The Sandusky trial and verdict (GUILTY!) got me thinking about the deadly sin of LUST.  Now there are hundreds of adjectives and emotions that come to mind when I think of the whole Sandusky mess, but in terms of my “seven deadlies” theme, lust is the one.

I find that words escape me when trying to describe my reaction to what Sandusky did, what he got by with for so many years, what Penn State ignored, what they rationalized, and most significantly, what he did to those poor, vulnerable victims. What altered state of mind allowed Sandusky to think that what he was doing was okay?  And in what state of mind did the Penn State administrators who looked the other way not stop to think about the victims.

Back to Lust.

Lust was the deadly sin that was committed, but there were lots of omissions, too. Where was the empathy? What about the awareness, kindness, even chastity?  And shame – where was the shame?

From Sandusky’s horrible crimes must eventually come healing. Penn State will certainly need to take a leadership role in that, but so should the other systems which allowed this to happen for so long. And Penn State may be the one getting all the attention these days, but there have been so many others – even in that safest of places, the church.  How can we protect our children from the predators that are among us?  One way is for all of us to take responsibility for others. We must all be alert to things that just don’t seem right. And we must all speak up for those who can’t – or won’t – speak for themselves.  That won’t rid the world of the Sanduskys among us, but it will definitely keep them from exacting the harm that this most evil and famous Sandusky has done.

The bottom line is that our acts and our in-actions have consequences. When we act, or when we fail to act, we must ask ourselves who or what is affected. If we ALWAYS consider the consequences before the act, our decisions will be ones that we can be proud of. And the world will be a much better place.

The Seven Deadly Sins

I was on my way to work this week, listening to NPR, as is my practice every morning. The local portion of the news came on, announcing yet another development in the Fen-Phen Case that has been captivating Kentucky for years. For the uninitiated, this was a class action suit brought by people who were harmed by the drug combination, fenfluramine/phentermine, usually called fen-phen. Fen-phen was an anti-obesity treatment that was popular for a time in the 1980s. At the time, many thought that this was the great magic cure for obesity. Trouble was, it was soon linked to heart problems and some people got sick, so a bunch of people sued.

Why has this case captivated Kentucky? Well, three Lexington attorneys joined together for a class action law suit, representing hundreds of victims, and achieved some humongous verdict on behalf of their clients. Trouble was, they decided not to tell the victims the magnitude of the settlement, and devised a plan to keep the money for themselves. Nice, huh? Well, they got caught, and a bunch of other folks were implicated, too, including a judge and a prominent attorney in Cincinnati. Two of the attorneys are now in jail, one is facing disbarment, the judge resigned, and maybe is in jail, too, I can’t remember.

Back to the radio story, though. The two attorneys are being required to turn over their homes to be sold to compensate the victims. They already had to sell their race horse (yeah, I know, right!), but now the court is seizing SOME of their other property in payment of an amazing $127 MILLION they owe in restitution. The list of property: six homes (who needs six houses?); seven (!) vehicles, and a dozen financial accounts. Hard to say whether this will satisfy the debt, but since they are in jail for a bunch of years, they certainly don’t need this stuff (nor deserve it, BTW). Presumably the victims do, since it was supposed to be theirs in the first place.

This whole piece, and the hundreds of stories I have heard in the five years this case has been proceeding through the courts, got me thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins. You remember them, don’t you: Lust, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride, Gluttony.

At least half the items on this list figured into the Fen-Phen saga. Greed, obviously. (Six extra houses. Really?) Gluttony, of course, which created the demand for Fen-Phen in the first place. The victims, most of them anyway, simply could not stop eating and get moving to lose that weight, so they sought the easy, take-a-pill, route. Kinda relates to Sloth, too, doesn’t it. Envy certainly played a role, wanting what others had – houses, money, a thin body. That’s four of the seven.

So, I am going to look for the “seven deadlies” in my news browsing over the next several weeks. I bet I will find at least a couple in most news stories. I imagine if I look, I will find some version of them in misbehavin’ I witness, too. Do management problems have their root in the top seven? What about our nation’s political problems? Or our current economic mess? Worth exploring, so stay tuned.

In times like these . . .

Just like many people around the nation, I am getting fed up with all the negativity, political one-up-manship, and – to use a phrase we have heard a lot this week – vitriol.  We don’t need people from the left blaming the right for the acts of a madman. We don’t need the right inflaming the left by labeling their agenda or leaders as job-killing, anti-American, or socialist.

What we need is a statesman – or several of them. It might seem odd to quote Mikhail Gorbachev in a post about what we need in the U.S. but he summed it up  quite well. He said, ” A statesman does what he believes is best for his country, a politician does what best gets him re-elected.”

We need our political leaders to view the country’s problems according to what is best for its citizens rather than what is best for their party or what is most likely to get them re-elected.  Sometimes leaders have to make unpopular, but wise, decisions that are simply the right thing to do.  Even if it hurts their friends (or contributors). Even if it gives their opponents good fodder for the next election cycle.

We’ve been talking a lot about corporate social responsibility in the last few years, and are doing a much better job of holding businesses responsible for being good citizens. Corporations are talking about being more environmentally friendly, more animal friendly, more socially conscious about the workers. We still need to do better with this, but we’ve come a long way.

Now if we could just get our politicians to do the same. Congress is talking about requiring all bills to have the constitutional reference included.  What about the socially conscious references?  What will their bill do to the health and well being of our citizens, our natural resources, our grandchildren?  And not just their friends, either. They need to be thinking about the people on “the other side of the track,” too.  What about them? Those invisible Americans that have no voice but who need one now more than ever.

Where are all the statesmen?

The more you know

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell

Have you ever known someone who was so very dumb, did very dumb things, acted just plain stupid, but yet THOUGHT they were so smart! Come to find out, and my experience bears this out, the dumber someone is, the smarter they think they are. Conversely,  the smarter one is, the less confidence they have in their intelligence.  They’ve even done some scientific studies that prove the point. and it has a name: The Dunning-Kruger Effect. Sufferers have what has been called illusory superiority, where people overestimate their positive qualities and underestimate their negative qualities relative to others. I guess the corollary is illusory inferiority.

What I would have labeled as false modesty for intelligent people, is actually a psychological fact. This has fascinated me since I first heard about Dunning and Kruger’s Cornell University study a decade ago. The theory has many applications beyond simple wisdom and ignorance.  Take ethics, for example.

Ethics and Ignorance

I have recently had a class on Leadership and Ethics through Gonzaga University’s Masters of Organizational Leadership program.  We talked a lot about Kant, various ethical theories, shadow and light – basically what you would expect from an ethics course.  But we also talked about Moral Imagination. I am simplifying, but basically, you have do develop your moral imagination in order to truly understand the ethical decision-making process well enough to make the right decisions. It’s kind of like exercising – but for one’s ethics muscles instead of the biceps. The various ethics theorists agree that ethical orientations develop along a continuum, from very basic understanding of a thing as right or wrong, to quite advanced reasoning and understanding.

And I find it very interesting that a person who is at a lower stage of ethical development cannot understand the reasoning of someone operating at much higher stages (one above and one below is the generally accepted rule of thumb). The same holds true for various stages of cognitive development in adults.  Lawrence Kohlberg came up with a theory of Adult Development, and made the same conclusions. It makes sense. You cannot relate to or understand something if you have not developed the imagination or cognitive experience that will open your mind to understand these different possibilities.

What does all this have to do with anything?  Well, nothing and everything.  If you want to relate to people you are trying to influence, whether it is employees, family members, or politicians, then you are wise to first understand their level of development. From there, you can craft your message to appeal to them at the level of development at which they are functioning, presumably with better results.

Maybe this is what our political leaders need to understand when trying to negotiate for peace. That, and the fact that they may not be as smart as they think they are.