For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against you—you alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight. So you are right when you pass sentence; you are blameless when you judge. Psalm 51:3-4
We often think of David as one of the greatest heroes in the Bible. He was the young shepherd who defeated Goliath. He was the beloved king and ancestor of Jesus. He was the prolific writer of many of the Psalms.
But David was not perfect, of course. Actually, he was far from it—reminding us once again that everyone needs God’s gift of grace and that Jesus is the greatest and true hero.
David wrote Psalm 51 after Nathan the prophet confronted him about perhaps David’s most grievous sins—adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. David had done his best to hide these sins for about a year, but sin cannot be hidden from God. Trapped in his sin, David was broken. He confessed his sins to God and penned Psalm 51 as a prayer.
As leaders, we can learn much about how to handle our failings from David. While our failures may not be on the level as David’s, we will fail. We will sin. We will make mistakes. We will fail our leaders, our parents, our kids, and perhaps even our church. But what we do in those times will speak loudly about who we are, and more importantly about the gospel. Here are five tips to remember the next time you fail:
- Confess your sin to God. Often what seems like it should go without saying is what needs to be said the most—like this. When your failure is born out of sin, confess that sin to God and rest in His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. If you are not right with God, your ministry will not flourish. So keep a short account of your sin with God.
- Confess to others when needed. While all of our sin is ultimately against God, we often sin against others as well. Perhaps you weren’t quite honest with your pastor. Maybe you got angry at a parent or took credit for something one of your team members did. When you fail as a leader in times like this, confess your sin to God and the person you wronged. No one believes you are perfect, so don’t act like you are by never confessing failures to others. People need a kids leader they can trust—be one by being honest about your failures.
- Learn from your failings. Treat every failure as an opportunity to learn. Wise, strong leaders learn more from their mistakes than their successes. If your failing was rooted in a sin, get underneath it and try to understand why you sinned in the first place. Why were you afraid to be honest? Why did you get mad? Pride? Perfectionism? Get to the root of the issue and let God work there. If the failing was more of a tactical issue, determine if you could have prevented the failure ahead of time or what you can change and do differently next time. This is a great place to invite others to help you evaluate.
- Build relationships. Having quality relationships with your peers, leaders, parents, and kids is vital because relationship equity is so important when navigating failures. The more you love others, the more honest you will be with them as you deal with your failures. At the same time, the more others love you, the more they will be apt to forgive you and encourage you through them.
- Ask at least two others to hold you accountable. Just as David needed Nathan to confront him, you need to give someone in your life permission to step in and say the hard things that need to be said. Seek two other people—ideally people who have a different view of you as a leader—and ask them to hold you accountable in your leadership and life.
Next time — Peter: How do leaders handle adversity?
Brian Dembowczyk is the managing editor for The Gospel Project. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.