Beware the pedestal problem . . .
The problem with putting anyone up on a pedestal is one day, we learn they’re human. And to be human means we come with flaws and imperfections. No one is above this. But in the most vulnerable moments and at the weakest of times; there are people who will appear to have all the answers. They are the ones that seem to work an impeccable program and live the perfect life. We see them as miracles.
And it’s normal to look up to someone; it’s good to feel inspired as well, —however, the pedestal problem is a real thing because if something happens to that person, or say, they slip on their principles—suddenly, they become human while falling from grace. Suddenly, the belief system is changed because the one person that seemed to make it all work has failed
I recall a time back in my younger days when I was learning how to live a new life, which I doubted to be possible. I swore no one could live this way and that nobody could be “That” happy or “that” accepting of their life. However, there were some who I saw and admired. They were very real to me. And I believed in them. I believed in what they showed me and I believed in how they interacted with the world. These were good men that had previously lived bad lives. They me were more like heroes. In my eyes, they were up on a pedestal. And then one day, I learned about a few details that were never mentioned to me before. I was angry. No, I was insulted. How could they do something like that?
In one conversation, I had the chance to ask that question. This man was more than a friend. He was more than just a big brother or mentor. In my eyes, he was the reason why I kept the course because in my heart, I believed if he could do this, then so could I.
I asked this man, “How could you do something like that?”
He saw that I was hurt. He knew I was angry. I was resentful towards him for several different reasons. I was resentful because I chose to see him as a beacon of hope. This man was a bright source of light in otherwise dark times.
“I looked up to you,” I told him
“I never asked you to look up to me,” he said.
He told me, “I never claimed to be anything other than me.”
“Anything you worked up in your head about me is on you. I never asked for it.”
In the range of health and wellness or the lack thereof, we try to find a source of hope that can help push us in the right direction. We choose people to model ourselves after and we focus on them the way a painter would focus on a model during the creation of a portrait. And like the painter, we need this model to be still. But life is not still and people are not perfect.
My first sponsor and I used to walk from a meeting on 31st Street and 7th and we headed back over to our place of business on 33rd and 5th. He and I talked about everything. He was a successful businessman, a marine, a survivor, and a good friend.
One day, his business took a turn for the worse. He was about to lose his company, which was a decent sized construction business. My sponsor took hold of a job that was supposed to bring his company back to life.
Unfortunately, instead of filling the lungs of his business, the contract took away its very last breath. Suddenly, life humbled my sponsor. But in my eyes, if anyone could come back, it would be him (my sponsor.)
It was humbling to lose his business. It was humbling to work for someone else —it was especially humbling to work for someone more than 20 years younger, wet behind the ears, with no real experience, and yet still, my sponsor had to report to this man.
I think the hardest conversation I ever had with my first sponsor was the last one. He was drunk and reeking from alcohol.
“I never told you I was perfect,” he said.
“I have the same problems as you,” he told me.
We lost contact shortly after. I tried to keep in touch, but not everyone likes to stay in touch.
The problem with putting anyone up on a pedestal is we forget they are human. People make mistakes. We all slip and we fall. Hell, even champions lose. But what makes them a champion is their ability to stand back up and fight for their title again.
A long time ago, I had to change my outlook. I still look up to people, not because they never fail or fall. No, I look up to them because they keep going regardless to whether they fail or fall.
The best people I have ever met in my life are broken and imperfect—but they do this perfectly. I admire them because with all their faults and struggles, they are the best I’ve ever met. They understand what it means to endure. They understand humiliation. They understand mistakes. Above all, they are unapologetically real and equally aware of the pedestal problem. Sometimes, if we see someone fall from the pedestal, we take this as permission to fall ourselves. And we say things to ourselves like, “If that guy can’t make it than no one can.”
In all my life, the most encouraging words I’ve ever hear were, “I’m just like you, kid. I’m just trying to figure out a way to get through my life the same as you are. Whadaya say we try to figure this out together?”
The most important lesson I’ve ever learned is that the best relationships are a mutually beneficial contract. There is no, “Better than” or hierarchy. There are just two people trying to help each other navigate through tough times and troubled waters.
Someone I know lost a dear friend to the needle.
“That’s the guy that got me clean!”
He still is, if you ask me . . .
The lessons learned are still what works.
We are all human. I suppose people forget that sometimes.
Perhaps this is why they teach us to practice principles over personality . . .