Moments after revealing that NBC had fired Matt Lauer for “inappropriate sexual behavior,” Savannah Guthrie asked her “Today” co-host Hoda Kobt, “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?”
Guthrie didn’t have an answer. I don’t either, but I can tell you stories of how my former churchmates tried to reconcile those opposing ideas. Most of those stories ended with “she made it up,” “he couldn’t have done those awful things,” “she’s not right in the head,” or all three. We all have stories like that. So yesterday, when I learned that a woman I used to trust had helped spread the rumors against me, I chalked it up to “same ol’ same ol’.”
But yesterday I added a new kind of story. Walking to a meeting in a different part of town, I unexpectedly ran into a former churchmate. I had enjoyed working with this man on several projects, and I still hold him in high regard. I greeted him; we spoke briefly. My meeting had already begun, so I couldn’t linger in conversation. I knew I had caught him off guard, so I sent him an email this morning. I said I was glad to have seen him; I offered congratulations on happy events in his life.
Keep in mind that this man had been close to my offender. He could have dismissed me with a cursory “great to see you too,” or he could have ignored my email altogether.
But that’s not what he did.
Instead, he thanked me for the work I am doing on this issue. He wrote, “You are helping to make the world a bit more just and a bit more safe for our girls and millions of others. And I can only imagine the price you have paid and the pain you have endured along the way.” He closed his email with a picture of his children and these words: “On their behalf, thank you.”
How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they’ve behaved badly? It seems to me that this man has found the finest path. He didn’t try to choose between me and my offender. He didn’t trash one of us to show loyalty to the other. I have no idea how he would be with my offender, but in my presence, he showed respect and compassion. He spoke of justice and a safer church. I can think of no finer reconciliation.