“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” – Proverbs 20:5
In his newest book Resilient John Eldredge tells a story about several friends sitting on his deck one night “talking about this and that,” as he describes it, “when a woman we all know came up in the conversation. She’s the kind of person who seems to have an internal steadiness. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her thrown by anything. She might seem at first to be quiet and withdrawn, but that’s only because she doesn’t need to assert herself into the center of things. When she speaks, it seems to come from a deep resource. There was a moment of silence, and then someone said, ‘She’s a deep well.’”
What struck me about that story when I read it was not the uniqueness of it but its familiarity. Don’t we all know someone like that who seems to have it all together – grounded, rock-solid, quietly confident, “a deep well” as the woman was described? But then Eldredge added a punch line, a profound truth that applies to all of us. “Actually,” he wrote, “every human being is a deep well. They just don’t draw upon those places within themselves because they live near the surface of their own existence.”
We have a mantra within my profession of executive coaching about the people we work with, our clients, that everyone is “creative, resourceful, and whole.” Everyone, in other words, is a deep well, except most of us fail to recognize that depth because we tend to live too near the surface. As coaches we challenge our clients to draw from those deeper parts of the well where answers and solutions and enlightenments dwell, as often does a greater sense of purpose. Evoking awareness, we call it in our professional training, the calling up or summoning of what is already there, down deep. That’s what we do.
To be clear, none of us will find all answers, solutions, or knowledge no matter how deep into the well we dive. Indeed, we always need others to shore up our shortcomings because we all have them. What we will discover from down deep, however, is an awareness of more capacity and capability than we realized. For every human being is a deep well, but we must dive beneath the surface in order to draw upon it. “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out,” says the Proverb.