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“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

We are all pretty good at detecting when others have hidden motives. Perhaps, a colleague says something that on the surface supports you while he is secretly working to undermine you.  You know something is wrong, even if you can’t pin it down. Maybe a client tells you what you want to hear with no intention of following through. You know something is off. They think they are hiding it well, but they should know better. Humans have remarkably good BS detectors.
 
Seeing the Problems
I am excellent at critiquing others’ stupid mistakes. This is partly due to my academic training and partly due to experience. For example, I have become pretty good at predicting how managers’ actions impact employees. I see the masked demoralization when managers lie to their subordinates; I see the arrogant manager’s pride as he thinks he put one over on his people. I see it all in Technicolor. They think that they are clever, when in reality, they are undermining commitment and trust. If you have seen it before you can see the ripple effect that follows. Maybe you are a student of human nature, and you can see this too.
We have very good BS detectors when it comes to others. But we are terrible when it comes to detecting duplicity and impure motives in ourselves.
I hate to admit it, but while I am excellent at recognizing other’s faults, I am very poor at recognizing my own. I have come to conclude that I need help. I need someone who can stand next to me and tell me that which I need to hear when I am about to make stupid decisions. That is difficult to admit, but it is true.
 
Don’t Follow Your Heart
Disney movies tell you to follow your heart, but the scripture says that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The advice points us in two different directions, but which one is true
Following your heart may work when you think about what you want to do with your life. When you consider your strengths, talents, gifts, and the type of work that you find fulfilling, following your heart may be sound. But it is terrible advice when it is the only advice.
Humans have a tremendous ability to rationalize that which they want, but know to be wrong. They willfully violate their conscience and then create rationalizations to support why it wasn’t wrong in their situation. The philosopher Dennis Peacocke reminds us that, “the mind justifies what the heart has chosen.”
It is this imperceptible creep toward what we know to be wrong that is the root cause of most ethical scandals. You give yourself a pass for the very thing that you condemn in another person. I do it. You do it too. Few people who have been brought down in such scandals started out totally corrupt. More often than not, they moved imperceptibly from one small transgression to another until they found themselves tangled in the web that they spun.
Last week, General Michael Flynn resigned, earning the record for the shortest time a National Security Advisor held office. He resigned after lying to Vice President Pence about contacts he had with the Russian government before officially taking office—a violation of the Logan Act. The Logan Act was signed into law by President John Adams. Though no one ever has been charged with violating the law, the Logan Act makes it a felony for a private citizen to negotiate with a foreign government in order to undermine the government’s official position. Flynn apparently did this by reassuring the Russians of the next administration’s disposition toward them after President Obama placed sanctions on them in December 2016. It is an open question if Flynn violated the Logan act, directly or indirectly, but he lied to Vice President Pence, and that ultimately led to his resignation.
At a press conference on Thursday, February 16, President Trump defended Flynn while he explained why he asked for Flynn’s resignation:
Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice President Pence, who is with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given.
He didn’t have to do that, because what he did wasn’t wrong.
If, in a neutral environment, a subordinate had asked General Flynn whether a private individual should undermine the official chain of command, he would certainly counsel him not to do it. He knew better. Flynn, a retired 4-star general, had an impressive career culminating as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  But he did it. I don’t know what justification he gave himself or if he even realized what he was doing at the time, but he apparently crossed the line. Then he lied about his actions, placing the vice president in an awkward position as he repeated what Flynn told him. At the same time, he opened himself up to potential blackmail by the Russians and he lost the trust that the president needs to have in a National Security Advisor.
We can clearly see the bad choices others make, but we have an ethical blind spot when it comes to ourselves. This is why great leaders love accountability. They do not see accountability as a hindrance to their autonomy, but guardrails that keep them from going over the cliff. The guardrail does, limit their freedom, but it does so to protect them from the kind of freedom that will destroy them.
Do you have accountability in your life? Who have you let in that has the right to speak truth to your situation?