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Dorothy Burton is a conference and keynote speaker; and, workshop leader for various organizations across the country. As a writer and speaker, Dorothy speaks and writes about public servant leadership, American culture, politics and the role of faith in the public square. She uses her gift of communication, depth of study in theology and vast experiences in public service to help leaders learn and discover more effective ways to lead, communicate, work and serve together for the common good of their team, organization and the diverse communities they serve.
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From the day you file to run for office, you become a target. A target of the most powerful and cunning enemy of every believer. Jesus called him our "Adversary, the devil." He is the enemy you can't see, working trickery and deceit in those you can.
Once you step into the world system of politics, darts will fly from all corners. Often relentless. Always ruthless.
Is your opponent of the devil? Maybe, maybe not.
It is possible that your opponent will be as passionate of a believer as you but no less determined to beat you.
Would God favor you over your opponent or they over you? Particularly if both of you are His? Will He play favorites? Does God really care which wins? Even more, does He care how either wins?
It's like watching two football teams on the field. Both equally talented. Both equally prepared. Both with Christian players who gather together in a circle before the game to pray for victory.
Which wins? In your case, which candidate would he favor? You or your opponent?
While no one can know with certainty the mind of God, he does make clear through his word, his modus operandi.
God honors those who honor him. he knows every man and woman's heart. He knows each one of our motives. He knows what our motives are in running. He knows what our motives are in winning. Even more, he knows the plan he has for each of us, win or lose.
It is important to remember that when it comes to God, He works all things after the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).
Meaning, your win or loss is part of a much greater plan for you; and, more important for the advancement of God's kingdom.
This I know is new and may sound somewhat strange, but as Christians, we have for years run our political races and campaigns the way everyone else does.
But I learned after having run five local races, then going to seminary that how we run and how we win or lose are important to God.
Why? Because it's not the winning or the losing, but the representation of the Kingdom and our spiritual formation in the process that counts.
You will not learn this in any how to run a political campaign manual. Throughout history God has given his people, through his word, strategies for fighting wars and political battles in ways that seemed strange to the world but delivered time and again incredible victories.
If you run your campaign according to God's word, you will be the odd duck in a political pond teeming with political ducks and hacks.
But you're not that. And you can't see yourself as just another "candidate." You are God's representative (that's what the Adversary sees) and you must see yourself that way, run your race that way, win or lose that way.
In the end, you would have done it God's way and He will honor that. Even if you lose, if your heart and motives were in line with God, it simply means He has a better plan or higher position for you.
RUNNING WITH INTEGRITY
OWNING YOUR MISTAKES
One of the best lessons I learned in running for political office was to run toward not away from accusations.
The thing most people don’t understand, but Christians well should, is the power of confession. Granted, some things should be kept between us and God; and others, we should take to our grave.
But the cover up in many cases is worse than the crime. Further, one of the greatest fears of anyone in public service is of someone in the opposing camp uncovering or discovering something they did privately that if made known publicly, could be a big embarrassment, worse, a career killer.
Let me pause here and say this. A political opponent, no matter how vile is not your enemy. He or she is an opponent. As Christians, we have one enemy, Satan, that instigates and influences opponents.
One of the things so terribly wrong in campaigning today is the need and belief that opponents must be portrayed and viewed as enemies. More disturbing is the same among Christians.
When non-believers look at the types of campaigns we run as opposed to the type non-believers run, many times they see no difference. Yet, as Christ followers we are to set the bar, not crawl beneath it, wallow in and sling mud with those who aren't.
The Apostle Paul teaches us in Ephesians 6:12 that our struggle is not with flesh and blood (other people) but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Satan and fallen angels who influence people). We have one enemy, one. Not your opponent. Even if they are your harshest critic and view you as theirs.
May I share something with you? When you sign up for public service, it doesn't matter if it is for the position of meter reader or mayor – and especially if you sign up to run for elective office.
Your life becomes an open book with the most poorly lived chapters becoming fodder for your opponent's talking points. You will be blogged about, talked about, lied about and your life turned about.
But the one mistake we all make, and one that I made until I learned better was this. In an effort to not look bad or worse, be thought of by people as being bad, we won’t admit wrong.
The greatest defense we have is truth and not to become offensive about something we know we’ve done wrong.
No one is perfect and no voter these days expect you to be. What would impress voters more and cause them to more likely vote for you than your opponent is to identify with them in your humanness and vulnerability.
We all make mistakes, some worst than others. But running to and not away from them will be one of the greatest and most surprising weapons in your arsenal.
If we don't admit wrong and choose to take the Enemy's bait of denial, we begin using his methodology of lying and covering up instead of God's way of humility in admission.
When we take the Enemy's way instead of God's way, we ourselves become entangled in a web of lies, cover-ups and deceit and the only way out is more of the same; until, not if, but until we are forced and often embarrassingly pressured to come clean.
Though what we did may have been bad, the worst thing we can do is try to cover it up.
What is covered will always be uncovered and what is hidden will be made known - at the worst most possible time, in the worst possible way to cause as much collateral damage possible to you, your family, name, reputation, business, career and all you've worked hard for years to build.
It's how the devil works. Maximum destruction at the optimal time. And his timing is always perfect in bringing you down.
Do you know that your opponents, whether they be political or otherwise will never be able to hold anything over your head if you admit to it?
As Johnny Cochran said of O.J. Simpson and the glove (though to this day I believe the man was guilty), “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
Same with us but with a little different twist – “if we admit it, they will quit it.” People can’t keep accusing you of things you’ve already admitted to.
Admission takes away ammunition. And as for the media, once the bleeding stops the leads invariably stop. You will become old news and in their business, old news is no news. A mention every once in a while, but if you can bear it, you will beat it.
If you can bear it, you can beat it.
Does this mean spilling your guts? Not at all. But when confronted by and dogged by opponents and challengers, don’t allow them to hold anything over your head because if you do, it will hold you back.
The level of intimidation by threat of exposure diminishes astronomically when you take away 1) their element of surprise 2) their ability to redefine who you are now by something you've done in the past; and 3) their ability to influence as many people.
The most potent of Satan's tricks to hold us back is influence people (dare I say sometimes even Christian people) to use what they know about us to shut our mouth, shut us down and shut down our campaign.
It’s called “the shame game.” Don’t fall for it. Don't play it.
When I ran for city council, and my friends will corroborate, a guy made it his business each time to blog something negative about me every day.
None of us is perfect and I hid nothing from my supporters or my constituents. But today he sits in prison serving three ten-year terms for sexual abuse of a child.
I refuse to play the devil's game. I trusted God in each of my campaigns, refusing to wallow in or sling mud back.
If you can hold on, hold your tongue and stay focused, God will usurp your opponents' arguments and accusations against you; and, he will upset their plans.
Often the very people who accuse you most, more likely than not, are the very ones who themselves are most guilty of something they are hiding.
You owe them nothing. But to the people you represent, you at least owe them the truth.
The problem is many of us say we trust God, but in reality we really don’t.
How do I know this? Because in the heat of the battle we panic and revert to using the tactic of our opponent. Even if we win this way, we come out of it tainted and painted with the same broad brush.
We become in the eyes of the public what they are increasingly seeing among Christians who run - just another politician who talks Christianity but demonstrates nothing different. There should be something different about you! That difference is what Jesus called "salt and light."
God and God alone holds our past, present and future. None of us have been or ever will be perfect. It’s just that as public people running for public office our imperfections get magnified under the magnification of public scrutiny.
All the more to be honest with yourself and honest with others.
When someone digs into your past to smear you and to inform others of just how bad of a person you are, don’t dig in your heels. Once you do that, they will have you where they want you and you will become stuck in a paralyzing place that will cause you to lose momentum, confidence and invariably the race.
People and the press count on the cover up and as Christians we should do anything but oblige them. Why? Because our future is in God’s hands, not theirs.
The trouble is, we all too often believe that people hold all the cards. If that were true, no matter our title or position we have given to them the winning hand.
You don’t owe the world a thing, but you do owe those that have placed their vote and confidence in you the truth. Be honest and be confident enough in the God we serve for the outcome. The one thing that prevents us from ‘fessing up is the one thing that God hates most – pride.
Be honest and confident in God...
And once because of pride we lie to cover up, God removes his hand of protection and we get swallowed up. This in reality is the cause of so many downfalls. Not so much the act, but the act of covering it up.
What To Do
When an opponent confronts you in order to embarrass or harm your reputation by something you’ve done in your past, remember these short but effective responses in owning your mistakes:
- “Yes, I did that. I’m not proud about it and had I been more mature in my thinking, my actions would have been totally different. And I am sorry that it happened. I did my best to make it right and my conscience is clear. It hasn’t happened since, nor with the Lord’s help will it happen again.”
- “Yeah, given my thinking at the time that sounds like something I would have probably said (or done). But thank God I’ve grown since then.”
- “Yes, but you need to hear my side of the story.” Be brief and then be quiet. No long explanations necessary.
From these, let people make up their own mind. They are going to think what they want anyway, but at least you have set the record straight and taken away their ammunition.
Being evasive or going on the offensive in public service are the kisses of death for your career. It is always a matter of integrity.
Integrity is the foundation upon which everything you do in public and private life will stand. And integrity is a matter of being the same person you are in private as you are in public.
Supporters, voters and people in general are more likely to forgive a confessed mistake than a covered up lie.
In the story of David and Goliath people most of the time focus on the manner in which David slew the giant – with a slingshot and a stone.
However, before David took on Goliath he did two critical things. The first thing he did was leave his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper.
Secondly, he ran toward the battle line (1 Samuel 17:22).
In confronting the Goliath of accusation, we too must leave our baggage (i.e., past mistakes and forgiven sins) in the care of the baggage keeper, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He died to carry our baggage!
Secondly, run toward not away from your accusers trusting God for the outcome.
Like those looking on as David took it to Goliath, your opponents and naysayers not only will be amazed, but silenced as you take the battle to them, not run away from them.
This is not the world's way and campaign consultants will likely tell you just the opposite. But that's the way of the world. What if God's people began doing this God's way? I can tell you what it did for me. It set me free to be human and without pretense. There is no greater freedom.
Run with integrity. Don't lie. Don't deny. Don't cover up. Don't panic. Trust God for the outcome, because he always honors those who honor him.
She is a popular writer and speaker, speaking to faith and non-faith based groups, organizations and local governments on servant leadership and current events impacting public policy and American culture - offering practical and biblical solutions to common leadership challenges uncommon in 21st century public space.
Interested in having Dorothy speak at your event? Please complete the SPEAKING REQUEST below.
Published on Sunday, April 8, 2018 @ 6:22 PM CDT