Kitty J. Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT
Certified Life Strategies & Stress Management Coach
If you live in Virginia, you may be following the big trial that has been going on for a few weeks now. Our former governor, Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are on trial for numerous charges including accepting gifts in exchange for touting a questionable product promoted by a businessman who curried favor with the intent of getting his product legitimized.
I don’t need to go into the specifics of the case or the trial. I have just been considering how all of this fits with what I believe about Karma and how what goes around certainly seems to come back around, and sometimes in the most unexpected ways.
I offer my musings with the caveat that I didn’t always agree with Governor McDonnell when he was in office and I was still President of the Virginia Education Association. In fact, he and his staff and I went toe to toe over the continuing contract issue in February of 2012, and it was unpleasant, to say the least.
My feelings about what is happening with his trial, however, have nothing to do with my feelings about his views on school choice or vouchers or online instruction. My feelings go back to my recollection of the thesis that he wrote while he was a graduate student at Regent University. I remember reading the thesis during the campaign with a certain amount of dismay because it seemed that he would have liked to take us back to the days of the Beaver Cleaver and “Father Knows Best.” (I know I am aging myself, but I recall those shows from my childhood, and frankly, I doubt that any family looked exactly like those families even then.)
The thesis reeked with a tone of sanctimonious righteousness that I personally found off putting, but it didn’t create enough concern among voters to keep him from being elected. After the election, I heard numerous people talk about what a good man Bob McDonnell was, and I had no reason to doubt his sincerity or good intentions, even when I disagreed with him on policy matters related to public education. I always gave him the benefit of the doubt in that I believe he was sincere in his beliefs even when I vehemently disagreed with them.
As I have listened to and read the updates on his trial these last three weeks however, I have been struck by the idea that Karma really does have a way of biting you in the butt. By being so smug, rigid, and self-righteous in his thesis, I believe Mr. McDonnell set himself up for this fall that he is taking. Let’s face it…regardless of the outcome of the trial, his reputation, and that of his wife, will be tainted forever. His political aspirations have been ruined. His former “brand” as a fine man with an irreproachable character is tarnished perhaps beyond repair. (I say perhaps because there have been some unbelievable comebacks in the past and nothing is impossible.) Regardless of how things go for him, however, he will have a lifetime ahead of trying to re-brand himself as something other than the Governor who took gifts in exchange for favors because he couldn’t keep his wife’s behavior in check.
It is an object lesson for us all. I find myself feeling compassion for the Governor and his wife more than any other feeling. They have found themselves in a spot that no one envies. Those who are ready to cast stones at them for being human and making mistakes—albeit big ones—need to be mindful of their own Karma, I believe.
Compassion, consideration, and even forgiveness are the qualities that we should bring toward these individuals and those like them who have fallen so far from grace. No one is perfect. No one lives in glass houses. The McDonnell’s tried to be something they weren’t, and it has landed them in a world of trouble. While there may have been a time that they would have judged someone in similar trouble harshly, they are now in need of compassion and human understanding from others.
The jury will rightly decide their fate. I have decided that it is not my job to judge. I wasn’t in their shoes. I don’t know what they were going through individually or as a couple. It is so easy these days to cast ugly aspersions on people through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It may be time for us as a society, so quick to make judgment, to take a deep breath and consider, “There but by the grace of God go I.”
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