We have all witnessed executives, leaders, managers, and employees who had great potential, self-destruct, by allowing their emotions (positive and negative feelings) to rule their lives. I have coined a phrase for this situation and whenever I see it occur, I refer to it as “Emotional Highjack.” Things are going well and suddenly the person is high-jacked. They become a hostage of intense, uncontrolled emotions and are taken for a ride on the road to chaos and destruction. Jeremiah, the prophet warned us about our emotions, saying, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? [Matt. 13:15-17; Mark 7:21-23; Eph. 4:20-24.]” (Jeremiah 17:9, AMP).
Out of Control Emotions and the Path to Destruction
Emotional highjack is not a new phenomenon. It started in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Selfish motives and desires, insecurities, pride, and envy caused Adam and Eve to rebel and disobey God. (See Genesis 3:1–24).
This scenario plays out in the workplace every day. In their book, “Why CEOs Fail” David L. Dotlich and Peter C. Cairo identify eleven behaviors that lead to self-destruction. Each behavior pattern is built upon a foundation of negative thinking and unbridled emotions run amuck. These destructive behaviors include:
- Arrogance (See Jeremiah 48:29–31; Philippians 2:3)
- Melodrama (See Ezekiel 22:5; 2 Corinthians 12:20)
- Volatility (See Psalm 37:8; Proverbs 27:4)
- Excessive caution (See Job 32:6; 2 Timothy 1:7)
- Habitual distrust (See 1 Samuel 18:7-9; Jeremiah 15:9)
- Aloofness (See Obadiah 1:11; 1 Corinthians 11:11)
- Mischievousness (See Job 4:8; Psalm 7:14).
- Eccentricity (See Psalm 18:26; 58:3)
- Passive Resistance (See Amos 3:3; Act 5:9)
- Perfectionism (See Job 11:7; Galatians 3:3)
- Eagerness to please (See Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6)
The Garden of Eden Revisited
As a consultant and executive coach, I see this destructive behavior often. A recent example comes to mind. A young woman (I will call her Nancy) had worked at her company for a year and was doing well. She had established a solid track record of performance. Unfortunately, she walked in fear and lack of self-confidence and was prone to bouts of emotional highjack (insecurity and jealousy). When a problem developed with a major client, Nancy’s boss assigned a coworker to resolve it. Overcome by envy and resentment toward her boss and co-worker, Nancy used her contacts at another company to interview for a similar position. Her interview went well and she was offered the job on the spot. Still reeling from the emotional hurt and anger, she marched in to her boss’s office, resigned and walked out. Starting at her new job the next day, she was filled with excitement and anticipation. As she entered the building her second day on the job, she was called into the General Manager’s office and told that it was not going to work out and that they were letting her go. She was devastated and in tears. In desperation, she called her old boss, apologized for walking out and failing to give notice. She begged for her job back. He told her they had already started the interview process so he could offer her no guarantees.
How could all this have happened? Within a period of several days, Nancy had managed to lose her job, damage her reputation, and burn bridges in her network. All because she let selfishness and jealousy rule her thoughts and behavior. Her pride led to emotional highjack. The desire for more, coupled with a rebellious and disobedient spirit, led Nancy to copy Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. In the end, the outcome was the same. Adam was thrown out of the garden and Nancy was terminated and ended up without a job!
Remember, God gave us our emotions. He delights when we experience love, joy, peace, happiness, contentment, and thankfulness. These emotions glorify and honor Him. In contrast, selfishness, pride, envy, resentment, anxiety, and fear are negative emotions that God warns us to forgo as they are not from Him and will hinder our relationship with Him and man. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Rely on the grace (unmerited favor) of God to help you control your emotions so that you do not become a victim of emotional high-jack. We encourage you to give Him thanks for what you have and where you are in your life and career. Pray and ask God to help you so that you may have the mindset of Paul who said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Self Reflection & Application
We must not allow our emotions to be the driving force or motivator in our personal and professional lives; rather, it is the Holy Spirit that we must rely on to direct us in our decision making. How are you doing in this area? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I allow my emotions to lead or control me or do I lead and control them?
- When I get upset am I able to control my emotions and think clearly?
- Do I experience frequent emotional outbursts? What sets them off?
- What emotions do I struggle to control: Fear? Insecurity? Anger? Jealousy? Envy? Resentment? Pride?
Gary L. Selman is an accomplished author, executive coach and motivational speaker. He has spent over thirty five years pursuing his calling, encouraging, mentoring and equipping others to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God and to become compassionate, faithful and disciplined servant leaders. Gary and his wife Karen are founders of the First Call Advisory Group, which ministers to business owners, corporate executives and entrepreneurs. Gary holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical & Community Psychology from Stephen F. Austin University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.