Recently, I heard a sermon about the prophet Nathan’s encounter with King David. In case, you are unfamiliar with the Biblical story, let me give you a little background…
King David, at the pinnacle of his success as a king, sees Bathsheba–the wife of one of his soldiers–bathing on a roof. Uriah–her husband–is off fighting in battle for his king, and King David capitalizes on the opportunity. He sends for Bathsheba and has “relations” with her. He sends her on her merry way and everything goes back to normal, right? Nope! It turns out that she is pregnant. Hmm…I wonder how she got that way being as her husband is off in war?
Quickly, King David–being the resourceful king that he is–summons for Uriah. When the man returns from battle, King David insists that he spend time with his wife. However, during his time away from war, he does not set foot inside his wife’s chambers, because he doesn’t think it fair that all of his comrades are off fighting and cannot be with their wives. Darn! Time for plan B, King David. After sending him back to war, the king instructs the general to send Uriah to the frontlines of battle. Uriah is killed and David marries Bathsheba just in time to alleviate any suspicion of matrimonial malfeasance. Whew, that was a close one!
Or maybe not…King David is soon visited by a prophet–Nathan–who tells him a story about a poor man and a rich man. (The Bible tells it much better than I do). The poor man has but one sheep and the rich man has many. When the time comes for the rich man to prepare a feast for a guest, he does not take from among the sheep in his own flock. Instead, he steals the one sheep of the poor man.
King David is enraged! He gets all worked up about the injustice of the rich man stealing from the poor man and begins to call for the death of the rich man who had no compassion. Nathan looks at his king and says, you guessed it, “You are the man!” The prophet then relates to the king how God had trusted him with the entire kingdom and David still had the nerve to do what he did to Uriah. Though no one else saw his deed, God did and David wasn’t going to get away with it.
On Pointing Fingers
Okay, the Bible lesson is over. What’s the point for business leaders? There are many nuggets of truth present in the story but I think the most poignant is the one so tactfully presented by the prophet Nathan: you can’t condemn other people for your own faults. David is ready to execute the man that Nathan is talking about until he realizes that it is actually himself. He is to blame. His self-righteousness dissipates into shame. He admits, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
How many times as business people to we condemn our people, our suppliers, our customers, or society in general for things that we ourselves do? It’s easy to point fingers. It’s easy to blame others. It’s hard to come to terms with our own failings. Righteous indgination is often a mask for the guilt that we feel deep down inside. We can’t seem to live with the choices we have made, so we lash out at others and focus on their flaws.
I think it’s time to stop living in secrecy. I think it’s time we admit our sins to ourselves instead of condemning others for them. We stole the sheep–not the poor people we are judging. Ghandi says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you want to have a professioanl influence in your life, it begins with personal integrity. Do you have the image of a dignified King while an adulterous murder sulks beneath the fascade? I think it’s time for some reconciliation. YOU are the man! I am the man! Blaming others never solved anything. Great change starts with accepting responsibility.