Shepherding the Heart

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” H. David Thoreau

Historically that is one of my favorite quotes to make us take inventory on our lives and where we are vs. where we thought we’d be by now.  Perhaps it may apply to our finances, our career, maybe our intimate relationships like our faith, in marriage or even parenting.  Surely, in today’s information overload and constant barrage of media from all angles (internet, tv, radio, smartphones, social media, etc.) we are just living lives of desperation.  Have you read your FB news feed lately?  After all, it is not that easy to escape the busyness, clutter and all the noise, is it?  Nowadays, we see people taking social media sabbaticals, where they “go dark” for a while to cool off after becoming super frustrated with the world and how it spins.  While social media sabbaticals may be difficult for some, the good news is that it can be accomplished by any of us, if we’re willing to apply a bit of focus with specific intent.

Author’s note: It’s been a long time since I last posted on this medium, but life and book study have me feeling inspired to drop a post today, since I’m traveling internationally and it’s on my heart, plus I can spare a few extra minutes between the business of my life, to jot down a few ideas.  My purpose here, isn’t to impress others while generating likes and social shares, though if these thoughts bless others, I’m cool with that.  It’s more to journal some thoughts from the front lines of the media war, that I can come back to later, to reflect upon the journey.

That said, in my experience and profession, I serve many people in the achievement of personal, professional, financial and relational goals and I continue to find that $ and relationships are tops on the hearts and minds of people all around the world.  Especially in highly sensitive political times, when stress is running hot and our people skills can sometimes go right out the window!  In times like these we do need to follow the advice of wise sages, such as the Foo-Fighters, and “learn to live/love again.” (Great song, by the way.)

In doing so, it takes some courage to stand in front of the mirror and realize that YOU are the problem…er, the project!  Maybe both?  These days, many of us are quick to fire off a tweet, a FB post (rant), quick to judge, quick to react to what’s happening in the world around us.  I’m not immune to these knee jerk reactions to externalities, but they can be debilitating if unchecked. Taking a stand is great, but it’s a slippery slope and we find ourselves in polarizing times.  In the end, though, it comes down to who we want to be and what kind of brand we want to represent to our community (personal & professional).  Astonishingly enough, a rare, honest, face to face, personal dialogue can break down barriers previously thought insurmountable.  TRY IT.  We know that no one can possibly perform successful surgery by phone, txt or via social media rants now, can they?  😉

For example, it’s not the Truth that hurts, often times it’s how it’s delivered.  Use of an axe to remove a mosquito from someone’s forehead may not always go over so well.  Typically, it never does!  One thing that remains certain is that the Truth is sweet to the ear.  img_5672So why are so many people still acting like prickly porcupines or cacti?  Why are we still so concerned about the speck of dust in our neighbor’s eye, when we walk around obliviously with a plank in our own eye?

Human nature I suppose, or it could be a heart matter, yet, we don’t have to succumb to the natural laws of decline.  We can overcome them with an investment in wisdom and knowledge applied.  You realize that knowledge isn’t power, but applied knowledge is.  (Just making sure we’re still eye to eye on this point…)

Ultimately, it is nothing more or less than a choice, once one gets sick and tired of being sick and tired of strife and broken relationships, finances or all of the above.  One method that’s worked best for me is to read, listen and associate.  I began this highly encouraging format back in 2009, in the midst of a (miserably) failed marriage, career, finances and in many other key areas of life.  You might not believe me if I told you how bad it was…but you’ll have to wait for the book on that one. 🙂  Often it is said that when a person desires to make changes in his or her life, it is generally done for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.  How many of us know that to be true?  As for me, I needed to stack the deck in my favor – to immerse myself in success principles, Truthful information and successful people who actually wanted to see me succeed as well.

So when it comes to successful leadership, in any field, reading is one of the most crucial components of a successful journey.  I took this for granted for a long time.  In fact, in all honesty, I likely caused much unnecessary self-inflicted pain by not reading….ufff.  But that’s another post for another day.

Recently, I read  The Heart All Leaders Must Develop (by Frank Damazio) and found a ton of encouragement and enlightenment as to why we (myself included) do what we do and how we can become a better leader, or truly stated, a Shepherd of God’s people’s hearts by developing the right heart ourselves.  Many times, I reflected on my friend and NY Times best selling author Chris Brady‘s popular quote: “Leaders try their heartest.”  After studying Damazio’s book, it may have finally clicked!

I won’t spoil it for you, reader, but let me just say that Damazio likens true servant leadership to that of a shepherd with his flock of sheep.  He examines how many roles the shepherd plays to ensure the safety, health, security, nourishment and overall well-being of the flock.  The book discusses how there are significant differences between being a servant leader (shepherd) with the right heart and a good public speaker / priest / minister / pastor / bishop / deacon or whatever other positional authority we may call out.  This is where a spiritual “fruit check” comes in handy.  For example have you ever witnessed the questionable private behavior of a good public speaker / priest / minister / pastor / bishop / deacon?  Damazio says, “Leaders must guard their hearts…for they can pass from the status of victor to the ranks of vanquished in a matter of moments.”

Matthew 7:15-20 New King James Version (NKJV)
You Will Know Them by Their Fruits
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

My favorite passage from the book talks about the Shepherd – Physician and how “The shepherd must not always blame the sheep for their suffering; he must guard his attitude toward the sheep and not become hardened to their cries.”  This kind of takes us back to the plank in the eye, porcupine/cactus scenario.  Can your flock come to you?  Are you approachable or reproachable? 🙂

In order to lead the sheep, we must first love and gently care for them…and that can only come from loving ourselves first, then seeking to understand them.  Here are the 3 types of problem “sheep” that Damazio describes in the book:

Solitary Sheep: constantly strays, the loner of the flock.  Spiritually, this sheep has real inward problems.  He may have suffered deep emotional wounds, causing a lack of trust in the other sheep or in the shepherd.  Often, this is driven by fear of exposure, [of being found out] of past sins, habits or hurts keep this sheep from healthy fellowship.  Many solitary sheep, on the other hand, are merely looking for attention.  They will do anything to be noticed…  Are you thinking of someone?  Is it you? 🙂

Hermit Sheep: The hermit sheep avoids the flock for its own reasons.  Mostly to avoid shearing.  It is strong willed and avoids the shepherd at shearing time, at all costs.  These sheep are often left behind because eventually, they slow down and cannot even see past their overgrown wool.  They may risk injury or even death due to their self deception and stubbornness.  “Hermit” types should learn to focus on dying to self and sharing their talents, treasures and time with others for that’s where God’s greatest blessings occur.

Wandering Sheep: Possibly the most dangerous sheep of all, this one believes the grass is always greener somewhere else, so he’s always seeking an escape.  Never truly enjoying the pasture (journey) of where he is at presently.  He is a bad influence to the flock because he breeds discontent. The shepherd must address this and harness that energy into a healthy purpose to serve and bless the flock.

Can you relate to any people in your life or your organization like this?  What are your experiences?  Feel free to share and comment below.  How might a self-directed education help you in your success journey?  What obstacles are stopping you? Critics? Fear? Doubt? Sin?  Maybe it’s time for you to break free and claim your victory! In my case, read, listen, associate was the breakthrough I needed.  I learned that by becoming a part of a community of winners and I wish you the same blessing I received through “Total Personal Development“a program developed to improve lives, relationships & finances.

In the end, my goal is to inspire the reader to think about his or her own legacy and where you are in relation to where you’d like to be or where you thought you’d be by now.  Is it time to take action?  Are you ready to associate with like minded people who are pursuing excellence as you want to vs. those who’d try to hold you back?  As my good friend and Inc.com top 20 global management / leadership expert Orrin Woodward says, “Success won’t be easy, but it will be WORTH IT.”

God bless,

Micah Kramer
@BraveheartMicah

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