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4 Ways Every Pastor Can Develop Emotional Resilience

emotional resilience

Pastor, you must learn to lead yourself by managing your emotions. One important characteristic of leadership is emotional resilience. It’s the ability to be in touch with one’s emotions and those of others. This includes the willingness to face your personal fears without being intimidated by outside pressure. Those with low emotional resilience allow their emotions to control, dictate, or govern their attitudes and actions. On the other hand, those with high emotional resilience are mindful of their feelings and those of others and as a result can effectively manage emotions rather than submitting to them.

Four Ways to Develop Emotional Resilience

One | Be emotionally aware

Critical to emotional resilience is the ability to be in touch with your emotions. If you experience feelings but are not in touch with them, they can undermine your leadership and elicit responses that adversely affect others. For instance, if you try to suppress or avoid the emotion of fear, its eventual emergence will elicit an immature response through which you might either hurt or hide from others. However, leaders who are emotionally aware of their fear and its triggers can learn to embrace and move through the experience in spite of their concerns for the benefit of the team. Awareness is where resilience begins.

Two | Face into fear

Emotionally resilient leaders have developed the ability to not only acknowledge their fear but to press through and operate in spite of what they feel. They are not crippled by fear of people, future, conflict, and uncertainty. It is important to develop this courage because there is always some level of fear when making key leadership decisions. What will people think? Will I face resistance? Will my team still trust me? What if our strategy fails? These and many other fear-based questions can paralyze a leader. Those with emotional resilience understand their fear but choose to move through it, taking measurable risks.

Three | Make right decisions

Resilient people not only are emotionally aware and move through their fears, but they also choose a course of action regardless of their concerns. This is because emotionally resilient leaders make the right choice even when it is not the convenient choice. Some leaders back away from making moral and ethical decisions, especially when it involves confronting a superior, compromising a personal agenda, or complicating a process. They may even fail to terminate an unproductive staff member, leave a partner with incompatible values, or release a high-paying customer that commands an excessive amount of time and energy. Acting out of fear is usually a deterrent to emotional resilience. But thinking right and taking righteous action will lead to right results.

Four | Play it forward

People with emotional resilience can do the right thing because they have developed the ability to think through the possible outcomes. In other words, they make calculated decisions after thinking through the unintended consequences. By doing their “homework ahead of time,” resilient leaders minimize the negative impact of their choices, and therefore the risk, in decision making. This discipline takes into account the justifiable fears one might have, but reduces those fears by thinking through the possible consequences up front.

Reflection & Mentorship


  • Emotionally resilient leaders are mindful of their feelings but effectively and appropriately manage them rather than allowing them to control their actions and reactions.


  • Do leaders have to have emotional resilience to be a great leader? Why or why not?
  • Do you know a leader who appears to have a lot of emotional resilience? What do you like about them as a leader?


  • Nelson Mandela “fell down” and suffered through many difficulties, including decades of imprisonment, before rising to lead the people of his country. Do you feel like the world lacks leaders like him who are resilient over a lifetime?
  • In the proverbial statement above, it states a “joyful heart is good medicine.” How is joy that dwells in a person’s heart an anecdote for emotional issues and problems? Is this simply the power of positive thinking or is it something more?
  • Which of the four aspects of emotional resilience do you need to give attention to become a more effective leader?


  • What issues have come to mind for you today?
  • What steps do you need to take to address these issues?


  • Take on one resilience building activity this week.


This article is excerpted from Vince Miller’s book, 20 Lessons That Build a Leader.