June 17, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

I am sick of hearing about "leaders" that keep getting caught in extramarital affairs. Seriously, it's gotten to the point where it is just ridiculous. Regardless of political affiliation or profession, these individuals who find themselves in positions of leadership, prominence and popularity and proceed to make choices that disgrace, hurt and deceive the people they love and lead is shameful. We read of another example of this, a GOP Senator from Nevada admitted to having an extramarital affair with one of his staff members (who also happened to be married) for a number of months while she worked for him. Mr. Ensign is certainly not the first on this long list of "leaders" who have failed to actually lead.

Now, I may be coming across as harsh but to be honest, I am intending to be and here's why:

1. As someone who is studying leadership at the graduate level and is attempting to be an effective leader to those I lead...I am frustrated at how little respect these "leaders" have for the positions of leadership they find themselves in. The more I study leadership I realize it has more to do with the people being lead than the one doing the leading. In my opinion, the self-centeredness of these individuals excludes them as true leaders.

2. I completely understand that no one is perfect or without sin. I understand that we all face a variety of temptations on a daily basis, some of which we cave to. I also understand that a leader is called to higher expectations, that's what makes him or her a leader. If leaders lived and worked without these higher expectations than what would make them leaders? One of the reasons that you and I are willing to follow people who lead is because we expect more from them. I want to follow someone who is trying to do it better than me, not worse or really even the same. When you and I decide to take positions of leadership, we must understand that we are agreeing to live and work with a set of expectations that are higher than those we lead. That is part of the responsibility of being an effective leader.

3. I'm not naive enough to think that extramarital affairs don't happen everyday in this country. Sure, it might not be a new one that starts but I can guarantee there are plenty that keep going. That is NOT COOL! Regardless of whether you are in a position of leadership, prominence or popularity it is flat out wrong. What comes up HUGE in situations like that is the grace and forgiveness that is available through Jesus Christ, for both the leader and non-leader. However, in my humble opinion, when a "leader" decides to be involved in an extramarital affair they effectively stop leading. They have forfeited the privilege and responsibility of leading others. Grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ is equally available to them as well and I also believe that we as followers of Jesus are commanded to forgive them BUT that does not mean they should be allowed to continue in their position of "leadership". I have to forgive as Jesus forgives but I don't have to let you lead, possibly ever again.

My last point, I promise...
4. As I've read a little about this recent fallen "leader" and saw something about that Jon dude from the TV show Jon & Kate + 8 I came across this article by Wendy Atterberry entitled "Is cheating ever deserved?" and just had to comment. As someone who sits down with couples in the pre-marital process, I can't even fathom coming to the conclusion that our friend Ms. Atterberry does when she says, "Cheating isn't right, but neither is emotional abuse and neglect. The bottom line is: If you push someone enough, it shouldn't be any surprise when you push him into the arms of someone else." I'm sorry Ms. Atterberry but are you serious?!? Cheating is never, ever deserved, along with any kind of abuse or neglect so why then provide this kind of 'out' for people? The rationale of, "Well, you have been neglecting me so I guess I am going to have to fill my needs with someone else." is not only lame but a cop-out and garbage! I tell couples there is this crazy thing called communication that can really make a difference in their relationship if they are willing to try it with each other. Why would you have not suggested that as an option prior to or instead of cheating? Well, at least the commenters of your article thought of it...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this with such directness. I think it's easy to become desensitized and to justify adultery, in and outside of leadership positions. "Everyone does it," "sex is natural," "we're all sinners who succumb to temptation in some form or another" so really what's the harm? It's important to be reminded that it IS harmful, no matter how you try to rationalize it.

Matt Lipan said...

Anonymous: thanks for the read and comment. i'm glad to hear that you appreciated the directness and weren't turned-off by it. i think i'm at a point of needing someone to simply say that those are not the actions of a leader but are also NOT cool for anyone, leader or otherwise.

John said...

What a timely post, as we find another "leader", South Carolina's Governor, failing his family and the people who entrusted him to run their state.

Anyone who betrays the person he or she is suppose to love and care for the most, will surely betray you or I just as well. That's not a leader by any definition.

The deeper problem is that each time one of scenarios comes into the light, our trust and respect for our "leaders" gets eroded just a little bit more. And when we finally get one who truly deserves our respect, there will be none left - making him just as ineffective as the parade of cheats before him.

Matt Lipan said...

John: thanks for the read and comment.

i think you're right, it becomes harder and harder for people to trust those in leadership because they keep getting burned by them. that becomes frustrating for individuals who are genuinely trying to be effective leaders. it is like fighting an uphill battle, especially in the church.

Anonymous said...

When I took Disciple 1 I started to feel the things that you have related in this blog - really? God chose to put this story in the Old Testament to be an example to me? This was repeated over and over until finally I had the courage one class to ask, "Why is all of this in here? These people fail God in every way, every day." Someone in the group offered, "It shows us that God is merciful, and if he forgives these transgressions and still holds these people up in places of authority, then we can be confident in his mercy toward us."

When issues such as the ones of the past week are churned over and over in the press, I hold onto the fact that I am in need of God's mercy and grace constantly. I am humbled and grateful for his love and forgiveness. I don't feel disgust for these people who make such public errors, I feel sadness. They are troubled and do not have the courage to live a life of truth.

Political leaders more powerful or more moral that you or me? No. They are not chosen because they are more moral or intelligent or powerful. They are chosen because they promise to give voters what they want.

If you are looking for faith leaders, look closer around you. Look at the quiet servants. Look to those who are curious in their faith, steadfast in their journey, gracious in their love and forgiveness of others.

This morning I read in my meditation that "judgment is not a word about things...it is a word that does things, putting love in motion, applying mercy, nullifying wrong, ordering goodness."

Matt Lipan said...

Anonymous:thanks for the read and comment.

i really appreciated your thoughts as they really gave me some things to think about. i completely agree with you that we are all in constant need of God's grace, mercy and forgiveness. it really is a humbling thing to think about how badly we need it and how willing God is to give it.

the distinction i am making between those who lead and those who are being led is point #2. and honestly, i think there is a distinction to be made. not everyone is a leader or in a position of leadership but the ones who are are there for a reason and with a certain level of expectations. i believe that when an individual fails to meet that level of expectation, s/he is forfeiting the position of leadership. typically, people don't want to be led by an ineffective leader and when those leadership levels of expectations fail to be met, ineffectiveness is already present or not far behind. my disgust is not with people in general but rather with people in leadership positions who fail to lead.

i would probably disagree with you slightly in that i think politicians do have more power than the majority of us because it would seem that if they didn't, we wouldn't need them to get things done.

i love your description of a "faith leader". what a great picture you drew of someone who is humble, committed, and faithful in their journey to be like Jesus. very well said! and i bet you're right, there are more out there then we are aware of. do me a favor, if you run into a couple, tell them to quit being so quiet because we need to hear their voice!

thanks again for reading and your willingness to share. i look forward to reading more of your great comments.

Anonymous said...

Leaders are supposed to possess qualities which set them apart as visionaries, idea people, motivators. To be a leader takes a certain amount of ego. When ego is allowed to dominate, then the trip-ups occur - moral infidelity, political infidelity, spiritual infidelity. We are aware of a ever grander examples of leaders who veer off the path.
Rodney gave a sermon series recently on dysfunctional families, and one week he talked about David. David had many lapses in his judgment, but continued to lead, because he recognized his human limitations and looked to God for forgiveness, mercy and restoration. That didn't stop him from getting tripped up again, but his humanity is a lesson for all of us. God's steadfastness in restoring David is my comfort and hope.
Do I know if Gov. Sanford (R-S.C.)is sincere in his apologies or remorse? No. Only God knows the man's heart.
To your point in your original post about church leaders, they may be the most vulnerable when they fall, because we tend to forget they are human like the rest of us. They feel God's calling to minister, but that doesn't make them holy.
I go back to the quote from my meditation a few days ago - "judgment is not a word about things...it is a word that does things, putting love in motion, applying mercy, nullifying wrong, ordering goodness." If we want to live a life of compassion,toward our leaders and others, this seems to me to be the example to follow.