What’s Holding You Back?: Internal Conflicts of Leadership

Resolving conflict isn’t only about addressing the issues around us. Often, we as leaders have our own internal conflicts—unhealthy fear and festering anger. These can lead to us being vulnerable to spiritual attack and hinder us from achieving our full potential.

Unhealthy Fear
Fear is one of those sneaky emotions that can infiltrate our lives and hide within other emotions. For example, we might say we feel anxious, or worried, or frustrated, or insecure, or depressed, but the root emotion of these can often be traced back to plain and simple fear. And the enemy uses this vulnerability to gain a foothold.

Healthy fear keeps us alert for danger. Unhealthy fear paralyses us—causing us to not be adaptable to God’s calling or new processes or taking wise risks. It can also mutate into unresolved anger. So how do we combat our internal fears?

Get it out in the open. The thought of admitting our fears out loud can come with a degree of shame—another tactic of the enemy. We may think that to admit fear is to admit weakness, immaturity, or that we don’t trust God.

When we pray about our fears, write down or speak them out loud to a trusted mentor or counselor, the fear starts to shrink. When the fear’s darkness and gloom is brought out into the light, it loses its power. Feeling fear isn’t a bad thing. But we can’t stay there. Instead of trying to hide our fears, or hoping ignoring them will make them go away, we must choose courage and prayerfully confront them and take the next steps God is calling us to.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:4–5, NIV).

Festering Anger
Ephesians 4:25–27 (NIV) says “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Commonly, we hear this verse in reference to a healthy marriage relationship. The point is that most people allow conflicts to fester—and Satan uses that to divide. While conflict, or “intense fellowship,” is not always bad, instead of addressing the issue when it is “a little bothersome,” we may tend to hide our feelings. But this causes the issue to grow, potentially to the point that reaching a resolution is almost impossible. It can be common to not be as direct or transparent as needed with each other. So how do we combat our unresolved anger?

Don’t wait. At the first sign of conflict, talk it out. Set an example for your team by addressing issues right away, instead of waiting and brewing on the issue. Be the one to make the first move, to calmly yet honestly address the topic of concern, to work through the situation, reunite, and ask for forgiveness when necessary.

My strongest and best relationships have come out of a situation that was difficult, where differing opinions were passionately discussed. But even when the situation was at its most difficult, the priority was to continue growing in our relationship, and not let anger embitter and divide us. This often means increasing one’s humility, patience, graciousness, and communication.

A good team leader is great at resolving conflict. A great leader works hard to catch and resolve conflict before it starts. And this begins with us.

I pray that we, this week, commit to guarding our minds and destroying “arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Article originally published September 5, 2017, in Prison Fellowship International’s PFI Roundtable.

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