On August 27, 1996, three weeks before his unexpected death, Henri Nouwen wrote these words in his journal…
“We who offer spiritual leadership often find ourselves not living what we are preaching or teaching. It is not easy to avoid hypocrisy completely because we find ourselves saying things larger than ourselves. I often call people to a life I am not fully able to live myself.
I am learning that the best cure for hypocrisy is community. Hypocrisy is not so much the result of not living what I preach but much more of not confessing my inability to fully live up to my own words.”
I’ve bolded the words above because I couldn’t agree more. Part of the call to lead is to lead towards things bigger than yourself–to follow a path that is beyond oneself. I believe that unapologetically, and I agree that it brings out hypocrisy, in some sense.
However, that second bolded portion strikes me as major too. “Hypocrisy” is often a charge leveled at an enemy. I remember hearing this word in heated tones as two sides “opposed” to each other armed themselves with this word-bullet, intent on damaging each other. But I’ve never heard it used from one friend to another, even when every secret has been shared and every inconsistency is known. Somehow, realness diffuses something. And in real community with others, this realness offers healing to any of the planet’s six billion hypocrites who find themselves in need of that.