“Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family.”
1 Samuel 22:22 NIV
“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
2 Samuel 12:13 NIV
The man we know as King David made a lot of mistakes. Of course, his biggest sins were murder and adultery. Why is it, though, that we still read his Psalms and celebrate his legacy as Israel's greatest king? Why is it that Jesus was often referred to as "the Son of David," and the one who would receive "the throne of his father David?"
One of the reasons for his legacy was that David was a man who knew how to take responsibility. When he sinned spectacularly and was confronted, he did not try and blame someone else. He owned his sin, he accepted responsibility, and he took whatever discipline that came his way.
By way of contrast, the man that David replaced as Israel's king, King Saul, was a man who never accepted responsibility for his sins and mistakes. Instead, he looked for others to blame. Look at these examples:
“What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
1 Samuel 13:11-14 NIV
“But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.””
1 Samuel 15:14-15 NIV
Saul sinned and sinned badly on numerous occasions. He, however, never took ownership of what he had done. In almost every case, someone else was to blame. It was never his fault. Saul refused to accept responsibility.
One of the hallmarks of strong leadership is a willingness to accept responsibility and to admit when we have done wrong. Leaders who can do this earn the respect and the deep loyalty of their followers. No one expects perfect leaders. We do expect the leader to own it when he or she gets it wrong.
Do you have trouble owning it? Do you look for someone else to blame? When a leader owns a mistake, how does that make you feel about them?
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