Healthy Leaders


On Being Stabbed in the Back

Jess MacCallumJess MacCallum

There’s an ancient Greek aphorism that all leaders should apply: Know thyself. But how? We all have blind spots, as well as self-made conceptions.

You can take psychometric evaluations and ability tests; you can ask mentors and peers to speak into your life; you can humble yourself before God and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal truth. All very important. But as leaders, we only get to know our truest selves when we are tested the hardest.

Disappointment is the teacher who rips apart our expectations for a full examination, sometimes publicly. Tragedy can work its horrible service in our lives, pushing us to acknowledge the reality of a world without guarantees and a hope that comes only from God. Pain, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, can be “God’s megaphone” to cut through the noise that might otherwise destroy us, and those who follow.

But there’s a tool to see into human nature like no other ‒ betrayal. The character of the betrayer is revealed, but the character of the betrayed is tested before God, man and himself. Trust ‒ the sine qua non to betrayal ‒ is turned inside out. We are naked.

The experience as a leader can be quite surreal. Everything seems normal, then comes that moment of realization, like the cold steel of a blade between the ribs. Shock comes first, then an odd sense of wonder and denial mixed together ‒ this can’t be happening, not him ‒ and very quickly, anger. For some, self-doubt will follow. Did I bring this on myself? Did I somehow cause this? While reality swirls, exhaustion sets in and the wrestling match with bitterness starts; the anger-hurt-depression cycle is now in full swing.

Time passes. Healing may be underway, or it may be hard to find, but for a leader called by God, there comes the moment He asks for a decision. Who will I be now? Will I feel sorry for myself? Will I retaliate? Wouldn’t I be justified if I did? Will I be distracted from my mission by this? As a leader under God’s authority, what am I really made of? Jesus knows about this test like no one else will ever understand.

If we want to live and lead like Jesus, we know this one thing about betrayal: it will show us more about ourselves than any other leadership experience we face.

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