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Leadership Traps: #10

#10: Blaming Others for Your Failings
One of the most memorable talks I ever heard at Willow Creek’s leadership summit was some guy whose name I can’t remember (yes, I hear the irony — but kudos to anyone who remembers who it was) who said there are only four levels people live at:

  1. Building
  2. Managing
  3. Justifying
  4. Blaming

God created us to build, he said.  Build families. Build value.  Build into people.  Build lives. Build the Kingdom.

When we aren’t building, we’re managing what we built.  Not bad, but only for a short time until we are again building.

If we’re not building or managing, then we’re justifying why we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing (under these circumstances, you wouldn’t really expect anyone to….).  Such is the stuff for lesser people.

And below it all is blaming.  (If it wasn’t for that mega church down the street….if I only had a better congregation…if he hadn’t gotten involved.) Blame is ugly.  Filthy.

As a leader I have to catch myself all the time from making excuses or blaming others.  If I stop justifying and blaming, it means I need to do the most difficult thing of all — face my shortcomings.  My failings are really my fault.  And when I own that, guess what?  God gives me the grace to build again.


  1. Allen Forget on January 24, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Great post! I haven't been replying lately as it is a really busy time in planning for 08 and everything.
    Anyway, I felt compelled to acknowledge and pray for "failing leader" and their comment. How about this thought, I don't think any LEADER is a FAILURE. I believe that anyone either volunteering or voluntold (anyone been voluntold? LOL) into a position of leadership is blessed and is especially blessed in a situation of serving God.(just look at the people praying for you on this blog) Really, stepping out of blame and getting to building is really a decision much like trying to quit anything. They say that if you are trying to quit smoking you must change your habits, change your patterns, step out of what you were doing that lead to that behaviour.
    I will pray for you. Read Ephesians 1 as Carey pointed out and think about this, You have been chosen by God to be where you are and to do what you do. Isn't that amazing! I am totally speechless and totally blown away when I think of that about what I do. I turn into the biggest HUMBLE PIE you have ever seen when I speak these words. HE knew that you were going to be here long before the earth existed. HE has placed you here for a reason. He loves you as we, your Christian brothers and sisters, love you.
    HE will give you what you need to make it happen just as it says in scripture. God nevers places us in a situation without giving us the strength, wisdom, or courage to deal with it. HE has given you the tools, trust HIM.

  2. Carey Nieuwhof on January 23, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Everyone, thanks for the dialogue.

    I wanted to get back to 'failing leader." Man, I feel your pain..and I'm not even sure what to say.

    Personally, I think we blame others when we feel terrible about ourselves. The cycle usually starts young, and it's easier to point the finger at others than it is to see the pain inside of us — fear of failure, fear of not measuring up. It's a negative cycle of self-talk that sin gets a hold of and spins in one direction — downward.

    Ironically, I'm preaching through some of this stuff right now in H Bomb. Last week's message might help (or you might not agree). At a minimum, I would suggest reading through Ephesians 1 and seeing whether you really believe that you are who the text says you are in Christ. Your identity is secure in Him. He loves you know matter what. Blame often comes from insecurity – Christ brings security.

    Pray through it. Talk to good friends. See a Christian counselor. Check what you believe about yourself against the Word. The more we are able to be honest with ourselves, the more we actually experience forgiveness, courage, vulnerability and love.

    I hope that helps you. It helps me.

    Praying for you.

  3. Rich Birch on January 23, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Hey Carey,

    Thanks again for your good work on this blog.

    I totally agree on this one. One of the subtle cues I listen for in leaders is when how often they spend time with the "locus of control" external to themselves. If a leader always has an excuse why something went wrong, or someone didn't do something, or it's their fault there is probably a good chance that the leader is in over their head.

    Thanks again Carey!


  4. Tracy Wallace on January 23, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Ya but Connexus isn't on the West Coast….we just don't have churches out here like you guys and Northpoint…..waaaaaaa!

    Okay, enough blaming. Going to go be part of the solution.

  5. failing leader on January 23, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    How do you move from level 4? If level 4 is where I am, and all I've known, how do I move from level 4 to level 1? It's one thing to know where I am, its another to have the ability to rise from the filth to a level that pleases God.

  6. Stephanie on January 23, 2008 at 8:54 am

    I think I will really enjoy this next series Carey! Already I am thinking how much time I spend in level 3 and 4…

    Thanks for getting me thinking this morning! I am so glad there's something to "follow" the follower trap series 🙂

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