There’s Something Shaky about a Pedestal
A new financial building opened up on a street in our part of town some time ago. The bold signage says, “The Pinnacle.” That’s an attention-getting name, I thought, but I’ve been wondering since about what a name like that suggests. In the business world, in careers, wherever people are or whatever they’re doing, they like the idea of being at the top, don’t they, to be lifted up, set on a pedestal, so to speak?
What’s a pedestal, anyway? It’s an architectural term, designating the base or support on which a statue or column is mounted. One source I consulted gave as an example the Lincoln Statue on the western end of the National Mall in Washington, DC. It rests on a huge pedestal, giving the former president a grand and imposing aura. But the word pedestal also refers to a situation in which someone is “greatly and uncritically admired.” He or she is raised up, put on display and given a certain stature. There’s no shortage of pedestals these days. A lot of people seem to have their sights set on high, on the pinnacle, if you please. Being on top is not just an Olympic dream; it’s a societal dance, with people in all walks of life vying to be a cut above the rest. And many do get there, but when they do, sometimes the Humpty Dumpty effect kicks in, and the crash is heard all over the nation.
Recent events give us a lot to think about pedestals and the danger involved. The broken pieces from lives that were once in the limelight now litter the landscape, some, no doubt, the result of extra scrutiny from the #Me Too movement. Their unacceptable behavior was exposed, and they fell from grace. The numbers include a movie magnate, entertainers with adoring fans, and a popular politician. One radio personality lauded by his colleagues and followers for his prowess with biblical apologetics recently shocked the evangelical world with revelations that ruined his reputation and ministry. A pinnacle is a precarious place to be.
Who puts people on pedestals anyway? The truth is, sometimes individuals place themselves there with their outsize egos. They consider themselves privileged and accord themselves special status. Then, too, some people are placed on pedestals by others looking for someone who promotes a cause they believe in. They have visions of accomplishing great things and sign on to that person who can help them do it. There are also those looking for a “banner carrier,” who says and does things with a flair, making him look like an attractive leader, even a savior, and so they prop him up. And we can’t overlook the fact that at times it’s the result of a publicity hype after an individual does one thing well and the media take off with it, heaping praise and providing exposure. People find it easy to gravitate to someone who is in the limelight at the moment.
Is it possible for those of us in the ordinary walks of life to climb onto a pedestal? Ours may be modest in contrast to that of a mega-watt celebrity’s. The pedestals we stand on are more subtle, for instance, the profession we’re in and the leadership roles we play, or the degrees we have from prestigious institutions, or our smart and accomplished children; it may be the pedigree of our heritage, the sophisticated circles we move in, or the prominent people we know—whatever fills out our brag sheet. Building self-image on external actions or accomplishments can cause us to place ourselves on a pedestal, but they are fragile and can easily crumble.
There are individuals among us who have every right to be on a pedestal, but they would resist any effort to place them there. And even when they are placed there, they are able to avoid the Humpty Dumpty fall because of their self-knowledge. They know who they are and have the humility that keeps them living below the radar. I’m sure you know some people like that. They are kind and generous; they put others ahead of themselves. They are servant-leaders. They are accomplished and do important things without being showy. Those of us who know them place them on their pedestal to be admired and help make our lives have deeper meaning.
The Apostle Paul counsels us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:3). That is excellent advice that can help us take the proper measure of ourselves and so regard ourselves from the appropriate vantage point. I recommend the words from the chorus of “You Raise Me Up” by the group Selah to remind us to stand on that mighty Rock, the most desirable of all pedestals.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong when I am on your shoulder;
You raise me up to more than I can be.
Never put someone so high on a pedestal
That if they should fall,
You get crushed.
(Author Mark W. Boyer)
Thanks for sharing your sobering thoughts with us.
Barrington, I cogitated (ahem!) about the topic for quite some time. I think it’s a needful one. Thanks for sharing. JN
What can I say? Everything that you have included is so very true. Thank you.
Ouida, Thanks for being a constant reader of my posts. You have a secure place on the pedestal that all who know you are only too happy to place you on. A special person, indeed. JN