The David Syndrome? Pastor/Religious Scholar Marcia Mount Shoop on Jr. High Leadership Tropes

This feminist minister and religious studies scholar writes: “How do we understand relationships in terms of trust and collaboration instead of manipulation and conquest? The kind of transformation we need doesn’t come from regulation or from segregation; it comes from practicing mutuality in spaces where conquest is not the name of the game. And it takes graduating to a whole new level of self-understanding—one that takes us beyond any arrested in those painful Junior High/High School habits of mind where it seems like we have so much to prove and even more to lose.”

That indeed, is the a question that’s particularly pertinent with the David Syndrome, commonly known as the Bathsheba Syndrome. In everything I’ve written about this, I don’t think I’ve been able to say what she does (and I wholeheartedly agree!) — that there’s something so “junior high” about this so-called syndrome, which makes a roof-bathing neighbor into a symbol for all power-over temptations, and sex a stand-in for any and every business sin, from adultery to embezzlement. Which begs the question — when did adultery become a business sin? So simple and yet so complex! Indeed, it may be time to ask, what hath leadership storytelling wrought?

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like we’re all in Junior High or High School again with the Petraeus scandal?  There is drama at every turn with boundaries crossed and accusations slung across every lunch table there is.

When I was a teenager we didn’t have emails, Facebook , and Twitter (thanks be to God).  We passed notes.  I remember getting a really mean one scrawled in deliberately messy handwriting to maintain anonymity about how annoying I was to the “populace” (yes I remember that word was in there) because I didn’t wear make up and I thought I was “so smart.”

Just like today’s cyber detectives who figured out Paula Broadwell’s identity from the fingerprints we all leave behind in the online lives we lead, I traced this note back to its source.  I did it the old fashioned way—I asked around.  Unfortunately I found out…

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  1. […] women leaders have affairs and ethical lapses, the David Syndrome (as many of us have renamed it!) seems to apply more to men, because they have inherited the privileged and problematic role of […]


  2. […] of us have wanted to change the name of the Bathsheba Syndrome to the David Syndrome — identifying the one who made the mess by his bad choices as the source of the problem. But […]


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