Sunday, November 20, 2011

People and failure

At this point, it has been about two weeks since the scandal at Penn State became big news. During this time, turmoil and change have been the order of the day at the university.

Former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charge with 40 counts relating to child sexual abuse. Of course, these are only charges at this point and Sandusky deserves his day in court.

However, I recommend that people read the grand jury report that summarizes the crimes he is alleged to have committed. It is only 23 pages and is written in a way all can understand. Simply 'Google' it on the Internet, and a person can have it in a manner of seconds.

The allegations are reprehensible, and we should pray that justice is done.

Heads have rolled at the university. The school’s head football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier have been shown the door. Other employees are on administrative leave. Unfortunately, school officials knew of Sandusky’s activities as early as 1998, but they did not do much about it. We will find out how much they knew in coming months.

The stench from this mess is not going away soon.

The big question is: What do we take away from this? It is a simple question, but the answer is complicated.

This is because we can take this question in a thousand different directions. When I think of this situation, I tend to focus on the failures of mankind.

Obviously, the system failed the victims there. As ESPN analyst Jay Bilas correctly stated, there was a "conspiracy of cowards" when it came to dealing with Sandusky. University officials involved seemed more interested in protecting the school than reaching out to the victims.

In addition to the victims, there has been a lot of collateral damage. Sandusky was a person who was widely respected in the Penn State community. He was part of the community for decades and had endeared himself to many.

To them, he was a hero. Between his success on the gridiron and his efforts to enrich the lives of people, he was thought to be a model of what a man should be.

Now, the people who felt that way are deeply shaken. They wonder if a man who they respected so much can turn out like this, what does it say about mankind?

Actually, it says a lot. It is part of our human nature to put people up on a pedestal. We admire people to a degree that it is impossible for us to imagine them doing any wrong.

We all do this. We may not intentionally do it, but we do. We all have people we admire so much that we cannot imagine them failing.

As well meaning as we may be, we tread on dangerous ground when we do this. This is because we all have frailties nobody else can see. If we admire other people too much, we are setting ourselves up to be let down.

It may not be in as dramatic a way as Sandusky allegedly betrayed those around him. However, if we idolize other people too much, trouble is coming.

It is all about maintaining a proper balance in our lives. We can respect people and look at other people as role models. But that is as far as it should go.

That is easier said than done. How do we know when we are crossing the line when admiring people too much? I don't know. If it was so easy, then we would not have seen the tragedy we just witnessed.

Still, we should strive to maintain that balance. If not, it could cost us big later.

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