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I was watching one of the news channels recently, and I heard a report about how someone had gotten fired from their job after their employer had discovered that they were lying to them about calling in sick. Apparently, after this person called in sick, they went out on a fishing trip with some buddies and a bunch of beer, and then posted the pictures from it on their MySpace account. Somehow these pictures on the Internet came to the attention of the employer, who was outraged and ended up letting the employee go. One of the “guest experts” on this news report also talking about how many employers do web searches these days while screening potential employees. If they find something online (like on a MySpace account, YouTube, or some blog) that brings that person’s character into question, then they use that information in making their decision to hire that person or not.
There is no doubt that we live in an age where information can travel far and fast, and some people may complain that employers have no right to use that information in making hiring or firing decisions. Nonetheless, people have more tools these days to put their image (whatever image they choose) out there for people to see. My point here is not whether it is right for employers to use information like that or not, but it is around the responsibility that we have as leaders to manage our image. This is what the first qualification for the “executive-leader” is all about. When Paul wrote to Timothy about these qualifications, the first one was being “above reproach”.
But what does it really mean to be “above reproach”? Well, the word reproach means “to find fault with” or “disgrace, discredit, or blame incurred”. To be “above” it means that people cannot find fault or blame with you. Does this mean that you are simply good at hiding things or keeping secrets? Absolutely not. That was not Paul’s intention when he wrote this passage. Being above reproach means living a life that is honorable and blameless. I believe that it also includes how you manage your image, because that is how people discover what kind of life you live.
What does it take to live a life that is above reproach? I think that the answer to this question starts with a vision. You must have a vision or direction for your life and what you want it to represent. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) says that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Craig Groeschel points out in his book Chazown (the Hebrew word for vision) that the beginning of everything in your life starts with a vision, and that without one you end up wandering aimlessly through life. The thing is that your actions are going to be a reflection of what your vision (chazown) is for your life. For example, if you want to live a life that shows your kids how to live with honor and integrity, then things like your MySpace account are going to show that. If you have no vision or higher purpose, then you will likely not care what you put out there, and likely think that you can get away with presenting a “false” image of yourself when it is “important”. The truth is that everything is important if you are to live a life above reproach.
The next thing is that you recognize the importance of having a strong accountability system in place. And when I say this I mean a real, open, honest, no-holds-barred accountability. It is important to have people that you can talk to about anything, and that you allow to speak honestly into your life. There are some other great books that dig deeper into this idea and how to do it (check out The Accountable Man by Eisenman and The Company You Keepby Bentall), but the point is that once you have a vision (chazown) to live up to, that you don’t rely solely on yourself to keep yourself on track. It is always good to have an extra set of eyes looking at your life, and helping you by sharing things that you may not see or notice.
Questions to consider:
Do you have a standard and life vision that guides your actions? If not, why not? If so, does everything that you do help or hinder the communication of those values? Who can you start meeting with now for the purpose of accountability? What work do you need to do now in order to present the image that you want to present to the world? Are you living a life that is above reproach?
Having a vision and an accountability system will help you to live a life that is above reproach. But, it is not easy. It requires a great deal of dedication on your part. But, man, it is totally worth it! The best part is that you never have to worry about something coming back to bite you in the butt later…