Dealing With Poor Performance: Lessons From Simon Cowell and Jesus Christ

by Joe Plemon on December 3, 2010

I once had a basketball coach who was a nice guy. He cheered for me when I did well and he cheered for me when I didn’t do well. In fact, he was so nice that he seldom pointed out my mistakes.

I also played baseball for a coach who wasn’t nice. His face would match his red hair when I made a base running blunder or threw to the wrong base or failed to back up a play. “What were you thinking?" he would implore – his nose about six inches from mine – before seizing that moment to explain exactly what I had done to invoke his anger.

Which of these two do you think was a better coach? The one, of course, who made me a better player…the baseball coach.

Whatever happened to truth?

We live in an era of molly coddling, where “nice" teachers and “nice" administrators will allow a failing student to graduate from high school without attending class or implement no-fail" policies. Because of this wide spread paranoia of stepping on someone’s self esteem, I find Simon Cowell’s biting critiques refreshing. Yes, American Idol’s Cowell can be abrasive: he once told contestant Chris Sligh, “I think you murdered the arrangement. . . . you turned a beautiful song into a complete and utter drone.” But just as failing students need to know that they have failed, tone deaf singers need to know they can’t sing. Artificial “atta-boys" which mask truth are a huge disservice to either. I think we can learn much from Simon Cowell.

I also assert that Cowell is much more like Jesus Christ than you might expect.

How did Jesus deal with poor performance?

  • When money changers set up shop in the temple to profit from out of towners, Jesus knocked over their tables and called them thieves. Mat 21:12–13
  • Jesus, who had no tolerance for hypocrisy, confronted the religious leaders with these words, “… For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness." Matthew 23:27-28. Suffice it to say that Jesus was not concerned about self esteem issues.
  • When religious leaders challenged Jesus’ authority, he told them that prostitutes would enter heaven before they would. Matthew 21:31.

You get the idea. If you think of Jesus as a “nice" man who would never hurt anyone’s feelings, you have a distorted image of him.

Christ and Cowell deal with poor performance in similar ways

  • Both will tell you the truth, even if it hurts.
  • Neither is competing in a popularity contest; being “liked" is not a consideration to Cowell or Jesus.
  • Both are experts in their fields…Cowell knows musical talent. Jesus, of course, knows human nature.
  • They will both speak their minds.

OK Joe", you are thinking, “So what if Jesus and Simon Cowell have some similarities? What does this mean to me?"

Great question. It means that we need to grow backbones and learn to “speak the truth in love" Ephesians 4:15. I am not advocating meanness or maliciousness, but a deep conviction that the best way to help others is to be honest with them. If you are a parent, a church leader, a school teacher, a boss or simply a friend, I challenge you to speak truth instead of camouflaging it…in love.

It might be not be easy, but you will be more like Christ. And maybe a bit like Simon Cowell.

Readers: I covet your thoughts. Have I gone too far by comparing Christ and Cowell? How have others in your life helped you by telling you what you needed to hear instead of what you wanted to hear? When has “truth telling” crossed the line into meanness? How would you describe your best teachers, coaches and mentors in terms of telling you truth even it it hurt?

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