- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- G.K. Chesterton
- Dr. Paul Brand
- Dr. Robert Coles
- Leo Tolstoy & Feodor Dostoevsky
- Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi made “petty demands on associates,” had “bizarre personal habits,” slept with “nude young women,” and “failed as a leader of his own family” - leading to a son who “became an embezzler, gambler, and penniless alcoholic,” and contributing to the death of his wife. Tolstoy’s “attempts at honesty and reform caused endless problems to his own family,” including frequenting whorehouses, drunken orgies, mistresses and venereal disease. Dostoevsky had a loveless marriage, and succumbed to alcohol and gambling. MLK had affairs and apparently plagiarized long sections of his speeches and writings.
I think of the many men who have fallen from grace with the “Me Too” movement, men I have admired for their good works. A good man is hard to find, indeed (credit to Flannery O’Connor there). Wow. And, yes, I know there are women heroes, too, whose faults and weaknesses have become known.
I’ve often felt despair about the fact that these heroes are so flawed. It has seemed like a betrayal. How can I trust anyone when these people held up in admiration have done such awful things? How can there be a reason for hope when these people who have done such amazing good have also done such shockingly bad things in their own personal lives?
Today I had a different thought. For years, I’ve said Peter is “my favorite disciple” because he did so many stupid and wrong things -- failed in his faith when he was walking on water, told Jesus not to wash his feet, cut the ear off the soldier when they came to take Jesus, betrayed him 3 times after swearing he never would. Peter’s flaws, rather than making me feel betrayed, give me hope. If Peter could become such a leader in the growth of Christianity, such a beloved brother of Jesus’, there was hope for me!
Is there a way to re-frame my feelings of betrayal, even sometimes despair and a loss of hope, when faced with the flaws of other amazing heroes in the world?