Emotional and Spiritual Health in Leadership
By Tim Dolan (DMin '94)
I recently had the opportunity to spend three weeks alone in a cabin on beautiful Puget Sound in Washington State participating in a three-week therapeutic "intensive." The purpose of this intensive (or "journey" as it is called) was to get away from normal everyday distractions to focus on some of the emotional and spiritual issues in my life, especially as they relate to my family of origin. Each morning during those three weeks I met for an hour and a half with a very skilled therapist/spiritual director. I then spent the rest of the day in solitude: taking long walks, writing in my journal, "talking" to significant others in my family of origin, and praying.
Imagine being alone in a cabin for almost three weeks with no cell phone, computer, internet, TV, movies, radio, magazines, newspapers, books (except the Bible), or any other distractions. You would think one would get bored and lonely pretty fast. But that was not the case for me. It was actually one of the most profound and moving experiences of my life. During those three weeks my therapist/spiritual director was able to help me feel, embrace, and express thoughts and feelings that had been long buried. I came to a much deeper awareness of who I am as a person and where I need to grow as a husband, father, Christian, and leader.
My experience on this intensive reminded me that being an emotionally and spiritually healthy Christian leader today is so vitally important and yet often so difficult. This is why I have come to the conviction that all leaders should have regular access to a skilled therapist and spiritual director. Pastors, especially early in their ministry, should have this included as part of their call. But all Christian leaders, in whatever ministry they do, can benefit from this kind of intentional, ongoing help and support. The need for this kind of support should not be viewed as a sign of weakness, but of strength. If we truly want healthy leaders, we must provide them the resources they need to become healthy and stay healthy.
Tim Dolan is assistant director for the Institute of Clergy and Lay Leadership at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.