The Catharsis of Truth

Paul Heagen Authenticity and Vulnerability Leave a Comment

It has become inescapable to me that I have a problem. I have disgraced my family, let down my teammates, dishonored the trust of the team owner and coaches, and have betrayed the loyalty of the fans. It is time that I confront my failures in how I have lived my life to this point. I can only ask for everyone’s forgiveness, patience and prayers as I go about this work. I hope to come out a better man, one worthy of your trust. 

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There is simply no excuse for lying. I understand my position requires that my credibility be unassailable, and I have failed that standard. I apologize to the soldiers for seeking to associate myself with their valor and to our viewers for seeking to use this lie to bolster my standing with them. I accept whatever consequences come from this, and I am determined to learn from this.

You probably would associate the first “statement” with Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel as his handlers announced he is going into rehab and the second with NBC anchor Brian Williams after his admission that he fabricated a story about his helicopter being shot down in Iraq twelve years ago.

Except, you did not hear either of those statements.

What you heard from Manziel’s handlers was something about needing to “improve” himself in some areas; what you heard from Williams was even even more disingenuous – that the whole kerfuffle was rooted in a well-intended effort to honor the soldiers who helped him.

Saying we’re sorry can take on some wildly semantic contortions when under the glare of exposure. Perhaps there is that part of our human condition that restrains us from going Full Monty in our contrition. We cling to that tendril of dignity by mining and misusing vocabulary (mistake, misspoke) or ascribe noble purposes to our stumbles.

Whatever your sentiments on either of these cases (and, in full disclosure, I truly hope Manziel discovers what a good life can be), I think we more easily assign our sympathies and even empathies to those people – especially those in leadership – who can just take a deep breath and be honest when there is a failure. We know when people are holding back, and in turn perhaps we hold back as well, feeling there is still a wall between us. When we hold back, the people who look up to us sense a stubborn pride, a nail that resists being pried out.

When leaders can truly be vulnerable about their failure, we don’t feel so all alone in ours. There is a place for role models in defeat as much or more than in victories. It gives us all hope in redemption and a fuller appreciation that we need to stand with each other in honest failure.

The only path to authenticity is through vulnerability.

There’s a reason why so many people from so many walks of life so easily harken to the Biblical passage “…and the truth will set you free.”

Because it does.

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