When Our Heroes Fail Us

One of the top news articles this week is related to an incident where His Holiness the Dalai Lama (trigger warning) asked a little boy to suck his tongue. The compassionate part of me wants to hope that the Dalai Lama must be suffering from some degenerative cognitive condition to have behaved in such a way. The part of me that worked in the Catholic Church, and had firsthand witness of, and counseled many through the untold horrors of clerical abuse, suspects otherwise.

My experiences in the Catholic Church and otherwise have taught me the dangers of clericalism – no matter what robes the clerics are dressed in.  In the same way that the Roman collar does not make one immune to bad behavior, neither do the saffron or maroon robes of Buddhism. In fact, I’ve witnessed some of the worst abuses of power coming from those who claim to be Buddhist. While religious doctrine might tell us otherwise, no man is God. Therefore, no man is immune to the temptations of power, especially when that power is cloaked in perceived affection. Further, neither a celibate life nor spiritual practice elevates one beyond sensual pleasures, no matter how much one might argue otherwise.

We may never know if mental illness, arrested development, or perversion drove the Dalai Lama’s behavior. What we do know is that this behavior created a wave of shock and horror among those who understand the ramifications of his behavior. We also know that his spokespeople rushed to excuse and then defend the Lama’s actions, “Westerners are looking at this from a Western lens.”  (I call bullshit on that excuse. The Dalai Lama and his fellow monks have been immersed in Western culture since the 1950’s.  They should know better!)  We also know that the vast majority of those following this story are likely in shock and disbelief.  Finally, it is likely that many of the Dalai Lama’s followers and fans are trying to deny that it even happened.

This is what happens when our heroes fail. When those we have placed upon a pedestal reveal their humanness, we are hurled into the process of grief.  First, we try to deny that the event happened.  Then we try to bargain it away. In this bargaining we might try to make excuses for our hero or defend their actions as “really not that bad,” or “no big deal.” We might become defensive toward those who try to point out the so-called hero’s humanness. Once we have moved beyond denial and bargaining and can finally admit that perhaps our hero isn’t so perfect after all, and that the behavior was inappropriate or wrong, then we may become angry. We become enraged over the behavior, and even more so, we feel deeply betrayed which naturally triggers our wrath. We may find ourselves depressed and despondent over the disappointment and sense of betrayal. Finally, we might weep. Weeping for the loss of the hero and weeping for our own lost innocence.

No man is God. And yet, for the past 5000-10000 years, humanity has been putting individuals in the place of God. From tribal priests, to kings, to gurus, to popes, to lamas, to rabbis, to ministers, to movie and TV celebrities, to talk show hosts, to influencers, etc. human beings have turned to those outside of themselves as the source of truth and salvation. Institutions have created mythology, doctrine, and laws around these outside perceived authorities and have actively recruited people to worship them.

Through centuries of (often shame or fear-based) indoctrination, human beings have forgotten that the source of truth is within them and has been all along. While we may see our own truth reflected in the writings of the Dalai Lama, Jesus, Mohammed, Mother Teresa, Marianne Williamson, or Anandamayi Ma, the individual is not the source of that truth. Neither are they a god to be worshipped. Human beings, no matter how holy they are made out to be, are imperfect and flawed. 

Human beings, no matter how spiritual, will fail, and the higher the pedestal upon which we place them, the greater will be their fall. The remedy to this inevitable failure is that we stop making other human beings our gods and embrace the only true source of authority – that which resides within.

As it relates to the Dalai Lama, I pray that if he is cognitively impaired, that he be supported in getting help for his impairment. If he is not, and this was an act of arrested development or perversion, I pray that he, and the Tibetan community around him get the help they need. Even more, I pray for the child that he be assured that the actions of the Lama were wrong, and that his parents and those who care for him provide a safe and loving place where he can process the actions of a man he may have been led to believe was god.

The Authentic Freedom Protocol

supports you in accessing, discerning, and living from your own inner truth while helping you to identify and transcend the fears and unhealed wounds that might otherwise hinder you from living that truth.

2 thoughts on “When Our Heroes Fail Us

  1. I was appalled, but unfortunately, not surprised. As the Old World crumbles around us, more of the truth is being revealed through the ever-widening cracks. What we need to do is realize that instead of looking to these so-called heroes, we need to become the kind of person that wed want future generations to look up to. But not worship. That is where the problem lies. We must be honest to ourselves and to future generations.


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