Bill Cosby: It’s Complicated

We heard a lesson loud and clear from cultural icon Bill Cosby when he revealed to the world that we should, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ I wrote about

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Bill Cosby’s admonitions to Blacks in December, 2013 to take responsibility for their lives, their children and their communities. Now that his double standard is public, I feel compelled to write about his unveiling. But not in the way you might think.

Instead, let’s explore how within each of us there exists beliefs and actions that may be at odds with one another. It  seems that these cannot co-exist, and yet they do. There certainly is ambiguity within Bill Cosby. There’s a bit of him in all of us.

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”

~ Author H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Our lives are complicated and we don’t always do as well as we know we can, or even as well as we mean to. Yes, there’s a difference between quietly trying to live a good life and publicly proclaiming one set of values, all while enthusiastically, methodically, pursuing a different set of values. You probably come closer to living your values out loud than Cosby has done.

Hiding Your True Self

Bill Cosby, the person, is a far different person than Bill Cosby, the comedian that those of us outside the entertainment industry knew. His wife has known. Those in the industry have also known about Cosby’s complicated life.

I have waited to write this for a few days in hopes that there would something more to the story that would allow us to understand the situation in a different light. For instance, has he understood his actions were wrong but felt compelled to act anyway? Or has he believed societal rules don’t apply to him?

Cosby chose to elevate himself as a righteous individual, to appoint himself as the role model for African-American men. I wrote in the earlier post, “Each of us is personally and unilaterally responsible for every choice we make.”

“Making wrongs right starts with admission and correction by the wrongdoer,” Camilla Cosby has said, as reported in this Washington Post article.

It remains to be seen whether he will stand up and own these actions. It’s not an easy thing to do – admitting to others that you’re not as wonderful as you’d like them to think that you are. You have to first admit to yourself that you’re not as nearly perfect as you’ve come to believe yourself to be. Some people can’t bear the truth that they are not above the rules.

What will he do to make amends to the dozens of women he has raped?

“The true test of a man’s character is

what he does when no one is watching.”

~ Coach John Wooden

When the Associated Press broke the story, I was outraged that he has been allowed to continue in his ways for 10 years because court documents – public records – were sealed. His embarrassment for his own actions, ones he knowingly and repeatedly committed, apparently outranked the need for women to be aware of his trickery. He wasn’t too embarrassed to not engage in these actions, he just didn’t want others to know about them.

How could he talk so adamantly about choices, morality, and personal responsibility and yet choose to cheat on his wife? How could he wrongly obtain prescription drugs in order to take sexual advantage of unknowing women?

It’s Complicated for All of Us

We all hold within us things that seemingly can’t exist together and yet do:

  • The man who is unhappy with his weight but does not change his eating and exercise habits.
  • The woman who is unhappy in her job, but does not conduct a job search for a new role.
  • The husband who pledged fidelity but opts to put himself in an irresistible situation rather than to ask his wife to work with him on their marriage.
  • The parent who spanks her child for fighting.
  • The boss who is chronically late to meetings and expects his employees to meet their deadlines.
  • The parent who secretly, routinely, searches his teen’s room, while demanding the teen respect his own need for privacy.

None of us are perfect. When you can recognize where you struggle and work to improve, you’re always a step ahead of those who are blind to their own short-comings. And miles ahead of those who recognize their short-comings and choose to continue indulging in them.

Whether you believe yourself to be in good shape, or know that you have a few things to work on, your assessment will help you to continue to grow as a person. You will grow in your relationship with yourself and in your relationships with others. Consistency and integrity are the goals, perfection is an unobtainable myth.

It’s a good idea to periodically take a step back and look at your life and ask: am I living according to my values?  

Will you take a look inward today?

Live Honest, Open, and True

Our lives are often a complicated package of inconsistencies. Our actions are sometimes incongruous with our values. Life is complicated because being human is complicated. Periodically check your actions and your words against your values. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to bring your actions and your words in line with your values. When you do, you may find that trouble spots in your relationships disappear, especially in your relationship with yourself.

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Have you discovered some part of your life to be incongruous with your values? What will you choose to do about this discovery? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet @LifeisHOTBlog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT

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