The Spitzer tornado has kept the media and political circles busy for the last few days. Mr. Spitzer’s fall from grace has wider implications than his immediate legal and personal troubles. (Though these are huge problems for him.)

Each interest group has an interpretation of Mr. Spitzer’s downfall, which sometimes makes it difficult to extract a clear lesson from the tragedy. I believe there are lessons each of us can learn from this tragedy for our own personal journey.

The first lesson which is experienced by humans in general, men and women of power and prestige in particular:

1. We all get caught soon or later.

Some people get caught in the act, Spitzer-style, while others get caught in the silence of their consciences and souls, and suffer the spiritual torture of guilt and loss of self-esteem. I don’t believe anyone walks through this life without getting caught one way or another. God created us with a spiritual compass! We’re meant to surrender and find inner peace, or continue our illicit ways and either get caught or suffer spiritually and emotionally.

Getting caught in public is embarrassing and certainly feeds the media frenzy and the minds of those who salivate over human calamity. Particularly, if it’s someone identified as an enemy or represented by his or her self-righteousness and pride. I don’t believe the myth that virtuous people willingly reveal themselves to the public; it’s always the sense of inner culpability, a sense of rejection, or the embarrassment of getting caught that pressures someone to acknowledge guilt. That’s human nature.

2. Character is deeper than the dark actions that define a person at the moment of the fall.

To define someone’s character by a momentary behavior is misleading. I have always believed that character is best displayed when a person is caught, faces a momentary, or a long term crisis. Mr. Spitzer has demonstrated character in his public presentation for the last 48 hours. He resigned! He apologized! He spoke of the standards he believed in and knowingly violated. Whether he did it because the polls showed that he wouldn’t survive politically, or for personal reasons, he still had the fortitude to accept public responsibility.

Let’s suppose that he’s genuine and his wife decides to leave him… that would be another test of his character. Dealing with the consequences of one’s behavior is one of the best windows into a person’s character. I believe that the nature of Mr. Spitzer’s character will be displayed in the next few weeks and months as he deals with the consequences of his behavior.

I know people who pride themselves in having a “flawless” character because they’ve never been publicly exposed for illicit or illegal activity. There’s a difference between being “legal” and having character, and this is a distinction that many ignore.

I know people whose lives are stained by bad behavior and illegal activity, but they acknowledged their wrong ways, changed and today they display an exemplary public character. I’ve met some of these people in jails and in criminal proceedings. Character is not always about behavior. It’s always about the deeper issues of the heart!

3. We worship passionate people--we despise passionate people.

Passionate people can be very critical, very zealous, very exacting. Passionate people display an air of success that makes us feel good. Passionate people earn themselves hate and love, admiration and betrayal. That’s the history of leadership and humanity. Passionate people often struggle with a darkness that the common person doesn’t understand. We’ve seen it recently in the world of sports. The very people we idolize and patronize are the ones doing whatever it takes to keep up with our expectations. The Roger Clemens of our culture do what they do, to keep up with the demands of their owners and the cheering crowd on the bleachers. Then we vilify them for doing what’s illegal.

Passion often carries a price in the form of sacrifice, intense spiritual and emotional struggles, or attempting to stay on top by keeping up with the demands of the crowd.

We should praise honest and passionate leaders and be sensitive to their struggles; we should also temper our expectations of them; they’re mortal, after all. Lastly, we should resist the temptation to mock their failings, for many of us know, There but for the grace of God go I.

4. Power tends to corrupt people.

The more influence and power a person has the more that person is in danger of falling. “Pride comes before the fall” says the Bible. In this particular case, Mr.Spitzer evidently acted as though he were above the law. There are many manifestations of the ways in which power corrupts, not just in sex and financial scandals, though those are the ones we find most intriguing. Sad commentary on the state of our culture!

Power corrupts leaders in many other ways. Power makes a leader insensitive to the needs of their constituents. Power creates a mindset of superiority and grandiosity. Power can pursue evil agendas under the premise of doing good. Power can give a leader the option to display his or her darkest side while finding justification for doing so. It’s only speculation, but Mr. Spitzer’s almost obsessive behavior in enforcing the law as an attorney may mirror a conscience that never found peace. Thus he was actually two people in one: a crusading prosecutor and lawmaker and a deeply guilty man who used his power to vicariously admonish his own conscience by punishing others. That duality of character, that flaw, is what usually drives self-righteousness. Power is often the nurturing soil of self-righteousness.

5. Marriage is a relationship that can save us from living a double life.

The fact that Mr. Spitzer had incredible confidence in his wife’s judgment about the cases he tried as Attorney General should give us a glimpse into one of the aspects of their relationship. What else really happened in the privacy of their relationship? We don’t know. I do know from observing hundreds of marriages, that spouses, especially women, have tremendous power to stop toxic behavior in their spouse if their relationship is a sound one.

I certainly don’t believe Mrs. Spitzer should be blamed for her husband’s behavior. We don’t have enough information to make such an assertion. Unfortunately, Dr. Laura’s comments on the “Today Show” were meant to be a generalization of why most men cheat on their wives and the media took her statement as a direct application to Mrs. Spitzer.

The Spitzer’s experience should help all married couples to make a commitment to look out for each other. Many in our American culture, in the noble quest of “I didn’t marry to change you!” have stepped into an irresponsible marital mode. A husband and a wife should monitor each other’s behaviors. Isn’t that part of caring and loving? That’s what my Dad taught me when I was a kid! Couples should have an accountability system for each other, and yes, contrary to pop-psychology, we should be willing to change when our spouse tells us a particular behavior is hurtful and toxic. That’s part of the promise to love!

A marriage without accountability is dishonest and opens up to all kinds of manipulations. I’m not suggesting we need a “parenting” mode in marriage, which would be demeaning; what I’m suggesting is that a marriage should contain an element of mutual accountability. Dishonest marriage partners utterly dislike the concept of accountability, but like any partnership, professional or personal, accountability keeps behavior honest.

At the end, all of life can be summarized in this statement:

“Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.”—Henry Ford

Author's Bio: 

Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt is co-founder of the "LIFE ZONE." Harold is a consultant, a seminar speaker and a LIFE Motivational Coach. The "LIFE ZONE" is a resource and a coaching center for personal and spiritual growth committed to providing sound strategies for dynamic living and LIFE FITNESS. Harold believes that PAIN is the greatest window into the best life has to offer! PAIN is never pleasant, it's never fun; but great people have always faced PAIN and difficult times before they found the key to a magnificent life. Harold resides in Southern California and is the father of four wonderful human beings!

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