Although politicians seem to be having a difficult time determining how to pull the U.S. out of its economic malaise, they’re having no problem creating a stimulus for comedy writers. Case in point: Take Congressman Andrew Weiner.
Apparently 51% of his own constituents think he should stay in office according to one poll. I don’t have a dog in that fight, but I can’t imagine why any voter would put their trust in someone carving out time to take pictures of their package in the House gym. Take morality out of the question: do you want someone that stupid in his or her judgment to represent your concerns? To quote Seth: Really?
This isn’t a left versus right issue. Apparently, lack of judgment plays well on both sides of the aisle. Do I really need to make a list? And this isn’t even a slam on politicians; in the halcyon days of Enron, executives threw outlandish Bacchanalian parties that rivaled the Romans, or least Hefner’s dynasty. Not to mention their execs flashing Enron-logo credit cards in Houston strip clubs, buying $500+ bottles of Cristal and traipsing off to the VIP rooms with strippers in tow. Too bad for shareholders and employees that lost all of their retirement savings in the freefall of Enron. The beat goes on: Rajaratnam, Madoff, Boesky, Milken, and on an on.
Sometimes the smartest guys in the room aren’t the smartest guys in the room.
Last month, Time magazine’s editor-at-large Nancy Gibbs nailed the cover story with her article, Sex. Lies. Arrogance. What Makes Powerful Men Act Like Pigs. The International Monetary Fund president Dominique Strauss-Kahn—and potential next president of France—was arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid in Manhattan. Apparently, there were past “indiscretions” that emerged as well. Gibbs writes:
“A study set to be published in Psychological Science found that the higher men—or women—rose in a business hierarchy, the more likely they were to consider committing adultery. With power comes both the opportunity and confidence . . . and with confidence comes a sense of sexual entitlement.”
I’ve already blogged about the dangers of entitlement in general, but let me touch on power. And it’s not just a problem for politicians, executives and celebrities—they’re simply in the crosshairs of the paparazzi.
People can abuse power in a non-profit organization or on a church board, around a dinner table or in a street gang. Or in a marriage. Face it: power is that mouth-watering addiction to being in charge. Power is abused when it slips into control. The greatest picture we have of power used correctly is God Himself: He created beings with free will who could choose to love and obey Him or not. Try to imagine the Chief of New York’s Finest standing by, with all his available firepower, while his son is nailed to a telephone pole in the Bronx by a petty street gang of thugs.
In Feinberg and Tarrant’s book Why Smart People do Dumb Things, they recount the story of Stew Leonard. Leonard was a smart entrepreneur in Connecticut who turned a family dairy business into a shopping theme park with a petting zoo and singing animatronic animals. Back in the day, Tom Peters, the author of the mega-seller In Search of Excellence, praised Stew for his business acumen and ethics, a model for excellence. Leonard had pictures of himself with movie stars and ex-presidents. Someone got suspicious when Leonard turned up at an airport with a suspicious amount of pocket cash—$75,000. The feds ended up raiding him and discovered a computer program in a hollowed out book that Stew had used to cheat the government out of hundreds of thousand of dollars. Arrogance—a spawn of power—answers to no one.
In the Old Testament, David understood the vanity of power. He had seen a bigger-than-life, impressive king—a head taller than his brothers—become arrogant and unresponsive to God. Saul was replaced by a shepherd boy with a slingshot. Later, David wrote in Psalm 20: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Problem is: none of us is bulletproof.
Decades later, in the time of year “when kings go off to war”, David, the powerful king of Israel, didn’t. Instead he found himself voyeuristically watching a woman bathe. In an astonishing abuse of power, he had her brought to him and slept with her. He knew her husband Uriah was off fighting the King’s war. There was never any evidence Bathsheba wanted or enjoyed this. After all, how does one refuse a celebrated and powerful king, anointed by God? As a matter of fact, months later she sends a terse message to King David: I’m pregnant.
Eventually David has Uriah surreptitiously killed in battle…and Bathsheba mourns for her loss. David makes her his wife and all doesn’t end happily.
It was an abuse of power. And a generational mess.
Bathsheba was the wife who later gave birth to Solomon who would lead Israel into her glory days, but with a price. Though he humbly asks God for one thing—wisdom (and receives it supernaturally in spades)—he eventually gave in to the entitlement that power temptingly bequeaths, ends up chasing the gods of his many wives and not finishing well.
It’s taken right from the TMZ files of today.
So what’s to be learned for us commoners? Don’t kid yourself: you’re richer and more powerful than you think. You’re more-than-likely reading this on your own computer. And if you own a home and a car and get a cost-of-living increase each year, you’re among the wealthiest 15% in the entire world. If it’s two salaries and two cars, you’re in the top 5% on the blue planet.
You’re not bulletproof. Nor am I. There’s only one way into the Kingdom’s narrow door: humbly, bent over and admitting who you are to the One whom you aren’t: God. And consider the practice regularly; I’ve watched powerful preachers and people-of-God fall like lightning. They stumbled into the lie that they could handle power better than anyone else…and simply by that assessment abused it.
“To whom much is given (perhaps that’s all-inclusive to those of us who have receive His mercy), much is required.”
And get over yourself.