Mr. Armstrong, no longer trusting his own soul, groped for answers in books. He told Oprah in his infamous interview that he “looked up the definition of cheat,” and it means “to gain an advantage on a rival or foe.” Armstrong explained: ”I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”
Both Dr. Hall and Armstrong deserve their due. Just as they were cast as leaders in front of the cameras, they were, if the case holds up in court, leaders behind the cameras, too – cultivating “ethical slips” from others by example and, sometimes, even coercion. Both are powerful reminders that when we make gods out of people, we can expect to be disappointed.
But before we grow too comfortable on our thrones of judgment, we must consider our own capacity for adjusting our internal compasses when it’s convenient and/or culturally normalized. People fudge on their taxes, tell their doctors they don’t really smoke, gossip even when they feel slightly gross about it, maybe even adhere to some questionable protocol at work that they used to think was unethical. After awhile people can get used to these ethical gray areas; instead of a sharp jolt to their moral barometers, these transgressions invoke just a dull twinge.