In case you haven't been following the sports page today, Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers had his 20-game suspention for shoving two cameraman reduced to 13 games. Since he was a starting pitcher who pitched in roughly every fifth game, this means he effectively missed two, maybe three, games.
This is probably the time when you expect me to go off on yet another riff about how celebrities need to start acting like role models. Well, I've already written that story; I don't really have any desire to go back and repeat myself.
Nonetheless, one can imagine Rogers whining, or perhaps snarling, about how he isn't a role model, he shouldn't be one except to his children. Now, leaving aside what kind of lessons his children might draw by seeing him on the news turning himself in to police headquarters because of the assault charge that's been filed against him, Rogers comes across as an immensely unlikeable person, the perfect model of the spoiled brat multimillionaire athlete who treats everyone else like dirt, who thinks he's a gift to humanity and the rest of us are just slaves waiting on his every beck and call. And yet when he's confronted with this, he reacts with a sneer and a curled lip, a whine and a "poor, poor Kenny" look. When he's booed by fans fed up with such childish behavior, he responds with smirking contempt. What a repulsive, repugnant human being. If you can call someone like him human.
You're probably thinking this isn't very appropriate to appear on a Catholic blog. Cruel, judgemental, uncharitable. Didn't Jesus himself say something about not condemning the speck in the eye of another until we've dealt with the log in our own?
And you're right.
What I'm trying to do is prove a point.
Which is just how important our reputation is.
Jesus was right that we can't judge what's in another's heart. We can only draw conclusions from their outward behavior. When we cause scandal, either by our words or deeds, we threaten our reputation, our image in the eyes of others. And as anyone who's lost their good reputation can testify, getting it back is one of the hardest things you can do.
I won't lie to you; Kenny Rogers' behavior disgusts me. From what I've heard from people who've come in contact with him, he may not be a very nice man. And there was a part of me that felt pretty good saying nasty things about him. For that, I apologize to you and to him.
But the fact is, people do judge us on our behavior. They do draw conclusions about us based on how we behave in public, how we treat others. Those conclusions may not always be fair, accurate, or right. But when it's all someone sees of you, when it's all they've got to go on, what else can you expect?
We're approaching a fine line here - we shouldn't do things just to be seen. We shouldn't think that acting like a great guy in public necessarily makes us great, or even good. We shouldn't lord it over others, to make them seem inferior, to shout to all the world "Look how great I am!" We all know enough people who come across as fakes - or even worse, snobs - so that isn't the answer either. What we should do is be ourselves.
And if being ourselves repulses others, turns them off, makes them think the worst of us -
Well then, perhaps the answer lies within ourselves.
We all know that God can bring good out of what appears to be the worst situations. And if that's what happens to us when we bring disgrace or disrepute upon ourselves, if it brings us to a period of self-examination and eventually a change of behavior - well, think of it as a trial, a little piece of Purgatory on earth. And maybe, just maybe, with God's grace, it isn't such a big price to pay after all.