A recent Ottawa Citizen Ask the Relgion Experts question asked, "what guidance would you give to a politician who finds him or herself in an ethical controversy that calls into question his or her leadership?"
Balpreet Singh's response from a Sikh perspective is below. Answers from other faith perspectives can be found here.
My advice would be to address the controversy head-on and offer some accountability. The truth will eventually surface once the dust settles.
We all make mistakes. It’s what makes us human. I think we also appreciate that our politicians are very much human and prone to the same shortcomings as the rest of us. We are often quite sympathetic (and even forgiving) when individuals come forward and admit they have made a mistake or that they have suffered a personal failing. We of course expect that the mistake won’t be repeated and that steps will be taken to correct what happened. I can think of several examples of prominent individuals who have admitted their mistakes and have largely been redeemed through their subsequent behaviour.
Refusing to acknowledge that a mistake has occurred, however, is a recipe for disaster. Commentary and speculation on the ethical lapse will continue as the truth painfully and slowly emerges. Obfuscating or hoping that the controversy will go away by itself is not a wise course of action.
So, my guidance to a politician in such a situation would be to candidly and truthfully address the controversy, make an admission of guilt where mistakes have been made and set a path for the future. I would add a caveat, however. In the case where there are multiple serious ethical and perhaps even criminal lapses, it may be best to step aside from one’s leadership position, deal with the consequences and seek help.
There is a point where one no longer has the moral authority to lead and must focus completely on personal renewal. It is more respectable to willingly choose to step aside rather than being forced out.
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