Monday, May 25, 2009

Values in Action, or, Can we Give Michael Phelps a Break?

Michael Phelps entertained us with his ability to perform the equivalent of leaping off tall buildings in a single bound. He brought home the bacon (okay, it was actually gold) giving us a renewed sense of our country’s greatness. He loved mom and, well, grits and pancakes, among other typically American foods. But with one fell swoop, or one small puff, he’s persona non grata, a pariah,a bad influence on our children.

I’d like to suggest, not to be Pollyanna-ish, that we cut him some slack, give him a break, chill out, while we consider the Signature strengths (or values in action) that can be brought to bear on this situation. We all have many of these strengths as part of our personalities. We use them in various situations. I think they’re valuable in analyzing the Michael Phelps fiasco.

Forgiveness, of course, jumps out. Don’t we owe a little forgiveness to the poor guy?

Humility. Is it not too pretentious to put Michael down for one little slip, or even a couple?

How about honesty? And speaking of hypocrites, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Open-mindedness also seems pertinent. I’m sure Michael had his reasons for what he did, or if not, he is just a young man after all. Think about all the pressures of being such a young superstar.

Wisdom is another closely related strength. Using a broad perspective to examine his behavior, can’t we see possibilities for understanding this?

Then there’s kindness and generosity. Wouldn’t it be good and show great understanding to give the guy a break?

Maybe even a little loyalty for someone who has represented our country in the best possible way?

How about a little fairness and gratitude?

There are 24 signature strengths identified by Peterson and Seligman in the Values in Action questionnaire. If we just applied a few to situations like this, in our everyday lives, I think we might get along better in our little worlds. The lesson to our children is that everyone makes mistakes. And sometimes you pay dearly. So think before you act, and if you mess up, hope others will treat you with the same kindness and understanding you can give to one of our national heroes.

Where is the love? Black-eyed peas.


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