Wise leaders don’t wait for a crisis to establish accountability. Accountability relationships cannot be imposed; they must be invited. The onus is on leaders to establish structures and relationships that harness their sin and unleash their potential. We must seek out godly people of mature character and give them permission to ask us the tough questions. This requires risk on our part. It requires honesty and vulnerability – risky things that leaders are often skittish about. However, as anyone who has suffered the consequences of a fall will tell you, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
In his book The Man in the Mirror, Patrick Morley writes an open letter to men and their pastors:
You know me well. I sit toward the front of the church every Sunday – I’m always there. On the way out, I always greet you with a handshake and a smile. You seem to be glad to see me too.
But you don’t know the “real me” very well. Behind my happy smile is a life that is somehow unbalanced. Occasionally, you have asked me how I’m doing, and I’ve told you, “I’m fine. How are you?? (I’ve learned the easiest way to keep to myself is to refocus the attention back on the other person.)
The truth is, I’m not sure you really want an answer. I know you deal with a real lot of pain and a real lot of suffering: people losing jobs, their homes, their families, loved ones. Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed to talk to you about where I am spiritually. I’m supposed to be on top of things – after all, I’m a successful businessman.
I’ve tried to take a look at my life to examine my ways, but the plain truth is I don’t know how. I really enjoy your sermons. They move my emotions and my spirit, but on Monday morning at 9:00, when the phones start ringing and the customers start complaining, I can’t seem to make the transition. I really need help.
Somehow I sense that my problems are really spiritual problems, but I can’t find spiritual answers. I know that my marriage looks like the picture of success, but behind the closed doors of my private castle, life is very different – I would be ashamed for you to know.
My children don’t seem to like to spend time with me anymore. Frankly, I’ve shut them out of my life for so long, I can’t really blame them. I’ve wasted more nights in empty motel rooms than I care to remember. At first, I thought I was doing it for my family – to provide them a better standard of living. But now I realize that I was really doing it for me – for my own personal self-gratification. Maybe I thought it would make me feel more significant. Anyway, I got the ends and means mixed up, and now I really don’t think that they like me very much anymore.
I know lots of people, but I’m really a very lonely man. I wouldn’t know who to talk to if I could put my frustrations into words. There is no accountability in my life whatsoever. Nobody knows or even seems to care how I’m doing financially, with my business, with my wife, with my children or spiritually. I know you are interested at the group level, but I’m just talking about me – personally, individually. I don’t expect you personally to spend time with me, but I wish we had some way of linking men together to talk about these things. I think it would happen if you really got behind the idea.
Frankly, I’ve done some things in business which I regret. I’ve cut corners and compromised my integrity. I feel guilty about it, but since nobody knows the difference, I just go on pretending everything is okay.
I’m really not much different from anyone else. I often wonder if behind those plastic Sunday-morning smiles, other men might feel the same way I do.
Oh well. I never planned on mailing this letter anyway. But I just had to get some of these things off my chest. I really wish I could tell you about these things. There’s so much I want to know, and I need someone to talk to. Oh well. I guess I’ll see you on Sunday.
We’ll never know how many men compose letters like this one but never send them. Nobody wants to go through life like this. Nobody gets married thinking, “One day my wife and I are going to feel like complete strangers.” Nobody starts a new job and wonders, “How long until I begin compromising my ethics?” Nobody wants to “waste more nights in empty motel rooms” than they care to remember. Nobody wants to “go on pretending everything is okay.” It just happens. Sometimes it seems life just works out that way. And here’s at least one reason why: We don’t intentionally seek out people who can and will tell us the truth and ask us the hard questions.
These relationships will not be easy to cultivate. They will require intentionality, time, trust and vulnerability. But the cost/benefit analysis shows that this is one investment leaders cannot afford to pass up.