IT SEEMS AS IF EVERY WEEK OR SO I HEAR ABOUT PEOPLE who failed, recovered, and then wrote a book about it. Perhaps their marriages failed. Or they went through a phase as an addict. Or they lost their families because of bad choices. And so they write a book because of the insights they gained along the way.
I understand why those books sell. As fallen humans, we identify with other people who talk about their failures in such stark terms. We figure the author has some insight into the human condition, and perhaps we can learn enough to keep ourselves from falling in the same hole. And I agree; we can definitely learn from such people.
I recall more than twenty years ago when Gordon MacDonald went through a tough time. The guy who had written Ordering Your Private World saw his world publicly crash to the ground. 1) He later reflected on his fall and quoted Oswald Chambers with a phrase I’ll never forget: “An unguarded strength is a double weakness.” 2) He was saying, “Pay attention! I screwed up in an area where I was strong. Don’t do the same.”
So, yes, those who have fallen and recovered to some level of health have a place to write books and give talks about the pitfalls that should be avoided. But what about those who were faithful for a lifetime, who never had a public failure, who loved their spouses for decades, who led their families with integrity, who ran businesses that cared for people as much as the bottom line? Why don’t they write books? Probably because no one would buy them. The topic isn’t as sexy, is it? You aren’t going to hear much dirt or experience the highs and lows of a huge fall.
But I have to ask:
• Would you rather get advice from the man who messed up and lost his marriage or the man who has stood by his wife through ups and downs for thirty or forty years?
• Would you like to get parenting advice from authors who tell you all the mistakes they made and how they regret that they traveled so much and didn’t spend time with their kids? Or would you rather hear from parents who were present, day in and day out, loving on and listening to their kids and now have young adult children who are grounded and secure?
• Would you rather get advice from the speaker who talks about all the bad things she did in her “wild, youthful days,” including illegal substances and multiple sexual partners, or from the “boring” girl who studied during college, got married as a virgin, and stayed connected to God and her family?
The answer is not either/or. We can learn from both. I wish there were a way to identify and learn from the people who stay faithful day after day, year after year—but they don’t tend to write books about their successes. It’s possible their humility is one of the reasons for their stability.
Our entire culture is shaped to love a redemption story. The best movies are about people who went all the way to the bottom and then were rescued and ended up becoming heroes. And God specializes in redemption! It is in his nature to love a good redemption story.
I think we make a mistake, though, when we don’t realize that every story is a redemption story (Rom. 3:10). On our own, we could never find our way to God. He reaches down and rescues us from our broken ways—and from ourselves—and sets us on a new path.
Those who are most aware of their humanity and their sinful nature are the ones who consistently make good choices in their lives and in their relationships. I want to hear more of those stories.
I challenge you to be a leader who walks with integrity day after day, year after year, decade after decade. What if you could go to your grave with no regrets about your relationship with your spouse, your commitment to your friends, the way you ran your business, or how you raised your children?
Every choice you make today will lead you either toward the path less traveled where you die with your integrity intact or toward a life of regrets. It’s your choice.
This post is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of my book "Fairness Is Overrated & 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace."