The fatal flaw to success, a flaw so personal and painful that most people avoid its truth at all costs, an avoidance that derails more dreams than all other obstacles combined, is self-betrayal. Of all the challenges facing leaders today, perhaps none has more impact on the community’s success than personal character. After all, leadership is character in motion and how can someone have character if he betrays himself?
Self-betrayal begins the moment a person does not follow through on his personal commitments. This type of betrayal is so difficult to detect because its so subtle. For instance, maybe the reader set a goal to get up early and study or exercise before work, but when the alarm went off, you quickly shut it off and rationalized you needed sleep more than following through on your commitment to yourself. Of course, this “little” lie fuels further compromises and before long lying to oneself has become a habit. In fact, any time you make a commitment to yourself, and do not follow through, you have taught yourself that lying is acceptable. This is where most people fail – personal character to one’s self. I know. I know. No one likes to be called a liar, but how many times have you committed to do something and didn’t follow through? I’m not talking about commitments to others, but rather personal commitments.
I still remember the day, reading underneath a huge maple tree at lunch, when Stephen Covey kicked me below the belt. He said, “Many times success begins with mind over mattress!” Ugh! That one hurt, because I had made hundreds of excuses for why I just couldn’t be more disciplined in Bible studies, believing I had too much work to do. Covey’s statement changed my perspective, helping me realize that my self-betrayal had already progressed into self-deception – where I convinced myself that lying was ok if it was only to myself. In reality, however, if one cannot tell the truth to himself, he stands no chance of telling the truth to others. Internal character, in a word, always precedes external character.
At the risk of saying too much, for today’s age doesn’t like self-analysis much, probably because these matters hit too close to home for most people and if thought upon for long, they would have to address some of the personal issues. Nevertheless, I believe self-deception is the biggest killer of dreams in the world! People deceive themselves to avoid changing, but the price for this avoidance is their own success. The self-betrayal blooms into self-denial and then people become offended if others dare to question their impeccable character. 🙂 Most people react defensively, thinking, “How dare anyone question my character when I have spent years rationalizing it to myself?”
In all seriousness, I have never given a talk, nor written an article, without the guns first being directed at myself. I, along with every other human being, cannot live our ideals 100% of the time. I am in need of the grace of Jesus Christ just as much, if not more, than you are. Still, why get offended at truth? How is this going to help you change? Indeed, when a person gets offended at unpalatable facts, its a sure sign that self-betrayal is leading to self-deception. Truth has been sacrificed on the altar of personal ego.
If the reader will grant me just a little more time, I would like to suggest a remedy for self-betrayal. The Bible states, “those who are faithful in the little things will be faithful in the bigger things.” Did you catch that? Character begins by being faithful in the little things that if avoided, no one would know but you. Many believe this is ok, since you didn’t let anyone else down, but this is a lie from the depths of hell. For a person that would have no qualms about lying to himself, a self he typically loves more than any other human being in existence, will not be a truth-teller to others. Internal lies lead to external ones. If anything, compromises in personal character lead to greater compromises in one’s relationships with others.
Consequently, true character begins with character to self. Once the war for personal character is accomplished, the authentic individual is now ready to treat others with the same level of character. Not surprisingly, in today’s self-betrayal and self-deception age, it’s pretty much a given that leaders with character will suffer attacks from those who have self-betrayed themselves. Since leaders with character grow big communities, simply by the law of averages, they will have people who perpetually lie to themselves join their community. Naturally, albeit ironically, the people who have cheated and lied to themselves the most are the ones who shout the loudest that others have lied and cheated them. Playing the victim, evidently, is their key strategy to not have to address the lies keeping them from success.
The simple, but painful, truth is no matter how much a leader wants to help others, he truly can’t help until they are ready to help themselves. Self-liars must confront reality and admit it’s their own lies keeping them in bondage. For when people resist truth they are also fighting the change that would set them free. Nonetheless, when people have spent a lifetime betraying themselves, giving up for the umpteenth time in life, their self-deception quickly identifies the reason for the failure and they play the victim card once again. Self-deception has so entrapped them in a web of lies that the truth can no longer set them free. Thus, they are sentenced to a life of victimhood unless God’s graces pierces the veil and wakes them up to this eternal truth, namely, as Shakespeare said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
Heraclitus once said, “Character is fate” and I concur. Character is an inside job and only those who develop character will ever see longterm success. Start today! What is a personal commitment one can make to yourself, you family, your community? Make the commitment and keep it! Quit betraying yourself and your dreams! Quit playing the blame game! Get out there and achieve to serve the greater community! This is your mind over mattress, or to add others, life over lies, and purpose over pokemon moment! 🙂
Remember, success is three things. 1) What does one want? 2) What does it cost? 3) Pay it! Only when a person accepts responsibility for his life will he determine what he want, determine its cost, and then pay it! What area of your life are you ready to stop self-betrayal and let the truth set you free?