In this powerful episode of the Living Richly Podcast, Eric and Rob interview special guest Jim Herrington, a mentor and significant influence on the Living Richly movement. They discuss overcoming trauma, embracing healing, and breaking free from unhealthy family ties. Jim shares his wisdom and practical insights on transforming your life. You will discover effective strategies, empowering mindset shifts, and actionable steps to break free from the chains that bind you and become the best version of yourself. Don’t miss this enlightening conversation that will inspire you to create a life of abundance and fulfillment.
Show Notes for Episode 32
Jim Herrington has been a pastor for 45 years. He has served as a denominational executive and pastor to pastors since 1989 where he first began coaching leaders. He has worked with hundreds of congregations from a variety of traditions around the challenges of personal and congregational transformation. In 1998 he became the founding Executive Director of Mission Houston, a ministry that works to build unity in the body of Christ across lines that would normally divide. In 2007 he co-founded Faithwalking, a spiritual formation ministry that equips people and congregations to live missionally. Today Faithwalking is an active ministry in the U.S., Canada, and Central America.
Jim speaks regularly in conferences on the topics of spiritual formation, adaptive leadership, family systems, and missional theology. He holds a D.Min in spiritual direction and spiritual formation from Houston Graduate School of Theology. He is the co-author of three books – Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide to the Transformational Journey, The Leader’s Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation, Learning Change: Congregational Transformation Fueled by Personal Renewal
Jim lives in Houston and has been married to his best friend, Betty, for 46 years. They have five children and six grandchildren.
Connect with Jim Herrington…
The Leader’s Journey by Jim Herrington
Key Concepts from Episode 32: Breaking the Chains That Bind You with Dr. Jim Herrington
In episode 32 of The Living Richly Podcast, hosts Eric Deschamps and Rob Dale talk to guest Jim Herrington about breaking family ties. Herrington, a leadership coach and author, shares his story of growing up with an abusive father and learning to heal from his past trauma.
Jim grew up in a small, segregated Louisiana community where his father was a school principal and superintendent. Despite being the only white person to oppose the Protestant churches’ decision to build a private school after court-ordered integration, Jim’s father was also an abuser who struggled with his own past trauma. Jim shares that his father’s love for God and the community, along with his emphasis on athletics and the church, profoundly impacted his upbringing.
Jim shares a number of formative experiences that made him recognize his own anger issues and work towards self-improvement. These experiences were wake-up calls that helped him realize the importance of seeking self-improvement and healing.
Jim now co-owns a business called The Leader’s Journey with Tricia Taylor, where they provide coaching, consult with organizations to develop a values-based leadership culture, and help individuals develop a value-based strategy. He credits his spouse with shaping his life and keeping him grounded.
The conversation then turns to spiritual formation and the Faith Walking process. Jim shares how he deconstructed his first formation, rebuilt something different, and learned to hold his story’s negative and positive aspects in tension. Using the dating analogy, he emphasizes the value of finding a safe and challenging community and staying connected. He also explains how his experience in a small group helped him learn to communicate authentically and resolve tensions without violence.
Jim then discusses the concept of clean versus dirty pain, where personal growth involves choosing the former and committing to building skills over time. He compares personal growth to building muscles and advises against diving into the pool’s deep end immediately. He stresses the importance of patience, guidance, and a pace that suits the individual.
Finally, Jim discusses Bowen family systems theory and the concept of multigenerational trauma. He advises people to view their parents as human beings affected by trauma rather than just as parents, which can help them approach their parents with compassion and lead to greater understanding and healing.
Throughout the episode, Jim emphasizes the importance of facing emotions instead of numbing or avoiding them, particularly for men who struggle with emotions and may react with anger or fear. He acknowledges that many people are afraid to delve into their inner world and may worry they’ll “come apart at the seams.” However, he encourages listeners to seek out safe communities and commit to personal growth over time, to break free from negative family cycles and create lives that are truly living richly.
This episode provides valuable insights and advice on breaking negative family ties and achieving personal growth. Jim’s personal story and wisdom on spiritual formation, clean pain, and multigenerational trauma will resonate with many listeners.
Episode 32 Transcript
Breaking the Chains That Bind You with Jim Herrington
Jim Herrington [00:00:00]:
Eric Deschamps [00:00:00]:
It’s been said you can leave home, but home tends to follow you around. Today we’re going to be hearing a powerful story about healing, breaking unhealthy family ties, and becoming your best self. That’s coming up next.
Rob Dale [00:00:20]:
Hi, welcome to the Liver richly podcast. My name is Rob Dale and I’m here with my great friend Eric Destrom. And I’ll tell you, I don’t know when I was last this excited. I guess last time we had a guest, I get excited about all of the guests and the people that we have on it, but this one is really significant because our guest today has had an influence on all of our lives, but your life in particular over the course of number of years. So I’m going to let you introduce our guest today.
Eric Deschamps [00:00:48]:
Well, I met Jim Harrington, who’s our guest today, many years ago now when I was attending a conference in Houston, Texas, and we thought we were attending a certain kind of event, that’s a whole other story in and of itself. We ended up with a group of 15 of us in a room with Jim for several days and that literally changed my life. He turned, wow, a bunch of things that I had accepted as true on their head in the gentle kind of way that he does. And he has been a mentor, a spiritual father, and a powerful influence in my life ever since. I tell people everywhere I go when I refer to Jim and he comes up in so many of my conversations that no one has had greater influence in my life than our guests today. And Jim, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have you on the show, that we get to spend this time with you, that your influence gets to spread beyond us to all of our listeners. So thank you for taking the time.
Jim Herrington [00:01:47]:
You bet. You give me a lot of credit, but you actually did all the work. I just created a safe space for you to be able to do that.
Rob Dale [00:01:54]:
Oh, it’s going to be good. It’s going to be good. Jay jim, why don’t you start by maybe let’s just hear a little bit of your story, some of the journey that you’ve been on. I imagine you were born at a very young age sorry, dad joke.
Jim Herrington [00:02:11]:
Born and raised in northeast Louisiana, United States, a little farming community, about 6000 people, a very segregated deep south community, about 6000 people. Lake Providence is literally a lake. White people lived on one side of the lake mostly, and people of color lived on the other side of the lake mostly. And I grew up in a context where my dad was my elementary school principal, he was my high school principal, and then he became the superintendent of schools my senior year in high school, and he was the superintendent of schools. When court ordered integration came to Lake Providence, Louisiana, and so if you know about American history, you know that the courts order the integrations of the schools. And then they did that in some big cities and some smaller towns. It was 1969. When I was a junior, the court of integration came to Lake Providence. I’m a pastor, and church has been I’ll talk some today about church being an important part of my life. And the Protestant churches in the little community, when the order came, banded together to build a private school. And my dad was the only white guy in the community who said, no, we’ve got to do this. And so he joined with the Louisiana president of the NAACP, who was a pastor, black pastor, in Lake Providence, and they really worked to embrace the civil rights movement, and he stayed in the public schools. And so I graduated in a class of 129 kids as the only white kid in the class. And that had profound impact on me. Now, part of my story is my dad, and he was this amazing guy who led the civil rights. He was an all American college football player. He had a professional football contract that he played for one year, and then he went off to World War II. And when he came back, my mom said, you can play football or you can marry me, but you’re not doing both. And so he married her, and that school story unfolded. What I haven’t told you about my dad was that he grew up raised by his grandmother. His parents were alcoholics. He and another cousin were raised by his grandmother. And when I was 40 years old, I learned the story that I’d never heard before, that when he was 14 years old, his grandmother, who raised him, was shot and killed in his presence in the living room of their house. We’d been at a funeral and a family funeral. When it was over, he walked over to her tombstone, and I heard him say that. And then he did this. He literally took his hand, and he kind of waved it across his chest, and he said, I was splattered with her blood. Now I’m 40 years old and had never heard that story. But the thing that I want to say about that is that my dad, when his trauma got triggered, my house could be a really dangerous place to live in. I mean, there was violence that on one occasion, I thought if my sister hadn’t walked into the room by mistake, he might have killed me. He was so out of control that I was bloodied and bruised when that was over. And so on the one hand, there’s this violent, angry, abusive dad. And on the other hand, there’s this really good man who loves God and loves his community and really believes in equality for all people and stands against the institutions of his community. And so there’s what I’ve come to describe as a love hate relationship that I have with my dad. And as you can imagine, though, my mom was also an important part of my story. My dad was the you know, it was almost like, wait, where was mom in that story? Because dad was such a dominating presence that he was who we were paying attention to. So that would be a part of my first formation. I think the other part of my first formation would be to say that my dad valued athletics. My dad was an all American college football player. I’m five seven and weigh weighed 119 pounds when I married Betty, if you know the Andy of Mayberry story. I had a Barney Fife body when I was growing up, and my dad valued athletics that I couldn’t do. But he also valued the church, which I could do. He was an active member of the church. He was a deacon. He did all the things. We were at church three times a week, sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. And I could do that really well. So I did a lot of church stuff. And there were two things that were true there. One was some of the most formative people in my life were in that church. They loved me, they cared for me. They called out gifts in me. They were the ones who first said to me, you may be experiencing some kind of call to ministry. You ought to take that really seriously. And what was also true, as with my dad, we were Southern Baptists, and we swam in the water of guilt and shame. And so they would have what they called revival meetings two times a year, once in the spring, once in a fall, week long church services. And they would bring in some evangelist who was exceptionally gifted at guilt and shame, like he was the master of guilt and shame. And he would stand up and preach a sermon, and then they would do this thing at the end where they would just dangle you over the pits of hell if you didn’t make some kind of commitment to Christ. And so most of my growing up years, in the spring and in the fall, I made a new commitment streaming down my face, feeling shame and guilt for all the things that I was supposed to feel shame and guilt for. And so, like with my dad, with the church, I had this love hate relationship. Some people who really loved me and cared for me, and in some of the hardest moments with my dad, they were there for me. And the culture of the church really wounded me in some ways. That took me a long time to recover recover from there’s. There’s a Baptist hymn that has a line in it that says, would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
Eric Deschamps [00:08:34]:
Jim Herrington [00:08:35]:
Yeah. And I sang that all my life. I can sing it from memory. And just this week I saw a guy post on Facebook, something about the evangelical theology is so wrapped up in the worm theology. And I wrote, I said, I sang that song a lot of growing up years, and it took me 30 years to overcome the wounding that came from that kind of stuff.
Rob Dale [00:08:57]:
Now, Jim, one of the things that certainly lots of the listeners of our show would probably be able to relate to and we struggle sometimes. I so appreciate what you said about you described your dad this way and the church, but in particular with your dad, how you were able to say you described this good part of him and this bad part of him. It seems like in today’s day and age, we struggle. We think it has to be one or the other, this notion of the tension of having the good and bad in one individual. Maybe talk a bit about that.
Jim Herrington [00:09:34]:
Yeah. So let me tell you a story. Part of the work that I do is with a group called Faith Walking. It’s a spiritual formation process that equips people to grow their spiritual maturity. And one of the things we do in that community is we tell the story of our first formation. We deconstruct our first formation and begin to rebuild something different. And so I’m one of the founders of that community through my partner Tricia Taylor, steve Kapper and I did that. And about ten years in, we had an annual meeting of all the leaders nationwide who come to Houston for a learning community. And I got asked to tell my story. And so I did. And when the story was over, Don Bird, who is the leader of the community up in Chicago, in the Chicago area, walked across the room to me. Don is really this gentle, wise leader. She came up to me and she said, I have heard you tell your story ten times, and I have never heard you start the story by saying, my dad was really a good man. Here’s what I want to say about that. Both with the church and with my family, there was a lot of trauma. We didn’t know anything about trauma when I was growing up. We know a lot about trauma today. There was a lot of trauma. And in the early stages, that was all I could see. And so when I would tell my story, all I would do is talk about the abuse that I experienced or all I would do is talk about the abuse that I experienced at church. But what happened was, as I told that story in safe places, some healing began to come. And as healing came, my perspective broadened just a little bit. And in fact, the neuroscientists who work on memory will say that our memory evolves over time and in some large measure. Because as we do the work on our trauma that needs to be done and we get some healing, then, oh, I see a little more and then I see a little more and then I see a little more. I’m 70 years old, and my experience is that that has been a never ending journey, and so you have to hold them both in place. And I could be wrong about this, but what I think is you start with the negative, you start with the wounding, you start with the pain, and you do the work that’s required to find healing there. And the more you do that healing there, the more space you have for holding the other side of the tension. And the more that happens, the more valuable I mean, the more that’s not what I want to say. The more skills you have over time, holding tension, which is what I’m describing here, becomes a skill set. I can begin to say, oh, you’re focusing on all the negative, but remember, there’s some positive there. And I could hold that intention. And when I hold an intention, something happens to me that doesn’t happen when I go to the ditch on one side of the road or the other. Right.
Eric Deschamps [00:12:30]:
And Jim, would you say it’s so powerful to hear you put it that way, but would it be equally true on the other side that sometimes it’s hard to get present to the trauma because somehow we are tarnishing the memory of our parents? I remember 2011, you had reached out to me months before I tell this story. In episode three, you had reached out to me, hey, we haven’t seen each other in years. Been thinking about you. How are you? I was in a bad place, too ashamed to even respond to your email. Took me months to do it. And when I finally did and acknowledged that I was in a really bad place, my marriage was falling apart, I was a mess. You invited me to come down to Houston. Long story short, spent just a few days with you there. And I remember part of that was working through some issues with my dad, and I was struggling to attribute or recognize some of the things that were traumatic because somehow that would mean something. Is that common? Do you see that as well as a pretty common occurrence all the time.
Jim Herrington [00:13:33]:
Especially for people who grew up at any kind of church where we were taught to honor our parents. Right. I don’t want to dishonor my parents on my life. That’s one of the big ten, right? As coaches, as leaders, there’s a skill set around being able to say, you can talk about the impact of the behavior of really good parents without dishonouring them. But that takes some coaching. It requires a safe space. And as people begin to if they can just take a step or two in that direction, they grow their capacity to do that.
Rob Dale [00:14:16]:
It’s interesting. Jim Soul, this is, again, for our listeners, jim’s impact on us and on living richly. We currently have Jim working with on the Rhapsody side. He works with our entire team on some of the stuff that we’re going to talk about more in our episode next week. Jim, when you were describing that, about the story about how you never start out by saying your father was a good man, it was interesting. Immediately the thought went to my mind and you know, a bit of my story. My dad went to prison when I was quite young. I really didn’t know him at all. When I share his story, I always talk about just that negative and everything like that right when you were talking. And I had this incredible visual moment. I almost went because I had this visual moment of sitting in. The very first time I remember meeting my dad was at Millhaven Maximum Security Prison, as in a prison visit and inside a trailer visit, meeting him for a couple of days. And now, looking back, he was sitting there and he had learned yoga, he learned meditation, and he wanted to take me through some of that stuff. And I was so closed off to it because it was wrong to yoga and meditation. Everything was so bad in the religious world. But all of a sudden it hit me, was like, oh, my God. There were some good things that he was teaching me back then that I’m now embracing fully. So I’d eat a bow, but is what I’d say, because that was just like, holy shit. That was just like a light bulb went off. So thank you for that, Jim. Thank you for sharing that, because that’s.
Jim Herrington [00:15:50]:
And here’s what I would say about that to your listeners. I would imagine this is true for 99.9% of the people that I know. Your dad did not wake up in the morning and say, if I can screw Rob’s life up, let’s see, how would I do that? What would I do? I know. I think I’ll go to jail.
Rob Dale [00:16:12]:
Jim Herrington [00:16:14]:
One of the things that we’ll talk in the next episode about Bowen family systems theory, but one of the things that in Bowen theory that they talk about is what they call the multigenerational process. Part of what they try to teach you to do is to move away from seeing your parents as your parents when you become an adult and they’re adults, and begin instead to see them as human beings, as human beings who’ve been wounded, as human beings who are violated, who are abused, who are neglected, who are abandoned. And they didn’t have the help that we’ve had today. And so what happens to me when I can get that perspective is rather than approaching my dad with judgment, I’m able to approach him with compassion, I promise. At the funeral, when he told the story of his grandmother being shot and killed in his presence, it was like in a nanosecond. It was like, oh, all this stuff was not about me. It was about you. It was about the trauma that you experienced and when you can begin to see your parents in that way. And that’s for some of us who’ve been really like, there are people who’ve been raped and who’ve been violently abused, and it’s a hard place to come to. But if you can begin to see your parents as human beings, who had parents, who had parents, who had parents who were imperfect and who wounded them, it just opens up something that, if you start and stay in a place of judgment, never opens up for you. Right.
Eric Deschamps [00:17:42]:
So powerful. So powerful. So here you are. You’re learning to hold these things, intention. You’ve told us sort of where you came from, right. And then healing begins to happen. Talk to us about what were the circumstances, the triggering events that led to your transformation?
Jim Herrington [00:18:02]:
Yeah. So at this point, your listeners may want to quit listening because I’m going to tell you some really awful stories. I have a son here in Houston, has a company called Nathan Harrington Coaching. And he’s just begun a podcast. And he invited me to be his guest on the very first podcast. And he started the podcast by saying, so I’ve got some questions I want to ask you, but I just wonder if there’s anything you want to tell people that in your 40 years of being an adult that you’ve learned about leadership. And I said, oh, yeah, but they’re not going to want to hear this. And he said, okay, go ahead. And I said, every important lesson that I’ve learned, I’ve learned through failure. I hadn’t learned. I mean, I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve been to a lot of conferences. I have a lot of mentors. But all of the important lessons I’ve learned, I’ve learned through failure. And that’s been true not just in my work life, but in my married life and my family life. There were two formative experiences in my young adult years. One of them was one night when my probably three year old daughter was acting out. I picked her up and threw her across a room, literally violently through her. She landed on a bed, not up against a wall or through a plate glass window, for which I am eternally grateful. But it was the moment where, for the first time, like, it’s been back here. There’s something wrong. You’re really angry. What’s going on? All of a sudden, it was on such full display. There was nothing that I could do or say that would say anything other than, there’s something really effed up here. And that was part of the wake up call and then the other part of the wake up call. When I tell this story, Betty says, I think those happened about eight or nine months apart. But I tell them like, they happened in the same week, right? There was a Saturday morning staff meeting. I’m in the seminary. I’m going to graduate school. I’m part time on a church staff, and the pastor calls a Saturday morning meeting. And I’m really pissed off because we’re meeting on Saturday morning. There’s six of us sitting around a roundtable, and somewhere in the meeting, my rage boils over. I shove this table, coffee goes flying everywhere, and I stand up and say, you can take my job. I literally put my finger right in his nose, and I said, you can take my job and stick it up your ass. I’m going home.
Eric Deschamps [00:20:14]:
Jim Herrington [00:20:15]:
And I turned right back out, and I only lived about three blocks from the church, and I had walked there that morning. And when I got back home, I thought, Damn, I drove my car. I got to go back and get my car. Took some of the righteous indignation out, but it was a transformative moment, because on Sunday, it was big enough church that we didn’t have to interact with each other. On Monday, he met me at the door. We were coming in for a Monday staff meeting, and as I walked in, he said, you know, we can’t not talk about what happened on Saturday. We’ve got to have this conversation. And I said, let’s get it over with. And I’m pretty sure I’m about to be fired. And in the 1970s, you get fired from a ministry job, and you have a lot of options about what you can do with your life, but ministry is not one of them. We walked into this office, sat across from each other in two opposing love seats, and the first words out of his mouth were, jim, you’re one of the finest young pastors that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. And I’m like, what did you say? If you think you’re going to get fired and you get grace like that, it’s real disconcerting. And then he said something that I heard really clearly. He said, if you’re going to keep working here, he could have said, you’re going to eat Turd sandwiches for the next month. He could have said anything you wanted to say. He said, you’re going to go see Joe every Tuesday afternoon until Joe says you don’t have to come anymore. Joe was a counselor 2 miles away from the church, and for almost two years, it was where I got introduced to the work of spiritual formation. It was where I got the idea that there is an inner life that involves thinking and feeling and will and passion. And just in the same way that subsystems of the body work, the subsystems of your inner life, have to work, and they produce something through their interactions that no one of them can produce. And the primary thing that happened in that was Joe listened to me. He helped me name my trauma, and in those four parts of my inner life. He recognized that my feeling world had never like, good Christians don’t get sad. They don’t get mad, they don’t get scared, because Jesus had taken care of all that stuff, and so you just weren’t allowed to have any feelings. And I’d been seeing him for about six or eight weeks, and we developed some report. I came in one day, told him about something was going on at work, and he said, So how do you feel about that? And I said, Blah, blah, blah. He said, It’s so good, but how do you feel about that? And I said, Blah, blah, blah. So jail it. That’s helpful information. The question I’m asking is, how do you feel about that? And I said, with some exasperation in my voice, obviously, I don’t know. I’ve tried to answer the question three times, and I’ve got to give the wrong answer every time. And he said, this is no this way. And he was the guy who first said to me, there are four primary feelings, have four primary colors, like I mean, the four primary focuses like colors do. Four primary colors of feelings are mad, sad, glad, and scared. And for six months, almost all we did was I’d come in, and I started out by saying, I can tell good feelings from bad feelings. And then I began to say, okay, so mad, sad, or scared, I don’t know. And we would poke around that, and finally I began to learn to name my feelings. And then about six months in, he said, you’ve got really great at thinking about your feelings. And then he said, now the next step is for you to learn to feel your feelings. And I thought, Holy moly, you don’t want to go there. I’m going to either punch somebody out, or I’m going to fall into a deep hole of depression that I can never come out of. And Joe, for two years, he was a woodworker. He was a counselor, but he had a woodworking practice. Sometimes I’d pour tea and he’d do woodworking. Sometimes we’d run errands in his truck. Sometimes we’d just sit on his patio and smoke cigars. But it was the first safe adult male relationship where it was safe for me to say whatever there was for me to say and where it was okay for me to say, I don’t know how to do that. And those two experiences happened fairly close to each other. And they set me on the trajectory that became an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in adult education and a doctorate in spiritual direction and spiritual formation. All of that because I was just so wounded and so curious about how do you develop people in a way that overcomes that wounding and helps them to live the kind of life that we all want for ourselves.
Rob Dale [00:24:56]:
We talk a lot in the living richly model of the importance of community and the importance of having others around us that really do speak life into us, to encourage us, to build us up, to challenge or maybe correct when we’re off course, but to do it in a way that they’re building up and not tearing down. I know you mentioned you mentioned Joe, who was significantly helpful to you, others that were part of your community maybe share a little bit of the importance of community and some of the things, even for those that are looking to get into community, how do they find that? Or what should they look for in the people that are going to have that critical influence in their lives?
Jim Herrington [00:25:42]:
So I would say finding a community is essential and that finding a community is sort of like dating. You don’t necessarily go steady with the first girl or guy that you hook up with, but what you do is you begin to look for a community that feels safe to you. What I say is it needs to mostly in the beginning feel safe and over time it needs to also be willing to challenge you. Brede Brown is one of the Americans that we really love. And early on she talked about creating safe space, but over time she began to talk about creating brave space. And what she was acknowledging was that once you find a community that you say this sort of feels like a fit. I want to explore this like you do at a dating relationship. And any one of us can have get in a community and on any given bad day something’s going to happen. You’re going to say, Well, I’m out of here. But what makes marriages and work and what makes communities work is when the hard stuff comes up, if it’s safe enough, that’s a really important qualifier. If it’s safe enough, then you have to grow your capacity to stay in the face of the differences. And as you said on one of your recent podcasts, define yourself and stay connected. I had probably the most powerful community learning experience I had was with a small group I was on. After I finished graduate school, I came to Houston. I worked in a church as the number two pastor, the executive pastor, with a guy who I had worked with when I was in college. And then he had come to the seminary to be a professor and I graded for him and then he left and came to Houston six months before I graduated. And then he came and his deep commitment was to the value of authenticity. And so there was counting him, there were five of us on the staff and before we would ever get to any church business, we’d come and we’d talk about how we were doing and what was going on and over time we learned to talk about when you do that annoys me. Would you say that that way or. Would you talk with that tone of voice? It makes it hard for me. Didn’t know what’s going on. And this story marked me in some profound ways. We were in a staff meeting and the youth pastor in the group became very critical. We were working on some project and the way I was going about working on the project, he was critical of, and he became very critical. And I responded with a kind of in your face. I think what I said was, you don’t have the right or the invitation to criticize me in this moment. And that kind of set the group off. And all of a sudden, what it felt to me like it wasn’t this way. What it felt to me like was the whole group was saying, no, Jim, you’re wrong and we’re right. And I’m defending myself. And all of a sudden I turn to the senior pastor and take him on. You’re beginning to recognize a common theme in my life. I take him on and I make him so angry that he stands up out of his chair. I’m five seven, he’s six two and weighs about 240 and draws his fist back like he’s fixing to hit me. Yes, to your listeners, I am talking about a church staff meet. And he catches himself and turns around and just goes right out of the room.
Eric Deschamps [00:29:02]:
Jim Herrington [00:29:03]:
Meeting disperses. And about 2 hours later, he showed up at my doorstep and he apologized. And then he said, let’s go for a ride. And we spent about the next 3 hours talking about the wounding in our lives, how my wounding intersected with his wounding, how what had happened in that meeting, what each of us contributed. I had never had a moment outside of the moment that I described when I told the pastor he could stick my job up his ass. I’d never had a moment where both the beauty and the brokenness of a community was on such full display. And here this seminary professor, PH. D. Well respected guy in our denomination, not only was painfully human, but was powerfully, humble and took responsibility. And you might think that I went away from that thinking I don’t want to be in a group with a guy who might draw back, draw his fist back and threaten to hit me. That actually was not the case. I actually want to be in a community where people will be authentic, but where they could take responsibility for their part in the relationship. It was really a powerfully, shaping moment. This still marks me to this day.
Eric Deschamps [00:30:30]:
Yeah, we can hear it in your voice, Jim, and what a powerful, powerful story. And when we think this applies to all of us, male, female, whatever we identify with emotions, our inner life. The vast majority of the population, I would say, I would guess, has not been trained or have the skills to do that. So we numb. We avoid. We distract ourselves. We describe it almost like people are living in a coma, like a walking coma, where we’re just passing the time, but we’re not making the time count. But when it comes to emotions, specifically, men really struggle here, really struggle here. And you made a statement earlier, you’re like, I don’t know, man, you want to start talking about my feelings? I’m either going to punch you in the face or I’m going to fall into an abyss. I think a lot of men listening to the show would say, I can relate to that anger. I know that one I’m all too familiar with. I wish I wasn’t. But I am. And if I had $100 for every client or person who’s told me over time that I’m afraid that if I start getting present to my inner world, I might just come apart at the seams, what would you say to that?
Jim Herrington [00:31:59]:
Well, I would say that’s true. You might have a different answer, but the first thing is you might. And I think the question that you have to ask is we make that comment like we’ve got a choice between a good thing and a bad thing. And so do I want to risk coming apart, or do I want to risk living the rest of my life kind of less than fully human? And I think that’s the beginning place to start is we don’t have a choice between good and bad. Both are painful. There’s an author that I really like who talks about the difference in clean pain and dirty pain. Clean pain is pain that you engage, but that it produces life down the road. Dirty pain is pain that just keeps cycling back around and back around and back around. Here’s the other thing I’d say, Eric, I would say that imagine if you’re that guy, think about yourself like a 95 pound weakling or maybe a 225 pound weekling who does anything but sit on the couch and eat chips and drink beer. I think so often when we think about this journey, we think, okay, so there’s some switch that I can flip, and I can go from not knowing my feelings to fully expressing my feelings. I hope you heard in the two stories that I told that was about a nine year journey for me. So if you think about it, I often in coaching talk about it like building muscles. Well, we have a lot of if I was a 250 pound weakling who was drinking beer and eating pizza, I would have no expectation of going to the gym and getting that fixed in one meeting or ten meetings. I would know that there would be a process over time that I have to learn. I’m going to have to have a trainer or a coach, a counselor, somebody. And what I said to people all the time. And you can go at the pace you want to go at, but if you can think of it as a long term process where you can build the skills, that also takes some of the weight off of. I got to dive into the deep end of the pool in our very first conversation nation.
Eric Deschamps [00:34:12]:
Right. And this would have been soon after I came to visit you in Houston back in 2011. And I forget exactly what we’re talking about at the time. We’re talking about some aspect of my journey, and I was really struggling. And you said to me with the most grace and love, like, it didn’t sound accusatory or critical at all. You said it’s okay. It just sounds like you haven’t developed the emotional maturity that you need for that yet. And I remember in that moment, part of my reaction was, Fuck you. Right. I was angry. It bothered me, and yet it resonated. And it would take me a long time through the work I did with you, through the work I did with Sherry, through many more painful moments. It was little by little, slowly by slowly. And yet now when I talk about that version of me back in 2011 and the version of me that shows up now in 2023, it’s like they’re two different people.
Jim Herrington [00:35:19]:
And that’s not just all of us who know you.
Rob Dale [00:35:23]:
It really is a journey. Right. The quote came to mind as you were sharing this about even the good pain, the dirty pain. There’s a quote that says we trade short term discomfort for long term dysfunction. Yes. To make that change early on is going to be uncomfortable. There’s discomfort in starting the journey, but you can either choose the short term discomfort or choose the long term dysfunction.
Eric Deschamps [00:35:56]:
I think a lot of us opt for the latter.
Jim Herrington [00:35:59]:
Yeah. There’s one more thing that I would say. I love the definition of emotion that says emotions are physiological energy that are designed to be released. And the thing that a listener needs to hear is, you’re going to deal with this. You’re either going to take the work we’re describing here on, or those emotions are going to come out sideways. It might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It might be the passive aggressive behavior. It might be something like that. Or it might be you get an ulcer or you have a heart attack or you’re semi depressed all of your life. It’s going to give expression. You get a choice about how you’re going to do that.
Eric Deschamps [00:36:40]:
Right. I heard it defined once as choose your hard was the statement. Right? Is this work hard? Is the inward journey of facing your demons and redeeming your past and bringing forward your most authentic self and leaning into that best version of you. Is that work going to be hard? Yes, that’s hard. What’s life like for you now? Right? Like the depression, the anger, the numbness. That’s hard, too. The first hard, though, if you choose it. There is hope in that journey of bringing your most authentic self forward, whereas the other one, I think that it’s dirty pain. Right. You’re going to keep reliving it over and over and probably just become more set in your ways, more rigid, more depressed, more unhappy. One way or another, this thing is going to play itself out.
Jim Herrington [00:37:39]:
Rob Dale [00:37:41]:
So you’ve gone from being this guy who likes to pick fights with pastors. That’s our new hashtag. That’s our new hashtag. Pick fights with hashtag, pick fights with pastors. You’ve gone from this guy who is angry, identifying your emotions. You’ve taken this journey, you got the community involved for those that are listening right now. And again, we’re going to get into the practices of everything next week, and I can’t wait for us to do that. But what’s one takeaway? One nugget? What would you want to leave with the listeners as being something really an important takeaway from this conversation?
Jim Herrington [00:38:26]:
It probably would be something like do the work. Just do the work. More than any of us want to take responsibility for, we get to create the life we’re going to have. We don’t have any control over things that happen to us. But even when really horrible things happen, if we do the work, we can find purpose and joy. We can find community and belonging. But it requires that you do the work. And generally I was just on a podcast a couple of days ago where we were saying generally, at least in the early stages, you have to have a coach or a counselor or a spiritual director. You just can’t do it by yourself.
Eric Deschamps [00:39:13]:
Yeah, it’s a journey that we’ve often said, can you do it by yourself? It’s going to be pretty tough. It’s going to be pretty tough. Right, Jim, talk to us a little bit where we’re going to get into next week again, the practice and how you’re helping people, but you went again from a hurting unit to someone who’s healing and becoming his best self, and now you’re helping others do the same. Can you just kind of give us an idea what you’re up to these days?
Jim Herrington [00:39:40]:
Yeah. I have a partner named Tricia Taylor, and we own a business called The Leader’s Journey. Over the last decade, we have co authored three books. The fourth one is going to come out in the next year. We do three things we coach individuals, we help organizations develop a values based leadership culture, and we consult to develop a value based strategic plan. And the other thing that I would say that should have been at the very beginning of the deal, I am married to a remarkable human being who is the polar opposite of me and has been used in my life to shape me. We have five great kids and six great grandkids. Not great grandkids, but six terrific grandkids who all mostly live in the Houston area and when I think about the journey that I’ve been on, did she not love me and did she not have a staying power? There was a moment when she’s a pretty peacemaking kind of person, but there was a moment where she was walking ahead of me and all of a sudden turned on her heels and poked me in the chest. I’m thinking, who the hell is this and what’d you do with my wife? And she said, I am moving as fast as I know how to move to keep up with you. And every time I take one step, you take two, you’ve got to slow down. But Eva, she’s a remarkable human being, and God has used her in just amazing ways to help me stay in all of those stories that I’ve been telling you about.
Eric Deschamps [00:41:18]:
Fantastic. We’re so looking forward to next week’s show, where we’re going to discuss and get into how you help people, both leaders and individuals alike, heal from their past and become the best version of themselves. We’re really looking forward to that.
Jim Herrington [00:41:33]:
Rob Dale [00:41:33]:
And so you don’t want to miss it. One of the things we want to encourage you to do is to take a moment and subscribe to the Living Richly podcast on whatever device that you’re watching it, whether it’s on the podcast, the Apple podcast, or Spotify or whatever you might be listening to it or on the YouTube channel. Make sure you subscribe, like, share, add a comment, invite others on the journey as well. Next week is going to be real special. You can go to our website, which is Livingrichley Me, and there’s all kinds of information on the website pertaining to this episode as well as to all of the other episodes that we have.
Eric Deschamps [00:42:13]:
Jim, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been particularly special for me, and I know next week will be the same. You continue. It’s amazing. Although we’ve had many, many conversations over the years, there’s never one conversation where I don’t feel impacted in some way. And that’s a testament to your growth and to the person you’ve become. So thank you for joining us today. We look forward to next week to all of our guests, thank you for joining us today. We hope to see you on next week’s show. In the meantime, get out there and live your best life. Ram.