Last week I shared with you my Buckeye fever and disillusionment with what I had learned about Coach Urban Meyer. One of my readers who is an avid Buckeye fan helped me to see sides of Coach Meyer that were not the subject of the flurry of articles that only focused on his shortcomings, as is so often the case.
I learned of his initiatives to help at risk youth and of his emphasis on core values, one of which is honesty. And yet, according to the report underlying his suspension, his honesty was what was called into question. Clearly forces at work in his environment caused him to not be able, at least on that issue, to do the right thing. It gave me pause as I realized how our lives consist of constantly changing opportunities to choose our next steps, and how difficult to walk toward the light in a world so filled with forces pulling us off the path toward Him.
People are not good or bad. We’re just people, most of us trying to do our best. We often reference the word, “mensch.” The word actually is the German word for “human being”. According to Leo Rosten, author of The Joys of Yiddish, a mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.” Maybe President Bush and the local teacher whom I referenced last week came close to that standard. Maybe not. It’s likely they had their shortcomings, too. Yet some of their defining moments brought goodness to others. Unfortunately, the example of the doctor with the kindest bedside manner who comes home to mistreat his wife and children is not an exception to the reality of many “human beings.” We’re just people with many defining moments in our lives.
Life is a series of defining and refining moments. People who may have lived what would be considered virtuous lives can make a wrong choice, or choices, which can change the whole trajectory of their lives from that point. Would they do something different next time? Sometimes it’s too late. There are countless examples, even among people you may know, even in ourselves as we stop to think about the choices we have made or are making. Why should I help? There are others who can do it. I’m going to stay later to work to get that promotion. My husband can take care of the kids. That position pays even more. What’s a few more hours? Travel won’t be so bad. I have to go out for drinks to network. That person is so attractive. I’m lonely . . . If only I had what they had . . .
It’s a slippery slope without community and spiritual support.
Luckily, most of us don’t live with the media hanging on our every word and action. Yet there is someone taking perfect note and we are given the knowledge of that voice through our conscience (for most of us, assuming we are not sociopaths or suffering from a similar disorder.) Yeshua knows our true selves, and He speaks to us if we listen. Most often we know if we’re really doing the right thing, even when we go to great lengths to justify and rationalize our bad decisions. We human beings are greatly skilled to justify the results we want to obtain. As we live in environments where virtues are not the rule – kindness, honesty, caring for others – the more difficult to live like a mensch. Being aware of the reality of the challenge, the intensity of the struggle, and seeking His help strengthen us to overcome the tough terrain.
A person cannot be summed up in one word. There are times someone may approach the gold standard of mensch, but all we can do is try, and work to make those choices that make our lives, and the lives of those around us, places filled with integrity, service to others, and most importantly, love.