04 September 2010

Who am I? Are you ever surprised at yourself?

Three things have come to my attention lately and taken together are a challenge to the way I think about myself. Taken separately they seem innocuous enough, but when I put them together it makes me wonder.

1. In July, I visited my grandfather and he was saying something about Jimmy Swaggert who he likes very much, likes to watch on tv and listen to his music on cd from the good ol' days. I made a negative comment based on Jimmy's infamous fall from grace and grandpa said he repented and we shouldn't hold it against him. I didn't argue that Jimmy refused the restoration process or that perhaps the fall should preclude him from telling people from a leadership role how to serve God. But I thought that.

2. I heard a Christian dvd that at one point did one of those personality analysis. It was sort of like, "oh, yeah, another one," but this one used what I would call a more clear break down of the 4 personality types. Perfect, Peace, Fun, and ? okay I forgot the 4th. What I realized was that while I have strong other characteristics, the perfect category dominates me. Not that by any stretch I'm perfect, but that I'm sometimes paralyzed and very motivated by trying to get things "right" and keep them "on track" and that helps me feel like things are right in the world.

3. I read that Martin Luther King Jr had numerous affairs right up until he died and that he plagerized. This disappointed me so much. I was also surprised I'd never heard it, but it was a reliable source I was reading. It sort of lessened his role for me. It tarnished him and I was surprised that everyone had accepted him so much in this leadership with these flaws.

But in recognizing my shock and disappointment; and putting it together with the other two events above I realized how I was throwing out the person and all their work in one fell swoop. Taking this with #2 I realized I have a very high (too high?) standard for leadership. Or maybe it's not that the standard is too high, but that I throw everything out all at once, including their achievements, if it is flawed.  I would say this was a subconscious thing until this week.

Honestly, as I contemplate it I'm not comfortable with the judgmentalism I suddenly recognize in myself but in the same breath I don't feel comfortable with accepting simply any behavior in a leader. I think I need to learn to accept that some good can come from these flawed people and that it doesn't necessarily delegitimize that good if they (gasp) are terribly human and give in to temptation. Something I read said if we only accept truth from flawless people we are all in trouble. I'm not going to sign up for any fan clubs  of fallen and flawed Christians and I will most assuredly have greater respect for the Billy Grahams who don't give in to the dirty laundry of the world as the norm, but what an amazing thing to realize about myself at this point in life. It's time to grow.


  1. I can relate to what you are realizing in myself. For me, I've found myself less tolerable the older I get. I am trying to hold to the "no one is perfect, judge not less ye be judged" rule but I can feel is slipping away from my logic sometimes and I have to think harder to pull it up and stick it in the front of the person I am looking at. I also think the more public the figure the less tolerable I am, but I can't find scripture that says "If you're on T.V. you must be better than everyone else."? I wonder, if I were sitting in the crowd with Jesus and the woman being judged, would I have been smart enough to run?

  2. I am a recovering perfectionist, partly from genetics and partly from how I was raised. As such, I can be very intolerant to others' mistakes, but I am much less so than I used to be.

    I did know about Martin Luther King Jr.'s many affairs because that was a reason that our household when I was growing up withheld some respect for him. In our household we did not allow any sort of racism, but Dr. King was still viewed as a very tarnished leader.

    At some point I went through much the same thought process that you mention here. I figured out that we all fail, so if any of us do great things there are aspects of our lives that will taint that greatness. I can appreciate Dr. King's purpose and sacrifice while still acknowledging that he had some major shortcomings. The shortcomings do not reverse the good that he did.

    One problem with perfectionism is that certain imperfections are viewed in greater proportion than others. Affairs are imperfect and sinful, but so are a lot of other things that exist in leaders that a perfectionist overlooks: Selfish ambition, vanity, pride, etc. If we're equal-opportunity perfectionists then most everyone will fall short of our standard.

    Regarding Swaggert, I haven't heard enough from him to know how I feel. I don't think I am in his target audience. I think part of his downfall, though, was that he preached perfectionism while he did not live it.

    After I've said all of that, I will throw one verse out for the perfectionists, since I still have those tendencies.

    "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
    - James 3:1

  3. Thank yyou for sharing