I’ve spent more than a little time trying to understand how and why some men/women in all kinds of leadership get themselves into trouble whether the issues be moral, financial, or the abuse of power and ego. I am no stranger to failure and public humiliation. From those terrible moments of twenty years ago in my own life I have come to believe that there is a deeper person in many of us who is not unlike an assassin.
It seems to me that when people become leaders of outsized organizations and movements, when they become famous and their opinions are constantly sought by the media, we ought to begin to become cautious. The very drive that propels some leaders toward extraordinary levels of achievement is a drive that often keeps expanding even after reasonable goals and objectives have been achieved. Like a river that breaks its levy, that drive often strays into areas of excitement and risk that can be dangerous and destructive. Sometimes the drive appears to be unstoppable. This seems to have been the experience of the Older Testament David and his wandering eyes, Uzziah in his boredom, and Solomon with his insatiable hunger for wealth, wives and horses. They seem to have been questing—addictively?—for more thrills or trying to meet deeper personal needs, and the normal ways that satisfy most people became inadequate for them.
When I see a leader who becomes stubborn and rigid, who becomes increasingly less compassionate toward his adversaries, increasingly tyrannical in his own organization, who rouses anger and arrogance in others, I wonder if he is not generating all of this heat because he is trying so hard to say “no” to something surging deep within his own soul. Are his words and deeds not so much directed against an enemy “out there” as they are against a much more cunning enemy within his own soul. More than once I have visited with pastors who have spent hours immersed in pornography and then gone on to preach their most “spirit-filled” sermons against immorality a day or two later. It’s a disconnect that boggles the rational mind.
No amount of accountability seems to be adequate to contain a person living with such inner conflict. Neither can it contain a person who needs continuous adrenalin highs to trump the highs of yesterday. Maybe this is one of the geniuses of Jesus: he knew when to stop, how to refuse the cocktail of privilege, fame and applause that distorts one’s ability to think wisely and to master self.
More than once we’ve seen the truth of a person’s life come out, not all at once, but in a series of disclosures, each an admission of further culpability which had been denied just a day or two before. Perhaps inability to tell the full truth is a sign that one is actually lying to himself and cannot face the full truth of the behavior in his own soul.
But then all sin begins with lies told to oneself.