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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Born to be wild

The 1960s philosophers and rock band Steppenwolf wrote, “Like a true nature’s child we were born, born to be wild!” Deep down inside, we all tend to think that it’s true that we ARE born to be wild. It was not always that way, as we were created to love God. However, since the Fall, the carnal mind, led by a wild heart, always seeks to gain and maintain control over the direction of our lives.

The heart, specifically the wild heart, is a critical aspect of business leadership development that is ignored in secular circles but can be easily explored by Catholics. The heart was first broken by original sin and is continually broken by our life experiences. This brokenness, whether inherited or inflicted on us, created paths or ruts in us that we easily follow and which are hard to get out of. These paths direct us away from God and toward our nature, which tends toward selfish, sensual desires and ego gratification that, somehow, we think will heal our brokenness and provide us ultimate happiness.

The path to mature business leadership starts when we consciously and intentionally train our minds to do what is right and then move our wild hearts along the journey to spiritual maturity.

The problem is that the relationship between our minds and hearts has been disordered by the messages of the secular world. This causes a daily struggle between the unrestrained, wild heart and the mind to determine which will dominate our leadership and, in fact, our entire lives.

The message of modern society is that we should do whatever we want to do and be whatever we feel we want to be because we are directed by our wild heart, the source of our carnal passions. Additionally, we have been taught that we cannot, so we should not, try to control those passions and that it’s unnatural not to succumb to them. Confirmation bias taught in schools and fueled by non-stop mass media, TV shows and movies validates that our feelings are truth.

As a result, we tend to live self-centered lives, requiring that the entire world satisfy our specific needs to feed our own truth. The disorder requires the heart to be the head of our lives so we can happily “live our truth.”

However, Jeremiah 17:9 says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” The heart is more likely to mislead us because we want to be misled. Without the mind’s interference, the heart is the most selfish and, therefore, the most dishonest instrument we possess, making Satan’s job an easy one. He only has to encourage our heart’s natural behavior, and we gladly accept. The mantra is – If it feels good, do it! Without a well-trained mind, we indulge our heart’s desires, which are oriented toward the world.

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The natural, wild heart is inclined to worldly desires and is aided and abetted by greed, lust, avarice, meanness, unfairness, revenge, slander and theft, for starters. The impulses and the strong emotions of the wayward heart distort our thoughts and we run completely out of control.

The mind, on the other hand, learns, perceives, organizes, interprets information, and then acts on it. We make prudent decisions based on what we know. The mind sets our direction. It is important to remember what St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the word of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2).

If we allow our hearts to lead us, we will conform to the world. St. Paul tells us to use our minds to determine what is good, acceptable and perfect. It’s up to each one of us to set the boundaries for our hearts’ natural, wild, impulsive and carnal behavior.

I’m not talking about becoming an emotionless robot. We will always feel strong emotions, but the guardrails set by the mind formed by God’s Word will help us behave rightly when we are either really ticked off or have an opportunity to take advantage of a situation or objectify another human being.

To be human is to have emotions. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil” (4:2). He goes on to say, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31).  You can only achieve this when the heart is subservient to a renewed and well-trained mind that is oriented toward God’s will.

The wild heart, when finally constrained and transformed by a holy, well-trained mind, leads the business leader to start thinking less of their own selfish desires and to treat others with empathy and love. This is important for Catholic business leaders to understand and embody. Every person who interacts with their business instinctively knows whether they are being treated with empathy and love or as simply an object solely being used for personal or corporate gain. They will respond in kind.

Paul Winkler
Paul Winkler
Paul Winkler is the founder of Atollo, a Catholic business leadership development company based in Denver. Learn more at attollousa.com.
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