Getting Off with DSK

For those of you who have forgotten, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a brilliant Frenchman who previously led the IMF, positioning himself to run for president of France. All those plans came to a screeching halt in 2011 when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a maid in a New York hotel. While those charges were eventually dropped, this incident set into motion a series of trans-Atlantic investigations and new charges in France that concluded recently with DSK being found not guilty of organizing lavish parties with prostitutes in Lille, France.

Each of these hearings and investigations contained lurid details about DSK’s proclivities for rough sex. He was a powerful man who liked to blow off steam, shall we say, engaging in activities that weren’t, exactly, family friendly or conducive to running for public office. Karma, karma, karma! Now, while a valid and healthy debate can occur as to how influential private behavior should be on whether or not an individual is suitable to hold the responsibilities of public office, the DSK example is particularly illustrative of what can happen when people push the envelope of legal or acceptable behavior and how life has a funny way of catching up with us, whether or not we have formally been found “guilty.”

Denny Hastert, Mary Kay Letourneau, Ted Haggard, David Petraeus and of course New York’s newest restaurateur Tony Wiener have each earned a special place in the annals of famous sex scandals, with varying results at rehabilitating their personal and public reputations. Whether or not they and those close to them went on to live lives of satisfaction following their missteps isn’t certain. But, I’m not just trotting out a list of colorful examples simply for the shiny fun of it; I also want to make an analogy to re-booting.

We all screw up. We all inflict damage. Sometimes things end disastrously, leaving a trail of embarrassment and hurt, whether we’re the victims or the villains. But, who the “bad guy” is doesn’t matter for purposes of this post because everyone involved has to re-boot. This includes Steve Reinbolt, Vili Fualaau and Steve Letourneau, Gayle Haggard, Holly Petraeus (not to mention the US military command), and dear sweet Huma Abedin, each of whom must adjust to a new normal following the actions of others (this list doesn’t even include their kids).

Shit happens. It just does. Whoever is “culpable,” whoever is “innocent,” is irrelevant. For all of us, it’s what we do next that makes the difference. It’s finding a way to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Do you think Bill Clinton wastes his time feeling guilty—about anything? Of course not! He was nearly impeached and that still didn’t stop him. And look how he’s rehabilitated himself. Some may say “shameless,” but you can’t deny the guy has got it goin’ on. (Even Monica’s post “handbag designer” life has included giving a TED talk or two.)

My point is this: if they can spring back, so can you…and so can whoever was hurt by what you did. Remember both sides of this equation! Nobody, and I mean nobody, should give you so much power over them that you could ruin their life, and vice versa. There is always an opportunity to make things better, to head in a new direction, to start over. What you have next may not look like what you had before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as good. There’s a real chance it may even be better. This is always true. There are always nuggets of gold to be found in any situation.

Circling back to our friend DSK, we know that he got off in a number of ways. We know that he is a brilliant man whose ego and sense of entitled imperviousness created enormous problems for him. We also know that his story isn’t over. His talents haven’t gone away. And now, perhaps humbled, bruised, and chastened he may find a new path to do some good.



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