My laboratory manager stormed into my office. He had that exasperated look whenever an employee had failed at their task. “Who is it this time?” I asked.
He shook his head in disgust and looked out the door. “It’s Sally. You know, when she was first hired, I thought she could go all the way. I remember her telling me that she would be the hardest worker I had ever met. She was. But after I promoted her, she couldn’t keep up with her new responsibilities. She still worked hard but she wasn’t productive. She was spinning her wheels, always busy, just not going anywhere.” He sighed and rolled his eyes upward. “The Peter Principle.”
This principle is named after Laurence J. Peter who first proposed this management concept that employees will continue to rise in a bureaucracy until they reach their level of incompetence. Since it was initially proposed in 1969, numerous pundits and articles have given credence to this. Now generations of business leaders use it to label failed managers and ill-advised promotions.
I never took a business course and thus when I first heard of this, I thought it must be related to the Apostle Peter, surmising that everyone, no matter how intelligent or privileged, will say something that they will deeply regret. This was my spiritual Peter Principle as illustrated in this passage from the Gospel of Matthew.
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Matthew 26:31-35 (ESV)
In spite of Peter’s emphatic statement and declaration of his devotion and loyalty to His Lord, when he was pressured by direct questioning, he swore at his accusers and denied that he ever knew Jesus. This was not the first time Peter spoke without thinking or counting the cost.
I have been the poster child for the spiritual Peter Principle. Too often, I have compromised my faith in Jesus Christ, choosing the easy road and compromising my values and going along with the popular crowd and opinion instead of standing firm and defending my Lord and Savior.
Unlike the Peter Principle of business and organization, the spiritual Peter Principle ends on a positive note. After the Resurrection, Jesus Christ forgave Peter’s denial and charged him to be the first leader of the Church. The headstrong and hot headed disciple became the rock of stability and unwavering faith that Jesus always saw in him. We may all say something that we will deeply regret, even betraying someone we love, but thanks be to God that He is able to see our true worth and potential and will lift us up from our levels of incompetence to accomplish more for Him than we ever thought possible.
Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.