How do we become Stupid?

by Ron Jenson

“How STUPID” was the comment my wife and I simultaneously uttered last night while watching the news report of Republican congressman Chris Lee resigning after his shirtless Craigslist post.

The reporter said, “Republican politician resigns after woman’s web search reveals ‘fit fun classy guy’ posing as divorcee to be in fact married with a son.”

You probably know the story by now. Our response of “how stupid” resulted from the disconnect. After all, how could a powerful, second-term US Congressman do something so wreckless and, yes, stupid?

He has a wife and son and was a rising star in the Republican Party, but he tanked. Why?

My sense is that he became stupid like most of us do … slowly but surely.  Here is what seems to be the evolution of this kind of stupidity.

  1. Success and recognition of our accomplishments.
  2. Beginning to believe our own press.
  3. A lack of attention to and/or unwillingness to address character flaws and inappropriate and unhealthy internal motivations.
  4. Pressures of leadership and life.
  5. Refusal to develop self-discipline and good habits.
  6. A sense of inadequacy and unfulfillment.
  7. Development of a facade or public front.
  8. A growing lack of support and personal accountability.
  9. Increasing split between the private and public life.
  10. Self-sabotaging behavior.
  11. Increasingly risky activities.
  12. Crashing publicly.
  13. Disgrace and dishonor.

That’s my take on how we become stupid. We all have the capacity to end up there. That’s why we so desperately need friends who support us and hold our feet to the fire, internal spiritual resources, a focus on inner life and integrity (same in public as we are in private), and the humility to admit when we mess up (as we all do).

By the way, my wife and I are both filled with sorrow for him (hey we’re all seriously flawed), his family, the US Congress and the millions of people touched by yet another sad situation. But this forced me to ask how can this kind of thing happens?

What do you think? Did I get this right? What would you add or edit? Let’s think about this together.

{ 3 comments }

Edmond February 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Very well said. It is no accident that the systems of support around us have been slowly eroded and corrupted. It is very hard to stay strong if we neglect the few remaining things we can control. Keep up the great work of being a both a voice and a light we can turn to inorder to see the path that lies ahead!

Ron Jenson February 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Great responses!

Jeff February 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Thank you, Ron, for reminding us that while success can be a noble goal, letting it get to our heads often leads to a fall. Right after success on your list comes self-pride. May I always remember to be thankful to God and others if I should attain great success some day, for I will ultimately fail without them.

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