What Can We Learn From Bill Cosby and Brian Williams?

Two formerly trusted U.S. celebrities are in the news for moral failings. What can we learn from the moral failures of Bill Cosby and Brian Williams?

We live in a culture obsessed with celebrities.

There may be nothing that gets more attention than the lives of celebrities. Whether they’re politicians, musicians, movie stars, athletes, newscasters or the children of the wealthy—the sad reality is that, more than anything else, our society seems to love watching these people stumble and fall.

Of course, those who have used their fame to take advantage of others should be prosecuted. But think about it. How many positive news stories do we read about the lives of the rich and famous?

How often do we hear about a celebrity who goes about his or her career in a professional manner, doesn’t constantly get involved in scandals, stays faithfully married to one spouse, is never caught in an embarrassing lie and doesn’t carry on in crazy or drug-induced antics? Regular, drama-free lives don’t get many shares on social media!  

Celebrity failures

The real juicy news that people follow on social media are the stories about the failures of celebrities. Think about two of the most recent U.S. examples: Bill Cosby and Brian Williams.

It is not a good time to be a celebrity, because you can expect that every mistake, poor judgment and outright failure will find its way to the Facebook news feed.Both men previously had stellar reputations. Bill Cosby is one of the most successful comedians of all time and had a reputation of (overall) clean humor and family values. But the revelation of numerous allegations of rape have been reported almost everywhere and severely tarnished his image. It seems like every day, the news reports a new Cosby accuser coming forward, accompanied by sordid details of Cosby’s alleged bedroom antics.

Brian Williams hosted NBC’s Nightly News for 10 years and was one of the most trusted names in news. But the revelation that he blatantly lied about experiences he had in Iraq (in 2003) and New Orleans (in 2005) has led to a six-month suspension from the anchor desk and questions regarding his journalistic integrity. It is possible he may never report the news again.

Consider these other examples of celebrities who have “fallen” publicly:

  • Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Alec Baldwin, Amanda Bynes, Mel Gibson and others have suffered public meltdowns that were followed meticulously by news sources and gossip sites.
  • Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Mark McGwire and Marion Jones have been accused of or caught cheating and lying to attain athletic success.
  • Bill Cosby, Stephen Collins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and Silvio Berlusconi have had their reputations destroyed by allegations of extramarital affairs and sex scandals.

Celebrities often fail to fully accept that in the eyes of the public, the price of their fame is the responsibility to be a role model. No matter how hard you protest that your life is your life, once you accept the money and fame that comes with being a celebrity, your life will be scrutinized and held to a higher standard.

Three things to consider …

1. Moral failings are nothing new.

People have been failing morally for 6,000 years. But today—because of modern media, which includes the 24-hour news cycle, blogs, gossip sites and social media—these juicy stories get much more publicity than similar stories did in the past. It is not a good time to be a celebrity, because you can expect that every mistake, poor judgment and outright failure will find its way to the Facebook news feed.

2.The lives of regular people aren’t much better.

It is easy to read celebrity news and shake our heads in judgment at their messed-up lives. But we should consider that celebrities aren’t the only people who fail morally. We only know about them because the media deems their lives worthy to report on. On top of this, celebrities typically have more opportunities to make huge mistakes and fail. When you have unlimited access to money, drugs and sex—it is easy to succumb to the temptation to fail.

The point is that all people mess up and make mistakes. The Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Celebrities are merely symbolic of the multitudes of people who make similar mistakes.

This is not to whitewash their moral failings, but to point out that the same sins are endemic to millions of people.

3.The real issue is not the celebrities’ failings, but ours.

So what can we really learn from celebrity moral failings? If we just love the juiciness of gossip or mocking how messed up these people’s lives are, we are totally missing the point. The challenge is to look at this from Jesus Christ’s perspective.

Consider the famous account of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. This account has a much deeper message than just not being judgmental.

The scribes and Pharisees made this woman a public figure by putting her and her moral failings before Christ and all the people in the area (verse 3). She was guilty and was an easy target for mocking and ridicule by a large group (just as Bill Cosby and Brian Williams are easy targets right now).

But Christ completely changed everyone’s perspective with His keen evaluation of the situation: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (verse 7). His point was not to whitewash her sin; a few minutes later He clearly told her that she needed to clean up her act and stop sinning (verse 11).

But Christ wanted all the people publicly mocking her for her moral failing to realize that they were all just as guilty as her—they were just doing a better job of hiding it! Instead of focusing on the juicy gossip of her moral failing, they needed to look inwardly and deal with theirs.

So here’s the point

Instead of focusing on Bill Cosby’s or Brian Williams’ sins—take a look at yourself. If true, Bill Cosby’s sexual escapades are disgusting. But are you hiding disgusting sexual sins of your own? (Read about the Seventh Commandment as well as Leviticus 18 and Matthew 5:27-30.) If so, you need to repent of those sins and change. Don’t lull yourself into self-acceptance because you don’t think you’re as bad as Bill Cosby.

Brian Williams has admitted he lied to his viewers. Do you lie? Do you manipulate the truth when talking to others? Do you cheat on your taxes or lie to cover up another moral failing? Again, don’t rationalize your own lies because they weren’t told on NBC Nightly News to millions of viewers.

So, the next time you read that article about the failings of a celebrity, use it as a motivation to take a deeper look at the only person you can actually fix: yourself.

To learn more about the root of all moral failings and how to change, read these resources:

About the Author

Erik Jones

Erik Jones

Erik Jones is a full-time writer and editor at the Life, Hope & Truth offices in McKinney, Texas.

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