Saturday, April 21, 2012

The 'pile on effect'

We live in an era in which people delight in pointing out the mistakes of others. Yes, I know this has been true since the beginning of time, but I believe it has become more intense in recent years.

Why has this happened? There are likely many answers to that, but I believe the primary one is that people are under much more scrutiny than in the past. We have the ability to scrutinize each other more because technology has allowed us the opportunity to record just about every move we make.

In some ways this is good, but in others it is suffocating. For example, itemized bills from cell phone companies can show us not only who people called and when, but where their approximate location was when they made those calls. If I was in Sparta when I called one of my friends, then that information would be on the invoice.

And if a person was at a place he should not be when he made a call, then it can be too bad for them. This is because many of us are almost gleeful when we have the opportunity to knock somebody off their pedestal.

Of course, many times, people knock themselves off their own pedestal. It happens often because we are ridiculously human and can make awful decisions sometimes. A recent example of this is former University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino.

Until a couple of weeks ago, Petrino was a man at the top of his profession and had his team in a position to compete for a national championship later this year. Since then, everything has fallen apart after he had a motorcycle crash.

It was not the crash that led to his biggest problems. When he was driving his motorcycle, his passenger was a 25-year-old woman who was not his wife, and he later admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with her. His folly was further compounded when it was revealed he had circumvented university hiring policies when he got the young woman a job in the football department of the school.

Actually, getting her the job became his biggest problem. It was not the inappropriate relationship with her that caused Petrino’s ouster. It was the human resources nightmare he created when he broke the rules to hire her.

Since then, Petrino has been turned into a laughingstock. Sarcastic newspaper columns about his mistakes have run from coast to coast. People appear to love dancing on his professional grave.

Keep in mind that I am not defending him in any way. He made serious mistakes, and the price he is paying is steep. Still, I marvel at the way people seem to pile on to others when they make mistakes.

Our human nature is strange. We love putting people up on a pedestal, but when they make mistakes and get knocked to the ground, that is when we start kicking. And we typically kick until there is nothing left of them.

I think our behavior is especially odd in the Petrino case. Though many throw around the word ‘adultery’ on talk radio, I wonder how many of them know the true definition of it. After all, Jesus taught in the New Testament that if somebody looks upon somebody else and lusts after them, then they have already committed adultery in their heart (Matthew 5:27-28). There is much more to it than just a physical act.

More than anything, we need compassion when dealing with these issues. If Petrino committed adultery, we would do well to remember the biblical definition. By that standard, most reading this are guilty of this sin.

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