“The LORD forbid,” [David] told his men, “that I should do something like that to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him, because he’s the LORD’s anointed!” – 1 Samuel 24:6 (CEB)
When my kids were little, I sometimes used what they called my “Loud Voice.” My Loud Voice often came out when we needed to hurry. Anyone who has parented or cared for toddlers know that “hurry” never has a happy ending.
One morning, I was hurrying us out the door so I could get to work. Having parented for a few years, you would think I would have allowed more time for us to get out of the house. Sadly – for everyone – this was not the case.
Tired and frustrated, my Loud Voice entered into the fray. Eldest responded by getting out the door as quickly as he could. Youngest began to cry. I looked at him in increased frustration when his words stopped me: “Your Loud Voice scares me.”
By this time, we were all crying – and very late. I apologized, gave them a hug and we were off.
But it wasn’t over.
That evening, I sat both boys down and told them I was sorry. I wasn’t just sorry: I was wrong. As the adult, I should allow enough time for us to get ready. As their Mom, I should know how long it takes us to get out the door and into the car. As a Christian, I should not use my power to make them feel that their actions justify my bad behavior.
It was important that day – and many times in the years that followed – for me to take clear responsibility for my actions and apologize to my children. I should hold myself to the same level of accountability for my actions to which I hold them. If I want my children to be better parents than I am, I need to model honesty and humility when I’m wrong.
This element of leadership is largely missing in the world today. Most leadership books I read, including those written by “church people,” focus on casting a vision, diagnosing problems, managing different communication styles, etc. But leadership is more than not taking credit for other people’s good work or blaming them when something goes wrong. Good leadership includes the courage and strength to confess when I’m wrong and have abused my power.
That’s what I like about the story of David in 1 Samuel 24:1-15. David had every right to be angry with Saul and exert his authority. Kudos to David for not killing Saul in that cave when he had the chance. Congratulations for recognizing that cutting off a piece of Saul’s cloak was wrong and was done to humiliate Saul. But the real act of leadership was David’s confession in front of his men.
David’s act of humility set an example of what he expected of his men. In a culture where strength and power were valued above all else, David chose a different way. David modeled that in his kingdom, integrity matters.
We are all leaders somewhere. Anyone who stands in line at the grocery store and is kind – even when the cashier is not – demonstrates leadership in their patient humility. Casting a vision, diagnosing problems, and managing people are important, but true leadership that will shape our families, our churches and our communities is founded in respect and humility.
Has anyone with authority over you ever apologized for their abuse of power? How did this change how you viewed their leadership going forward?