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How Not to Be a Jerk

jerk-city

I’ve noticed a crazy pattern. Help me understand it.

Cause: A Christian leader will say or blog or tweet or Facebook something over-the-top. Hey, it happens. The way things are these days, an unfiltered moment can easily get recorded.

Effect: Someone calls them on it. Maybe it’s a blog post or maybe it’s just a comment that says something like, “Um, that’s whack!

Cause: That blog post, comment, or tweet draws even more attention to the original outlandish thing.

Effect: The once tiny statement, in context or out of context, starts getting mentioned to that leaders often enough where they think they have to respond. Maybe his co-workers mention it to him or maybe he’s gotten some emails or phone calls about it or maybe his statement ends up on a big name blog with a headline, “Christian leader thinks ______.

[Pause] This is where a critical choice is made. The leader, who now feels exposed, has to chose what to do next. The smartest thing to do is to either apologize for the stupid statement or at a minimum just move on. About 90% of people do this. But lately a new option has taken on popularity. The original offender goes on the offensive against the person who has called them out. It’s like a train wreck from here on out! [unpause]

Cause: The Christian leader rallies his troops (friends, fans, staff) to defend him. It sounds noble, but it’s really throwing gasoline onto a smoldering fire. By taking a victims position these troops are poised to stand up and cry foul. Here comes the Christianese.

Effect: The person who originally mentioned the statement is blind-sided by tons of comments and emails demanding that he stop attacking this leader. Typically, without a leg to stand on, these troops will go the politically correct angle and say, “Who are you to call this persons integrity into question” or “do you think this is glorifying to God to defame ____?” In effect, two wrongs don’t make a right. The person who called out the leader is now put on the defensive simply for bringing up that the leader said something outlandish.

Cause: The Christian leader uses his platform (blog, Facebook, Twitter account, or even pulpit) to joke about how he has haters. Maybe he even makes fun of the person who brought it up in the first place? His aim in doing this is deflect the impact of his original offensive remark by pointing out how the person who called him out is a worse sinner than he is.

Effect: The community of people who have observed this entire exchange are left with less respect for Christian leaders.

My point? If you say something stupid, just acknowledge it, apologize for it, and move on. Taking it this far is buying a ticket for Jerk City. I really think that leaders who pursue the steps after the [pause] are just insecure in their position. In other words, you don’t see people who have been in visible positions for a long time getting tangled up in this sort of thing. They’ve learned that the best response is just to recognize their mistake and apologize as soon as possible.

For the record, I’ve been on every side of this story! I just hope I’m growing up enough to buy a lot fewer tickets to Jerk City.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

5 replies on “How Not to Be a Jerk”

Yeah, we all can be jerks. I just got called stuck-up today because I didn’t say Hi on certain social networking site and was trying to get some scripture for an upcoming message. Guess, leaders and people need thick skin and repent when we’re jerks. And boy, am I the best of them. Thanks for Grace.

@mark- you and me are different. The people who like to argue there are so predictable! It’s not as fun as watching a train wreck… more like watching Nascar Re-runs. Same stuff, over and over again, different topic each time! 🙂

@Gerrard- I hear you. Like I said, I’ve been all over on the this one. Maybe that’s why I can write about it? Ha!

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