He made a mistake. He is truly great athlete, and he is fully human. Greatness does not equal perfection.
We keep forgetting that.
I’m not condoning his actions. The fact is that lots of people his age–and some much older–take a hit off a bong. Most of us would agree that is wrong behavior. I also think most of us would not consider it unforgivable. Regrettable. Foolish. But not unforgivable.
He’s suffering the consequences. He’s lost endorsement money. And he seems truly contrite. He took responsibility (no stupid excuses like “I didn’t inhale…”) and says he learned his lesson.
So to the knuckleheads who want to press charges and the media that continues to dog him, I suggest: lay off. I think many are being punitive out of shear envy and jealousy.
In a perfect world, great people would be perfect. In a perfect world, everyone would be perfect.
Whether a person is a politician, minister, athlete or business leader, we can and should expect more of him or her. But we shouldn’t be shocked when we find out they aren’t perfect.
We can learn more from the principles of greatness that putting our total faith in people of greatness. And we’ll be less disappointed in the end.
Thank you for your insight on this, Mark. This is a very different situation from the drug-enhanced athletes who show no contrition at all, while “rewriting” the record books of their sports. This was an off-the-playing-field mistake. While it was probably a dumb mistake, it doesn’t tarnish his gold medals or his records. We have all done things we would like to take back, but life isn’t like that. And Phelps’ contrition is exemplary. It wasn’t an “I’m sorry I got caught” statement, but an “I’m sorry I did it” statement. The former is used to make excuses, the latter is an apology. I was taught years ago, a “sorry, but . . .” statement is only offered by a sorry butt.
It is also a lesson that those who are in the spotlight need to be careful: the spotlight illuminates everything. Thanks for highlighting a good example of character.