Are You an Emotionally Healthy Leader?

Are You an Emotionally Healthy Leader?

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“Be sure to secure your own mask before assisting others.” You’ve heard this instruction about oxygen masks every time you are waiting for your airplane to take off. Is it just me, or does this just rub you the wrong way, too?

Hopefully you have been trained to help others and desire to put others before yourself (Ro. 12:3, 10), especially when it comes to your own children! If my child needs oxygen, I don’t want to be messing around with my own mask while my son is passing out. What kind of father would I be?

But I get it. I can’t help someone else if I have just passed out myself.

This is Peter Scazzero’s premise in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader. It should go without saying that I cannot take care of others if I am not even fit to take care of myself.

The Need To Recharge and Refresh

As much as Jesus preached about serving others (Mk. 10:43-45), He also understood the need to recharge and refresh with a good, healthy balance (Lk. 5:16, Mk. 6:31).

Scazzero says, “It wasn’t until I understood that these beneath-the-surface components of my life had not been transformed by Jesus that I discovered the inseparable link between emotional health and spiritual maturity – that it is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”[1]

Jesus explains this principle as well when speaking of the greatest commandments – “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30 ESV). Our bodies are a conglomerated mess of physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual elements. All are intertwined and depend upon one another. Growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus must involve maturity in all of these areas.

Are You an Unhealthy Leader?

It is very common to speak about burnout, especially among pastoral circles. Burnout – physical or emotional exhaustion caused by busyness, stress, frustration, and the like – can happen to anyone. Jesus knew this, calling us to find our rest in Him (Mt. 11:28-30).

Jesus calls us to find our rest in Him. – Kurt Lang Share on X

Characteristics of an unhealthy leader include low self-awareness, prioritizing ministry over marriage/singleness (your own life priorities), doing more activity for God than your relationship with God can sustain, and an improper work/Sabbath rhythm.[2]

Has burnout, or unhealthy leadership, characterized you at any time? Does it speak of you now?

“The emotionally unhealthy leader is someone who operates in a continuous state of emotional and spiritual deficit, lacking emotional maturity and a ‘being with God’ sufficient to sustain their ‘doing for God.’”[3]

“Being” over “Doing”

In his book, The Call, Os Guinness speaks of being and doing in his description of our primary and secondary calling. God calls us, first and foremost, into a relationship with Him. We are called to be His child and live in His Presence. Secondarily, in order and importance, is our call to do – to show to others through our word and deed, who is this God of ours. We are to know Him (know who we are in Him) and then make Him known (declare Him to others.)[4]

Scazzero uses the picture of a tree to exemplify the aspects of the inner (being) and outer (doing) life. The inner life is our foundation, the roots of the tree underground that others cannot see but that are vitally important to the life of the tree. The outer life is the branches, leaves and fruit above ground that are visible to the world around us. When the roots are healthy, the tree will be lush and full, overflowing with fruit.

Are You Healthy?

Jesus reminds us that we must focus on ourselves and our relationship with Him first. Then, and only then, will anything we do for Him find meaning.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Don’t let Jesus’ description speak of you. Let your roots grow deep in Him, so that the fruit you offer to others will be healthy and sweet.

”Let your roots grow deep in Jesus. – Kurt Lang Share on X

Fasten your seat belt low and tight across your waist. Then sit back and enjoy the ride! Always remember, in this relationship with Jesus, you are the passenger. Let Jesus fly the plane. He will get you safely to your destination.

Learn more about how you can avoid stress and burnout, and provide a healthy example for others, by enrolling in Artios Christian College’s LEA 211 The Leader’s Emotional Health course.


[1] Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team and the World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 17.

[2] Scazzero, 27-32.

[3] Scazzero, 25.

[4] Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose for Your Life (Nashville: W Publishing, 2018), 61.

Kurt Lang
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Kurt Lang has served as the National Youth Director of his denomination, General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) from 1997 - 2015. He continues to serve as Pastor of his small church in Eugene, Oregon. Kurt's favorite verse is John 3:30, "He must increase, and I must decrease." This is his daily goal and challenge, to step out of the way and let Jesus lead!