I’m talking with folks this week who are in shock and experiencing a sense of betrayal. A local leader they’ve admired fell from grace recently. I’m reminded that when our heroes come under close scrutiny, they reveal themselves to be just like the rest of us – fallible and flawed.
I’ve learned a lot about perspective, pedestals and people in recovery. Just as we tend to exaggerate the harm we do and minimize the good that we do, we are excessively critical in our judgments of self and overly generous in our assessments of those we admire.
This creates a chasm between ourselves as “less than” and our heroes as super women/men. That distance cannot be bridged because it is a product of faulty perception. As Anais Nin said, “We see things not as they are, but as we are.”
Sometimes our heroes do terrible things. Sometimes they deceive us. Our world views become threatened by the actions of one person.
Why would we give anyone that much power?
We don’t – not consciously anyway. We seek to fill an emptiness that is a product of unmet needs, most of which ought to have been filled by loving caregivers. Subconsciously we choose moms and dads amongst our leaders. We emulate them, seek approval from them, and appoint them to positions they never signed up for.
And then they fail us.
I am a huge proponent of chosen family. Claiming brothers/sisters, moms/dads and loving each other is the most beautiful thing in the world to me. This is best done overtly, directly, and without illusions as to who each other is.
I’m fond of the expression, “warts and all.” It simply means that I acknowledge a person’s faults. I do not seek to change them. I accept them just as they are. I love them not for what they do but for who they are and I seek to be loved in the same fashion.
Unconditional love is what Tom Robbins describes as loving “for free.” Without expectation or demand.
There are no small number of people I greatly admire. Each of them has the humility to present themselves genuinely – to be known, understood and loved, warts and all. They are leaders because they teach from their mistakes as often as their successes. They do not seek to be heroes. They seek to share their experience, strength, and hope.
Dismantle the pedestals you’ve built. Forgive those who disappoint or even betray you. Hate the action but not the person. I’m still working on those. I hope you will too.