the selfish protection of myself.
There are instincts in me that are beautiful, that inform who I really am, what I should pursue, who I was created to be. And there are instincts in me that are broken, sinful, that want to flow downhill in the easiest direction toward my baser, fallen instincts. And sometimes they look the same even though their root is very different.
We need wisdom to stir up and embrace the beautiful, to recognize and repent of the broken, and to never confuse the two with one another.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This is a powerful portion of the Lord’s model prayer. I might synopsize it in my own words this way: “Heal the sinful, me-focused manifestations of my personality Lord, and resurrect the glorious God-honoring expressions of my original design.”
How is your leadership being redeemed by the Gospel? Where do you need to repent? What do you need to stir up? It might look the same, but search your heart for the underlying motivator.
Here’s the Good News: Jesus is standing ready to resurrect and empower the you He originally designed.
This article was originally posted at The Stone Table, a resourcing community for faith, work, and missions.