Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Bursting the “Bubble”

Written by: on January 12, 2017


It was good to step out of the “bubble” of my professional, protected, pompous life and read, The Social Animal by David Brooks.  Brooks said, “People gravitate toward people like themselves.  When we meet new people, we instantly start matching our behavior to theirs.”[1]  Jumping into the two fictitious characters of the book, Erica and Harold, I became immersed into the world of people that my profession is trying to reach.

As a pastor, I can become immersed and gravitate toward people just like us.  Being intentional about reaching and touching the unsaved world around us is a mandate from our boss and Savior.  Jesus would have connected with Erica and Harold.  Brooks awakened a world around me that is quite different from my “bubble” of Christian life.  It caused me to ask how I am doing with the “Harold’s and Erica’s” around me?

Brooks said, “We spend large parts of our lives trying to get other to accept our patterns – and trying to resist this sort of mental hegemony from others.  On a broader scale, people don’t just connect; they compete to connect.  We compete against one another to win the prestige and respect and attention that will help us bond with one another.”[2]



David Brooks does an exceptional job making two people become real.  He follows the ancestry and family dynamics of their parents and then takes us from their birth to their meeting that culminated in a life together.  Brooks doesn’t just tell a nonfictional story about the lives of two people.  He goes deeper.  Brooks said, “…I am going to tell you about these two happy people from the perspective of this enchanted inner life.”[3]

This “enchanted inner life” was Brooks’ attempt to show us what he calls the “unconscious system”.  “I want to show you what this unconscious system looks like when it is flourishing, when the affections and aversions that guide us every day have been properly nurtured, the emotions properly educated.”[4]

Brooks leads us through the reality of Erica and Harold’s lives, but he goes beneath the obvious and reveals the unconscious realities that shape them, and in reality, shape us.  “The unconscious in not merely a dark, primitive zone of fear and pain.  It is also a place where spiritual states arise and dance from soul to soul.  It collects the wisdom of the ages.”[5]


At times The Social Animal is raw.  It reveals the “behind the scenes” of the unconscious realities that Harold and Erica face.  The angst of youth, the adultery of adulthood, the anger of family heritage, and the adversity of relationships that shift so quickly.  Brooks doesn’t just “tell” us about these two, he draws us into their psychic, motivations, and morals that direct their journey.

As you read The Social Animal, you began to immerse yourself in their lives from a deeper concept than conversational.  You find yourself engaging with their lives and Brooks giving you the intellectual dialogue as you writhe from success to failure.  But is that enough to cause us to step outside our “bubble” and find Harold and Erica and affect them with truth that comes from Jesus Christ?

Brooks stated, “…if reasoning led to moral behavior, then those who could reach moral conclusions would be able to apply their knowledge across a range of circumstances, based on these universal moral laws.  But in reality, it has been hard to find this sort of consistency.”[6]  At this point of The Social Animal I was torn inside.  Am I delivering every week a message that is more than just good reasoning?  There is a universal “truth” that is in Jesus Christ that the people that I speak to, the Harold’s and Erica’s in my congregation, need to know about.

Thank you, David Brooks, for bursting my “bubble” again and giving me a heart for every Harold and Erica that I get a chance to impact.


[1] David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, (New York:  Random House, 2011), 211.

[2] Ibid., 213.

[3] Ibid., xii.

[4] Ibid., xii.

[5] Ibid., xvii.

[6] Ibid., 282.

About the Author

Phil Goldsberry

11 responses to “Bursting the “Bubble””

  1. Hi Phil. Happy New Year! It sounds like this book “popped” a few things in you in a good way. Nice! It happened to me too. Towards the end of your blog you mention that you should affect the Harolds and Ericas of the world with the truth of Jesus Christ. Besides, preaching your message each Sunday, what might be some ways we could do that?

    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      I have intentionally engaged with groups outside of the church – gym where I workout, HOA of my neighborhood (we have 2 of our neighbors that attend and are engaged in our church in the last 2 years)…to name two.

      You live in LA, Phoenix is a metro area that is filled with a lot of Harold’s and Erica’s. My heart is to that Jesus be seen.


  2. Claire Appiah says:

    Happy New Year and happy new you! It is spiritually and psychologically healthy to read Brooks and be introspective as a pastor. I’m glad he burst through your protected bubble of privilege and awakened a sense of responsibility and compassion in you that ministers the universal truths of Christ to the Harold’s and Erica’s in your congregation and beyond with true sincerity. Being transformed and contributing to the transformation of others in an ongoing progression, don’t you think? (Romans 12:1-2.).

    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      Happy New Year to you also. I believe salvation is progressive = I was saved, I am being saved, and I shall be saved. Therefore I agree with you that this metamorphosis of salvation is always ongoing until we draw our last breath.

      I do not want to stop here! There is so much more of the awesome God that we serve that is constant unfolding.


  3. Aaron Cole says:


    Great word and advice for us all. We all need those interactions with reality to let us see life from a different perspective. Are there any practices in your life that help to have “bubble bursting” moments like you did with Brook’s writing?

    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      AP asked me the same thing. I try to engage with our HOA (presently the President) which gives me the chance to be Phil. We have two neighbors that now attend our church in the last 2 years. Incredible people that I had to be intentional about “Harold and Erica” and let Christ be seen through my life.

      I try to connect with guys at the gym I workout at. That’s a neutral zone filled with Harold’s of all ages and professions.

      I remember Bill Hybels talking about his sailing passion and how it allowed him to connect with people. I pray God give me contexts that will allow His light to show.


  4. Kevin Norwood says:


    Your conclusion is really my sentiment toward this work as well. All of these thoughts and process go on continually in all the people who come through our doors. Who know what stage each person is at when they come in? I sure don’t but God does and somehow his Word that he gives to me to speak come to life to meet the needs that they have as they come in the door. Fascinating that through the foolishness of speaking or preaching there come about life change. I pray that with all the passion within me I fight through all that was so vividly described to penetrate into the darkness and reveal light.

    You can do that because it is your passion and your desire. Keep up the good work my friend.


    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      This book was a real look at life today….especially life lived in the Phoenix metro area. The capacity to advance and get ahead is rampant and becomes the driving force…many times throwing morality to the wind.

      The longer I live, the more I realize that “religion” is not salvific. It has its place for organization but not for giving life in Christ.

      The youth you touch will be one form of Harold and Erica, in one way or another . Give ’em Jesus! You have sown seeds that are coming up!


  5. Marc Andresen says:


    You quoted Books, “…if reasoning led to moral behavior, then those who could reach moral conclusions would be able to apply their knowledge across a range of circumstances, based on these universal moral laws. But in reality, it has been hard to find this sort of consistency.”

    How does this statement reflect (if at all) the doctrine of the total depravity of human beings?

    • Phil Goldsberry says:


      Great question. The challenge with the doctrine of universalism is that eventually we find our “path” and successfully make the journey. I hope that Brooks is leading toward my thinking; “knowledge” is not capable to redeem individuals. Brooks said, “it has been hard to find this sort of consistency”. I don’t think that we as humans will ever find any knowledge, moral conclusion, universal moral law that is salvific.


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