“Real Leaders Apologize” by Thom Rainer

heart of a servant leaderFor some leaders, apologies seem to come reluctantly if they come at all. Perhaps a mea culpa seems like an indication of weakness. Perhaps the leader’s ego is too fragile to admit that he or she is wrong. Perhaps some leaders really don’t believe they are ever wrong.

There are certain facts upon which most of us can agree. First, all people make mistakes, including leaders. Second, some of those mistakes will rise to the level of needing an apology. Third, a sincere apology is usually received well.

Here are some miscellaneous notes I have gathered as I have observed apologies or lack of apologies by leaders:

  • Many apologies begin with “If I have offended anyone . . .” That is a non-apology apology. Leaders need not apologize if they don’t know whom they have offended. It’s a cop-out apology.
  • A good apology states the nature of the offense: “I was wrong when I said you are a jerk.” The apology does not sidestep the issue, but confronts it head-on.
  • One of the roles of good leaders is to build strong relationships. All leaders mess up relationally at times. The organization needs leaders who are willing to apologize not only to heal a relationship, but for the health of the organization.
  • Apologies defuse antagonism in the organization. Antagonism can seriously harm the health of the organization.
  • Apologies should be a part of a leader’s life on both a professional and personal level. It takes both humility and integrity to admit fault and to apologize for it. But most recipients of our apologies are grateful beyond measure that we are willing to do so, whether they or a co-worker, a spouse, or a friend.

Allow me to speak directly on this matter to fellow Christians. I recently spoke with a young man I befriended on a trip. He is not a Christian, but he is a seeker in the true sense of the word. He also seems to be very smart and informed. “Thom,” he began, “I read a lot of interactions among Christians online. I really am interested in learning from them.” He paused for a moment, and continued, “Why is it that you Christians fight so much? Why are you so antagonistic toward each other?”

My purpose in providing that true story is not to tell you how I responded. My greater purpose is to remind ourselves that the world is watching. We will certainly make mistakes and say things we regret. But we can always apologize. If we are wrong, we should always apologize.

Real leaders apologize.

Real Christian leaders apologize.

Source: Dr. Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

While I was on vacation back in June I read the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18.9-14). The introduction of the parable clarifies the point Jesus was trying to make, “He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt…” Jesus was talking to those who define themselves as superior believers because of their acts of righteousness. They do all the right things—tithe, study the Bible, pray, attend worship, practice the spiritual disciplines, as well as other things expected from those who call themselves Christians. So, what is the problem? It is their attitude. They do everything to show how deserving they are of God’s salvation. They look down on those who do not measure up to their definition of holiness.

I have to admit, there have been times in my life when I have played the part of the Pharisee. I have observed the life of others and looked down my nose at their unworthiness to come into God’s presence. There have been times when I figured I must make God proud to call me one of His children. Of course this all happened in my younger Christian days. I mean I would never have this type of arrogant attitude after being a Christian for over thirty-eight years, right? Unfortunately, if you are like me you fight pride and arrogance every day. It takes great humility and discipline to look at others as equals and not lesser humans because of their sinfulness.

God taught me a great lesson this summer that has helped keep my pride and arrogance in check. As I get alone with God to pray, I try to always begin with the prayer of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18.13). It is important to remember that I am always the sinner, and Jesus is always the Savior! My righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64.6); however, when I abide in Christ, His righteousness works in and through me to produce fruit for His glory and not mine (John 15.4).

When I remember that it is Christ working through me I have a different attitude toward those who are not abiding in Christ. I want to share with them why certain actions, attitudes, and aspirations are wrong. It is when I abide in Christ that I can approach those living in sin as someone who understands being tempted on a daily basis. I can approach them as someone who has walked in the same shoes, and yet, has been set free from the chains of self-righteousness and sin. I am moved by compassion to share with them the good news of Jesus and how He is able to change the life of those who place their faith in Him.

The truth is, if I try to help others live up to my measure of righteousness they are going to miss heaven. Living like Bob Pittenger will never save anyone. However, if I abide in Christ and live an example of a life changed by Jesus, then they too can experience His forgiveness, love, grace, and mercy. They too can learn to live a life of daily dependence on the finished work of Jesus Christ.

I would like to challenge you to try something new. As you have your prayer time today, try starting like the tax collector, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Life is so much sweeter when we go along justified in God’s eyes instead of our own.