The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has been mismanaged. The chaos and tragedy for thousands of Afghans, not to mention the U.S. citizens who remain trapped in the country, have resulted from the mistakes made by President Biden in the operation.
But the failure that stands out to me is President Biden’s resolute failure to take responsibility for the errors of his administration here. When asked in a CBS interview if anything could have been done better, he just said, ‘no.’ This answer was a key failure in leadership. Leadership means representing those you lead before God. And that representing includes, at times, owning failures. When a man in relationship fails to do this, it is a key failure of masculinity.
Certainly, women can and should be in positions of political leadership. And certainly, women politicians can be guilty of the same denial of responsibility for their actions. This is not just a wrong that men commit. But, in close relationships, it is the masculine specialty: to represent for the couple or the family. And when he fails to do it there, it is a more masculine failure.
In the role of president there are serious consequences to such failure of course, like a high body count. But masculinity matters most in relationship, and this is where men are really men…or not. As the representative before God, as the priest of the home, as the one to whom God calls, “Adam, where are you?” a man is called to step forward to own responsibility for wrongs committed, especially his own, in his sphere.
It is very hard work to do, and the consequences of admitting guilt can be costly. Your position may be jeopardized. Your enemies will use it against you. Your reputation may be lost. But, in spite of these costs, it is always better to do. When the leading brother, Judah, was brought to confess, “Tamar is more righteous than I,” (Gen 38:11-26), when the Israelite priest made sacrifice for his own sins as well as his people’s (Heb 5:3), when the great King David came clean before Nathan (2Sa 12:1-13), when Simon Peter cast himself before the Lord in owning his fault (Mar 16:7, Joh 21:17), these were men being men by owning their failures. I hope that you realize that the reason we know the sins of all the heroes of the Bible is because they revealed them to us. It is a unique book for this reason.
But instead of this manliness, I so often seem to default to the response of Adam when God called him to this responsibility of confession: “But it wasn’t my fault—it was the woman’s…” (Gen 3:11-12). That is me. I imitate my president. When I do, I fail as a man.
This is President Biden’s failure of masculinity. And it is not unique to his presidency. His predecessor, President Trump, often displayed this same fault, refusing to own errors. But it is a real failure of manhood when we do it in our relationships.
Forgive us leaders, Lord. And, in this land of leaders empty of masculine example, make us men.