Commentary: The news lately is filled with revelations about bad behavior from some of our nation’s most prominent people. Well-known figures in government, television news and entertainment, the movie industry, the corporate world, the sports world, some religious figures, and others have been publicly identified as engaging in various forms of offensive conduct.
For many of these accused individuals their offensive behavior appears to have gone on for a very long time. It also appears that a good many other people around these individuals knew about the bad behavior and said little or nothing about it. This contributed to these offensive actions going on and on.
There will be repercussions to all of this as time goes on. There will be more revelations and accusations to come. There will be more denials and more apologies. There will be more excuses. There will be legal consequences. There will also be lessons to be learned from the knowledge that so many prominent people made a habit of making bad decisions and doing harmful deeds that hurt people around them. They brought shame to themselves and their families. They soiled their reputations. Some of them may feel regret while others will simply be angry at being found out. Some will look for ways to continue their chosen lifestyles.
The bottom line is that we humans can be very good at finding ways to treat others badly. And this kind of behavior is additionally offensive when it is executed by individuals in positions of power and influence who use their station in life as a platform to indulge in their chosen form of offensive conduct.
And this kind of behavior is of course not limited to the famous or prominent class. This conduct touches average families, professions, social institutions, workplaces, and nearly every single person either directly or indirectly at some point in our lives. It is a shameful human legacy that has been a part of living for far too long.
One lesson is that as uncomfortable or career-threatening as it may be, this kind of behavior must be called out clearly and immediately as soon as one encounters it. Keeping a job or pursuing a chosen career is not a fair trade off for one’s integrity and personal safety. Silence is the currency by which offensive conduct is allowed to exist. Silence allows the offender to continue the behavior and harm others. And silence acts to demean and dehumanize the victim.
We humans just can’t get away from the necessity of finding and keeping a strong moral compass to guide us through the temptations of life and impulses toward harmful deeds. Wherever one may find it, there must an uncompromising dedication to a personal path of integrity and an unshakable guidance to follow this path throughout our lives in every life circumstance no matter what the cost.
Persons in all levels of government, the teaching profession, religious leaders, and the media all have an extra obligation to follow a principled path not only for their own lives but also as a standard for the greater public that they have such an influence on.
The fact that people behave badly is not exactly breaking news. But what is different now is that those they impact may be responding to their behavior much more clearly and vigorously with rebuke of such actions. And that is a good thing.
We cannot legislate behavior. But we can work toward swift and more direct consequences for those who indulge in harming others. Once again, the lesson remains that living your life without regard for others will always be a Road to Ruin.