“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” (Exodus 16:2)
Chosen by God, Moses and Aaron led the people out of slavery, walked with them through the parted Red Sea, and delivered them to the very edge of the Promised Land. Still, the people complained.
Managers. Bosses. CEOs. Coaches. Principals. Ministers. Troop leaders. Teachers. Department chairs. Presidents. Executive directors. Council members. Board members. Business owners. Leaders of all shapes, sizes, and stripes.
We get criticized. Sometimes we deserve it; sometimes we don’t. Either way, it’s part of our job. With authority comes responsibility, and with responsibility come the folks who think they can do our job better than us. So be it. Maybe they can do our jobs better than us. Who knows? We signed on for the job, though, so who are we to complain back?
(Well, okay, occasionally, we complain, but hopefully only quietly and privately to the handful of people we can trust not to post our comments to Facebook.)
Today, though, I’m thinking about our spouses. They didn’t sign on to hear the criticism. They didn’t agree to watch the women they love slammed in the court of public opinion. They didn’t raise their hand when someone asked, “Would you like utterly false and vicious rumors to be attributed to the father of your children?” They didn’t ask to watch us get trashed. It stresses them. It hurts them. It makes them ache.
I was reminded of leaders’ spouses recently when I got in touch with an old acquaintance who is hearing sheer meanness about her husband in the aftermath of an ugly political fight. She’s exhausted and fragile, and I’m praying for her daily.
Where was Moses’ wife when all the grumbling was going on in the wilderness? The Book of Exodus suggests that Moses had sent her away (Exodus 18:2), but we don’t know when or why? before the exodus? during the plagues? or to spare her from the grumbling? We don’t know. Let’s not take too much license with the story, but it seems reasonable to assume that the grumbling reached her ears at some point. Her silence suggests that she learned to bear it. Oh, that all spouses could do the same.
The criticism of leaders isn’t going to stop, nor should it. We should be held accountable. Nevertheless, let me pray—and ask you to join me—that the tenor of criticisms will soften. May an honest disagreement with a leader’s decision not become a judgment on his or her character. May genuine concerns not be raised to the level of head hunting. May threats cease.
And, for God’s sake (literally), may it be remembered that the spouses are listening. Be kind. Please.
p.s. Everything I’ve written applies equally to leaders’ children, parents, family, and close friends, but, as soon as I included children in the message, I got so upset that I couldn’t type. I’ll trust you readers to understand.
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