Will society allow people to grow and mature?

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There is a troubling trend in society today in which people are being held accountable for things they wrote, said, read or did many years ago.

Hardly a day goes by in which someone “in the news” isn’t being forced to apologize for something that occurred many years ago. It leads me to ask an important question:

Will society allow people to grow and mature?

Secondly, will society forgive people for stupid things they did many years earlier?

Wednesday, a story emerged about the 47-year-old prime minister of Canada wearing blackface when he was 22 years old.  People are demanding his resignation.

Thursday, a news story reported U.S. Representative Bob Menendez was holding up the nomination of Darrell Issa to become the director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The nomination has been pending for more than a year.

At issue is the undisputed fact that Issa possessed a military-issued identification card that showed he was two years older than he actually was. Issa was 17 at the time. He also has a less-than-stellar police record, again as a teenager.

Menendez reportedly told Issa, “If you would falsify records when you were 17, how can we believe you’re credible to be honest now?”

My God! He can’t possibly be serious!

Today, Issa is a few weeks shy of his 66th birthday.

I’ve changed drastically

As I look back on my own life, I know I have changed drastically in my 59 years, especially compared to attitudes, words and actions on display in the late 1970s.

For example:

As a teenage boy growing up without a father, I was an unquestionable pig in the way I talked to and treated females who were my age. I can only imagine what former girlfriends may say about me.

However, as a dad of three daughters – and a Christian – I have a vastly different viewpoint today regarding how women deserve to be treated.

As a college freshman, I made several female class members cry when delivering a presentation for a speech class that was clearly advocating for abortion any time for any reason. I came to my senses after having my first child eight years later and have been solidly pro-life ever since.

I was a die-hard agnostic between the ages of 12 and 35.  I could not stand being around Christians, and went out of my way to ridicule them for their beliefs. Today, I would much rather spend time with my brothers and sisters in Christ than I would spend time with agnostics.

I was staunchly liberal as a youth and would often be seen walking the halls of LaFollette High School in Madison, Wis., wearing a Carter/Mondale T-shirt or button. While serving in the U.S. Air Force, I despised my commander-in-chief, Ronald Reagan.

Today, I am an independent conservative and consider Reagan to be one of the greatest people in American history.

In my late teens and into my 30s, I would often pen letters to the editor that I wish I had never written. If I think about it, there are probably things I wrote in the past two years that would not be reflective of my current thinking.

Because my father was a teacher and a number of close friends were teachers, I was an avid supporter of public education for many years.

That changed after serving on a local school board for two years, and witnessing how public schools let down all three of my daughters in some way. Yet, campaign literature and news stories are likely tucked away in an archive somewhere touting my praise of public schools.

In fact, my views on public education changed so drastically, that I resigned after serving just two years when I realized that people who supported my election stood in opposition of positions I was taking on the board. People who opposed my candidacy had become ardent supporters.

It wasn’t fair to run on a particular platform, and then abandon that platform once I was elected.

I came within a breath of having my drivers license suspended in the early 1980s, but haven’t had a ticket or accident in more than 20 years.

Even my appearance has changed. Two years ago I lost 70 pounds and shaved off a mustache. I’m also sporting less hair as I physically mature as well.

Experience brings about change

Those are just a handful of hundreds of examples showing how much I have changed over time. All people are constantly growing and maturing. New experiences tend to shape people in new ways.

As a taxpayer, my opinions are different from when everything was simply handed to me.

As a parent, my opinion on “family values” has changed 180 degrees from what they were before my kids arrived. Yet, my opinions as a grandparent likely differ from those I held as a parent.

I have done and said some asinine, horrid things that I’d be embarrassed to death if they came back to haunt me today. (Let the scavenger hunts begin!)

I would bet the farm that every person on earth could say the exact same thing.

So, then, why do we allow the media, social media “influencers” and society at large to hold people to the same beliefs they harbored decades earlier? Why do we give ANY credence to things people did in their youth?

There is a very valid reason that most juvenile criminal records are expunged when the offenders turn 18. When it comes to public opinion, shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations on just about everything?

A bankruptcy (which I had) stays on record for 10 years, then disappears. Unless a person is professing the same beliefs or exhibiting the same behaviors today, shouldn’t we have the same reaction to everything else?

People change so much it is hard to argue that someone is really the same person he or she was just 10 years ago.

Jesus offers grace, should we?

When a group of self-righteous men were on a mission to stone a woman caught in adultery – not the man, mind you – Jesus uttered one of his most famous sayings.

The story is told in John 8:2-11.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus said.

Many think Jesus then stooped to the ground to write the names of the accusers in the dust and, possibly, a list of their own most stubborn sins.

As I would expect, those who heard Jesus’ words began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left with the woman still standing there.

EVERYONE has something in their past for which they are deeply ashamed. Chances are good that many people are engaged in activity today that would be highly embarrassing, if it became public now let alone 30 years down the road.

God gives Christians grace – or unmerited favor – and forgives our sins.

Shouldn’t we be doing that for others?

The millennial generation, which is often leading the charge on exposing the past sins of others, has the most to lose if this nonsense is allowed to continue.

Millennials have grown up posting every aspect of their lives – words, pictures, videos – on very public social media sites where permanent records are kept, and copies are readily available.

There is an old saying which suggests that everyone gets 15 minutes of fame at some point in their lives.

I suspect that before long everyone will be exposed to 15 days of shame as their dark secrets, past beliefs and old actions are brought to light.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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