By / Nov 2

What would happen if you found out that all of your secrets were about to be on display for the world to see? Would you feel the need to run and hide? Would you be okay with what was about to be revealed? Would you have to explain yourself because what you had presented in the past wasn’t the truth?

A public fall

I remember when I first heard about the strange turn of events that happened at the beginning of 2015. One of America’s favorite anchormen was caught in a lie, and not only once, but several times. It was discovered that NBC News anchor, Brian Williams, embellished reports of a time he covered Israel’s war with Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group.

As a result, Williams received incredible backlash from the media and on the Internet. When news first broke, there wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t see something on social media expressing disgust for his actions. In a matter of moments, his reputation went from generally respected to dishonorable.

Sadly, there’s no shortage of these types of stories when it comes to the public eye. It’s a pity when someone falls like this. We never want to rejoice in the misfortunes of others. And, yet, these events also provide a great lesson for us. Sin’s wages are steep, and sometimes those consequences are on display for all to see.

A needed reminder

So, how are we to think about this in relation to our own tongues?

I often notice people separating themselves from these situations with statements like: “Can you believe what he did?,” “She is a liar and deserves the worst punishment necessary,” “I can’t imagine doing something like that.”

Though our disappointment—and disgust—is often justified, we forget that lying like Williams’ isn’t any different from our own. We can evaluate him and others as public figures, but we mustn’t believe we are incapable of the same grave mistake.

Social media, the place where so much of our backlash is usually seen, is one area where it can be easy to lie. Social media makes it easy to present oneself in one way and live in another. With all the words and pictures we share, there’s a temptation to lie. If you’re always presenting life as sunshine and lilies, then there’s probably an instance when you’ve lied. I’m not saying we need to expose our children’s errors online, nor do we need to be grumble and be gloomy constantly, but I am challenging us to think about what we are presenting and ask, ”Is this true?”

However, social media isn’t the only area where we can be tempted to lie. Have you ever been asked how you are doing and lied about it? Have you denied an invitation to an event and made up a reason for your regret? If you have children, have you ever fed your kids this empty threat, “If you do that one more time I’ll__(fill in the blank),” knowing good and well that you wouldn’t do it?

All of these are what we consider “little white lies,” but nowhere in Scripture does God say that it’s OK. A lie is a lie, and before you think, “Wait is she comparing my lying to Brian Williams’?,” remember that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  Our degrees of sinning and the he consequences will be different, but the heart problem could be similar. As we see the plank in the eye of another, we cannot forget about the log in our own—and our need for God to help us pry it out.

A call to truth

The Bible has over 100 verses addressing the tongue. As Christians, we have the freedom and joy of sharing and speaking the truth. In many ways, the command to speak the truth is an essential aspect of our calling. So, let’s be people who speak in a manner worthy of our calling—speaking the truth in love, allowing no corrupt talk to come from our mouths, keeping our lips from evil and speaking gently (Eph. 4:10, 29; Psalm 34:13). And in all this, whether on social media or in private, let’s use our communication to point to the reality that we have and know the ultimate Truth—and we get the privilege of sharing this with the world.  

By / Dec 17

Recently I had a discussion with some friends about some public leadership fails in the news. Our conversation turned to a general topic of leadership and things we’ve observed. What struck us was how these things evolve from little, seemingly insignificant decisions that form the culture out of which unhealthy leadership grows. In other words, nobody wakes up one day and says to himself, “I’m going to strive to be an authoritarian leader who wreaks havoc on the people I serve.” It just doesn’t happen that way. Leaders start with good intentions. They start as “normal” people. So how do leaders fail? I think there are five basic mistakes leaders make:

1. Leaders fail to build healthy accountability structures for themselves early on

Nobody wakes up one day and says, “I’d like to be a jerk who doesn’t listen to anyone.” Instead, it begins slowly, early on, when leaders fail to intentionally build honest voices into their lives. By “honest voices” I mean friends, mentors, family who are given permission to tell us when we are out of line. We always think this needs to happen when we “make it big” but that’s a mistake. We should do this when nobody knows who we are. And it begins by receiving healthy criticism from people we love instead of adopting a “haters gonna hate” mentality. It’s important to do this early on because once we “make it big” (whatever that means), we’ll be less resistant to criticism. Leaders who surround themselves with sycophants who fawn at their every move–this builds the culture that breeds authoritarian leadership. It’s important for us to have one or two people in our organizations, in our circle of friends, in our families who can tell us, at times, “Dude, you were a jerk to that person” or “Hey, I don’t think this is a good move.” David had Nathan. Who is your Nathan? I think we should not only do this intentionally, but organizations should be structured with this kind of accountability. This is why ecclesiology (church governance and structure) matters. This is why organizational structure matters. The “I’m a CEO/King and nobody tells me what to do” model breeds leaders who fail.

2. Leaders fail to move beyond personal grudges and hurts 

I’m a fan of reading biographies, particularly biographies of political leaders. These are the books I bring to the beach (I know, it’s pathetic). In my reading across a wide variety of leaders, I’ve found a singular trait that characterizes leaders who could best be described as “tyrants.” This is the inability to forgive. Look closely at dictators who have ravaged countries and continents. Almost every one of them was operating off a hurt early in their lives that they never got over. I’ve seen this with presidents, CEOs and pastors. If part of the motivation for assuming leadership is the opportunity to “prove everyone wrong” or “strike back at those who hurt me”, this is a recipe for an authoritarian leader. Leaders who forgive are leaders are able to use their past as a catalyst for serving others and helping them through their hurt and pain. I think of Joseph, who rose to leadership in Egypt and instead of using his power to get vengeance on his betraying brothers, left justice in the hands of God and instead offered forgiveness (Gen. 50:20).

3. Leaders stop serving the mission and start serving themselves

This one is closely related to the first point. Unhealthy leaders begins when organizations allow or foster a kind of “leadership bubble” where the goals of the organization are simply to advance to the leader’s personal interests. This can get complicated, because a good leader will have a reputation and a brand, so to speak, that will bring attention and honor to the organization he serves. But good leaders build a deep and wide organization and are unafraid to let others in the organization get attention if need be. Unhealthy leaders constantly monitor what is being said about them and wake up every day worried more about themselves than about serving the organizations they’ve been entrusted with. Good leaders are humble, confident, winsome in their approach. And they are motivated not by building their own platform but by serving those God has called them to serve.

4. Leaders stop growing and listening

Most people think this is a function of age, that older leaders stop thinking they need to grow, change and learn. But I have not found this to be true. I’ve met young leaders who think they are the experts in everything and I’ve met older leaders who surprise me by their desire to grow. This is more of an ego/pride thing. Success is a difficult thing to handle, more so than failure. And without the patient work of the Holy Spirit sanctifying us we all tend to drift toward lethargy and pride. Good leaders constantly seek out new opportunities, new relationships, new coalitions that will help them grow as a leader and as a person. Bad leaders refuse to listen, grow jealous of other’s expertise, and guard their reputation so strongly that they can’t ever admit they don’t know everything. I’m reminded of the maxim in Scripture that God “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

5. Leaders think that “this couldn’t happen to me.” 

What strikes me most in our conversations about failed leadership is that almost none of us think it could happen to us. I think this is dangerous. It’s very possible that someone tweeting/blogging/talking about some famous and terrible leadership crisis today could be the subject of a similar crisis in five years. The more we cringe and feign disgust at the examples we keep reading about, the more likely it is that we’ll repeat the same mistakes. This is because the instinct that says, “How could this guy do this to his church. I would never do that” is the very instinct that leads to our downfall. We should all treat others’ mistakes like Paul treated the failures of Israel in the Old Testament. We should “take heed, lest we fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). I’m amazed at the pride we all have when someone falls and falls big, at the celebration of their demise and the virtual chest-beating we do on social media. This shows that we’re just as susceptible to making the same mistakes. Instead, like Paul, we should treat every sad story of leadership failure as a cautionary tale.

This article was originally published here.