Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Fall From Grace

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Aug 23, 2013 5:27 PM

I work with the lucky and unlucky people, the smart and not smart, the powerful and educated and the "little guy." There are so many reminders of the easy and frequent fall from grace which can happen to anyone.

Example-a doctor drinks like a fish when no one's looking. His wife finds bottles, receipts and alcohol on his breath. She begs, pleads and bargains with him. He goes to counseling to please her but it's pro forma, just for show. He's addicted. She swears he still does great surgery and there haven't been complaints at work. She's sure no one has noticed at his huge hospital. I can hardly believe it. How do we know his work isn't compromised? Anyway, he hasn't been "caught," he earns mucho bucks and, I hope, he's a functional alcoholic, rather than an abuser or murderer.

Different hospital-several doctors have used prescription meds inappropriately and illegally, hurting no one but compromising themselves ethically. They were caught, overly punished, almost tearing apart their lives and definitely messing up their career opportunities. One was outright fired. Another did humiliating, bureaucratic penance ad nauseum.

Yet,another hospital further away-a doctor gets fired because he's older and higher-paid, can't prove that's the reason for the "downsize," just that he's replaced by three young docs out of residency. His career is over. He goes from well-off with big plans to struggling, divorced and sad.

A lawyer gets away with fraud, gets caught, is debarred, goes to jail, comes out and starts a new life with a different lifestyle. A business owner sells drugs, meaning to do it once, gets caught, experiences lots of bad publicity, spends time in jail and her children suffer. She recovers, eventually but has a record forever. A professor feels he's above paperwork for administration, loses tenure, ends of working at mini-mart. I could go on, but you get the idea.

It's not just about money. People lose their high level jobs, whether CEO or baseball player, and big investments all the time. More tragically, they lose their spouses and families , friends, or their status one way or another. The ones who suffer most are the ones who had a "high and mighty" attitude, the narcissits who labeled themselves genius, rich, invulnerable, clever, worthy or entitled. The "perfect" spouses and parents, even, whose kids then do something bad, get sick or hurt or rebel, become most devastated because they didn't ever entertain the fact that they or their kids could fail.

It's about humility. It isn't fair for anyone to violate his or her own health, do something nasty or wrong and chance hurting others directly or indirectly. However, the crime of hubris, or overweaning pride, in which someone feels above the law and/or the law of morality seems a crime against one's own humanity and makes the world worse. That hubris makes the fall from grace which follows getting caught or finally seeing things clearly all the more painful, meaningful and, I hope, humbling in an ultimately good way.

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