Thoughts about recent acts of betrayal Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Sep. 25, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Feelings about two important news stories of the past few weeks can be described with one word, but it's not the word most people are using.

Betrayed. As a football fan, that's how I felt when I saw the video of Ray Rice hitting his now-wife in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino elevator.

For years, if I had to pick one NFL player who represented what was right with the league, Rice was that player. He was modest and humble and actively gave back to his community.

A few seconds of grainy video from a security camera changed that. It was already known that Rice had hit a woman, but society's perception shifted when the video made his actions tangible.

Betrayed. It's also the feeling experienced by numerous Hollywood celebrities after learning an Internet hacker shared their intimate photos with the world.

We understand the victim's horror because we can imagine the anguish that comes from having our most private moments exposed to the world. Still, some chose to be callous in a moment that called for sensitivity.

British comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted a thought rightly unspoken by many: "Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer."

Some accused Gervais of blaming the victims. Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO series Girls responded, "The 'don't take naked pics if you don't want them online' argument is the 'she was wearing a short skirt' of the web."

At the most simplistic of levels, Dunham has a point. Everyone should expect privacy, regardless of who they are or what they do.

Unfortunately, that view is idealistic and the world is anything but. Many people choose not to do the right thing. Given the opportunity to take advantage, they will. The only viable response is to prepare for their potentially inappropriate actions.

To put it another way, expect every driver to obey traffic laws, but still look both ways before crossing the street.

That same disconnect between idealism and reality caused the crisis currently faced by the NFL. We want to believe those we put on pedestals deserve to be there. When they fall, we want accountability.

That accountability is hard to find in a system that holds players less responsible for their actions than society as a whole. Players charged with crimes continue to work on the football field. Charged in the same way, we'd be suspended from our jobs or worse.

Ray Rice faced the long-building backlash to this policy. The punishment he faced, a two-game suspension, was too lenient for his crime. As a result, outrage exploded when people saw the brutality of his actions.

Beyond the obvious, what should we learn from these betrayals?

Most obvious is to respect others. If Ray Rice had respected his fiancee in that moment, he wouldn't have hit her. If an Internet hacker had respected his targets, he wouldn't have created victims.

If you're entrusted with a secret, understand the meaning of the word. Be trustworthy, even when those involved will never realize it.

Just as important, if you've been betrayed, don't feel guilt. Hold your head high. You did nothing wrong. You are not responsible for the crimes of others.

If you're a betrayer, you have a long path to redemption. When people criticize and blame you for your actions, admit fault and accept blame. Only through time and integrity will you re-establish your value in the eyes of others.

Beyond that, be a good friend. To everyone. Be there for others when they don't need you. That way, they know you'll be there for them when they do.

Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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