A Moral Gut Check for the Coming Year—and Beyond

by Craig Thompson on January 22, 2021

If you’re like me, you saw at least one of the “those we lost” montages covering the deaths of notable people over the last year. And when you see some of the names and faces, you react for some with “I didn’t know they were gone” and for others with “That just happened this year?”

I recently saw a different kind of look back. It was a list of high-profile Christians who’d made the news for their failings in 2020. It included pastors, authors, and ministry leaders, among others. There were a couple I hadn’t heard about, but sadly, I thought of a couple more I could add. Not everyone’s transgressions took place last year, but that’s when some of them came to light.

Do cross-cultural workers also face temptations and sometimes give in to them? The answer, of course, is yes. Those abroad are not immune to temptations “common to man.” But added to that, new surroundings can present uncommon enticements seemingly around every corner—at least uncommon when compared to what used to happen at home.

Does the sin of cross-cultural workers sometimes become public? Does it sometimes cause them to leave the field? Does it sometimes bring their work into question? Does it sometimes destroy relationships? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Many of us have seen it happen, to fellow workers, to teammates, to family members, to friends, to ourselves.

I’ve prepared the following questions as a beginning-of-the-year gut check, with the aim of helping us stay off of someone’s 2021 those-we-lost list. Yes, that’s an excellent goal. But I also realize that for some, having their failings exposed is a necessary step leading to healing and restoration. Being on the list doesn’t have to be an indication of lostness. It can also be an opportunity for being found.

Join me in the asking and the answering:

Do I have the accountability I need?

When asked how I am, do I answer only with platitudes or just talk about my work?

Do I have partners who can accompany me when my work requires me to go to risky places?

Do I recognize the increased temptations that my environment brings?

Are my words or actions abusive—physically, verbally, emotionally, sexually, psychologically, or spiritually—to those whom I have power or authority over?

Am I misusing my authority by requiring others to divulge personal secrets to me?

Am I silent when I see others being mistreated?

Do my jokes and flippant words reveal dark places in my heart?

Am I caught up in a pattern of lying?

Am I giving my spouse and children the time and attention they need? Would I know if I weren’t?

Am I allowing my emotions to lead me into unhealthy relationships?

Do I have needed content filters on all my internet devices? Do I know what options are available?

Am I using “curiosity” as an excuse for sin?

Am I doing anything because of anger towards God?

Am I making financial decisions that I know are unethical or that others would question?

Am I “borrowing” from non-personal accounts with the intent to pay it back when I’m able?

Am I giving enough time to reading the Bible and contemplating it’s lessons so that it can challenge my suspect behaviors and tendencies?

Am I praying for strength to resist and strength to repent?

Am I participating in any activity that is prohibited by my organization, even though I believe it’s OK?

Am I willing, if necessary, to accept discipline from my leadership?

Am I giving enough attention to self care and to healthy ways of dealing with stress?

Do I believe that the extra stresses of my position give me more latitude to look for relief in ways that others wouldn’t be allowed to do?

Am I abusing alcohol, drugs, or medications? Am I addicted to pornography or gambling? Can I really stop any time I want to?

Have I ended a negative behavior only to fall back into it again?

Am I able to accept the truth regardless the source, even if it comes from someone in a lower position who hasn’t followed the proper channels or protocols?

Am I afraid that someone will find out the secret things I’m doing?

Am I hoping that someone will find out the secret things I’m doing?

Am I more apt to say, “But for the grace of God, there go I,” or “None of that could happen to me”?

Do I have someone trustworthy I can share my faults and fears with? Should I give that person a call?

[photo: “Sunrise on the Rock,” by Giuseppe Milo, used under a Creative Commons license]

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About Craig Thompson

Craig and his wife, Karen, along with their five children, served as missionaries in Taipei, Taiwan, for ten years before returning to southwest Missouri. His experiences, as well as conversations with other cross-cultural workers, have made him more and more interested in member care and the process of transitioning between cultures. Craig blogs at ClearingCustoms.net.

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