There is a sobering leadership principle every leader needs to know. Often we learn it the hard way, so I think it might be helpful if I prepare you for it – in case you don’t know. The fact is:
Who you are in your private life impacts who you are in your public life.
These two parts cannot be separated from each other. There have been many who have tried to separate these two and keep them separated, but the result is watching their whole professional world come crashing down around them, because of something which was hidden in their private life. Many of us can recall leaders who have been significant to us publicly, but their demise was their private life. You can try to manage two identities – pretending in public everything is okay in private. And, it might work for a time…but it never works long-term.
We all have a public life to our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, social media followers, etc. If we are to have an influence in these realms just mentioned, then your leadership comes with a platform. There will be times you step on your platform and you will have the opportunity to make a difference with those around you. Platforms are made for you to “step up.” Some are bigger than others. But they are made for you to be “elevated.” To my introverted friends, don’t let that word scare you. Sometimes that is a literal elevation as you step onto a stage. But we have relational platforms that God gives us to inspire and influence those around us. When you give your opinion, when you talk about your expertise, when you pray, when you encourage, when you talk about what’s in the Bible, when you reassure and when you give advice, you are being seen and heard by those around you. And whether you want to believe it or not, you have an opportunity to influence; and that makes you a leader and leaders have a platform. What I’m saying is, all of us have a public life that others are observing and being impacted by.
And all of us have a private life…that we are impacted by. This is the real you. The collective whole of your thoughts, choices and values. This is the real me. It’s the “who you are when no one is looking” you. UCLA Coach Wooden says, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” We usually tend to be on our best behavior when others are listening and watching us. But who we are when no one is watching and listening to us is where character comes in. That’s why the value of living a consistent life of privately and publicly are critical. Not just critical but inseparable. It’s a medical impossibility to cut you in half and expect both of you to live. You can’t be separated from yourself. The private you and public you are forever joined together! And how you navigate these two areas are massively critical to your personal, professional, relational and spiritual success!
Who you really are will ultimately be discovered. Jesus made that clear when He was speaking with His disciples,
“For there is nothing hidden which will not be disclosed” – Jesus (Mark 4:22)
The only real, sustainable solution to having a successful public life is by continually working to protect and improve your private life. Your Inner world is not meant to disqualify you. It’s always meant to define you. The inventory of your personal mission, vision, values and virtues form the true you the world is waiting for.Character isn’t formed from options but from opposition (because we tend to take path of least resistance versus most resistance). If it’s hard for you right now, that’s a good thing. If this self-examination is hard then you are in the right place and the right time right now. Here’s
Here’s the big question for you and me:
What in your private life has the potential to sabotage your public life? And, what are you going to do about it?
5 ways to build a private life to sustain a stronger public life:
ONE. If you don’t believe it privately, they won’t believe you publicly.
Conviction is everything. That’s why defining your values matter when creating a strong private life. You will always make decisions based on what you value most. When you identify your values, you identify your choices. If you privately value honesty, then you will publicly choose to not lie. If you privately value respect, then you will publicly choose to esteem those over you, etc. What you value shows me what you believe. What you find worthless you will ignore it. Make a list of what you personally value and use these values as guiderails in your decision-making.
Discover your virtues. Your virtues are what you find morally excellent and what you would celebrate as an admirable quality in a person. Make a list of people in your life who have virtues that you would describe as a “good quality human being.” Then write down what is it in them that put them on their list. Those qualities are also virtues you are not only drawn to but are in some way important to you.
At the center of the crossroads of your virtues and values is your convictions. In the center of your passion about it and your actions towards it are your convictions because of it. Your conviction will always be the evidence of what you really believe. Use these convictions as guiderails to live a consistent life and be the example God is calling you to be.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
TWO. Your reputation is who you are in the presence of others but your character is who you are in the presence of God
We put a lot of emphasis on our reputations. Why? Because we all have one. Your reputation is the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something. There is a public opinion about you whether you believe it or not. And unfortunately, we care about that opinion. We care about what others think. It’s human nature so you’re not alone when you feel the pressure of what others think about you.
We can easily go to Jesus and look at people thought about his reputation. Jesus had a reputation to some that He was part of the family of Mary and Joseph, a rabbi and the Savior of the world. To others, He was a false prophet, a liar and a friend of sinners. Jesus chose to make Himself of no reputation. See below,
“[Jesus] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:7-8 NKJV
When it comes to reputation, He chose to not allow what others thought about Him to control Him. That’s why Jesus did something that we can all do as we are learning to align our public and private life: He valued what God thought about Him and His ministry more than what the others thought about Him and His ministry. In the midst of an itinerary going from city to city speaking, feeding the homeless and less fortunate, caring for family and friends, He chose to value the presence of God more than the value of the presence of others. We are reminded of the instances when the disciples were looking for Jesus so He could step onto his platform and be the leader, be the communicator, be the bringer of ideas, be the leader, etc. But when they were looking for Him, He wasn’t to be found. He was with God. It says in the Bible,
‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus gave priority to his private life by valuing the presence of God more than the presence of others. An indicator of building a strong public and private life is having a quality prayer life. Get alone with God. The needs of the people around you will always be there. Those closest to you will always want you close to them. The demands of the busy life will always beckon to you. But Jesus understood that the pressures, the opinions, the harassment, the needs and the mission were dependent on aligning his private life with God.
THREE. There will come a point when God’s private intention for you moves to God’s public recognition of you
There is an intense intentionality to your private life that God values. And I’ve come to realize before there is a public recognition of you there’s always a private intention by God to make you into who you’re supposed to be. The intentionality that God is giving to your life can seem like there’s no intentionality to it at all. As a matter of fact, it can feel like it’s random that is happening to your life than reason. But it’s the times when we have it the hardest, when God is speaking the loudest. Or when we are in the obscure and seen less, that God is with us the most and is doing His best work in us and through us.
The battles to overcome seem to be the battle of the mind and the heart. David battled bears and lions in private. In the field alone. The ferocious and fiercest battles we face will be the ones we face by ourselves. When no one is home, when you are away, when no one is looking and when no one is there to help. These wrestling matches bear the scars of these ferocious battles that sunk their teeth into your soul. You asked for help and it didn’t come. You prayed to God to take away the wild beast the seemed to circle you and that was planning to pounce at just the right moment only to find that your prayers didn’t seem to be answered. You fought anyway. You battled anyhow. And you have the scars to prove it. But while you ponder and ask the question of why I had to battle alone, you realize now, that those scars and those victories were necessary. Because when you face the giant in front of you in front of others, you are reminded of what you learned in secret, alone with no one there to help you: God helped me defeat these beasts when I was by myself, surely I can face this giant in public.
34 “David replied to Saul, “Your servant has been a shepherd for his father’s flock. Whenever a lion or bear would come and carry off a sheep from the flock, 35 I would go out after it, strike it down, and rescue the sheep from its mouth. If it rose up against me, I would grab it by its jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36 Your servant has struck down both the lion and the bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them. For he has defied the armies of the living God!” 37 David went on to say, “The Lord who delivered me from the lion and the bear will also deliver me from the hand of this Philistine!” - 1 Samuel 17:34-37
David’s platform was in front of Israel. And when he faced the pressure of fighting the giant in public, he remained standing while Saul crumbled under the weight of it. The result was a platform that echoed, “Saul slayed his thousands and David his tens of thousands!” (I Samuel 18:7). Slaying giants in front of others could only be accomplished by fighting bears and lions alone. The battles you face in private gives you the strength to win in public.
FOUR. Secret devotion is rewarded in the open
Jesus said in Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” The purpose you give to your prayer life, your quiet time and your devotional life has an outward effect on your public life. Being by yourself with God has an effect on your inner man like nothing else can. The more secure you are with God the less insecure you are with people. So, get comfortable with your creator. Find that place with God not because you “have to” but because you “get to” be with the one who loves you most.
The word “closet” that Jesus uses in Matthew 6:6, tameion, is defined as a “secret chamber”, a place where a person may retire for privacy, or a place for storage (like a closet). These concepts unmistakably emphasize that this place should be private and cut off from the comings and goings of the household. It should be a place where the world can be shut out. And in a hyper-connected world, the need for a place that is “cut off” has never been more relevant. Because privacy fosters honesty, and honesty fosters relationship.
In this part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is talking about outward righteousness and inner righteousness. He speaks of how the Pharisees pray out loud, in public, so that people will see their “spiritual awesomeness” and be impressed. Jesus says that “they already have their reward” (Matthew 6:5), meaning that praise from men is all they will receive for this action. Jesus, in contrast teaches his followers to “go into their closet” to pray, so that they will receive no praise from people. If no praise is received from people, then our reward is from the Father instead – a much better reward! Your secret devotion removes the “trying to impress” element with others, working the room to “schmooz” and positioning yourself at the table to be noticed by the right people. When you begin caring more about what others think about you, you end up caring less about what God thinks about you. IN the Secret place, the only one that notices you is God. The only voice that you need to hear is God’s. And that’s all that matters.
Five. Collect an arsenal of habits
Leaders have platforms because they have fought to get there. These kings and queens frequent the blacksmith shop of their own kingdoms where they’ve been forging and sharpening into strength in the heat and in the smoke of the fires of their own public pressures collecting weaponry to add to their own leadership arsenal. Because the time will come when the enemy of your private life will attack you, your values, your relationships and your future and you need these weapons to stop this adversary dead in its tracks. This collection of protection and security that you have at your disposal is this: your habits. Becoming the best version of yourself in your public life requires you to be continuously refining your private life. And the best way to do that is with your own personal disciplines. You don’t have to be the casualty of your circumstances but instead, be the creator of your circumstances.
Your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you hope to become. They are guiderails to your private life to help you develop the deepest beliefs and convictions about yourself. Here’s the point, you become your habits. These disciplines become who you are; they become your identity. James Clear from Atomic Habits, puts it this way,
“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.” -James Clear
Obviously, it goes without saying, that the more positive disciplines you develop, the easier it becomes for you to do the right thing. Because when your behavior lines up with your identity, you stop trying to become the person you wish you were, and you start acting like the person you believe you are.
Goals are good at revealing destination but habits are good at giving direction. If you are the sum total of the 5 people you spend the most time with, you are also the sum total of the 5 habits you spend the most time doing. Good disciplines bring each day an opportunity while bad disciplines bring each day adversity. Every good habit you start and keep is a small move towards the person you hope to become. A very miniscule changes in direction leads to a very meaningful change in destination. It’s not one single instance but these daily choices will continue to move you closer and closer to becoming who you know you are.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Any thoughts you have?