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Spiritual Practices for Public Leadership

Guarding one's soul in and out of season.

Andy Crouch
Andy Crouch
Andy Crouch is partner for theology and culture at Praxis, an organization that works as a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship. His two most recent books—2017’s The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place and 2016’s Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing—build on the vision of faith, culture, and the image of God laid out in his previous books Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power and Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Andy serves on the governing boards of Fuller Theological Seminary and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and is an advisor to The Repentance Project, The Pelican Project, and Revoice. For more than ten years he was an editor and producer at Christianity Today, including serving as executive editor from 2012 to 2016. He lives with his family in Pennsylvania.

Icebergs, famously, have 90 percent of their mass below water. The largest modern cruise ships almost perfectly reverse that ratio, with 88 percent of their height above the waterline.

Being a public person—someone who is recognized by people who do not actually know us personally—can be a lot like being a cruise ship. We are rewarded for cultivating the parts of our lives that are visible: our talents, our opinions, our appearance. And while the most spectacular cruise ships on the public ocean may be the people we call celebrities, the unique reality of life in the age of social media is that we are almost all public now, publishing a version of our life to gain others’ attention and, we almost always hope, approval.

This kind of life carries with it grave threats to our health, and the safety of those around us. Without spiritual practices to guard against the unique temptations of public life, we will likely drift into narcissism and exploitation. Sooner or later we will hit an iceberg—and the testimony of maritime history is that when a cruise ship meets an iceberg, the iceberg wins.

A few years ago I drew together a list of spiritual practices I’ve personally embraced to try to safeguard my life as a public person. The core premise is that, like an iceberg, the bulk of my life needs to be below the surface.

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