The recent news about several NFL players engaging in violent and destructive behaviors on and off the field is not surprising. Being rewarded for physically aggressive behavior in one’s profession can sometimes spill over into one’s personal life. Certainly there are many variables and factors that are tied to violent behaviors, including power. Many powerful people believe that the rules are different for them and their misbehaviors should be condoned given the status, fame, and fortune they’ve attained. Instead of being held to a higher standard based on their position and influence, many individuals assume that their notoriety enables them to have a “get out of jail free card,” literally. Power can come from wealth, status, profession, and/or having control over others.
Of course there are many powerful and highly successful people who are not abusive and who do not use violence to control others. What contributes to powerful people making bad choices? In some cases they have impulse control problems and/or anger management issues that they haven’t addressed. Other times these individuals have serious psychiatric problems that they’ve denied and for which they have never received proper treatment since they’re convinced the problem is someone else’s fault. They reflexively respond with defensiveness, blame, and justification for their actions with little remorse or repentance. Lastly, powerful people may have very little emotional maturity and moral integrity. Professional athletes can become millionaires literally overnight and have no idea how to manage their now public personal lives.
Fortunately or unfortunately, our children look up to those who have wealth and power, like professional athletes, celebrities, politicians, and business leaders. These individuals should assume a higher standard and accept the added burden of being a positive role model to so many children and young adults. The NFL and various organizations that monitor athletes can be more proactive in providing training, resources, and counseling. There also needs to be a better way to identify problems before they escalate. Somehow money needs to tie into their treatment, but not always as a punishment, instead as a reward for seeking help. These problems are not going away, but if we can find incentives for people to pursue treatment, provide easy accessibility, and highlight/praise those who successfully overcome their problems this would provide motivation to change. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs on power, seeking balance in life, accepting accountability, valuing relationships, embracing humility, giving back, and accepting responsibility for actions will decrease the incidence of destructive behaviors.