Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” I am involved in preparing some training for emerging leaders in Europe. The first installment will take place this June in Latvia. The content for this particular experience will focus on the “being” of a leader. Within that heading we will take a strong look at character and missional thinking. We are using the metaphor of a mirror to encourage each leader to look inside before they look outside toward the vision of the mission. Scripture also uses the mirror metaphor in a couple of places to encourage similar thinking. James notes that someone who only hears the Word of God and does not act on it is like one who looks at himself in the mirror-but forgets his appearance once he walks away. Instead James holds up the “mirror” of the gospel-the prefect law of liberty-as a right reference point. James is encouraging our gaze at Christ as a transformative center for living life.
But notice what Proverbs 27 says. There is a proper “mirror” experience that we need to have occasionally. A leader I once served under use to say that we need to live “the gaze glance life”-where we gaze at Christ continually and occasionally glance at ourselves. Our narcissistic culture would have it the other way-where we gaze at ourselves constantly-and look almost nowhere else. But the occasional glance is necessary and revealing. We do need to look inside at times to see what is true of us-we need to look into the mirror of our souls. Proverbs 27:19 uses this reflection analogy to make a point. Just as a reflection in water reveals what is truly there-so the heart of a person reflects what is true of that person. Now this presupposes a Hebrew concept of heart-not a western view. We tend to think of the heart as merely our emotions or passions. But for the Jew the heart was more holistic-it included that mind, will and emotions. The heart was the governing center of a person’s life-it was where one decided. Therefore the heart is the man. And whatever is in the heart will be true of the man-and will be observable eventually.
I want to apply this to leadership. This past Friday I had the privilege to teach some leadership character principles to a group of staff and interns here in Italy. They are a talented bunch with great potential for the kingdom. But if they, or I, get this one wrong-that potential will be greatly muted. A leader cannot lead out of something other than who he or she is. What is in the heart will be reflected in a person’s leadership. As I ponder my own leadership life and that of others-there are three primary enemies that a spiritual leader (or any leader for that matter) must be keenly aware of: fear, pride and isolation. Again, the Proverbs offers us great insight to these things. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” This was never better illustrated than in the life of Saul, Israel’s first king. I believe his primary downfall was leading from a foundation of fear. Fear can often appear as bravado-but will lead to poor and hasty decisions and great destruction. Proverbs 29:23 says, “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” Notice the play on words-it is about lowliness-one form is chosen and has a reward and one is forced upon you and has devastating consequences. Hezekiah, a king of Judah who started out pretty well, was bitten by pride which led to his destruction. Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgment.” We have seen this through the media all too often-this is where moral failure often shows up and ruins a leader’s platform.
When you consider these three enemies you will note that they overlap one another-one can easily lead to another. Where does one go to fight fear, pride and isolation? Remember that the last half of Proverbs 29:25 says, ” . . . whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Every leader (and every follower of Christ) needs a foundation of safety to live out our broken, yet redeemed lives. But safety is not found in a place but is in a person. Safety is ultimately found in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe this is one of the primary messages of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament. And our doorway to that safety is the gospel. Through the gospel we enter into the atmosphere of grace and forgiveness that will allow us to be authentic and humble-to chase after courage, humility and community.
In relation to these three enemies-what does your heart reflect? How is it showing up in your leadership life? I know I still have work to do-but I find my hope in the grace of the gospel.