The Dark Side of the Artist

We can't overcome our struggles if we use our gifts to hide them

They can be engaging, friendly, inspiring and full of joy.

They can also be moody, insensitive, stand-offish and downright mean.

These traits don’t apply to any particular gender. However, they can often be attributed to artists and creative people.

Why do the same people who bring joy to others through their art, also create discouragement and pain in their relationships? Why are the very characteristics that make us creative – emotional sensitivity, impulsiveness, taking risks –  mirrored in the mistakes that can wreck our lives?

It’s because every artist has a dark side.

In the book “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership,” the authors explain how leaders are often brought down in scandal and shame because they fail to recognize their own weaknesses. Rather than dealing with their failures head on, they try to cover them up with outward success and hard work, until it’s too late and their struggles become insurmountable.

In the same way, we creatives are tempted to use our talents to mask our insecurities. When those struggles become public, so does our shame.

These self-protective impulses aren’t reserved to artists.  The tendency to hide weaknesses is a universal one. Unfortunately, because people see creativity as a special gift, they assume our problems are a product of our creative natures.

Maybe not.

Perhaps we are not much different than anyone else. Maybe we have the same struggles, the same sinful secrets, the same need for accountability and friendship as anyone else. We have unique professions as musicians, artists and creatives. But our profession doesn’t alter our condition.

As the classic song by Sting states, we are fragile.

How can we overcome the dark side of artistry? As any person who has struggled with addiction knows, the first step is to admit it.

Don’t use your talent as a mask. Come clean as a fragile human being who needs support and encouragement. Don’t allow gift-worshippers to blind you to the fact that your gift can’t save you. Only God can do that.

The less we artists rely on our talents to make us feel whole, the more we will start to rely on each other.

That’s where true strength is found.

Question: Have you confronted your dark side as an artist? How has it impacted your career? Your relationships? 

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