How Christian Business Owners Can Guard Against the Dangers of Isolation

Steve Hoeft and Cat Knarr

It was 3 a.m. during an awful thunderstorm in 1995 when Mark Whitacre decided to take his leaf blower outside and clear off his driveway, while still dressed in his business clothes.

“You need to come back into the house,” his wife Ginger called at him, as Mark would later recall in his testimony speech. “You need to come back to your family. More than anything, you need to have God in your life.”

“Who needs God?” Mark replied. “I am going to be the next president of the 56th largest company in America.”

At that point, Mark Whitacre had been working undercover for the FBI for nearly three years to expose history’s largest price fixing conspiracy. During the day, he wore a wire and pretended to be a loyal executive for Archer Daniels Midland. Then at night, he reviewed what he had uncovered with the FBI.

It’s a story that later became the subject of “The Informant” 2009 movie starring Matt Damon.

Faith Driven Business had the opportunity to hear Mark Whitacre’s redemption story at the St. Louis Prayer Breakfast with Christian Business Men’s Connection (Mark is a Marketplace Ambassador for CBMC). At the time of his undercover work, Mark was not a dedicated Christian. Yet in the aftermath of the investigation, something amazingly unexpected happened. But more about Mark’s testimony later.

How Isolation Drove FBI Informant Mark Whitacre to the Edge of Sanity

The problem was, Mark Whitacre was not a trained FBI agent. He was a Fortune 500 executive who only started working with the FBI to report his company’s corporate crimes. But because of the secretive nature of the investigation, Mark couldn’t talk about it to a counselor. Only later, after two suicide attempts, did Mark learn he had bipolar disorder and had gone untreated.

Mark Whitacre was completely isolated during this very intense time. And that isolation took a toll on many areas of his life, including:

  • His mental health as he struggled with bipolar disorder
  • The poor decisions he made under stress, including stealing money from ADM to protect himself financially (without consulting his family or the FBI)
  • His family relationships as he traveled internationally for his job and carried the psychological burden of working for the FBI

“I did not know if I worked for the FBI or for ADM,” Mark recalled in his testimony speech. “I was totally confused and spiraling out of control, almost like a nervous breakdown.”

If Mark could have opened up to someone, he might have saved himself and his family a great deal of pain and avoided a nearly decade-long prison sentence for his theft.

How Christian Entrepreneurs Guard Against the Dangers of Isolation

People know when they are living a phony life, acting one way at work and another way at home. That life is hell.

For Mark, it was worse. As he said in his testimony speech, he was building up the company during the day and tearing it down at night.

A lack of faith and friends left him empty. As Mark looks back today, he remarks that those days when he thought he had everything, he was actually living as if he were behind bars; then when he gave his life to Christ in prison, it was the beginning of his life.

So what made the difference?

Mark was horribly isolated before he found Christ. There are many lessons for the rest of us, but here are two:

1). Do you work to glorify God or yourself?

Mark relied on himself, and we know how that worked out. But compare his attitude that of Jesus, who said, “I know where I came from and where I am going” (John 8:14). Jesus knew his purpose, passion, and mission. At the end he was able to say to his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).

We all need to answer the question, Am I working to glorify God or myself? Mark sought to to glorify himself, but Scripture urges us: “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24).

2). Are you isolated?

The enemy is in the business of creating isolation, fear, and distraction. We fear we won’t measure up, and so we don’t step out in faith. We take matters into our own hands, attempting to figure things out ourselves.

That left Mark to himself and a leaf blower in the middle of a dark, rainy night.

Life is a battle. You will get wounded. Surround yourselves with Godly leaders. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14 NKJV).

LIVE WEBINAR: Hear This Redemption Story from the Informant Himself

So how did Mark Whitacre end up discovering faith after all the corporate crimes he committed?

It’s a crazy story, to say the least. That’s why we’ve secured the real-life informant Mark Whitacre and his wife Ginger Whitacre for a live webinar with Faith Driven Business.

In it, Mark and Ginger will take us behind one of the largest business corruption scandals in history, share how their family endured Mark’s demanding undercover work and imprisonment, and tell the incredible story of how Mark found faith in the aftermath.

WHAT: Live Webinar with The Real Informant!

WHO: Mark & Ginger Whitacre

WHEN: Monday, May 19 at 10 a.m. CST (8 a.m. PST / 11 a.m. EST)

Don’t miss it. Claim your spot before it fills up.

Plus, everyone who registers will receive Mark Whitacre’s Why I’m Not a Hero: The Informant’s Story, a free Business Ethics paper coming out this month.

How can Christians in business guard against the dangers of isolation?

Article originally published on Faith Driven Business. Used with permission. Read Part One in this series on Crosswalk here.

Steve Hoeft is the Founder and CEO of Faith Driven Business. He trains Christian entrepreneurs to build awesome businesses. Steve has authored two free ebooks, “7 Marketing Acceleration Tips for Entrepreneurs” and “The 7 Attributes of Highly Effective Godly Leaders.”

Publication date: May 15, 2014