Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Leaders (like Pastor Rick Warren) Are Just Everyday Human Beings

On Monday, September 23, 2013, Pastor Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church, one of the largest mega churches in America, posted this above Chinese Red Army image with the caption "The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day." I believe he posted this image with no intention of hurting others' feelings but was taken back by the negative feedback re: cultural insensitivity he received about the image. 

This piece of news was brought to my recent attention by Phil Yu's Angry Asian Man's well-known blog about Pastor Rick Warren's attitude in response to strong criticisms for posting the Red Army image to his Facebook profile.

From my perspective, Warren's initial response did not seem to show that he could keep a calm composure to criticisms in situations like these. For someone so well-revered in the Christian community, he allowed his ego to get the best of him in the moment. So at first, I didn't do well in taking the time to actually stop and think about HOW he should respond in a cordial & apologetic way instead of first reacting the way he did in his Facebook & Twitter posts.

Here is a screen shot from Kathy Khang of what Pastor Rick Warren had up on his public Facebook profile earlier. 
Personally, I think he should have maybe just stuck to images like one of these to get his point across.

I don't excuse his behavior at all, but to me, his initial reaction of trying to defend himself initially gave me these impressions of him.

(1) Pastor Rick Warren reacted in a defensive & half-apologetic way saying, "I didn’t mean to offend you. BUT… Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny." To me, this reaction demonstrates to me how human Warren can be in the face of conflict & others' criticisms of his personal decisions. 
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort & convenience, but where he stands at time of challenge and controversy." In this regard, I think Warren still needs to work on his ego and humility.  I definitely don't think Jesus would have reacted in the same way that he did.

So even though Warren's Saddleback Church of followers place him on such a high pedestal, in reality, Warren is just a normal human being like anyone & everyone else. After all, in Romans 3:23, it says that "ALL fall short of the glory of God." So Warren is not immune to this Bible verse. 

(2) Warren's initial reactions also demonstrate how he has not been well-versed in the field of World History relative to Asia & China. I'm guessing that maybe most of his Saddleback Church congregation is not Asian? Maybe that's why he doesn't take the time to understand the background of the Asian culture. Who knows. Only Warren can answer for himself. I'm just speculating. (I've always been a speculator trying to understand why people are the way they are. That's why I majored in Psychology & Social Behavior at UC Irvine after all! Haha!)

Nonetheless, I'm actually glad that Warren became humble enough to read what blogger Dr. Sam Tsang had to say about the situation and apologize

In moments like these, when one is criticized heavily, I think it's sometimes good to be open-minded & be a good listener to those around you.  There's only so much you can listen to because you are pressed for time, but I believe sincerely believe that situations like these can be improved drastically in the community. Why? Because then these outbursts of negative reactions become potential lee-ways for acts of positive and constructive educational opportunities for the Asian & Asian American communities to educate & communicate to, not just Pastor Warren & his church, but the broader community to learn more about this subject area in answering the question: Why did the Red Army image & caption invoke so much disappointment to so many individuals?  

However, if Pastor Warren did not choose to listen at all, I would think, "So be it. He will only continue to make enemies of those he doe not intend to make enemies with by not regarding their thoughts & feelings."  So if he were to have continued using terminologies and images of Asians or any other race to get his messages and points across, that would have definitely been a bad no-no. As a leader who is so well-regarded in the Christian communities, people like him need to be educated in cultural sensitivities and matters such as these so he does not continue to step on anymore toes. (But then again, sometimes it's just too difficult to not step on anyone's toes sometimes. People will criticize no matter what you say.)

I know Pastor Warren's got a lot on his place & his own issues to deal with. I can only imagine how much grief he and his wife deal with themselves knowing that their own son, Matthew Warren, committed suicide earlier this year. With the loss of his precious & youngest child who suffered from borderline personality disorder & deep depression, I don't think his life is how he had imagined it. As he just opened up to CNN in an interview several days ago to talk about his son's mental health & death, it must be difficult to have the pressure of trying to be perfect when everyone is always looking to him for guidance when he is dealing with such sadness inside. So really, he's just a normal human being with feelings and emotions like any other human being. #MentalHealthMatters

Although Pastor Rick Warren is really going through a lot of grief from the death of his son, I'm actually glad that he eventually apologized & didn't let his ego get the best of him in this matter. As a leader of the Christian community in Orange County, CA, he needed to keep his composure, let go of his ego to write an apologetic in response to Sam Tsang's blog. I also like how Sam's attitude about what Warren is going through right now. It still is a tough time for the Warrens right now. Their youngest child only left them in April 2013, which has only been half a year since! Sam Tsang has compassion for the Warrens, and so do I.

Leadership According to MLE
So this blog is actually the longest blog post longer than any other because the subject of leadership really interests me. In my opinion, if individuals in well-regarded positions of leadership are humble, open-minded, & sincerely care for the community to encourage and uplift, they would truly value the feedback of those who disagree with their personal decisions in order to improve community relations. Just by being a good listener, you (general you) place a value and give meaning to what one has to say. People feel valued when you listen to their comments, suggestions, and feedback. (I personally learned all of this through my school of Life, relationship/friendship drama, & the many different jobs I've worked at for my field in public relations for varying fields of work.  I've had my fair share of many different types of bosses. See my LinkedIn profile here:

I believe that if leaders in the community were...
humble (non-egotistical, nor arrogant), 
kind (not rude), 
compassionate (not conceited), 
genuine (not two-faced), 
patient (not temperamental), 
encouraging (not condescending), & 
open-minded (not close-minded), 
I would actually respect them more.

However, if I have to deal with the arrogant & condescending attitude of leaders, I honestly don't want to work with or for them.  I'll let them do their own thing.  I don't want to be a part of their cause to help them uplift their reputation if they can't appreciate what I have tried to do for them.  I will not let them use me to put their name on my work that I put my heart into.  I will not be taken advantage of.

I'll just move onto my NEXT personal project, and be the boss of my next LIFE ADVENTURE!! And I WILL BE THE CHANGE I WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD!! YEAH!! - feeling GREAT!! 

Other Related Links Re:  Rick Warren's Red Army Image Facebook Post:

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