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QUINTESSENCE

Tested

Lone runner in fog, Jungfrau, Switzerland

FOR HORSES, HORSEFLIES

We know nothing of the lives of others.
Under the surface, what strange desires,
what rages, weaknesses, fears.

Sometimes it breaks into the daily paper
and we shake out heads in wonder -
"who would behave in such a way?" we ask.

Unspoken the thought, "Let me not be tested."
Unspoken the thought, "Let me not be known."

Under the surface, something that whispers,
"Anything can be done."

For horses, horseflies. For humans, shame.

- Jane Hirschfield

This week a dear friend of mine faces a crisis of career and reputation. My friend, an upper midlevel corporate manger, has been caught in what is now a national scandal in her place of work that has placed her square at the apex of both responsibility and consequence. In ancient Rome, a general was expected to take a sword for Caesar in the heat of battle. In corporate America, in the heat of viral social media and trial by press, this is no less the case.

In the compressed moments of this crisis as it occurred, no time was afforded my friend to do what she does best - the right thing. My first reaction to the news was instantaneous: This allegation is not possible. This woman's character and values are impeccable. My second reaction: That matters not at all. My friend sits in a position of supervisory authority, which means her supervision is at question based on the wrongdoing of some of those in her division. Her corporation has suffered a severe blow to it's reputation, the situation has damaged both the victim and the staff involved, and the situation has gone viral, compounding the exposure and public reaction. It is up to her to make things right, if given the chance. That said, on a personal level, when under attack is it not our first instinct to withdraw? To hole up, head down, shield the ones we love?

I have not been able to reach my friend; I suspect she is not able to speak for on-going legal reasons as this situation plays out. But I hope my messages of love and support reach her. I believe that when the proverbial crap hits that mighty jet engine, we most need to hear from those who do not sit in judgment. To be reassured we are loved (still), valued for our true strengths, and remain well thought of. That the public court rushing to judgment does not include our inner circle. I think all of us would like to think we are this type of person: the true friend. And, that we have such friends. But there is something in human nature drawn to scandal, to the suspicion of a whiff of weakness or fallibility. And it seems the higher our aspirations or standing, the greater the secret public hope we stumble.

So this week, my small calling has been to put loyalty and support out there. To be a candle in the dark. All of us have our Waterloos, and in the world of corporate accountability and viral social media, we often fight those battles as one-sided wars in the public eye. Character and strength of conviction are the traits that carry us through, lead us to the next day. And the next day is where we find that necessary moment to share our side of the story.

Be the friend you would want your friends to be.
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