Since we have labored long through the summer on the subject of leadership and we closed the book on Nehemiah’s journal last Friday, I want to press into one more area. This is more than just a sidebar, but a critical and central area of concern. This has to do with a leader’s character and integrity.
Over the past week or two, several high-profile leaders (not in the Presidential campaign) have found their “dirty laundry” floating for the public to see. One story concerned a rising star general who was caught (actually reported on) by his former partner in adultery. As one story after another surfaced confirming his adulterous affair, it was also discovered that this General, working in a secure military post, using a secure military phone, was actually sneaking around the endless security screens inside the facility where his office was located to make secretive phone calls to his lover. There was no denying his affair, which has cost him his job, his rank, his impending promotion to five star general and certainly his family. All because of a fatal flaw in his character. And a miscalculation that he would never be caught.
Meanwhile over the same days sordid details emerged about Congressman Paul Weiner, who was again caught sexting illicit photos of himself to a woman. This now the third time he has been caught in the same act. This time, because of the proximity of his child, he is being investigated by child protective services.
What do these two men have in common? Both were high profile leaders. That means, contrary to some opinions of them, that they are highly intelligent individuals. So this is no failure of intellect. Both were in seemingly happy marriages with loving spouses, with Weiner’s wife being a close personal assistant to Hillary Clinton. So they were socially connected as well as politically wired in. They both are paying a high price for their “private” lives… which most today will tell you is nobody’s business but theirs.
And they are both proving, unwittingly, the truth of Scripture. “The way of transgressors is hard.” Ask them. They will tell you. “Be sure your sins will find you out.” Ask them. Even with an assumed name on Twitter and a secured military phone. And by the response to both men’s situations, “The wages of sin is death.” At least for them, it has meant the death of their reputations, their marriages and their careers.
So does the invisible, inner world of the leader matter? Simple illustration: try crushing an empty soda can in your hand. Now try to crush one that is full. The illustration is mundane but very true. The person who is empty of character on the inside is devoid of substance and integrity to guide them, ignorant of the significance that the inner part of a man is where character is formed, and, though unseen, is sorely missed when absent.
Can God restore such a person? Absolutely. Can they be forgiven if they ask? Certainly. Can they be fully restored to their former influence, value and usefulness? Doubtful. Weiner was fortunate. He had a forgiving wife, and a forgetful public who almost elected him at one time after his first indiscretion to Mayor of New York City. The General? Busted down to the last rank he held “with honor,” according to military officials. For the most part they are now as useful as empty soda cans.
If there is a hopeful postscript to all of this horrible mess, it is this: there is still the reality of moral outrage happening in our culture. People are horrified by the acts of both of these leaders, who whether they knew it or not, were being held to and judged by a moral standard. And if their lives and stories are useful at any point, it should strike terror into the heart of any person… and certainly any leader… who thinks people aren’t watching or that people won’t care.
Because they are… and apparently, they do.
FOR MEDITATION: There’s a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof leads to death. Proverbs 14:12
FOR REFLECTION: While this post is directly pointed to those in leadership, let us all remember that there are people watching us and who will stumble if we fall. Count the cost of your moral choices and decisions… each one adds to your inner strength or erodes it.