A Night with Ben Carson: A Reflection on the Loneliness of Leadership

My wife and I had the wonderful privilege of attending a talk by Dr. Ben Carson last year at a Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, OH. Dr. Carson was articulate, funny, well-spoken, open, and warm in his speaking. He expressed his viewpoints in a way that gave the strong impression that you were not hearing a well polished political platform, but rather a set of common sense ideas gleaned from a lifetime of experience in various social settings. I came away refreshed and encouraged that there was someone who would boldly and humbly speak truth about our nation and personal responsibility.

However, there was a moment in the evening that gave me reason to stop and think. When Dr. Carson was introduced, the person making the intro said, “and let’s welcome Dr. Carson with ‘run, Ben, run.'” The audience responded accordingly and enthusiastically. I was struck by the hundreds of voices chanting this man’s name. Truly, there are many Americans who desire someone in Washington who has honesty, integrity, and commonsense as integral characteristics. But the chants and enthusiasm struck a chord in my soul. We all want the leadership, but we often fail to think of the burden that leadership carries. Where will the chants and applause be when Iran is attacking Israel, and that man must make the decision to intervene or stand by? Where will the warmth come from when he tackles immigration, and realizes that he faces an impossible task? Who will boost his confidence when he beats his head against the wall trying to balance the budget but can’t because of special interest groups and the congressmen they have in their pockets? Will he be thinking of the cheers when he counts the number of American troops who die as part of police forces that he authorized in his role as Commander-in-Chief?

Now, I am in no way suggesting that Dr. Carson would not make a good president, should be decide to run for office. He would easily get my vote. My point is this- there’s only one desk in the office, and only one person can sit at it. I wonder how often Dr. Carson and other presidential candidates think about that as they consider running for office. Yes, great power and influence, but with it the burden of leadership, the pressure of making the right decision, the partisanship of politics, and the loneliness of office. I cannot fathom the burden those leaders carry. I am a pastor, and often I sit in my office and wrestle with the priorities of the ministry- what text carries God’s message for His people? Does a certain person require the toughness of discipline or the mercy of grace? What issues and people deserve the limited amount of time that I have in a week? How should we plan the worship services? What ministries stay and which go? How do we better reach the lost? I question myself when someone walks away from the faith. I doubt the effectiveness of my preaching when I don’t see visible response. There is loneliness in leadership. And that is for a church of 60 people. I cannot even comprehend leading a nation of millions. I’m not sure that this should change how we look at anything, only to remind us that while we may get excited over a potential political candidate (or pastor!), there is much more that must go into that decision than just how many chants and cheers were heard during speeches and rallies, and there is much that cannot be truly understood until the weight of leadership rests of the shoulders of the one running.