“We are oft to blame in this – ‘tis too much proved – that with devotion’s visage and pious action we do sugar o’er the devil himself.” Bill Shakespeare.
Why is it that when a politician or celebrity ‘fails’, two things happen? First of all, the level of ‘shock’ and ‘fury’ (favourite press words) is influenced by whether we love them, or we don’t. David Beckham cocks up, we are sorry for the poor, vulnerable love. Piers Morgan does the same thing, and everyone goes into hate mode. OK, ‘more hate’ mode.
In either case, ‘we’ point and pontificate, and the epithet “Look what s/he did!” emerges from our mouths. The same accusatory verbiage that emits from our lips when a colleague offends us in some small way. And in the same way, our willingness to forgive the transgression depends on whether or not we like that individual.
In other words, whether we consider them to be people of generally good character, or not.
My reading of Bill’s statement is this; that as long as we live and act in accordance with principles, and in doing so create in ourselves a person of good character (Third Resolution), then others are able to gloss over any temporary failure. It is easy to forgive those we respect and love when the oops isn’t too great.
But there is an insidious counter-thought expressed by some – and we’ve probably all done it at one time or another – and that is the belief that ‘if Mr Perfect or Miss Proper can do that, then so can I’.
Instead of looking at the behaviour, decrying it and (maybe) forgiving the formerly respected offender, we conclude that imperfection is now permissible, even desirable, and drop our own standards accordingly. It is the same psychology people used to start smoking ‘because James Bond did it’ or taking half-naked selfies because Kim and Kylie do it ‘in the name of empowering women’ (while F1 and other sports adopt the exact opposite view. Go figure.).
Many people like to bring others down to their level rather than put the work in to raise their own standards. In my book The Three Resolutions I wrote of a colleague who spent a great deal of time assassinating characters while always making sure that the holder of said character was absent, but never to their faces. My response in the event that he, or someone like him, attacked me like that was, “Are you trying to raise your self-esteem by lowering mine, because that will never work?”
Oh, and if it wasn’t me he was attacking in the subject’s absence, I’d shout to all present “Is X not here today, then?” Eventually, said colleague took the hint!
If someone else fails, it is never an excuse or justification to lower our own standards. We should try to be what we want to be, as much as we can. It’s a struggle, but it’s worth it. It is easier to forgive – and be forgiven – if we can do that, or even if we are seen to be trying to do that.
Go on. Be the best you think you can be.
It’s the foundation of greatness.