Sickness or Monstrous Evil? The Penn State Scandal
Written By: Mark Smith
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Have you ever asked yourself why the world is this way? Why are their such horrible stories of abuse in such unlikely places as the Penn State football program? The story has been dissected from a million angles but I wanted to add my voice to the discussion as a therapist who both is and works with broken, dysfunctional and deeply flawed people every day.
Before this story broke, this is what people were saying about Jerry Sandusky, the famous former Penn State linebacker coach accused of molesting 8 boys over a 15 year period...
Legendary Coach Dick Vermeil about Sandusky: "He could very well be the Will Rogers of the coaching profession."
“Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is the Pied Piper of his time.” Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bill Lyon
"Jerry is a very good, Godly, Christian man." Pastor John Schaeffer 1999
Public personas often hide very different truths. I believe that Jerry Sandusky is an extremely emotionally sick man. The chances that he was sexually abused himself are extremely high. I do not believe, however that he is monstrously evil as a whole given his entire life story. I certainly do believe that he did many monstrously evil things that he needs to spend the rest of his life in jail for. I love, love, love my boys 'Mike and Mike' from the ESPN morning show. Their antics and humor have entertained me for years.
They of course spent the whole week on this subject and Mike Golic's head nearly exploded every time the subject of the sexual abuse came up. As a good Catholic boy, Golic just didn't have any place to file Sandusky's behavior, calling it "garbage" with shame, disgust and moral outrage in his voice. I agree that the abuse some of the worse kind of harmful acting out known to mankind. The thought of it sickens me as well. But I can't bring myself to muster up quite as much shame, disgust or moral outrage as Golic does. The truth is that to some degree we are all sick and many of us have at some point in our lives done really bad things. Certainly we haven't molested children but we have hurt people close to us with our obliviousness, addictions, arrogance, anger, selfishness, dysfunction, denial, rigidness, control, insensitivity, etc. I have. Haven't you? My point is that this tragic story isn't an opportunity for us to get on our moral high horses to cast blame at the evil doers. It is a warning that this world is a broken, dark at times, unsafe at times, dysfunctional place where we really shouldn't completely trust anyone or even fully trust ourselves because every single one of us is also broken, dark at times, unsafe at times and dysfunctional. If you believe that you are emotionally healthy and normal and really put together and you haven't spent a great deal of time on the therapy couch fixing things then I submit that you too have a great deal of denial about who you are and where you came from.
We need to pay attention to our own dark sides and be as perceptive as possible when it comes to the dark sides of others. That is what Joe Paterno and the officials at Penn State didn't do.
My nature we at times stick our heads in the sand because we just can't believe that something so awful can really be happening. Maureen Dowd wrote of the scandal, "Like the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, the Penn State hierarchy appears to have covered up pedophile crimes to protect its brand."
This is what Sandusky wrote about himself in his autobiography 'Touched'...
"My father probably spoke the most truthful words about me that had ever been spoke," he writes. " 'Jer,' he said, 'you could mess up a free lunch.' ... I thrived on testing the limits of others and I enjoyed taking chances in danger."
"I believe I live a good part of my life in a make-believe world," Sandusky wrote in one of the final chapters. "I enjoyed pretending as a kid, and I love doing the same as an adult with these kids."
He was wounded and lost and confused and dangerous and a needy little boy himself. His sexual addiction spun him out of control and it damaged the lives of at least 8 innocent young men, the University he served and the mentor that he loved. I am glad that the truth finally came out. It eventually almost always does. Now healing can begin to take place, justice can be done and life can go on.
What is your dark side? Are you hurting the people you love in ways you may not see currently? Are you hurting yourself? Ask your spouse, your kids and your friends to let you know if there are any blind spots that you should become aware of. Work hard at becoming healthier, safer, more aware, less naive, more loving, happier and more accountable every day of your life.
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