June 20, 2015
Brian Williams was caught making up stories that reflected well on himself. He attributed this to “a bad urge inside of me.” He said that his lapse was “clearly ego driven, the desire to better my role in a story I was already in.” Williams had a harmful embedded emotion that controlled his decision making, perhaps an abnormal need for approval.
Identifying his problem as emotional in origin is not to excuse it. Williams deserved to be exposed and humiliated and was lucky to be transferred to a less important job rather than being fired. Society would collapse if bad behavior were overlooked because it was driven by harmful embedded emotions, like Williams’s ego-driven “bad urge.”
I don’t know if Williams had any intimation that he was making a serious mistake when he was fabricating stories. It’s quite likely he did, but ignored them –- the ‘bad urge” may have been too strong to resist.
“Bad urges” can stem from many causes and take many forms. Think of all the politicians who, when confronted, have felt obliged to say “I misspoke.” In most such cases, they should not say that they misspoke; they should admit that they had lied. By saying the misspoke, they misspeak again.
The moral of the Brian Williams case is that one should be alert for “bad urges” asserting themselves into our decision-making process. Recognize them and resist them. Honesty isn’t just a moral principle. As was first said a long time ago, it’s the best policy.