Taking Full Responsibility

Take full responsibility for your own emotional being and destiny.

Notice how Jesus presences himself when instructing the disciples about his betrayal [Mark 14:18-25]. You don’t see him coming apart at the seams, an emotional wreck, begging Judas to reconsider. Instead, he uses the impending calamity to instruct them about fidelity, sacrifice, and the cost of discipleship.

At his arrest, Jesus is fully in control of his emotions and reactions. He does not personalize Judas’ betrayal: “Oh Judas, how could you?” He doesn’t negotiate: “Hey fellas, what if I agree to stop teaching in the Temple—would that be OK with you?” Nor does he play the victim: “Doggone it, you guys. If you’d just stayed awake and prayed like I asked you, none of this would’ve happened!” [Mark 14:43-50]

Brought before the Sanhedrin [Mark 14:53-64] Jesus does not tantrum, collapse in an ocean of tears, call down fire, or even expose his accusers’ hypocrisy. The only response recorded by Mark is Jesus’ unmistakably clear admission that yes, he is the Christ, and that they will one day see him sitting at the Father’s right hand.

This is not to say that Jesus was emotionally repressed. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. [Isaiah 53:3] He sweat blood the night before his crucifixion. [Luke 22:44] What is critical to note is that Jesus did not make his emotions anyone else’s responsibility.

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

Enmeshed with your Church?

Today, we consider a second principle of Leadership Courage: Take full responsibility for your own emotional being and destiny.

Pastor, you are not your church. They are not an extension of you. If you are emotionally healthy, you don’t think of yourself as an extension of your spouse, your boss, your siblings, or your district superintendent.

Do you?

So, why allow yourself to be enmeshed with your congregation as if who you are is determined by their choices and deportment?

Edwin Friedman asserted that leaders can bypass burnout by avoiding the trap of taking responsibility for others and their problems. Imagine life without the double bind of being burdened by a false responsibility for the choices and decisions of others.

Do yourself a favor: re-read Ephesians, I & II Timothy, and Revelation 2:1-7.

Then, answer this:

  1. Did Paul make himself responsible for Timothy’s being and destiny?

  2. Was Timothy responsible for the being and destiny of the church at Ephesus?

If not, who was?

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

Increase your Frustration Tolerance

How many parents of adult children have lamented their 20-something’s dependence and irresponsibility—until the parents cut off the financial flow?

Faced with the very real possibility of starvation and homelessness, most of those chronically-immature sons and daughters find a way to get out of bed, land a job, and struggle their way into responsible adult lives.

But the over-responsible parents had to cut down the safety net first. And, to do so, they had to increase their capacity to tolerate the squawks and tantrums of their overly-dependent adult children.

In Matthew 23:37 Jesus mourns for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. When offered comfort, protection, and rescue by the Lord their answer was “no.” And, Jesus is clear: their choice didn’t diminish him or the value of the redemption he offered. And, he was also clear that they would get to live with the consequences of their decision.

So too, pastor, with you.

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

Responsible To vs. Responsible For

What does it take to be a courageous leader, particularly amidst a culture that, for decades, has been steeped in cowardice?

Can a pastor, denominational executive, or church leader actually turn the tide of emotional and spiritual regression before the Church loses what’s left of its traction in American society?

The first principle we shared is: courageous leadership is not a matter of skill, technique, or knowledge. Its most distinguishing characteristic is the presence of the leader as she or he moves through life. We’ve explored what it means to be a self-defined person with a non-anxious presence.

Now, we’ll look at another insight from Edwin Friedman:

Take full responsibility for your own emotional being and destiny.

Most pastors struggle here: living as if they were responsible for the emotional being and destiny of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other people— and then participating in life as if their own well-being and destiny were dependent on others: the Bishop, their elder board, the denomination, local economic trends, or an abusive control-freak in a position of congregational leadership.

Step one is to disconnect from the generations-long ministerial malpractice of taking responsibility for others. I want to suggest that you and your members can’t both be responsible for their well-being and destiny.

You can or they can.

But both of you cannot. If you take responsibility for them, they won’t stand responsible for themselves.

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

Standing on God’s Promises

As Edwin Friedman noted more than twenty years ago, most pastors are leading chronically anxious emotional dwarfs. In many systems, the Church has become a hideout for the immature.

To me, this is really sad. Of course, there are many reasons why some are emotionally immature. Some of those reasons involve factors beyond their control. People need help with those issues. At the same time, the church doesn’t have to coddle people in their immaturity.

Instead, those of us in church leadership can call our congregations to something more by reminding them of their identities in Christ. And when believers stand on the promises of Jesus, we can be the most powerful, clear, selfless, and confident people on the planet.

God-defined people with a non-anxious presence.

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

The Opportunity provided by Crises

The self-defined leader chooses to interpret crises—like the current COVID Omicron uncertainty—as precious opportunities to develop mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

Edwin Friedman is clear: the leader’s capacity to contain her own reactivity to the trepidation of others, to avoid becoming polarized, and to self-regulate while staying connected to those who behave as if in distress is key to both the leader’s differentiation and to catalyzing maturity in the culture around her.

When you react with frustration and anger to the low-tolerance tantrums and angry outbursts of the immature in your ministry context, you’ve put yourself in exactly the same soup!

The key is to manage yourself when in conflict and to stay in relationship with those who prefer to attack, blame, and remain irresponsible for their own being and destiny.

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

God is Not Surprised

A non-anxious presence is easy to carry off when your leadership is well received, when people are saying great things about you, when folks are happy and grateful for you. But a non-anxious presence is essential when distress appears omnipresent.

Recall the phrase: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part.”

The less mature are always attempting to enroll others in their disquiet, their “crisis du jour.”

A perceived catastrophe on the part of certain members of the congregation does not constitute a calamity for a well-defined leader. Do you think for one minute that God, up in Heaven, is wringing His hands over that leaky roof, the lawsuit brought against the church, or the lousy turnout at the society meeting?

I often remind my coaching clients that God is not looking down at them stunned, saying: “Oh my goodness, I didn’t see that coming!”

And, since God is fully aware of your predicament, what do you suppose God wants to do in you as a result?

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

Peace that Passes our Understanding

To possess a non-anxious presence does not mean to be carefree, laid-back, detached, or disengaged. It means to live with an absence of anxiety.

As a powerful squall threatens to swamp their boat, the disciples are a mess. Anxious, fearful, and panicked.

And, Jesus…is…asleep. [Mark 4:38]

Jesus modeled a non-anxious presence perfectly. After benefiting from the miracle of the loaves and fish the crowd wants Jesus to seize political control, overthrow the Romans, and declare himself their King.

His response was simply to walk away. Scripture says he withdrew to a solitary place, alone. [Mark 6:46]

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

Brilliance from Friedman

Edwin Friedman, in “A Failure of Nerve” concluded that the US had become “chronically anxious.” One characteristic: the least mature wield great influence. His observations apply to the US, and also describe the condition of the Church—pre-Covid, pre-George Floyd, pre-election chaos, pre-Omicron.

Friedman goes on to describe a unique kind of leadership for such anxious times.

Leadership Courage” applies Friedman’s brilliant leadership insights to the local pastor desiring to provoke growth and maturity in her or his congregation.

Leadership Courage” is a must-read for ministers, lay leaders, and serious Christians right now.

It is currently available:



Non-Anxious Presence

Several years ago I was in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We were making final preparations for a four-day character development training that was to commence the next morning. As Ennio Salucci, the lead trainer, and I prepared the volunteer team he received a phone call. Acknowledging its importance, Ennio stepped away from our preparations for several minutes.

Late that night, after we’d finished with the team, he shared with me the content of that phone call. He’d been struggling with medical symptoms for some time and had a series of tests. Ennio’s doctor called to inform him that his tests confirmed the medical team’s worst fears: he had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rather than cancelling the training, calling another facilitator to stand in for him, or to log hours on the phone with his wife and doctors, what I witnessed floored me. Ennio prepared me for the next day’s training, then gave himself fully and passionately to our participants for the entire four days. Other than our brief conversation, there was no evidence that my friend had received the devastating news. He was clear about why he was alive: to champion those around him to live their lives fully, passionately, and powerfully.

Ennio led by example those first days after his diagnosis and for the nearly twenty years that have followed. In that time, Ennio has been in and out of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston more often than I’ve been to my dentist. And, he’s poured his heart and soul into thousands of people in the hundreds of trainings he’s conducted since. Just recently, he finished his battle with leukemia and is in the presence of the Lord.

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at www.KirlinCoaching.com/blog/


#leadership #courage #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #Jesus #pastor #discipleship

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