No Time for Auditors

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking • For September 10 weekender, 2016

No Time For Auditors

David W. Hegg

Every year our church employs an outside auditing firm to scrutinize our financial practices. We do so because we intend to handle the charitable donations of our church family in a way that is above reproach. Our auditors perform a crucial service when their team comes in, takes over our conference room, and paws through all our records looking for failure. That’s what auditors do. They look for transgressions, mistakes, lack of proper oversight, and anything else not up to GAAP … generally accepted accounting principles.

In business, auditors are necessary and appreciated. They point out areas where risk is hiding just around the corner so we can prevent it from causing real problems.

But, when it comes to normal human interaction, those who constantly point out what they find objectionable make the world miserable for the rest of us. You know who you are. You self-identify as everyone’s auditor, always ready to point out how we have failed to live up to your opinion of what is right and best. And all the while you fail to realize just how hard you are to live with, and how petty your criticism makes you look.

We’ve all had loads of experience with this kind of auditor since they infiltrate every group. You have auditors in the office who make sure everyone knows when something is done wrong. We have them in the church, in the schools, and on the athletic fields. We have them in our families, our clubs, and our neighborhoods. And, apparently, our political parties recruit them by the dozens from what I’ve seen.

So, what makes an auditor stop being a nice, courteous, friendly person to become his or her own attack dog? Here’s what I think.

Most auditors believe life has dealt them a raw deal. They feel they should have achieved more success, garnered more power, been granted more respect. Somewhere, in every auditor’s life, they feel they have been cheated, held back, or passed over, and now they are out to show everyone they know more, and are better than people think. And so, they go on the offensive, offering strong opinions on everything, critiquing everyone, and making sure their voice is heard everywhere.

Auditors also have very thin skin. They are easily offended, by almost everything. Their bitterness makes them emotionally sunburned, and any time one of their pet peeves get touched or torched, they can’t help themselves. They get monumentally offended and make sure everyone knows about it, even though the offense usually can be traced back to their own narrow perspective on the issue.

In business, auditors play a crucial role bringing a necessary level of accountability to crucial areas of commerce. And the same can be said for those who properly hold us accountable in our relationships and friendships. But to do so, relational “auditors” must think first about how to protect or restore courtesy and civility rather than create resentment. Constructive criticism must actually be constructive, both in its message, and the manner in which it is offered. It will come with respect, humility, and a desire to strengthen rather than tear down, to understand first rather than condemn.

We all need auditors who care about us enough to tell us where our lives are leaking. But, if you’re like me, you’ve no more time for those who treat their friends and leaders as punching bags to gain a misguided sense of superiority. Most often their outrage stems, not from an actual transgression, but from their own miserable concoction of bitterness and jealousy.

So, don’t be an outraged, relational auditor. When you see big problems in a life you care about, arm yourself with humility, respect, and care. Get all the facts before launching, starting the conversation with “help me understand …” Then be kind and attempt to help in a way that will be both understood and appreciated.

Last of all, when you see little things, little unintended offenses, just flush them away before they tempt you to act poorly. Learn to forgive and forget and, by so doing, forge a stronger friendship. After all, we were meant to live in relationship, and those who insist on auditing the rest of us out of their own bitterness will never come to know how good life can be.