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by Rubel Shelly
The cover story for the Money Section of USA Today dealt with the current banking crisis in Japan. For reasons I still cant explain, it caught my eye. Titled Bank of Japan finally pulls its head out of the sand (Sept.23, 2002, p.1B), the long piece chronicled some of the problems facing Japanese bankers.
Bad debts for that countrys banks rose 29% in the last fiscal year to $350 billion, and that may be only a partial accounting. Some analysts think the real figure for bad loans is closer to $1 trillion. They are sitting on huge losses in the stock market. The list of problems is long and disturbing.
So how did things get so bad? The answer offered in the article is this: When the bad loans started piling up in the early 90s, Japanese bankers stuck to an unspoken, unbreakable rule: Never admit that anything was going wrong.
Never admit that anything is wrong. That sounds like the crisis strategy of a whole host of people I know. Why, Im not above having used it myself!
Telling the truth about a bad situation is often difficult. It will ruffle feathers. It can be embarrassing. And it requires that a strategy for setting things right be found quickly and implemented forthrightly. It will be painful to save the company or reclaim a key client. It will be tough to get a ministry project or sick church back on track. It takes more than yearning to redeem a marriage in trouble.
But the bearer of a painful truth often suffers for his honesty. Take the case of one Japanese loan officer who spoke out against the irresponsible loans being made at his bank. His supervisors gave him a new job scrubbing toilets.
You and I arent in position to fix whats wrong with the banks in Japan. We may not be able to repair any number of problems in our immediate sphere of responsibility and influence. But one thing is certain: delaying, dodging, and denying only make bad situations worse and reduce the chances of recovery.
It was Augustine (354-430) who long ago challenged people to live by this irritating truth: Before God can deliver us, we must first undeceive ourselves.
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