Lessons in Compassion

I learned a good lesson today. I learned a good lesson by being given the opportunity to teach a good lesson. I learned a good lesson from the person who needed a good lesson. I learned about the balance between compassion, mercy, and accountability.
A person who I’m in charge of was given a large responsibility and that person bailed. They bailed on their team with no fair warning and they did it very publicly. Fortunately the team was equipped to cover the gap but it came down to that the leader didn’t show up for what they were leading. Now as their leader, this put me in a dilemma. I believe that their motive was fear and fear deserves compassion. But the way they went about it was wrong and the people watching needed to know this wasn’t acceptable. I was in a bind because it is my job to look to the far reaching repercussions of their actions and nip the potential for this being repeated by others in the bud. I had to find a fine balance between the needs of the many and compassion for the one. I couldn’t play favorites and I had to address I publicly because that precedent had been set. And I didn’t even know if or when they were going to show up. So I prayed, and it looked like they weren’t going to show up for the debrief session for the event. But they did.
What happened was something that only God could have orchestrated. This person not only showed up but stepped up. They admitted their wrongdoing and were open and vulnerable about why it had happened. It came down to what they believed about themselves and God. Their vulnerability and confession led to a wonderful time of compassion, teaching, guidance, and the opportunity to encourage and affirm this person. They came in with a teachable spirit and a spirit of confession and the situation ended with prayer on their behalf. It was God orchestrated.
I was worried about the blend of compassion and accountability. I was worried about the reception of what I knew I had to teach to the whole of the group. And it worked. It worked because this person came in with compassion and vulnerability and courage. It worked because God was there working before and through the people involved. And I believe that God has great plans for this person and this situation as it plays out in the days to come.
No one likes messing up and letting people down and in these situations I find myself trying to cover my goofs and failings and make it better. But look what a contrite and honest heart did. It allowed others to know the truth in their motives. It allowed others to see that they weren’t playing games and understood that their actions affected others. They, in their hardest moment, were an example of how you, as a leader, start to clean up a mess of your making.
I was blessed by this person’s approach, by their humility. And it taught me that coming in trying to fix it before acknowledging that you were the one who broke it is not the best way to regain the confidence of your team. And from a Christian standpoint, confession, when offered with pure motives, brings people together. I did not expect that this situation would end with soft hearts. I expected that it would end with storming out and slamming doors. I bought I would need to teach, and I did, but I also learned so much and will hopefully have the courage to follow their example of confession, a contrite heart, and a teachable spirit.