You know the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger?” We say it because sometimes there are folks in our lives who have to deliver bad news or tell us something we don’t want to hear or aren’t ready to hear. Often we lash out at the messenger, rather than the message or the source of the message.
But what happens when the messenger is the problem? Do we throw out the message as well?
I’ve experienced this more than once in my life. In fact, I fear it’s happening too often lately. People we once believed in and/or looked up to have fallen from grace in our eyes, and with them goes their credibility. In recent years I can think of at least a dozen such incidences across a spectrum of industries. It doesn’t matter what work they’re in, whether they’re a liberal or conservative, a celebrity, a teacher, or a guru – when someone we looked up to lets us down, it’s always a shock.
When someone’s work inspires us, we have a tendency to hold them above and apart, separate from the rest of humanity – especially if they’re in the spiritual/self-help industry. It’s the pedestal syndrome. We put them up there because we revere them for their work. But the truth is, it’s actually the work we are in awe of, not necessarily the person. We can respect and even admire them for being available and doing the work, as we should, but reverence is best placed with the work itself, if at all.
The person is the messenger, the conduit, for the truth we seek. They are living in alignment with their purpose or calling. They have made themselves available to receive and impart the information they are sharing, usually after a lot of hard work on their own.
It’s that last bit that we often forget, though – we forget that they’re human, that they make mistakes, and that they struggle and have struggled. Part of the reason we forget is because they have developed a persona that is a bit glossier than their humanity. Part of the reason we forget is because we need them to be glossier than their humanity, so that we have something – a benchmark – to which we can aspire.
So, naturally, when we hear something about the person that has them tumbling off the pedestal we created, it causes us to question their work as well.
And that’s where I think we (okay, I) have gotten it wrong. People are people. They’re human. They will make mistakes. It’s through our mistakes that we are able to learn, grow, and ultimately teach.
I’ve been guilty of doing this, and I suspect I’m not alone. I’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water before, when in fact, what I needed to do was hold on to both. I needed to pick up the baby, and let the bath water settle so that the dirt could be separated from the water, knowing that this was a natural process.
I have learned that if I found the message to be inspired and valuable, there is no reason why that should change if the messenger screwed up or showed me their humanity. Don’t shoot the message.
Similarly, if the messenger is willing to be a conduit, to make themselves available to the rest of humanity, I can certainly cut them some slack when they make human mistakes, if they’ve asked me to. (In other words, if they’ve owned up to their mistake and humanity instead of hiding and/or lying about it.) Don’t shoot the messenger.
Finally, though, I think the most important thing I’ve learned along the way is to get rid of all my pedestals. I’ve heard wisdom from garage attendants that transcended anything I’ve read from a bestselling author. I’ve also been in the presence of world famous individuals and seen them as humans doing their job, just like you and me.
Using a pedestal is what creates a divide.
Using a pedestal is what allows us to maintain a judgment-based hierarchy of wisdom.
Using a pedestal is what keeps us apart from our own inner knowing and gifts.
Nobody asks to be on a pedestal, we put them up there. And if they are asking, chances are they haven’t earned that position in your world. It’s simply easier to remove all pedestals and see each other as we are: humans sharing our gifts, our purpose and our lives, however that shows up.