I did not know that my post on Robert Mugabe and Nigeria deeply fascinated my neighbour. He called me after to discuss portions from the piece, especially the portion about unpleasant consequences that follow moments of madness. Those consequences that undo hard-earned reputation.
He admitted it was extremely sobering to see former heroes turn villains. Those who have fallen from grace to grass, dressed in shame and ignominy. He told me there are not many individuals who have successfully turned the corner. There are not many individuals because the weight of the spiralling consequences can be extremely debilitating, arresting almost every burst of energy that appears to get the individual going again.
I asked him to mention the few names he remembered easily and he mentioned former United States President Richard Nixon, as being the first on the list. Earlier on, he had mentioned some moments of madness to include these: Apostle Peter and his 3-fold denial of his relationship with Jesus Christ; King David and his fling with Bathsheba, Tortoise and his change of name to All-of-Us just before the great feast, among others.
At his funeral, decades after the Watergate Scandal, which was President’s Nixon’s moment of madness, many Americans did not seem to remember the sin of Watergate anymore. All the revulsion and resentment towards him on account of the scandal seemed to have evaporated. Some people spoke glowingly of him, giving him due recognition for other positive things he had done.
Of course, Nixon had wisely gone into the shadows after the heavier blows from the scandal had delivered their more devastating effects. He had stopped courting vain attempts to prove his innocence with paperweight rebuttals. Also, he had seen the fascinating turn around in the life and choices of one of his co-travellers in the scandal, Chuck Colson. Chuck Colson had gathered what was left of his life after his own moment of epiphany, turned over a new leaf, and poured his heart and soul into Prison Fellowship, that incredible instrument of social transformation whose effects remain till this day.
Nixon had this example for company, as well as many others including David himself, who rather than fight at straw to preserve what was left of his badly beaten reputation, preferred to plead for mercy. He would be merciful to others too so that the God of mercy would be merciful to him.
For my neighbour, this discourse is relevant to the extent that it points the way to those who may have been caught in that famous and unrelenting web of unpleasant consequences. Like David and Nixon, they can turn it all around, primarily by choosing the shadows, instead of the deceitful calls from those who want them back in the limelight, for their own selfish interests. And by consistently growing their acts of mercy, especially to those who cannot return it in kind.