How to respond when a leader fails

Last week I shared some thoughts on the beauty of God’s strength and power in the middle of our weakness. It’s important to remember because we all have weaknesses. If you aren’t sure about your weaknesses, go ahead and ask a close friend – they could probably tell you pretty quickly. =)

The apostle Paul used a great analogy when describing this dynamic. He talked about carrying around this all-surpassing power, this treasure (the Strength of God) within fragile and cracked jars of clay.

You and I are these jars of clay. 
So are the leaders around us.

Political leaders, business leaders, church leaders – they are just like you and me. They are jars of clay. 

Here is the frustrating thing about jars of clay. Sometimes they break. Today’s post is shared with the reality that in this unique season, under the pressure and stress that will come, some of us are likely to experience a failure of leadership.

In recent years we have seen a series of implosions by a number of high profile leaders. If you are anything like me, each of these events evokes feelings of anger, frustration, sadness along with so many questions. 

How could they act this way?
Don’t they know what is on the line?
How do you lead for Jesus publically with so much mess behind the scenes?
Why did God choose to bless their ministry efforts while all of this was happening?

I’m sure you have questions too. They come naturally when we are let down by a leader. It is a dangerous thing to put people up on a pedestal and think of leaders as anything but human. It is dangerous, but we do it. 

We think of leaders, celebrities and others we look up to and treat them as if they are better than us when it comes to the pitfalls of human nature. If you took a second right now I am sure you could think of someone who has let you down. Some of us are thinking of a personality we follow from afar. For others of us the first name that comes to mind is a leader we have worked directly with.

Chances are at some point in your life you will experience the failure of a leader. The failure might be an indiscretion, emotional or spiritual abuse, betrayal or abandonment…each of those are awful in their own way. These experiences can cause us to become jaded and pessimistic, which isn’t beneficial for anyone. 

How can we navigate the hurt and heartache that comes when a leader fails you? While I do not think there is a perfect playbook to follow, there are a few key statements I’d want to remember:

  • God WAS Good, IS Good, and WILL CONTINUE TO BE Good – no one can change the character of God
  • Every good and perfect gift comes from above. God always has been and always will be the source of any favor, momentum and results.
  • I want to think “Eye-for-an-eye” (you hurt me, I can hurt you). Jesus invites me to stop living by OT legalism and instead live with a NT ethic (as Jesus has loved me, I will love others…as Jesus has forgiven me, I will forgive others…)
  • My hope is in Jesus –  not in the influence, gifting or anything else often associated with leaders. 
  • Processing and recovery are dynamic in nature. Everyone’s timeline is a little different. Some people seem like they will get over it by tomorrow. For others it feels like, “I am going to sit in this forever.” Pain and grief don’t follow a regular timeline.

What statements would you add to the list? What things are important to keep in mind when a leader fails us?


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