Responsible leadership

A Christian Science perspective.

Allegations of fraud in Afghanistan's recent elections. The public outcry over elections in Iran. Corruption charges against a former prime minister in Israel. A landslide win for an entirely new leadership in Japan. Entrenched political polarization in the United States. All of these situations, and many others, signal a deep human yearning for a high degree of responsible leadership throughout the world. This yearning extends to leadership in local governments, organizations, churches, and families.

Our initial response to leadership we are concerned about takes place in our thinking. There, feelings of anger, fear, judgment, misjudgment, and condemnation all vie for attention, acquiescence, and expression. Gaining control over such negative tendencies within our own consciousness before they take form in words and actions, may seem far removed from improving leadership in the world, or even our own locality. Actually, though, it has everything to do with what we experience in our own lives and the effect it has on everyone within our circle of thought – locally and worldwide. That's because responsible leadership begins with letting God lead the thoughts and actions of individuals.

We can learn a lot about effective leadership by considering Jesus' approach to promoting responsibility in others. Jesus lived his oneness with God as His Son, and in doing so he saw and treated every person as God's loved son or daughter – as man, God's spiritual image and likeness. Mary Baker Eddy noted that "[Jesus] did life's work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals, – to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 18).

To live "at one" with God means to be like God – to express His qualities of goodness and love. This is the way God made everyone to be. For example, think of what Jesus did when the scribes and Pharisees presented him with an adulterous woman. They were filled with condemnation toward her. They wanted to stone her, and they asked Jesus to give his consent. Instead of getting swept up in all this negativity, Jesus became very quiet. Then he simply said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.... And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one." He also told the woman that he didn't condemn her, but that she should "go and sin no more" (see John 8:7–12).

This is an example of how Jesus let his own thought be led by God – letting God reveal to him everyone's pure, spiritual goodness as real and God-maintained. Rather than condemning individuals, Jesus condemned ungodlike behavior. In this way, he gave others the responsibility to face the negative tendencies in their own lives, turn away from them, and let their thoughts and behaviors be led by God, by good.

It can be so easy to see the faults in others, and to get caught up in criticism, condemnation, and agitated talk. But thinking and talking in this way does nothing to help others engage in more responsible behavior. It helps me to remember the Golden Rule Jesus gave us – a rule embraced in religious teachings throughout the world. Jesus put it this way: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matt. 7:12). Following this rule starts in our own thinking.

I know how I would like others to think about me: I would love to have them turn to God to learn how He sees me as His spiritual reflection, pure and innocent. I would love to have them see whatever imperfections I may have expressed as no part of who I am, and thus to forgive me and let God lead me to do better. But how others think of me is not my job. It's my job to see others as God sees them – including the world's leaders.

With God leading our own thoughts in this way, our words and actions are more likely to turn others to following God's lead. We're more apt to see the issues clearly and fairly. Our discussions and actions will express the levelheadedness that can truly promote responsible leadership.

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