There is No Substitute for Paying Attention to the Soul

In the introduction to his book Building Below the Waterline, Gordon MacDonald tells the following story about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

David McCullough’s book The Great Bridge tells a fascinating story about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, which arches the East River and joins Manhattan to Brooklyn.


In June 1872, the chief engineer of the project wrote: “To such of the general public as might imagine that no work had been done on the New York tower, because they see no evidence of it above the water, I should simply remark that the amount of the masonry and concrete laid on that foundation, under water, is equal to the entire masonry of the Brooklyn tower visible today above the waterline.”

The Brooklyn Bridge remains a major transportation artery in New York City today because 135 years ago the chief engineer and his construction team did their most patient and daring work where no one could see it: on the foundations of the towers below the waterline. It is one more illustration of an ageless principle in leadership: the work done below the waterline (in a leader’s soul) that determines whether he or she will stand the test of time and challenge.

Far Too Many People Pay No Attention to What is Beneath

Far too many families come apart.

Far too many men and women become angry and cynical and live this way for the rest of their lives.

Far too many church leaders crash and burn due to some poor, sinful decision.

Far too many people are not prepared for some of the difficult challenges they eventually face.

Pay Attention to the Soul

I have learned just how much I must pay attention to what is “beneath” in my own life. Everything on the surface clamors for my attention. Appointments. Sermons. Meetings. Projects. Finances. Yet, the best thing I have to offer others, whether it be my wife, my children, my church, or my friends, is a man who pays attention to his soul.


What have you experienced in your life when you are taking care of your soul? What have you experienced when you neglect what is “beneath”?

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