Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

A Life Lesson from American Idol: Do We All Need a “Simon?”

Another season of American Idol is here. Yes, this show is very popular here in the Philippines (just explaining for my American readers). I tend to lose interest once the finalist are competing, but I love watching the first auditions. Some of the “talent” and judges’ comments just makes me laugh out loud.

I really can’t believe the naivety of some of the contestants. Some of them confidently assert that they are American Idol material, yet their audition sounds like the drunken karaokey I hear while wondering through Manila. “This poor guy really needs to pursue another life dream,” I think to myself. The judges’ comments may seem harsh, but maybe it keeps some from wasting their lives on unrealistic goals.

If you have watched the show, you know that the most straightforward, humorous, and rude criticisms usually come from Simon. Love him or hate him, you probably can’t wait to hear his critiques. Simon, of course, may be a little too straightforward. At the same time, you know his compliments are 100% sincere. When he tells someone they have talent, you know it is not just flattery.

A few months back I wrote an devotional entitled We All Need a Nathan. This devotional was based on the many roles Nathan had in David’s life. Sometimes I wonder if we could all use a “Simon” in our lives from time to time.

Here’s what I mean. As I pointed out in the before-mentioned article, “A true friend will love us enough to tell us the truth, even at the risk of hurting our feelings.” Proverbs says it this way:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
-Proverbs 27:6

Whether we want to admit it or not, we can be just as foolish as some of those Idol contestants. As I mentioned in the devotional about Nathan, we can have “blind spots” in our lives–sometimes everyone can see them except us!

Hopefully you have at least one friend in your life who is 100% honest with you. This type of friend will be just as straightforward as Simon, but speak from a loving heart. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, ask God to send him/her to you. You will hear things that may make you uncomfortable, but you will be a better man or woman in the long run.


  1. Kev –

    Absolutely. I have learned so much more about myself and following Jesus from the people in my life willing to tell me what I was doing wrong than from the multitudes giving me insincere praise.

    Part of the problem today seems to be the incredible over-sensitivity of people to such “straight talk.” Anything negative is seen as such an affront to the recipient’s character and integrity.

    Not long ago, I heard the adopted son of C.S. Lewis addressing this very thing. He describe the often vitriolic tones expressed when Lewis and his friends in the “Inklings” disagreed about various matters. He also described the way that it STRENGTHENED their friendships.

    He lamented that the very honesty that once strengthened relationships in the past was a good way to wreck relationships today.

    One of the things I always treasured about my friendship with you and others back in college was the fact that we did so often express deep disagreement with one another, but we always loved each other and nobody ever seemed to take anything personally. And the exchange of ideas brought through the medium of sometimes heated debate was something we ALL grew incredible amounts through.

    I have, sadly, not been able to find such friends in more recent years. But your post at least provoked some precious memories.


  2. Hey brother,

    I remember those college days well.

    There’s something else that I have noticed, though. People such as “Dr. Phil” seem to have brought “straight talk” back into style. “Dr Laura” is another example. Maybe there is a recognition that we need it, even in popular media.

  3. sometimes, too much honesty can lead to a falling out of friendship. experienced it before. too bad i wasn’t able to save the friendship.

    and yes, i was the “simon” in the relationship.

  4. Very sorry to hear about that.

  5. Woops! I meant to say, “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy…not friend!” he he

    Sorry ’bout that! 🙂

  6. Is it our being Asian? Sometimes our culture is too concerned with pakikisama, and so even among our friends, we are very careful with the words we use-well Iam an exception! Some of my friends think I am way too frank.
    We have the habit of beating around the bush, sugarcoating and so sometimes,we are not able to say what we mean. We often resort to “pagpaparinig,” “pakikiramdam,” which is very vague and can lead others clueless. It does take a seasoned ear and time to understand. It equally takes skill to say something politely. Sometimes, too polite that norms are given more importance, even at the expense of truth.
    I guess it all boils down to motives. If a friend is sincere, telling the truth may hurt but it is liberating. The important thing is that it was done out of love. Well thats just my two cents!

  7. let me post another comment before going to bed.
    Its 2009, and well, this article was in 2007.
    Iam reminded of Chip Tsao- on his recent racist remarks about the Philippines in his column.
    Naturally, as a true-blue Filipino I was outraged
    I was thinking Chip Tsao really rhymes with siopao!
    but, F. Sionil Jose, a very well respected writer
    said, we should not kill the messenger who brings the news we very much need to hear; well, something along those lines.

    There might be truth to some things he wrote..
    Isnt it in the bible where the line
    “Sometimes, it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways…”

    Hopefully, a painful experience as this would open the eyes of our young people to dream and aspire. Fight and win. Study.

    If possible, dont rush to get involved…
    There are more important things to do..

  8. I can be really frank too at times and get misinterpreted but to me, the important thing is that God knows my heart and purpose.

    I don’t mind correction BUT I do mind it when someone accuses me of things or of being someone I’m really not, more if the person accusing doesn’t really know me.

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