Reflections on the Abuse of Power
A tsunami of complaints about sexual abuse not only toppled a seemingly-unending tower of powerful men, it led Time magazine to name the collective “silence breakers” their 2017 Person of the Year.
Even more figures tumbled after the story released. Many held their collective breath to see who would fall next.
However, all this news sent me digging through my old clipping notebooks. I wanted to review the first-person story of famed NFL “Minister of Defense,” the late Reggie White, that I ghost-wrote in 1990.
Even though nearly three decades have passed since I first interviewed him, a comment he made during that call had stuck out in my mind.
It concerned the respect he had developed for females after making a renewed decision to live for Christ for succumbing to the allure of campus life.
Naturally, I had to find the story to refresh my memory. In it, he talked about the situation that he faced after accepting a football scholarship from the University of Tennessee.
In Knoxville, White said, he found temptations that had never been part of life in the St. Elmo section of Chattanooga where he grew up.
“I never strayed into drugs or wild partying, but used women for my pleasure, something I’ve often wished I could go back and change,” he told me.
“It’s ironic that many females believe that Christianity relegates them to second-class status. The start of living faithfully for the Lord coincides with my development of a profound respect for women.”
I could identify with that comment. Before making the same decision White did, I lived pretty much for myself. I became my own god and lived primarily to satisfy me—whether that involved using women, alcohol or anything else that made me feel good.
While millions of women (and some men) are protesting crude behavior of powerful people, I think the current outcry is more about the abuse of power than sexual situations per se.
On a broad scale, what we’re seeing now is the result of decades of discarding moral guidelines and following the hedonistic philosophy: “Whatever feels good, do it.”
There are several problems with that approach, starting with the collision of your pleasure and another person’s feelings and rights.
Doing whatever feels good also fails to line up with the Golden Rule, which originated with the words of Jesus: “Therefore, everything you would like men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 MEV).
Obviously, many people in powerful positions haven’t been following this guideline.
But that’s the trouble with discarding moral principles: once you toss one down the drain, nobody knows where to stop.
Letter of the Law
The current situation reminds me of a former client who has done work proving that following ethical principles in business ultimately result in a happier workforce, smoother operations, and increased profitability.
However, there was another corollary finding from his research.
After the federal government passed legislation to ensure businesses “toed the line” following numerous financial scandals in the 1980s and ‘90s, countless corporations followed the letter of the law while disregarding the intent.
In other words, passing all kinds of regulations, rules and public proclamations of respect for women won’t change people’s hearts. Without a biblical basis to control—and guide—human behavior, there won’t be lasting reform.
Powerful people will continue to try to take advantage of women (or other men), they’ll just be sneakier about it. Any way you spin it, that’s a recipe for more disaster.