The Leader and Emotion: Fear

We all face situations that bring fear. Fear can be a very natural response to a situation that presents danger or harm to us. Our bodies react instinctively either to flee or fight. David also experienced fear.

1 Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; 2 hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught 3 because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. 4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. 5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me… 22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. 23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you (Psalm 55:1-5, 22-23).

David faced his fear and learned to overcome this powerful emotion and he guides servant leaders on their own journeys with fear.

Fear should be recognized. David recognizes his emotion. “Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” David’s enemies are speaking against him and making threats. The natural response is to be afraid and David recognizes this fear which was overwhelming to him.

Leaders often believe the lie that strong people should not experience fear. So, they find it very difficult to identify the emotion of fear and may call it anger, worry or something else. But servant leaders learn to recognize fear and are not ashamed to admit, “I am afraid.” They know that they won’t correctly respond to fear until they can name it.

Fear should be revealed. As David recognizes his fear he reveals it to God. As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” David revealed his fear to God three times a day!

When servant leaders recognize their fear and reveal it, they can begin to process it more thoughtfully as David did. They can examine the fear to determine if it is a rational fear that will keep them from danger or they may find that it is an irrational fear that is crippling and harmful based on false or incomplete information.

Servant leaders learn to reveal fear, but they are careful to reveal it to the right persons. Certainly, as David did, it is appropriate to reveal the fear to God, not because He is unaware, but because we need to acknowledge it! But it is often helpful as well to reveal our fear to someone else. Servant leaders look for others who will help them deal correctly with their fear. They avoid revealing it to those who will only increase the fear.

Fear should be restrained. David shows leaders that fear does not need to control our leadership. He concludes this Psalm with hope. “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you… But as for me, I trust in you.” David learns to bring his fears to God and to learn to trust instead of fear.

Fear can cripple a leader and make it difficult to move forward. The fear may be real when a serious threat is experienced. Or it may be an imagined fear of what others will think that keeps a leader from making a difficult decision. David teaches servant leaders that the solution to fear is trust! He chooses to focus on God during his fear and this frees him to trust in God. David realizes that God may not literally remove all the things he fears, but God will not let him be shaken.

Servant leaders learn to restrain their fear. They say to themselves and those they lead, “Our fear is with us, but our God is bigger than our fears.” Servant leaders turn fear into trust and lead on!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • What do I fear most often? Is my fear a rational fear to keep me safe or is it irrational? If irrational, what is the reality?
  • When I am afraid, am I able to reveal this appropriately to others or do I try to hide it? Who is or could be a helpful person to whom I can reveal my fear?
  • How significantly is my leadership shaped by fear? Am I able to openly admit my fear as David did? Do I regularly choose to turn my fear into trust? How do I communicate this to others?


Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

The Leader and Emotion: Guilt

Leaders fail!

Paul’s declaration that “All have sinned….” (Romans 3:23) certainly includes leaders. And sin produces the emotion of guilt which is not a pleasant feeling!

David experienced guilt after committing adultery with Bathsheba. His sin was more public than most and David wrote openly about his guilt.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness (Psalm 51:1-3; 12-14).

Guilt should be recognized. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” David recognized he needed cleansing because of his guilt. This recognition took a long time for David, coming only after a rebuke from the prophet Nathan, months after his sin.

His story illustrates the power of our minds to justify sin after we have done wrong. We want to avoid the emotion of guilt because when we recognize guilt, we must acknowledge our wrongdoing. Our minds will provide many reasons that we are not guilty or convince us that what we are feeling is not actually guilt.

But servant leaders learn to recognize guilt as a gift from God to lead them to repentance.

Guilt should be revealed. David revealed his guilt in writing and we still read it centuries after his sin! Guilt is not an easy emotion to reveal. The emotion of guilt brings a quick temptation to ignore it or hide it from self and others. To reveal the emotion of guilt is to admit wrong and no one enjoys confession. But the emotion of guilt carries a purpose, to bring repentance. Repentance can’t happen until guilt is revealed. Ignoring guilt only leads to greater guilt!

Leaders are tempted more than others to hide their guilt since their leadership reputation is at stake. Followers often expect leaders to be perfect and leaders who don’t reveal their guilt encourage this expectation. Leaders who won’t admit guilt often hypocritically point fingers at the mistakes others. They think that if others look guilty, they look better!

But servant leaders learn to reveal their guilt appropriately. Sometimes guilt needs to be acknowledged privately. But many times guilt needs to be shared with another person or a group. Servant leaders learn from David not to hide their guilt.

Guilt should be restrained. Unresolved guilt can cripple a leader. The enemy will whisper that we can’t lead when we have sinned. But David says, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways.” David confessed his sin and then allowed his guilt to open up more doors for influence. He recognized that a leader who has gone through the brokenness of confession and repentance becomes a stronger leader.

A leader’s repentance brings greater compassion and empathy for others who fail. Leaders who experience God’s grace can extend God’s grace to others. Servant leaders learn to restrain their guilt so that it does not hinder their leadership but enhances it. They recognize and reveal their mistakes and then move on, leading with greater compassion and grace.

May God enable each of us, like David, to lead with grace when we experience guilt.


Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what situation recently did I experience guilt? How did I respond and in what way was my response similar or different than David’s?
  • When I am guilty, in what ways does my mind justify what I have done? How can I be freed from this pattern of thinking?
  • In what situations do I need to reveal my guilt to others? What makes this difficult for me?
  • Are there times when I feel a “false” sense of guilt because of the expectations of others? What is God saying to me about how to respond to this guilt?
  • Are there situations in which a leader should stop leading, at least temporarily, because of guilt? What situations would call for this step and how can it be done with grace? Have I discussed this issue with key leaders on my team so that we are in agreement before this situation arises? If not, when can I initiate this conversation?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.