Facing the Music

This week, every news outlet has carried the story of a public official whose past deeds have come to present light.  He appeared to be a faithful husband and loyal public servant; when, in reality, he had lived a secret life and practiced double standards for many years.  The public is astonished; his image is tarnished; his family is traumatized.  He has been forced to face the music, to coin a modern idiom.

The phrase "face the music" originated in Japan.  It seems that there was a very wealthy and influential man who demanded a position in the Imperial Orchestra, because he wanted to perform before the emperor.  Unable to resist the man’s economic and societal pressure, the conductor gave him second chair as a flautist.  During each concert, the rich man would imitate the other musicians by raising his instrument to his mouth, pretending to force air into the chambers, and inventing finger movements in subterfuge of every audience.  But, he never made a sound.  He never read a piece of music.  He never played a single note of any opus.  All was a ruse. 

The hoax continued for two years.  The day came when the orchestra hired a new conductor, who began his tenure by auditioning every member.  One by one, the musicians performed to secure their chair or advance to a new position.  When the time came for the rich flute player to try-out, he was forced to face the music and allow the score to expose his farce.  

My mother used to tell me that you can fool some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but never all of the people all of the time.  She was warning me to never try to fool her, and in application, never to live a life where I tried to fool anyone.  She required truthfulness.  She required that I integrate my world by making my private life and my public life the same expression.  I was not allowed to speak ill of a friend in secret and then cloak my true self with an amicable facade in a social setting.  No!  Mom made me find characteristics that I could appreciate about each of my “perceived foes” so that I would not be two-faced.

My mom frequently frustrated me with her ethical stand.  “What would it hurt to have a double standard, if the people I was fooling did not find out?”  Such a question is, at best, the musings of a silly child or, at worst, the delusions of a trained deceiver.  

Delaying the inevitable exposure by a little white lie is a temptation to which almost all have yielded.  But the day of reckoning arrives.  It always arrives.  Jesus said that everything said or done in secret will be shouted from the housetop (Luke 12:2-3).  In his day, house top shouting might have been the means by which public announcements could be heard by the greatest number of people.  Today our housetops include:  mass media outlets, twitter, facebook, email, blogs, and texting; and this week the housetops have been broadcasting the secret life of a modern-day flautist.

This public official has had to face the music.  It appears that he is not really qualified to occupy the seat, which had been granted him through the pretense that he was faithful, dutiful, trustworthy, honest, and loyal.  Apparently, he had failed to become proficient in those disciplines through his private practices.  The day has arrived when his undeveloped skill set has been revealed.

Our homes, our cities, and our nation need leaders who have been schooled by some wise mothers and admonished by the warnings of Scripture.  My prayer is that the true musicians will be seated in the highest chairs and that the housetops will broadcast a symphony of excellence.

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