When was the last time someone asked you, “How is your soul?” I am sure your doctor hasn’t.
Yet we are more spiritual than physical. Leadership is all about relationships. People with healthy souls are capable of forming meaningful relationships, but people with unhealthy souls find it almost impossible.
Soul care is linked to finding help to overcome temptations, fight addictions, and have peace with God with yourself and others. It is caring for the whole person because every part of our lives matters. Everything that is alive requires care to thrive. Your soul needs care. You are not the exception. Soul care is the intentional practice of giving attention to your body, mind, emotions, and spirit, fostering resiliency.
Gordon MacDonald said that in a sense we have two worlds to manage: an outer world of career and possessions and social networks; and an inner world that is more spiritual in nature, where values are selected and character is formed – a place where worship and confession and humility can be practiced. Because our outer worlds are visible and measurable and expandable, they are easier to deal with. They demand our attention. “The result is that our private world is often cheated, neglected because it does not shout quite so loudly. It can be effectively ignored for large periods of time before it gives way to a sinkhole-like cave-in.”
We cannot live our lives on auto-pilot – running our lives on empty, feeling tired, depleted, and upset. The exhausted life is not an enjoyable life. Life as we are living it is not sustainable. Soul fatigue is indicated when …
· We have difficulty making a decision.
· We feel constantly vulnerable to people or circumstances.
· We lack patience.
· We find our identity in externals.
Dallas Willard said, "What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings."
There are four parts of a human being. Each part must be healthy and working as God intended it to make a healthy soul.
Will: The innermost circle is the will – the capacity to choose. The will is what makes you a person and not a thing. It is important but it is also extremely limited.
Mind: The second circle is the mind: a person’s thoughts and feelings.
Body: “Our bodies are like our little power packs – we couldn’t be us without them … but they are not the whole story. We are not just the stuff that our bodies are made of” (Dallas Willard).
Soul: The final circle is the soul. The human soul is what integrates all of our different parts into a single person.
The health of your soul isn’t just a matter of if you are spiritual or not. It is the hinge on which all of life moves. Soul care for leaders is an essential practice to maintain personal well-being, resilience, and effectiveness in leadership roles. Taking care of one’s soul or inner self is crucial for maintaining balance and providing effective leadership. Otherwise, you will have soul-fatigue.
One of the challenges of soul-fatigue is that it does not have the same obvious signs as physical fatigue. If you’ve run a marathon, your body lets you know it’s finished. If you're living stressed, worried, bitter, guilty, or angry, those negative emotions are not just affecting your relationships,
creativity, or how productive you are, they're weakening your immune system. Your cells are not fighting off sickness like they should. 90% of all visits to a primary care physician are stress related.
John Ortberg tells us, “The indicators of soul-fatigue are more subtle – things seem to bother you more than they should. It’s hard to make your mind up about even simple decisions. Impulses to eat or drink or spend or crave will be harder to resist than they otherwise would. You are more likely to favor short-term gains in ways that will leave you with long-term costs. Your judgment suffers. You have less courage” (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping).
But here's the key: You are responsible for your own emotional wellbeing. It's not up to anyone else. Your spouse, your doctor, your friends, your parents – nobody has control over your soul except you. In one sense, not even God. He's not going to make you forgive, not worry, or force you to not live angry, offended, and guilty. These are choices we have to make.
You are the keeper of your soul. A keeper is someone who is in charge of caring for, maintaining, or protecting something. For example, there are innkeepers, zookeepers, bookkeepers, groundskeepers, housekeepers, peacekeepers, shopkeepers, gatekeepers, and beekeepers. How do you do that?
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN TRUTH DAILY. We are bombarded day in and day out with bad news. We certainly can’t control all of it, but we can control a lot of it. We can choose who we follow on social-media platforms. We can choose what shows and movies we watch. We can choose whether or not we tune into the news and what news we hear. Unfollow and follow people with intention and care. Let the truth in – keep the lies out.
PRACTICE GRATITUDE. There is a whole lot of rough stuff happening in our broken world. But practicing gratitude on a regular basis transforms our perspective. List five things you are thankful for each day. It will bring lightness to your days and your soul.
SCHEDULE TIME TO DREAM WITHOUT LIMITS. Let your imagination run wild. Think about all the things you want to do without coming up with reasons why you couldn’t. This is so vital to the health of our souls. God wouldn’t create us with the capacity to dream if He didn’t intend for us to utilize that capacity our whole life long. Make space to sit and dream. Grab a notebook and a pen or your laptop. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Write down three things you would do if money and time were not an object. Start there. Let yourself dream without any qualifications.
REMOVE ANYTHING THAT HOLDS YOU DOWN. We know that in creation we prune plants so they can grow bigger. You need to do that too. Your life is probably way too full of focuses that are not helpful or healthy.
MAKE TIME TO BE ALONE. Our soul health suffers when we don’t regularly make time to be alone with ourselves and God with no agenda, but to listen or share with Him what’s on our hearts. We breathe in the silence and let our minds rest. Think, process, cry, release. Sit quietly,
expressing any fears or worries, writing out some goals or dreams or prayers. Speak aloud affirmations and dreams.
BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE + WHERE YOU ARE. An amazing thing happens in our souls when we decide to love what we have, right where we are. It is a choice to stop being consumed with wanting, craving what we don’t have, imagining we were somewhere else other than where we are in this moment. It’s not easy to sit with unfilled desires, to lean into unmet needs or embrace the ache of missing something/somewhere we want. But it changes everything when we do it.
PRACTICE A SABBATH. Every seven days take a day for a sabbath. Reverence, relationships, recreation, renewal, and rest. Fous on these and find your soul repaired.
FORGIVE. Lack of forgiveness will destroy your soul. It will eat away at you. The one you won’t forgive goes on with life while you are defeating yourself with bitterness. Just let go. Time and God will take care of the situation.
Having a healthy soul will help you develop courage, clarity, authentic connection, confidence, and influence, and will grow your character. Your soul is the most important part of you. The state of your soul affects the rest of your life. My soul may not announce it needs care, but when it’s not well – I begin to fake it. We may neglect the soul for a long time before it demands attention.
Life loses joy and meaning when my soul is worn. I’m not able to live life well. A healthy soul will enable you to love and serve the people in your life. When our souls are weak, we crave attention. We may become self-centered, even self-obsessed. But when our souls are healthy, we are then able to look beyond our own needs and care for others.