2 Ways To Overcome Emotional Walls And Past Hurts

Don't let your hurts define your leadership

emotional walls

You’ve probably had people who hurt you before.

It seems like life is full of hurts and pains. Sometimes bad things happen to us at the hands of people we thought were our friends or people we thought we could trust. Life is built from a collection of hurts that we’ve experienced over time.

I know this is true for me.

One of the ongoing turmoils I deal with is emotional pain. Things from my past, both self-inflicted wounds and wounds created by those I trusted, come back to haunt me. If I’m not careful, these thoughts will bind up my life and my potential. The same applies to you.

Dealing with hurt is something that you battle with, and you must overcome. The things you go through will begin to build emotional walls around your heart. These  emotional walls serve to protect you and keep you safe from further hurt and pain from those you trust.


Frankly, I think it’s probably natural for these sorts of emotional walls to grow in your life. Who intends to be hurt over and over again by those you trust? Who intends to lose another friendship or be criticized or belittled by someone you love? I don’t know anyone who signs up for leadership hoping to be hurt.

So your life, like mine, is most likely constructed from emotional walls that serve to guard your heart against emotional pain, harsh, critical words, and demeaning actions that may come from a trusted friend, co-worker, or family member. You’d be crazy not to guard your emotions.

[clickToTweet tweet=”You can’t #lead people effectively from behind a protective emotional wall.” quote=”You can’t #lead people effectively from behind a protective emotional wall.” theme=”style2″]

But the thing is, you can’t lead people effectively from behind a protective emotional wall. They can’t hear you or see you clearly when you hide behind a wall to protect yourself. The fact is, leadership is made up of painful experiences. If you are going to lead people and be kind to them, you have to get ready and prepare your heart to feel hurt.

They can’t hear you or see you clearly when you hide behind an emotional wall to protect yourself. The fact is, leadership is made up of painful experiences. If you are going to lead people and be kind to them, you have to get ready and prepare your heart to feel hurt.

I think a good leader is regularly hurt by those they lead. Usually, people don’t hurt you on purpose. They don’t mean to say things that sting or undermine your efforts to serve them. People are fundamentally good; sometimes they just act before they think. Haven’t you been guilty of doing that before? I’m sure you have, I know I have.

How can a leader serve the injured with kindness and compassion, with empathy and love if to do so requires that they operate from behind a wall?

You cannot touch people that you cannot reach.

[clickToTweet tweet=”You cannot touch people that you cannot reach.” quote=”You cannot touch people that you cannot reach.” theme=”style2″]

So what is a leader to do? You have to break down your emotional walls and let people into the places of your life that seem most vulnerable. Honestly, this one thing is what stops most people from becoming the great leader they have the potential to be.

Jesus is a prime example of a man who was touchable. Everywhere he went, he put himself out there for people to access. Jesus held nothing back. When he encountered someone who was considered an outcast by society, Jesus wasn’t afraid to get close to them.

In fact, nearly all the miracles recorded about Jesus have physical touch or at least proximity associated with them. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get close to people. He knew that his mission in life and leadership would require personal sacrifice. If you are going to be a leader and touch people with love and kindness, proximity is the requirement.

People follow leaders that they can see up close. They want to know that the leader is real and that he or she understands them personally. You can’t be that kind of leader while you hide behind emotional walls.

The walls around your heart are not protecting you. They are keeping you from learning about people and coming close to those who you long to serve. The emotional walls you won’t deal with will eventually grow in every relationship you have. They will cut you off from those you care for and love. Leader or not, you don’t want to be a person who ends up separated from those you care for and those who care about you.

So how do you break down your emotional walls?

First of all, I believe you have to put yourself in positions that have the potential to hurt you.

This means that you have to start interacting with people. You have to open yourself up to them and let them see what you feel. Open up about who you really are.

I’ll be honest, writing this post isn’t very easy for me. There has been so much wall construction happening in my heart over the years. I’ve spent so much time trying to deconstruct what took years to build, but it is because I’ve realized that I’ll never be who I was created to be unless I deal with the walls in my heart.

You cannot be a leader inside a vacuum. It just doesn’t work that way.

Secondly, you need to allow God to have complete access to your heart.

Don’t try to hold anything back from him. For me, this has meant that I had to be real with God.

Most people aren’t real with God because they think there is a formula for what they should say to him. It’s like they think God only responds to people who know how to say the right words all the time. Let me assure you; God isn’t like that.

God is looking for the hurting, the needy, the discouraged, and his number one goal is to lift you up. He already knows about the stuff in your heart, so go ahead and be real with God. Pray for real. Tell him when you’re angry or upset. Allow God to get into the places that you’d normally keep people out of because doing so is the only way he can be close enough to fix what is wrong.

You can absolutely become the leader you desire to be and influence people. You’ll do it by tearing down your emotional walls. If this scares you, good, because you will never become the person you are meant to be, while living behind the walls surrounding your heart.

I’d love to connect with you more.

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One Habit That Will Immediately Improve Your Relationships

How the art of being a lid lifter can change your life

How to become a lid lifter

So yesterday I was unloading supplies at our church, and something caught my attention.

It was a little sticker on top of a chili can, and it made me stop and think. As soon as I saw the sticker, I knew God was reminding me of something, and I decided to blog about it.

Here’s the sticker…


I want to remind you that you are a lid lifter in someone’s life. Even if you feel discouraged yourself, one of the best ways to overcome discouragement is to start lifting another person’s lid.

[clickToTweet tweet=”One of the best ways to overcome discouragement is to start lifting another person’s lid.” quote=”One of the best ways to overcome discouragement is to start lifting another person’s lid.” theme=”style2″]

Everyone has “handles” in their life that serve as places where we can pick people up. How many times have you felt like you needed a lift, but there was no one there to lift you? If you’ve ever felt that way, why not be the solution to another person’s problem and lift them up.

Maybe an encouraging word would serve to lift them up just a bit…give one.
If lending them a hand at work would help…give a hand.
Even if you can’t see what to do to help someone, maybe just say a prayer for them and then tell them you did.

People just want to be encouraged and lifted when life beats them down, so why not be the person who makes a difference and does these things? It usually requires a small amount time but makes a world of difference.

Here’s what I hope you will do today:

Look for the “pull tabs” in someone’s life.

Look for those places in their life you can use to open them up and breathe in a breath of fresh air. Sometimes people bottle up their pressures and problems until they reach the exploding point. If you are close to someone, take some time today to help them release the tension they have. If you care about them, you don’t want to see them explode.

Look for the “handles” in someone’s life.

If you take the time to look close enough, you’ll see the “handles” you can use to lift someone up. Be willing to do this, because one day you’ll need lifting too. Planting seeds of kindness, help, and love, in someone’s life, will always create a harvest that comes back. When you help others out of a genuine heart of kindness, it’ll come back to you multiplied.

Look for ways to be a lid lifter.

I first remember reading this term in a John Maxwell leadership book. It made a great impression on me, because up to that point, I only focused on myself mostly. What a pointless way to live…just focused on yourself. Putting other people first makes you feel good and offers you a way to input God’s love into their life. So look for ways to lift someone’s lid today.

Let me ask you a question:
How much would it mean to you if someone came along and helped you out today? It might mean the difference between quitting or continuing.

If you want to improve all of your relationships, be a lid lifter.

You can’t help everybody, but you can always help somebody.
Be the difference. Be a lid lifter.

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How to be a strong leader by putting others first

The power of celebration

Celebrating wins

When most people think about leadership, one of the first things that comes to mind is competition.

The feeling of being better than everyone else can be addicting. In fact, you’ve probably been the victim of misdirected competition. In and of itself, competition is not a bad thing. It helps you to overcome obstacles and pushes you forward. Competitive people usually have a slight edge over those who are not very competitive.

My argument is not that competition is wrong. Competition is easily misdirected and has the tendency to hurt people when used incorrectly. So a leader, one who really has the needs of other people in mind, should use caution when the competitive spirit leaps upon them.

You’ve seen people, and leaders, who couldn’t stand to lose at anything. Every conversation either turns into an argument or a brag session about their accomplishments. Most of us have seen leaders who, inadvertently, sabotage other organizations or even those underneath their own leadership because they have such a strong desire to compete and win. Many of these leaders may not even realize that they are undermining their own efforts to lead people, every single time they launch out into competition.

So…if competition can be so volatile to a leader’s leadership, what is the cure? And for those who may be afraid that they are too competitive, how should they react?

If you are a leader who really wants to lead with kindness and put others first, I think the answer to an overly competitive spirit is very simple:

Celebrate someone else’s win.

Certainly, it isn’t possible to celebrate every win of every person who comes under your leadership. Actually, you probably won’t know about every win that the people you lead experience; but that’s not the point. The point is, when you hear that someone experienced a great win in their life or work…even in their personal life and family, you as the leader need to find a way to celebrate their win.

Don’t fall into the trap of automatically turning on your competitive spirit. Don’t allow yourself to think, “I could’ve done that a long time ago, and probably done it better.” Don’t allow yourself to immediately begin comparing yourself with others.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Kind leaders genuinely place the wins of people on a pedestal and celebrate with them and for them” quote=”Kind leaders genuinely place the wins of people on a pedestal and celebrate with them and for them”]

Why do kind leaders do this? For one, they care genuinely about other people more than they care about themselves. But kind leaders also recognize that whatever seeds they plant will eventually grow in their own lives too. They know that when they celebrate others, they won’t have to celebrate their own wins because other people will do that for them too.

The competitive spirit usually seeks to gain glory and show itself off. It wants other people to view how great it is; but leadership isn’t about how great you are, it’s about how great you can make other people. Influence happens when you make other people great. We are immediately drawn to those who put us first.

Let me just say that this should never be used as a tool to manipulate people’s feelings. In fact, you cannot celebrate someone’s win with the wrong motives. Your motives will always shine through. Leadership by its very nature puts the leader in a spotlight that exposes motives and plans. So be careful and check your heart as you celebrate someone’s win with them and for them.

Celebrating someone’s win is a powerful way to solidify your leadership in their life:

It lets people know that you care about them.

When you put the wins other people make, out front, it let’s them know that they are valued. They understand that you care about them enough to show off their success. Leading with kindness makes a much greater impact on people than leading from the leverage point of fear or power. People don’t like leaders who lead out of fear and power. When they have the chance to stop following them, they will. But when you lead out of kindness and put other people’s wins center stage, they know that you didn’t have to do it. You chose to do it.

It motivates them to win again.

Celebrating someone’s win is a strong motivator to push forward, work harder, get up from a fall, and win again. We all crave acceptance and favor. I believe God made us this way. When you as a leader celebrate with someone, they get a sense that you value what they accomplished and they will want to win again and again.

It builds a relational bridge.

If you want to build relationships with people as their leader, there isn’t a much more powerful way to do that than genuinely celebrating the things that they do right. When you praise someone’s work, they will want to know you better. When you mention their name and connect it with accomplishment, they will seek out your friendship. You as a leader gain the opportunity to pour into a person’s life when you open the door to their heart through celebrating their wins.

We’ve all found ourselves on the flip side of this at one time or another. Maybe you put your heart into coming up with a great idea, only to have someone else (the leader) take your idea and claim it as their own, giving you no credit at all. Now, you probably aren’t working for the credit; but the credit is still nice to have…right?

Let me ask you a question…when a leader doesn’t seem to recognize your hard work or care about what you’ve accomplished for his or her organization, how does that make you feel? Not. Good.

The statement has been made, and I believe it, that people don’t quit organizations. People quit people. People quit leaders who compete against their work and seek to undermine their gifting. If you are a leader, you need to recognize that you are stifling the abilities of those you lead every time you fall into the competitive spirit trap.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Influence happens when you make other people great.” quote=”Influence happens when you make other people great.”]

Here are just a few ways to celebrate someone else’s win:

  • Congratulate them personally.


  • Speak well of their accomplishment publicly


  • Talk good about them “behind their back”.

Obviously, the most important aspect of celebrating someone’s win is the simple recognition you give. Always choose to celebrate. Celebrating wins will make a huge difference in your level of influence with others and in the life of the one you build up by doing it.

How to transform your leadership with one neglected action

The power of reading in a leader's life

Leaders are readers.

This is a very popular statement in many circles and with some audiences; and to be clear, I believe it’s true.


Not all readers are leaders. Even among those who hold a position of leadership in some organization, in many cases, the leader reads simply to say they have read. I have lost count on the number of times I’ve heard something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, I read that not too long ago.”

Some read, only to say they’ve read.

If  you are a leader, then reading is an imperative value that needs to be cultivated in your life; but not so that you can simply say you have glanced over the information contained in a certain book.

[clickToTweet tweet=”If you are a leader, then reading is an imperative value that needs to be cultivated in your life” quote=”If you are a leader, then reading is an imperative value that needs to be cultivated in your life” theme=”style3″]

For the leader, reading should be much more than a simple transfer of information. Reading should be about inspiration for the leader; and more importantly, reading should lead to transformation.

Learning isn’t about facts, and figures. We call this memorization;  and memorization has its place; but for the leader, learning involves doing things differently. Learning has to do with the transfer of great ideas, and  strategies; and once the transfer has been made, learning that comes from reading always transforms the reader.

I have books on my shelf that I’ve already read, and reread, and re-reread. Why? Because they didn’t just impart information to me; but they made an impression on me. When a leader reads a book that makes a solid impression on him or her, it is a clue that they need to revisit the book over and over.

[clickToTweet tweet=”When a leader reads a book that makes a solid impression on him or her, they need to revisit the book over and over.” quote=”When a leader reads a book that makes a solid impression on him or her, they need to revisit the book over and over.” theme=”style3″]

Quality books are not just filled with words used to take up space, they contain principles that can be transferred. Principles are not fully understood or put into practice in a leader’s life over night. Sometimes it takes years to grasp the amazing principles you can gain from reading a book that stirs you.

Now, not every book will impact you in the same way. Some, we read and put away. They contain great information and substance; but they didn’t move you in the way other books have.

But when you find a book that moves you, grasp hold of it and don’t let it go. Chances are good a book like that has power to transform you as a leader.



[clickToTweet tweet=”Leaders are readers; but not every reader is a leader. ” quote=”Leaders are readers; but not every reader is a leader. ” theme=”style3″]

Leaders are readers; but not every reader is a leader.

I have a couple of questions for you:

  • Is your leadership better from the time you’ve invested reading?
  • What books have made a transformational impact on your own leadership?
  • Are there books that you revisit over and over again? What are they?

Here’s a few that have impacted my own leadership (some are older, others more recent):

  1. Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend

  2. The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization

  3. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence For Every Believer (Commitment To Spiritual Growth)

  4. The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership: The Power of Leading from Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength

  5. The Power of Vision: Discover and Apply God’s Plan for Your Life and Ministry

  6. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

  7. It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership

  8. Eisenhower on Leadership: Ike’s Enduring Lessons in Total Victory Management

  9. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You


For further reading about the topic of leadership, read these posts:

Simple Leadership: 5 Great Ways To Bring Simplicity To Your Leadership

How To Improve Your Leadership By Leading With Integrity

How to lead others in a way that helps their hurts and makes their life better

Part 3 in a blog series about leading with kindness

Leading with empathy

Connect to others through empathy.

People just want to be understood

When is the last time you experienced hurt or pain?

Was it during the midst of a struggle emotionally? Did you have all of the answers? Probably not. Most likely, you wished that someone was able to see deep inside of your heart and understand what you were going through.

You already knew that answers weren’t always possible; but it would’ve been so nice in that moment for someone to simply take the time to understand, or at least put in the effort to know what you were feeling.

It really means the world to those going through tough situations, hurt, or even physical pain, if you can put in the effort to see things through their eyes; and that is exactly what having empathy does.

Empathy allows you to see what someone else is seeing and do your best to feel what they feel. It is putting yourself in their place and trying to understand why they made the decisions they did; or seeking to know the reason the feel the way they do. Empathy is not easy, especially if you’ve never actually been in the place where the person you’re seeking to empathize with is at.

But, for a leader, it’s necessary to put in the effort to empathize. Why? Because a genuine leader wants to know what the people they’re leading feel. They want to come to a place where they can lead their followers better. To do this, you have to understand where people are at; and where they are coming from. Empathy helps you do this.

[clickToTweet tweet=”A genuine leader wants to know what the people they’re leading feel.” quote=”A genuine leader wants to know what the people they’re leading feel.” theme=”style3″]

In the last post, we talked about compassion, and certainly we need to have it; but truthfully, it is nearly impossible to have real compassion for another person if you are not actively trying to understand their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

A leader worth his or her salt will care how other people feel. They will seek to lead them based on empathy.

Now, with this being said…Are there moments when the person you’re seeking to influence needs to change they way they feel? Yes. Just because a person feels a certain way, doesn’t necessarily makes their feelings correct; but for a leader who wants to lead with kindness, before you try to change people, you have to seek to understand them.

As it has been aptly stated, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Empathizing with people shows this care.

Leaders care how others feel

Put yourself in someone’s place

This is one of the most basic rules of empathy.

To understand someone, you have to get into their shoes to some degree.

How do you do that?

Of the several ways this can be accomplished, two of the best are to be aware of other people’s feelings; and being sensitive to their feelings.

Being aware of something is to simply know that it exists.

Far too often, leaders don’t have a clue when it comes to the feelings of those they are trying to lead; but how can you lead someone to a new place if they are hurting and don’t want to move?

You can’t. There are moments when a leader’s best intuition should be to stop and help those they are trying to lead. Maybe you cannot actually help them, maybe their problems are too great or there is no real answer; but at the very least, as a leader you need to be aware.

Being aware of someone’s hurt is kind; and if you want to influence others for their good, then kindness is what you need. Empathy shows kindness.

In fact, a leader without awareness won’t be able to lead for long. He or she will eventually run into something that takes them out.

Another way to lead people with kindness and show empathy is through being sensitive to their feelings. This takes awareness a step further. It is not just knowing that a hurt, pain, or problem exists; but it is making sure you don’t gouge it with your words and actions.

[clickToTweet tweet=”No one wants someone to lead them who doesn’t care about how they feel.” quote=”No one wants someone to lead them who doesn’t care about how they feel.” theme=”style3″]

I’ve been there, and I’m sure you have too, when a leader actually said or did something that made your emotional pain worse. Leaders are supposed to do everything they can to heal the hurts of those they lead. As a leader, being sensitive is something you need to learn. It is a skill that will help you effectively lead people who are dealing with hurt.

People are drawn to empathy

When a leader shows a real care and concern for the hurting, people will naturally gravitate towards him or her.

Why does this happen?

For two reasons…

First of all, we want to be near those who understand our hurt because they are in a unique place to help us. Second, people who are not hurting are drawn to a leader who shows empathy because they sense a care and concern in the leader and they want to be associated with a leader who helps and serves others.

As with compassion, a leader doesn’t show empathy to gain followers; but the end result is the same. People flock to those who are more about others than they are about themselves. A leader cannot lose by having empathy for people.

No one wants someone to lead them who doesn’t care about how they feel.

How to win with others

Here’s what to do

Empathy takes work and practice. It isn’t easy to feel what others feel, especially if you’ve never been there. With that being said, there is still something you can do to become a better empathizer.

Here it is:

Get close to those who are hurting.

The best way to start feeling the hurts of those you lead is to get close enough to them to see what they’re going through. It is much easier to identify with someone when you are near their pain.

When you are near someone’s pain, you see all that they are going through. You start to put yourself in their place. When you can see and empathize with the emotional, physical, or spiritual hurts of people, you’re in a place where you can begin to help them.

Being a leader is all about helping those you lead.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Being a leader is all about helping those you lead.” quote=”Being a leader is all about helping those you lead.” theme=”style3″]

The words of scripture are very clear about what God seeks to do for us…In Psalms 147:3 the Bible says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Now, you may not have the power to heal; but you certainly have the ability to bind up a wound.

Leaders who lead with kindness do this through empathy. It makes people feel heard and validated when others take the time to place themselves in someone else’s shoes.

So, who are you getting close to?

In your leadership, do you make time for hurting people, or do you simply cast them aside as casualties and liabilities?

Genuine leaders want to get close enough to others to help bind up their hurts and feel their pain.


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