Leaders have a huge responsibility: not just in what they lead, but in how they live. 20 years ago, we were led to believe by many in media that what a leader does in private does not matter. However, we have seen over and over again that does not hold true.
I just found out about another leader that has made a serious mistake in judgment and allowed a situation to happen that has far reaching consequences. Who it is doesn’t matter at this point. It is actually the second such situation in a month that I have seen come to light.
Whenever this happens, there is much collateral damage. Families are shattered. Churches are stunned and staggering. People become disillusioned. Accusations fly. Excuses are made. The internet trolls dance and gloat. A leader ends up forfeiting so much positive potential and impact.
For the rest of us we have choices to make in these moments. Do we respond with grace or judgment? Do we pile on the hurt or offer restoration? Do we write off those involved or do we seek to help them overcome? Do we dismiss faith and God or do we recognize the frailty of the human condition? Do we take it as a warning to us or do we dismiss it as the weakness of others?
I choose grace and restoration. This wasn’t always the case, but in my growth and experience it is where I now stand. Of course, restoration means accountability, oversight, and change. Grace, while free, does not remove responsibility. The individuals involved need to walk a process that takes time and much effort to be restored. They may not ever be able to return to the position they were once in, but they are not written off forever from being able to be an effective leader. It will just take time.
I also choose to take it as a reminder, a warning. No one is immune. I have often said publicly, “the best among us is just one or two decisions away from the worst among us.” We all have the ability in a given set of circumstances to make a decision or go down a path that we rationally wouldn’t think we could or would.
The way to protect ourselves from ending up like some of these that have fallen is to start by acknowledging that it could be me. I am not immune. Neither are you. I have weaknesses. You have weaknesses. I have blindspots. So do you. We must know that and we must identify where those are.
I am currently teaching my daughter how to drive. She still doesn’t always remember to check her blindspot when change lanes or pulling out (she just started). So, I always check the blindspot for her, even when she does remember. Not only because I don’t want to get in an accident, but to protect her.
As leaders, we need to always be aware of our blindspot, but we also need others who are as well. We need people that we trust and have given full permission to call us out when they see something (or someone) in our blind spot.
Years ago, my wife came to me and told me to be careful around a certain female involved in our church. My first response was that she was being paranoid and overly sensitive. However, I had given her permission to tell me whenever she felt that way and that I would heed it no matter what. I did. I put up my guard regarding this person and when she would come to me wanting prayer, counseling or whatever, I would send her to my wife or another female leader. Whether or not that female was a trap for me does not matter, my wife was watching out for me and I trusted her intuition and our relationship was strengthened.
I have others in my life that can speak directly to me about areas I may be blind to. I also ask. I do this because too many people that I looked up to, learned from, and witnessed have fallen into a trap in one way or another and it has destroyed or nearly destroyed their family, their church, and so many around them.
Guardrails exist to protect. They are not there to restrict or be a burden.
Leaders, you and I need safeguards and boundaries in our lives. We need accountability. We need awareness. We need others that can help us in this way. If you don’t have these, drop everything else today and start putting them in place because you are vulnerable and there is too much at stake to ignore it any longer.
No one is immune. The ones who make it are the ones who realize that and do what needs to be done to protect themselves, their family, their church/ministry, and their representation of Christ.