Anxiety is a virus.
Indiscriminately, it can paralyze decision making, undermine confidence and annihilate joy in even the most capable of leaders. When left unchecked, anxiety will forge a dark apocalypse of the soul. For the church leader living out an anxious season, the tension is real and there’s no clear escape.
The bigger problem is that anxiety is viral and highly contagious.
Image a young child who gashes their knee in a parkour stunt gone wrong. In that bloody moment, the child becomes hypersensitive to his caretaker’s anxiety level. If mom shows up in a panic, her kid will undoubtedly be infected with dread. But if the caretaker tends to the wounds with confidence and poise, the child is likely to be immune to the tension of the moment and likely to be climbing trees in just a matter of moments.
A leader’s high anxiety infects the health of an organization’s emotional system in the same way.
No matter how much the leader attempts to conceal his inner anxiety, the organization will sense that something to off. (though, they will not be able to put a finger on what’s wrong) And like a dog that can sense fear, a church will feel the impact of a leader’s anxiety and emotionally shut down.
I believe that high anxiety is likely a major growth barrier in many churches and church plants. Therefore, a leader shouldn’t just seek to camouflage his anxiety, but should learn to manage the struggles that confront him in a grounded and non-anxious way.
What ways have you seen toxic anxiety impact church leadership?
For more on this topic, check out the book entitled Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman. And for a short book review, check out this post on Todd Hiestand’s Blog.