The Joy of Being a Sheep
Texts: Psalm 23; John 10:11-18
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
April 26, 2015
This week has been a week of stunning contrasts.
David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times wrote a brilliant column entitled, “The Moral Bucket List.” In it he wrote, “It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful.”
Mr. Brooks recently released a book on this topic and it’s a book about character and transformation. In his book and in this article, he writes about people overcoming their character flaws not so much to accomplish great things but to become great people. He realized that he wanted to understand how really good people become really good people. He concluded that these people are made, not born.
He came to understand the value of virtue----of inner goodness. It’s this kind of goodness that makes people kind and caring. It’s this kind of virtue that seeks to make people better and lift other people up. So much of it, he learned, was that virtuous people have embraced a sense of humility; an ability to apologize, at times, and listen to others. Virtue is not that people are without sin; none of us accomplish that. Virtue is, instead, learning to overcome our frailness and become loving and good and kindhearted. It is learning to be caring without an expectation of that caring being returned.
Mr. Brooks, as I said, just released a new book entitled, “The Road to Character,” and he explores the virtue of character.
Then there is the stunning contrast. A young woman, a correspondent for ESPN named Britt McHenry was filmed in a dreadful exchange with a worker where Ms. McHenry was picking up her car that had been towed away during dinner. Despite being warned that her comments were being recorded, Ms. McHenry berated the attendant in an ugly fashion.
This has not gone well for Britt McHenry. I know, great insight, isn’t it?
People have been piling on Britt McHenry in a rather brutal fashion. She’s had some interesting Twitter exchanges and had made comments on Facebook about a college classmate posting too many pictures of her classmate’s baby. Britt McHenry has a rather acerbic personality which isn’t good or bad, it’s just her.
In fairness to the young woman, the video was heavily edited. We cannot see or hear what is being said to her and what is prompting her commentary. Additionally, this is an independent towing company that, in doing a bit of research, is shady. They have been accused, on numerous occasions, of towing legally parked cars and charging patrons to have the cars returned.
But still, ouch. The video was brutal and this was beyond acerbic and it was beyond being angry over having her car towed. Her comments were personally insulting to the woman behind the counter. I suspect that Britt McHenry would love a retake on that one.
In one week one person in the media is on a tour of self-discovery in searching for character and a young woman finds herself in desperate need of character. For him it’s come after years of covering politics and seeing the slime of that; for a young woman her life turned into a mess over one video.
For Britt McHenry her life is not in a good spot at the moment. She’s been suspended for a week and many are calling for it to be longer while some are calling for her head on a silver platter. If she comes back after a week she will be the most famous or infamous of all of ESPN’s sideline reporter and people will be talking about that video for a long, long time.
Her mistake, of course, was to fail on video. We all, at times fail grandly, but we often do so in the shadows or just among a few. Nationally televised meltdowns are not something most of us have to deal with. I feel badly for her in the fact that while her behavior was horrible, it was horrible and broadcast to the world. It is now part of “You Tube” where it can be seen and heard without bleeping out her words.
David Brooks, however, spoke about humility and he realized that is one of the great virtues we all have to embrace at some point. So let’s put down the stones we all have aimed for Britt McHenry’s head. She messed up. We all mess up. She said stupid things. We all say stupid things. She was cruel. We’ve all been cruel. For her, it’s an amazing opportunity to do some soul search for humility and become a better person.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….” It’s moments like she had that remind us all of how poor in spirit we are. For Jesus, being poor in spirit was an opportunity for us to see the need for God in our lives
Character is not something we are born with; we learn it. How blessed are we when we have the opportunities to see how flawed we are and to grow.