If you have been watched Sportscenter in the past few days or have kept your eye on major news channels you have seen the situation going down at Penn State University. If you have not, here is a summary of the situation. A former coach who served under Joe Paterno at PSU named Jerry Sandusky has been sexually abusing young boys since the early 90’s. It seems the news is just breaking and now he is being charged with sexual abuse with about 20 of those incidents happening while he was at PSU. You may be asking, how does coach Paterno fit in to all this? He knew about it! He failed to report it to authorities and rather protect himself and the program rather than the young boys who were abused. Because of Paterno knowledge of the events, he is no longer the coach at PSU. Joe Paterno’s head coaching career at PSU began on Sept. 17, 1966 and this was his 46th season at PSU. As I have been watching reports of this story and seeing people’s response on social networks, two initial thoughts have been racing through my head. From every horrible situation, like this one, we can learn valuable lessons for the future. Here are two of those lessons we can learn from Joe Paterno:
Silence is approval. I first heard this catching little phrase on a leadership retreat back in high school. I must admit, most of the time this seemed more like a clever “Christian” phrase rather than a real-life principle. Now that I apply it to a real situation, like the Paterno’s situation, I see how true it is. Paterno may have not committed the sexual abuse or even agreed with it, but he kept it silent which makes him just has guilty as doing it. I know that was a harsh statement and some people might think it was too harsh, but let’s be honest, Paterno knew of young boys being sexually abused and he did not do anything about it. This world needs men who will stand up and not be silent about wrong doings, but will stand up for what is right!
Responsibility comes with leadership. Leadership is influence. If you have infuence over people, you are a leader. It is evident Paterno is a leader. Just look at the reponse of the students as they riot on the streets because of his leave from the head coaching position. Paterno has been a leader to many young men on the football field as well as to the PSU family. With this great leadership comes great repsonsibility. As a leader, you must be “above approach” the Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:2. There shouldnt be anything that should cause people to think differntly of you or cause you to be knocked out of your leadership position. I know we all mess up and no one is perfect, but as a leader you must strive to be above all wrong and protect your position because you have influence over people! Paterno should have realized his position and influence when he heard about the sexual abuse and reported it asap. Doing this would show he truly cares about the people abused and that he wanted to show people, as a leader, what the right thing is.
This are just my initial thoughts on the situation. As the story develops they may change or be tweaked, but for now these are my thoughts. Walt Mueller, a leader in the student ministry world, posted a great blog post about this situation as well. You can read that here. Learn from this situation, don’t follow the mistakes of others. What are your thoughts on the Paterno situation? What other lessons can we learn from this? I would love to hear your thoughts as well.