How do we value skills? Think of it like this: what would we let someone get away with if they had a unique skill? Think of great artists who are awful people or remarkable athletes who committed horrific acts. Even pastors can get away with questionable character because if the are good preachers. Politicians and CEOs lead even if they toe moral and ethical lines. Why? Because what they do, what they produce, is more valuable to us than holding them to high standard.
We separate people’s skills from their personhood and character. In so doing we define them by what they do in their field than who they are and how they live. It’s easier to do this with actors or artists because their “products” are so separate from who they actually are, fictional even. But we can justify and rationalize all sorts of things for those skills we really value.
Most of the time we can easily skate by conflicts, but then last Tuesday happens and we come fact to face with our inconsistency. On Tuesday Vikings running back Adrian Peterson entered a plea deal to settle his case of child abuse. He has been inactive since the first game of the season after turning himself into police because of charges he beat his young son. At the time the outrage was almost universal. He ought to be punished! How horrible! But what now?
Now we face questions. Does his status as a star football player mean he is getting off easier? Are people readier to “forgive and forget” because really they just want to see him trample defenses again? Has he paid his dues, and if so should he be fully reinstated and the incident put behind him? It is a complicated issue, mixing legal issues, moral issues, and personal preferences and fandom.
How can we figure out how to rightly value skills and rightly value values? We have to strive to think holistically, to view people as God made them. We can value what they do while disapproving of how they live. God gave them those skills and they are a reflection of Him even if their lives are not. But even as we value their skills, the products they create, we cannot define them by those things. Society does this. It says Adrian Peterson is valuable because he is great at football. We must think differently.
We must see the person as a person, for good and ill. We must see what they do as an accomplishment and contribution. If we refuse to value one or the other we lessen what God made them to be, and we do the same if we over-emphasize one at the expense of the other. Some people may never be able to root for A.P. on the field again. Others will welcome him back open-armed. One is not more right than the other so long as what they are seeking is to rightly value what is truly good.