In Australia this month we've had a senior criminal investigator caught attempting to smuggle narcotics into the country. It's a major betrayal of trust - and you see cases like it everywhere. It's also a real life example of the classic Greek or Shakepearian tragedy.
The officer involved was a highly accomplished crime fighter who had reached a very high-ranking position. He's a person of talent and achievement, who has earned respect and standing. And it was all ruined by one major flaw. That officer was an addicted gambler. Some reports say he owed a million dollars to bookmakers for money lost betting on horse races.
I'm not going to run the man down. I could, because we've all got the right to believe that people do the job they're paid to and honour the trust placed in them. But if I'm quite honest with myself, I'd have to admit: in the wrong circumstances, that could have been me. That doesn't mean I'm seriously dishonest, or that I've got a gambling problem. I do not. But like any other human, I've got character flaws.
Self-understanding includes knowing your own weaknesses. It's easy to forget that when we live in a society that encourages the individual to be 'self-actualising,' which can actually mean self centred: you put yourself first. But that man could have saved himself huge embarrassment - and his family, likewise - if he'd just kept an act together. I can't explain all his behaviour because I'm not his analyst. But anyone can see that he made a bad mistake and kept on compounding it. Could it be that the power and standing of his position went to his head? He got carried away by his own sense of grandness?
Shakespeare wrote tragic plays, showing the same miserable scenario working it's way out. Macbeth was a gallant nobleman seduced by his dreams of kingship. Othello was a warrior and man of standing who failed to control his jealousy and lapsed in understanding the way people sometimes behave. And they went down - tragedy, the great character ruined by their critical flaw.
So what is a Christian to say about this, without getting self-righteous?
All I can think of is, seek God and follow His leading. I'd better be careful myself, after I undertook to write this little lecture. If anyone reads this, I admit to you, I've failed to live up to my own principles enough times. It can be HUMBLING, you might say. I know this, too. If I'd been given any great amount of power, it might have corrupted me the way it corrupts so many others.
Good literature can show the reader or viewer how life works, that way, and give a timely warning. That's one reason, probably, why Shakespeare's work is classic, and stays in print and in production.
The Holy Scripture warns anyone who reads it: beware pride, greed, self-spoiling.
It can be irritating if one person takes it on themself to critisize another. But it can be disastrous if we lose sight of the fact that mere humans all have flaws. Don't let them destroy you.