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Fame's Folly

According to many in the media, last weekend is being dubbed the "weekend of outbursts." An athlete, a lawmaker, and a musician—three distinct persons in the public eye—lost their cool. Each one of them felt injustice inflicted on themselves or another. And they made their feelings known … to everyone.

Being in the public eye might have some perks, but the heat of scrutiny is not something I desire. When I have a meltdown—as we all do from time to time—it's in the privacy of my own home. Nobody cares, except maybe my husband. But I do enjoy the freedom to have human moments and not feel the backlash of an entire nation wagging their tongues the next morning.

Why do these outbursts surprise us? When did we start assuming that celebrities are on a higher moral plane than the rest of us and won't make petty mistakes?

I'm certainly not excusing the actions of any of these three persons; they each—in these moments—acted inappropriately and childishly. However, I believe many in our culture have a distorted view of fame, one that equates celebrity with integrity. We think, Surely if they're famous, they've done something to earn our admiration. But if someone can act or sing or is an incredible athlete, does that really mean they walk with integrity?

In many ways, our society is led by celebrities: they guide our fashion choices, our topics of discussion, and—scarily enough—even our values. They have a dominant voice in the media, in the lives of our children, and in our own decisions.

It is important to remember, however, that celebrities are not leaders. Granted, they have usually done something great in their field, and sometimes they deserve respect by the lives they lead. True leaders, though, should not be marked by fame but by integrity in their lives, faith, families, churches, work, giving, and guidance.

The book of Proverbs is rich with wisdom about integrity, the tongue, and fame:

A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways

(Proverbs 6:12, 10:9, 28:6, ESV).

Integrity in Christian leadership means walking upright, allowing Christ to straighten those parts of us that are crooked and askew. It involves sacrifice and risk. It involves humility to admit when we make mistakes, which we—like the three people mentioned—will inevitably make.

We admire great leaders like Mother Teresa and Billy Graham because they didn't start out seeking fame. They started out seeking first the kingdom (Matthew 6:33). Most godly leaders will never—and probably should never—achieve fame, but they will seek and find something far greater: a life rooted in Christ and his church, a life worth following.

So, I'd love to hear from you:

What was your reaction to last weekend's trio of outbursts? Do these meltdowns say anything about civility in our culture? Why do you think our society is so fixated on celebrities and their mistakes? What does true integrity in leadership mean to you?

September18, 2009 at 1:28 PM

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