There’s Something Shaky about a Pedestal


The reason why you shouldn't put people on pedestals | Curious

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)


    • Judith Nembhard

      Barrington, I cogitated (ahem!) about the topic for quite some time. I think it’s a needful one. Thanks for sharing. JN

    • Judith Nembhard

      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