Once I was a faculty member at a university in Hawaii. I was very upset about our housing situation, and so I went directly to the president, since he worked with me on my visiting professorship. In the meeting, I complained about his housing director, who seemed to me to be incompetent and uncaring. The president immediately said to me, "Stephen, I'm sorry to hear about your housing situation, but I want you to know that our housing director is a very fine and competent person. Why don't we have him come here right now so we can solve the problem together."
Can you see how loyal the president was toward that man? I was embarrassed because the president was so right in what he was doing. I hesitated to say to him, "No, you go ahead and handle it. I just wanted you to be aware of the problem," because he was forcing me to take the responsible position, too. Well, the president got on the phone and invited this man to join us. Soon I could see this guy walking across the campus. Meanwhile, I was thinking, "I wonder if I communicated clearly? Maybe I'm partly responsible for this mess." By the time the housing director arrived, I was very mellow and humble. I was also very impressed by the character of this president, by his loyalty to the absent, even though it was embarrassing to me. The president was teaching me a correct principle the hard way.
When the housing director entered the room, my whole spirit had changed. I was nice to the guy: "How are you? Nice to see you." Just minutes before, I was criticizing the guy behind his back, so the president could sense my duplicity, adding to my embarrassment. But this was a powerful learning experience for me. I learned not to talk behind people's backs in ways that I would be ashamed to have them overhear. People who are present know you would do the same thing to them, especially if there was a strain on your relationship.
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