Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenneger, Michael Vick, O.J. Simpson, Dan Marino, Riley Cooper.
What do all of these men have in common? They are famous men in their own right, all with stories of both success and failure. What sets their lives apart from yours and mine is that their failures became public and ours, in most cases, remain tucked away in the privacy of our own hearts. That small difference is a game changer. Lives that get turned upside down as a result of poor judgment have served America with some of the finest entertainment available. Sad isn’t it? But that’s the reality. When the transgressions of men become public, most of us – though we’d rather not admit it – want the scoop.
And isn’t it just crazy to think that some of the offenders (one in particular that we probably all recall), will boldly go before the cameras and outright lie, saying things like, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman?”
It’s so incredibly embarrassing but, if we’re honest, can’t we see ourselves just a bit? Maybe not with scandals quite so mammoth, but in general we usually try to back out of our consequences and skim over our offenses. Yet it is so easy to act shocked over someone else’s public improprieties.
“I show my scars so that others know they can heal.” – Rhachelle Nicol, Sunday Mourning
On the other hand, when the common response is the typical cover-up, there is nothing more refreshing, than a guilty person coming clean right off the bat. In the recent case of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, he responded to the lack of discretion he used during a drunken spout of racial slurs by saying, “There was a confrontation and I handled it extremely poorly.” Cooper was transparent in acknowledging how stupid it was to not consider the consequences of his words. No defending or covering up, but instead a genuine apology.
You can’t ask for more than that, really, and it serves as a great example of how to salvage what you may have left of your reputation.
Vulnerability goes a long way, and it levels the playing field. A vulnerable and transparent admission says, “I made a mistake and, if you’re honest, you have too. Let’s help one another do better.” I don’t know what is more foolish actually, someone defending a mistake they’ve made or someone acting shocked when they get the news that another person has fallen. It has been well said that if we didn’t put people so high up on a pedestal, they wouldn’t have so far to fall.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. -Proverbs 10:9
There was a great scene in the movie Courageous where one of the main characters, Javier, is faced with a decision that tests his character. Javier’s boss presents him with an opportunity for a promotion, but only if he is willing to fudge the inventory numbers. To the delight of any viewer who holds integrity high on the list of character qualities, Javier refuses on the grounds that doing such a thing would compromise his faith and character. Applause, applause, and the crowd roars right along with 2 Cor 8:21, ‘For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight, but also in the sight of man.’ The beauty of that scene is that, in the end, Javier realizes he was merely being tested by his boss who was looking for a good man to promote, one that he could truly trust. This was just a movie and didn’t make headlines, but what happens when we are faced with greater challenges?
Currently there are several public figures who are facing embarrassing charges, one being United States Representative Anthony Weiner, who through a habit of sexting has made a public mess of his life, with his private parts now on display all over the internet for the world to see. This embarrassing situation is clearly tied to a lack of accountability and constraint and, as a result, Weiner has effectively signed the death certificate of his political career.
To make matters worse, the late night talk show hosts take every opportunity to make fun of something that, in reality, is heart wrenchingly sad and unfortunate for all concerned parties. We as Christians have to remember that lives are being crushed as we judge, laugh and make jokes about the latest scandal, and according to Romans 14:10-12, we may just want to watch our step there.
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway
Trust is far reaching, and when you lose the ability to be trusted as a person with integrity, you have lost one of life’s most valuable qualities. Any profit or promotion is temporary and relative, but a good reputation has the potential to last for generations and to have a positive impact in relationships in every area of one’s life. Sadly, in today’s day and age, most people are stunned and surprised by anyone who can genuinely be trusted. This makes sense, though, considering even God himself said that he could not find even one faithful person (See Romans 3:11).
Truth be told, all of us have a story or two that we could tell regarding our own indiscretions. Some worse than others, but the fact is that we all fall pitifully short of God’s standard of holy perfection in our own way.
While we know that we are saved by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), our choices, decisions and actions matter on an earthly level. When the world around us peeks into our lives they should get a glimpse of the Savior and see the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. We are not earning God’s favor by displaying these things; we display them because we already have his favor through Christ who earned it on our behalf. Wow!
Exercising transparency with each other is key for purposes of accountability. We also should be totally transparent before God –not because he doesn’t already know us, but because we need to remind ourselves of our need for grace, repentance and forgiveness.
Dealing with our mistakes with honesty and transparency, as opposed to minimizing, lying or attempting to justify ourselves, will show the watching world around us that we truly do trust Jesus to be both our righteousness and our justification. Jesus died to set us free…and you can exercise that freedom today by living your life as an open book. In Christ, there is no need for the shucking and jiving we see from the public figures whose dirty laundry is aired in the public eye. No, in Christ, there is freedom to own our sin, and to receive forgiveness, healing and the power to change.
Robin is a singer and published songwriter. She is currently enjoying being an at home mom and serving her husband and three step children. Follow her on Twitter at @robinmahria or email her at [email protected].