Monday, March 12, 2012

Charismatic personalities and pitfalls

With the fall of popular heavyweights such as Fr. Marciel of Legion of Christ fame and Fr. Corapi the question of how charismatic people who are either con artists or simply weak can fool people for so long.  It seems even after the fact that the scandal hits people seems willing to believe anything the person in question says.  

Having been the victim of such a charismatic personality who subsequently was revealed to be a fraud I can attest to how this comes about to some degree.  This entry will not name names but I will simply write my understanding of how this phenomenon occurs.

The charismatic personality is just that.  Usually charming, polite, and quite admirable, the charismatic person is someone you want to like.  They say the right things, seem to have the proper attitudes, etc.  They hit all the right notes, and are able to put on an air of sophistication and virtue.

When a charismatic person is doing something wrong, the deception is always two parts deception on the part of the charismatic and one part willingness to be deceived on the part of the victim.  As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.

The victim at first will not hear of any criticism.  The critics are "simply out to get this wonderful person."  They are misinformed at best and at worst enemies of the truth.  The charismatic person is pure, virtuous, even special.

But the rumors keep circulating.  And the charismatic begins to act in stranger fashions.  Things that were at first open to interpretation quickly become less ambiguous.  Finally events happen that call into question the charismatic.  

Now this is where the victim must make a choice.  Having already made excuses over and over again for the charismatic even as the evidence mounts, the pattern of making excuses is deeply ingrained, almost to the point of defying reason.  Pride too enters the picture.  The victim can't admit to themselves that they have been deceived, and for so long.  

The victim must either embrace reality or continue the charade.  Either out of fear of loss of friendship or an unwillingness to admit to being deceived (or a combination of both) many will continue with the false narrative.  This is why even those charismatic personalities that are colossal liars and scoundrels still maintain a following long after the truth is revealed.

Sadly, far too many close ranks around the charismatic and vilify the ones who speak out about the truth are traitors.  Friendships are shattered (if they existed at all and were not just a ploy).  

Charisma is a gift of God.  But like all gifts they can be used for good or evil.  Charisma has the unique status of being able to uplift or ruin so many lives.  Which is why we must always be on guard, that our own pride is not invested in our perceptions of others.

No comments: