Mark Sanford: A Character in South Carolina
Leadership is About Character
In spite of the callous behavior toward his wife and children, toward the people of South Carolina (as well as the nation), toward the woman he committed adultery with, and toward the God he claims to serve, Governor Sanford was treated with patient respect in 2009 and he should have respectfully resigned.
Leadership WIll Make Mistakes
Standing down would have been his best step up to repairing the damage he did and the character he needed to rebuild. He could have chosen to respond maturely to his own behavior.
Instead of making decisions that would help him rebuild the trust that his wife and others gave him, Governor Sanford took the inane stance of demanding that South Carolina forgive him his way, forcing those who could be his best allies to withdraw from him for the good of all concerned.
While his friends implored him to step back and repair the damage where it could be repaired, he continued to insist on his perceived rights. It is a story as old as time itself.
Political Leadership Requires Character
Some things are just obvious. Truth does not change. Excuses do not change a wrong situation. “I’m sorry” does not change what must be done if wrongs are to be set right. The question of whether a person forced to do the right thing has really done the right thing is valid. When colossal wrongs are committed it is always wise to question the motives behind a professed repentance.
The way to right a wrong is by coming clean in a manner that leaves no doubt that a change has been effected through right responses to good counsel, especially to the hearts and minds of those closest to the situation. Common sense dictates that the depth and breadth of a professed repentance needs to cover the degree of the offense if someone who has behaved as a liar, a thief, and/or a predator is ever going to again be believable.
The depth and breadth of a professed repentance must cover the degree of the offense if a guilty party is to be believed.
Whether Governor Sanford would do the right thing by everyone that his behavior affected is now a question with an answer. He could have lost his facade and put on his work shirt and blue jeans. We hoped he would play by the rules he postured himself under to get his constituent's votes.
He could have made himself accountable to his pastors, his wife, and church family while he took the time to remake himself into what he claimed to be. While it was still possible for him to go through the process of needed change by getting the help that was offered to him, he chose to say no to the merciful gifts he could have received.
What Kind of Character Makes A Good Leader?
In the meantime, South Carolina needed a governor and consideration of Mrs. Sanford could not be avoided. Her background and experience speak volumes about her abilities. She has worked hard, stood faithfully for the values she thought her husband was all about, and she has certainly gone the extra mile.
Mrs. Sanford’s discerning insight in recognizing that a pattern of wrong behavior would only escalate without help meant hope for her family. She had the strength and good judgement to demand that it be sought in the face of the stubbornness that was destroying her family and endangering her state.
Comparing her responses with other wives who have had to face the public scandals of their husband’s ill-advised actions, one could help wishing that this governor’s wife would begin writing a national advice column, become a top advisor to the primary leaders of our country, and take the South Carolina governor’s seat all in one fell swoop. What she faces in this is the repercussion of her principled behavior--she is more popular than ever.
Everything about her initial response spoke the foresight of Nabal’s wife Abigail in I Samuel 25. Mrs. Sanford had the wisdom to adamantly refuse to stand with an Ananias or let herself be presented as a Sapphira (see Acts 5). Calling the grievous behavior what it was by her unwillingness to proffer forgiveness, Governor Sanford's wife maintained a willingness to forgive.
Her forgiving spirit could have been beautifully displayed if the fruit of repentance had been exhibited, but she cared enough about honesty to maintain a call to true repentance when the governor only regretted that he had been caught. It is an old story indeed.
How the personal details worked out in her family was none of our business. I pray for her and her family. It is sad that the man she was married to was not the man that she thought she married.
The point that is our business is that the determination and courage to maintain high standards, the character to do what it takes to work out real solutions and create opportunity in the middle of a difficult circumstances (all summed up by the word faithfulness) make marriages and governments great.
The qualities that the leaders of South Carolina need were displayed by the wife of the failed Governor Sanford of South Carolina from the very beginning of the debacle. However, all things considered, without her sustained presence in their lives her children are probably too young to respond to the disgrace of their father’s actions in ways that will protect their futures.
Still, her kind of leadership is a high call to politicians who hope to fill the present gap that Governor Sanford refused to graciously step out of.
Character Education Helps Build Leaders:
Strong Character Takes A Leader Forward
Too bad Governor Sanford did not recognize the pricelessness of her loyal support and return the favor of good leadership to his family and state. Too bad she had to remember the Old Testament’s Deborah and do her best in the face of the governor’s cowardice. Her firm response to the crisis generated by her husband’s selfishness is a needed example of maintaining right priorities.
May those who are considering running for office during these critical times consider well their need for character, and perhaps reproduce Mrs. Sanford’s model. Let's hope and pray that she and her family each embrace good counsel and rise above these circumstances to move forward in positive ways.
Talking Honesty Helps Build Character:
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- Academic Honesty Focus
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