Leadership Courage Series # 34

Last time, I used the phrase “do what’s right because it’s right, whether it works or not.”  I learned this from a friend, who says he learned it from the Lord.  His wife had lost both her parents to cancer. One after the other.  Suddenly.  Unexpectedly.

The impact was devastating.  She was always the strong one for her parents and siblings.  Amazing everyone, she stood like Gibraltar: an emotional and spiritual fortress in a storm of incalculable ferocity.

But, after the second funeral her scaffolding rocked, then teetered, and collapsed.  When it did, my friend found himself in court-ordered isolation.

Banished from his home, his wife, and his children.

With tears in his eyes, Tom promised me that he’d do what was right for his wife, because it was right, whether it “worked” or not.

Whether he’d ever be able to move home.  Ever hold his wife again.  Ever have a meal at with his children at their table.

Leaders go first.

Which means they do GO.  Leaders move into the unknown.  They realize they cannot afford to wait until there’s no risk left. Guided by their values and attending to their functioning moral compass, they move.

This is what Tom chose to do.  To respond tenderly, mercifully, patiently, lovingly, forgivingly, kindly.  While facing a great threat to his and his family’s future.  There was no MapQuest with navigation instructions.  No one he knew had faced something like this.  Nothing about it made sense.

It didn’t have to. 

His commitment was to do right by his wife.

Courageous leaders have learned to govern themselves, to manage their emotional reactivity, to restrain their impulsivity. Like, the impulse for revenge.  To employ terrorist tactics.  Or zero-sum strategies. And the ever-present impulse to resist another’s resistance

Instead, she surrenders herself to integrity. Her integrity.  And, she entrusts herself to God, being obedient, as best she can, to what she knows to be right.

Right?

A Christian leader cannot afford to be capricious, impetuous, or mercurial.  If they are, those they lead cannot follow.  And, leaders are only leaders when people follow them.

It’s incumbent upon leaders in the Church to do what we know to be right.  Because, when we don’t, we compromise ourselves.  When you compromise your own integrity, you commit moral suicide. 

When you fail to do what you know to be right, you immediately lose esteem for yourself.  The antidote to low self-esteem is not the empty pumping up of those who live without integrity.  It is to live a life that you yourself esteem.  That you respect.  To quote my friend Tom, you do what’s right.

One tragedy of Christian leadership in our day is that far too many suffer from this malady.  Collapsing on what they know to be right, the erosion of esteem begins its inexorable advance.

Confidence is undermined.

One collapse breeds another.

Compromised, the leader looks outside to determine direction.  Like the politician taking cues from polling data, she’s straining to sense the political winds rather than standing on the moral certitude of doing what’s right.

The question is no longer “what’s right?” but “what’ll work?”  And, adrift of one’s ethical moorings, the tragedies mount up. 

Don’t they?

And, this is what passes for leadership in a culture of cowardice.

What if the Church in our nation determined to do what we know to be right, simply because it is right?   What if honor and integrity supplanted expediency and political advantage?

How might we then live?

How might our society respond?