Why Integrity is Difficult Today
This post was written by Mel Lawrenz
[This article is part of the "spiritual leadership today" study/discussion going on this year. For all articles in the series, click the Spiritual Influence tab at the top of the page. To have them delivered, subscribe to The Brook Letter]
The core issues of integrity remain the same across the ages and across cultures. The coherence of the person, the consistency between the public self and the private self, the need for sound character, all lie at the heart of spiritual influence.
But today we face special challenges to integrity. First, there are more masks available today for us to use to fool the public. The age of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking makes it possible for a person of influence to appear more open and transparent, but really hide behind an image easy to construct and manipulate with a camera and a computer keyboard. We can become like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain, manipulating a machine that produces awe, but is just so many props.
Then there is the more widespread brokenness of our social structures. Leaders frequently need to carry on despite deep troubles in their own families. Moral confusion, addiction, and alienation within the family are frequently the backdrop of a leader’s personal life. Some surmise that they need to step out of leadership in order to care for personal needs, but oftentimes the right thing to do is to keep at the work, knowing that there are no guarantees of peace and contentment in life. Many leaders face powerful spiritual opposition. In business a leader’s rivals are other businesses. In spiritual leadership the rival is something immense, powerful, and malicious—evil itself. Commerce concerns itself with competition; spiritual leadership is a state of war.
All of us are affected by the brokenness in our societies today. The incidence of depression and despondency is alarming. Sometimes the reason is that a leader, coming from a broken home and a series of broken relationships, is working out of an unrecognized deficit in his or her own life. And in other cases leaders repeat unhealthy patterns that they see in the governing structures of the country they live in. Many believers, sadly, will admit: our Christian leaders don’t behave any better than the corruption we have in our government; they just repeat the same patterns.
And then there is the problem of competition. People of influence have always compared themselves to each other–just look at the tensions between leaders in the New Testament churches. To be out ahead of others gives us a sense of power and status. But today this need to compete has been magnified many times over. With our enhanced communications we can track almost everything, and so many leaders have chosen to define spiritual success in the language of statistics, a principle that is hard to reconcile with Jesus’ theology of the kingdom of God, which defies all measurement.
Often what really fuels crass competition is a psychological drive. In a broken world and a broken society and within broken psyches, we have a desperate need to justify our own existence. Power and position are central temptations for leaders–but today we also have this, the simple psychological need to feel validated. We may preach a gospel of unmerited favor, and then in the next breath couch everything about our leadership in terms of merit. Why do leaders do that? To what degree does the pathology of competition rise out of personal pride or its antithesis, personal insecurity? Why do we not see the infection when leaders act out of wounded egos or inflated egos? Why don’t we see that when we are driven by a spirit of competition, we spoil the very work we are trying to accomplish? Why aren’t we embarrassed before God?
On a more positive note, the longing of the public today to have integrity in their leaders can help filter out leaders who have no integrity, and give the stage and the microphone to people who don’t lust for them. Younger people today are not as impressed with style and rhetoric in leaders. They want the real deal. They expect spiritual influencers to be congruent in their public and private lives. There is no way for outside people to control that, of course. It is possible to fool the crowd, and anyone can lie to an accountability group. But at least the expectation of integrity is being voiced loudly today, and hopefully it will be demanded. It would be a good thing if people rose up and demanded integrity in their leaders. This is the power of ordinary people: they can reinforce the principle of integrity by following leaders who value it; and they can choose to ignore leaders who flaunt power and mock integrity.
“May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you” (Psalm 25:21).
This entry was posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2011 at 7:52 am and is filed under Spiritual Influence.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Both comments and pings are currently closed.