Who are you when the heat is on, and how do you show up in the world during those challenging times? Do you accept responsibility and stay centered in your spiritual source of strength, or do you come apart and start to blame or attack those who you encounter? By contemplating the answers to these questions, we can learn much about the base from which we operate, and whether we are truly open and receptive to the full spectrum of life’s lessons.
It was once said that, “who we are is ultimately revealed, not in times of comfort, but in times of great adversity”. Often, we like to think that we have it all together, when we really don’t. Wanting to present our best self to the world, we distort our self-image to serve our own ego needs, not necessarily because we are bad people, but because we are confused about who we are, and afraid of what others will think of us if we cease to hold the mask of togetherness to our face.
Holding ourselves together is easy when we are comfortable in a situation, but it is much harder to maintain that composure and sense of self-control when the situation challenges us in a big way and calls for courage in action. Adversity has a pointed way of melting the mask that we think we are. Getting at the very core of who we are at our particular stage of evolution, it brings to the surface those shadow elements that we would rather hide from. Revealing both our shortcomings and the dormant seeds of our giftedness, these forms of resistance bring us into contact with our highest potential that is intimately connected to our deepest pain. Placing them in front of our eyes for our earnest reconciliation, we are forced to stand naked before the world, and the mirror of self-reflection.
Without confronting ourselves in this real way, we cannot become leaders in our own life. When I think of the quote mentioned above, it speaks to me of the virtue of integrity, which is being who you know yourself to be, and showing up in the same way, regardless of what you are being faced with in your external environment. These elements of authenticity and calm consistency are the markers of truly great leaders. Who these individuals are in the backstage portions of their lives, is the same as who they are in the public eye. Not duplicitous in nature, the people who follow them know what to expect in their presence and this engenders trust, respect and loyalty. Guided by consciousness, these individuals promise a refuge from the storm those most fear will overcome them.
While no one can deliver this entirely due to the many facets of the environment that are unpredictable and beyond our control, the best chance lay in the man or woman who has learned as much from their intuition and innate wisdom as they have from education and practical experience in the physical world. To live with this inspired congruity, we must do the inner work before the outer rewards will come to fruition. Not flowing to the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hydes of this world, it is our inner conflicts that we need to resolve before we can hope to settle the outer conflicts that divide us on so many levels.
When we attempt to resolve conflict in the world without having first resolved our own inner conflict, we make matters worse rather than better. Having the best intentions to do good, they are no match for those shadow elements of our character that lead us to say one thing and do another. True it is that the road to ruin is paved with good intentions. To move collectively towards enlightenment in the world, we must grow to become responsive to the promptings of our spirit, even when life is not visibly testing us. This is the work of the leader, which we are all capable of undertaking, if we would only let go of the illusion that we are trying so hard to maintain in the company of our creature comforts.