My husband bought one of those word-of-the-day calendars for me and I love it. It’s a great way to learn new words and I love knowing where the words come from, how they originated. Last Monday the word was hamartia. I’d never heard of it, but the meaning struck a chord in me.

Hamartia is a fancy word for a tragic flaw. Aristotle introduced the Greek word it derives from (hamartanein) to describe the error of judgment that ultimately brings about the hero’s tragic downfall. In short, hamartia is the flaw or shortcoming that will bring you down.

In the last years, there have been heartbreaking examples of godly men and women, whose ministry was destroyed because of their hamartia, their tragic flaw. For men it has often been sex, in one way or another. Extramarital affairs, porn addiction, visiting prostitutes, homosexual affairs, sadly enough the list of examples goes on and on. For women it has been power, money, fraud, and yes, sex.

Many churches have been wounded, destroyed even, by the hamartia of their leader. And I cringe as I think of the damage they have done to the gospel, the church in general, the testimony of the saints.

But we must never forget that a hamartia doesn’t develop from one day to the next, it doesn’t just appear. The signs are there long before the downfall. Look at two Biblical examples: Moses’ temper was evident long before the final event in which he struck the rock and promised the Israelites water. God punished him by not allowing him to enter the promised land. David’s lust for women was there way before he had Bathsheba’s husband killed. It cost him his son, and the example he gave to his other kids sowed seeds for their rebellion against him (think of Absolom).

What could become your hamartia? Are their areas in your live right now that have the potential to become your downfall? It could be the stuff you’re watching on the Internet, or the way you deal with money. It could be your secretary that you’re getting a little to close to, or that youth leader who’s giving you more attention than your husband ever does. It could be your materialism, your pride, your temper, or anything else.

When God alerts us to repeated sins in our lives, He’s warning us for patterns that could destroy us. He knows that our weaknesses can develop into a hamartia if we’re not careful. The sins we neglect to deal with, are the ones that ultimately can destroy us and our ministry. Don’t let your weaknesses, your flaws become your hamartia. Deal with them.

The best way to deal with weaknesses and repeated sins is this: confession and accountability. Keep confessing your sins to God and to others, so it will remind you every time that you have sinned. The minute we stop confessing, we’re at the beginning of a slippery road towards rationalizing sin, explaining it away and ultimately denying we’ve sinned at all. Keep confessing every time you mess up.

The second thing you need to do is become accountable, especially in the area of your weakness. Find someone trustworthy and ask him or her to be your accountability partner. You can agree to email each day, or call. You can give him/her permission to check your internet history at any time or go though your mail. You can ask him/her to oversee your finances, or be present at certain meetings. However you set it up, make sure that your accountability partner has full access to your area of weakness, your potential hamartia.

Don’t let a hamartia destroy your ministry and your life. Deal with your weaknesses and sins before it’s too late.