On Success and Honesty

In The Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazzero recounts the following:

“Still others of us build our lives in ways that cover up how damaged, cracked, fractured, frail, limited, and imperfect we are.  That’s what I did for years.  The most poignant example occurred several years ago when, for a brief time, I traveled to different parts of the country and spoke at church-growth conferences.  I spoke about our church’s successes, focusing on what I did right.  I conveyed a sense of mastery and control of how to lead a church and build an infrastructure of small groups.  I was the center of attention, sharing my expertise freely over breaks and meals.

However, I glossed over disappointment and setbacks, both personally and in the church.  I also found myself exaggerating more than I like to admit.  On the surface it appeared that I was succeeding…[but] everyone is broken, damaged, cracked, and imperfect.  It is a common thread of all humanity – even for those who deny its reality in their life.”

We like our heroes unblemished, don’t we?  Our churches, businesses, and political parties constantly hold up to us people who seemingly have no flaws, have made no mistakes, who possess no skeletons in the closet.  And it’s always a lie.

I have become aware recently of how rarely we get the back story to major successes: the “self-made” millionaire who came to the US with unnamed resources; the megachurch pastor who (as Scazzero admits) leads a church to great heights while sacrificing his marriage; the entrepreneur whose family connections made the path to success smooth; the vaunted business leader who has taken her company public at the expense of her personal health.

Scazzero’s point is true, though a hard pill to swallow: mature leadership in the name of Christ will always acknowledge and embrace weakness, faults, and failures.  Hiding from or covering over these places in our lives will not ultimately help anyone or anything.  Instead, like the prodigal son, we must admit our brokenness and run to God’s embrace.  That is where leadership begins.

True success must be built on honesty or else it is merely a house of cards, destined to crumble.

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