Periodically another scandal hits the headlines, sometimes dominating the news for months or even years. Attention is riveted on Clinton's sexual indiscretions, OJ's murderous violence, or Nixon's corrosive insecurity. The larger and brighter the figure, the longer and darker the shadow they cast.
These public people are usually exceptionally gifted individuals. President Clinton, for instance, has an extraordinary love of people and ability to engage them. But his strengths, like our own, have a shadow side. The flip side of Clinton's gifts is an unrestrained sexual appetite. Clinton, OJ, Nixon and so many others, failed to acknowledge and deal with their personal weakness. As a result, their flaws grew and became fatal for their careers, and in OJ's case, fatal for Nicole Brown as well.
It would be a grave mistake for us to let the failings of others distract us from our own weaknesses, from the personal issues that each of us need to be facing and addressing. Those who point an accusing finger at another's faults are left with three fingers pointing back to themselves. Our flaws can also become fatal.
We may not be rich and famous, but each one of us has certain strengths, and weaknesses. And strange though it may seems, if left unchecked, our strengths are our weaknesses. Let me give an example.
Actors and actresses are gifted with special sensitivity that enables them to portray a variety of roles. But if they loose control of their sensitivity, it can ruin their personal lives, drag them through a series of failed relationships. Instead of us managing our gifts, they can build up their own momentum and control us. Our gifts can sweep us away like an avalanche destroying everything in our path.
Those who might seem to be larger-than-life, be they presidents or priests, are in special danger. They become too big for their own britches. And no one dares to confront them with the truth. Everyone joins in the denial game. In the face of the President's philandering, or Father's alcoholism, no one deals with the naked truth that the emperor has no clothes.
After he had left his wife battered and bruised, I remember a very smooth and personable OJ reassuring an interviewer that he and Nicole only had a little marital spat. After the police had been called to protect Nicole from OJ's wrath nine times, the judge merely asked OJ to get some counseling, by telephone, as his busy schedule would allow. After all, this was superhuman OJ. OJ is not subject to human foibles like the rest of us. The judge was deadly wrong.
None of us, prince or pauper, is exempt from human weakness. It may be more difficult for those with fame and fortune, but each one of us needs the humility
(1) to acknowledge our area of powerlessness and
(2) to seek the guidance and strength we are lacking.
May each scandal we encounter, whether it absorbs our nation or only our neighborhood, serve as a sober warning to us. If we fail to deal with our own weaknesses, our lives too can end up in tragedy. But, with God's help, our flaws need not become fatal.