Thursday, August 9, 2012

Without integrity you cannot be trusted and cannot lead

A political campaign advertisement for President Obama uses a man who accuses Mitt Romney of being partially responsible for the death of his wife.  The gentleman claims that he lost his job and health insurance when a company Romney was involved with closed the plant where the gentleman worked.  A few years later his wife was diagnosed with cancer and soon died.  The claim is that if he had health insurance she might have sought treatment sooner and lived.  Republicans point to the number of years that passed between the closing of the plant and the death of this lady and the fact that by that time Romney has left Bain.  The purpose of this post is not to determine whose spin of this event is the most accurate.  I think we have already seen that this campaign is going to be ugly, and I imagine it will get much worse before the election.  At a time when our nation needs real solutions to real problems all we are getting is a lot of mud being slung by both sides  It has been said that a nation gets the government it deserves which says to me that the United States is in serious trouble.  If our current elected officials and candidates for office is the best we have then we have failed miserably as a country.

But, what led to this post is White House Press Secretary Jay Carney's response to a question from a reporter from CNN about the above campaign ad.  He claims he has never seen it and therefore cannot comment on it.  Does he seriously expect anyone to believe that?  Is he the only person in America that has not seen that ad and hasn't formed an opinion about it one way or another?  White House Press Secretaries do not go before reporters without a thorough briefing and a review of likely questions.  Is he trying to tell us that no one anticipated a question about such a sensitive issue as this campaign ad?  I often err on the side of giving people the benefit of the doubt, but this is too much.  I can understand his reluctance to respond to the question and even to defer it to campaign officials (which he did), but to stand there and say he has never seen it and therefore cannot respond is to stretch his credibility past the breaking point.  Can I prove he has seen the ad?  No.  But, I will say that if he in fact has never seen the ad and was not provided with talking points about the ad if asked then someone in the White House failed to do their job in preparing him for this briefing.  I will also say that people who have risen to the level of White House staffers usually do not fail that miserably.  If they weren't smart people they would have never got to the White House in the first place.  For that reason I simply do not believe Carney was being truthful with the reporters and with the American people, and that means I cannot trust anything he says.

Reporters tend to be a rather skeptical bunch.  The CNN reporter certainly did not seem to believe that Carney was being truthful when he said he had never seen the TV spot.  I would have liked to have seen the entire press corps walk out of the room.  They are there to ask questions and receive truthful answers to pass on to the American public.  Did they believe Carney was telling them the truth about never having seen that ad?  If so, then perhaps I'm wrong.  If they didn't why would they remain there to ask him additional questions?  If he didn't answer that one truthfully why should they expect him to respond truthfully to any other?  Or, have they become so used to hearing half-truths and stonewalling answers that they've grown immune.  That also spells trouble for the American people because we depend on journalists to report what is happening in our nation and if we cannot depend on them to report the news factually we will see increasing problems in the future.  Our nation needs journalists who will not accept the spin offered by both parties but will demand truthful answers to the tough questions they need to be asking and then passing those answers to the American people.

How does this correspond to the church and its leaders?  If your word cannot be trusted you cannot lead.  If you lack integrity in your life, in your words, and in your attitudes you cannot lead.  Leadership is not about position; it is about trust, and people cannot trust you if they question your honesty and integrity.  If they do not trust you they will not follow you.  This is true in the church; it is true in business; and it should be true in government.   I believe one reason we have such a crisis in leadership in this country today is because of a lack of trust in the ones supposedly leading us, and, unfortunately, that includes many church leaders.  Trust is built up over time, but it can be lost rather quickly, sometimes never to be regained.  So what can a church leader do to live a life of consistent integrity?

Keep your word.  Honor your commitments.  If you find out you were wrong, quickly own up to it and apologize.  If you got your facts wrong, admit it as soon as you discover it and share the accurate information even if it hurts.  Be truthful at all times.  Remember the lessons you hopefully learned as a child: it hurts much worse if people find out later you were lying to stay out of trouble.  Keep confidences.  Don't lie to protect someone who is doing wrong.  A person once asked me to lie on his behalf, and I refused.  It would have been a little white lie, but I told him that if I would lie for him I would lie to him.  I don't think he understood because I learned later he lacked integrity in his own life.  Practice civility towards others whether you agree with them or not.

Everything I said above about Carney I will probably be able to say about some of Romney's people before this campaign is over, and that's a sad commentary on our nation's political leaders.  My prayer is that I will never be able to say those things about the pastors I know.   Conduct your life and ministry is a way that will earn you the trust of the people, and if you do so you will be able to lead them to fulfill the vision God has for them.

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