Paparazzi taking pictures of celebrities.

Should celebrities like Paula Deen and Ryan Lochte be held to a higher standard, or be treated just like the rest of us?

People make mistakes. It’s a fact of life. When this happens, we seek forgiveness from others. But for those who live in the spotlight, mistakes are greatly magnified. As opposed to everyday people, celebrities have millions of eyes on them. Every time they screw up, the whole world hears about it. Their blunders are published online, broadcast over the airwaves, and talked about for weeks. And although they eventually blow over, these incidents are never forgotten. Do we have a hard time forgiving others people’s mistakes?

A Lying Swimmer

Most people are familiar with the misadventures of U.S swimmer Ryan Lochte, who is in Ryan Lochte making a dumb face.the news again after infamously lying about a robbery in Brazil during the Rio Olympics. Lochte is currently participating in the latest season of the hit show “Dancing with the Stars” (DWTS). Ironically, many of these “stars” decide to go on the show in order to revive their careers or improve their public image. Given the bad reputation he garnered during the Olympic Games, some were not surprised to see Lochte join the cast.

However, nobody could have predicted what happened last week.  Lochte was publicly confronted by several audience members while filming the show. Two men – wearing shirts that had Lochte’s name with a line through it – rushed the stage following his dance performance. Although they were tackled by security and later arrested, the men apparently got their message across – Lochte admitted that the incident seriously affected him, and that he almost quit the show over it.

Prior to his appearance on DWTS, the swimmer apologized for his mistakes live on TV. To his credit, Lochte appeared to express sincere regret before explaining that he wanted to move on. However, recent events prove that he has yet to be forgiven by the public.

A Racist Chef

Paula Deen crying on TV.Interestingly, Lochte is not the first celebrity to attempt to overcome ridicule by making a DWTS appearance. Last year, celebrity chef Paula Deen joined the show in the hopes of improving her image following a scandal where she was sued by an employee for discrimination and subsequently admitted in court to using the “N-word” in the past.

Although the incidents in question had happened years before, Deen received no sympathy from her numerous sponsors. Following the accusations that she was a racist, Deen lost her programs on Food Network and saw many of her store products discontinued. In a dramatic interview on the Today show with Matt Lauer, she fought back tears as she apologized profusely for her past mistakes. Despite this effort to atone, Deen continued be criticized – and few people (especially in the media) seemed willing to forgive her.

Some thought the media had taken things too far. Among them was Former President Jimmy Carter, who appeared on CNN to argue that Deen should be forgiven. He explained that she had sincerely apologized and had “already been punished enough”. Did Carter have a point? After all, most of us have done things – whether 30 years ago, or a few months ago – that we regret now. Should celebrities like Paula Deen and Ryan Lochte be held to a higher standard, or be treated just like the rest of us? What is it about celebrities that makes us so reluctant to forgive them?

A Dark SecretJosh Duggar in court

It’s worth pointing out that the mistakes discussed above are fairly mild in the grand scheme of things. What if a celebrity’s crime is more sinister in nature? Immediately, the case of Josh Duggar comes to mind. Duggar, known for his role on the reality show 19 Kids and Counting, became notorious after it was revealed that years ago he had molested numerous young girls, including his own sisters. Duggar publicly apologized for his actions and promptly enrolled in a rehab facility. He never faced any criminal charges.

To Forgive or Not Forgive

Expanding this conversation only leads to more tough questions. Does everyone deserve forgiveness?  Or does it depend on the severity of their mistake and the sincerity of their apology? Some say that if the crime is sufficiently abhorrent, or no remorse is shown, then forgiveness is not an option. However, others insist that we must always forgive, no matter what. For them, forgiveness is the only possible avenue to true healing.

Religious Views

So what do various religions say about forgiveness? Seemingly every faith touches upon the idea. For example, the Bible teaches that “if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6: 14-15).

In the Muslim faith, another name for God translates to “The Merciful” – a being that promotes forgiveness. In Hinduism, forgiveness is one of the six cardinal virtues. And a popular passage of the Baha’i Writings says: “do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness.” On a final note, we are reminded of the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Perhaps that guiding principle applies here.

Do some people deserve forgiveness more than others? Are we too hard on celebrities, or is it correct to judge their decisions with extra scrutiny?



  1. Ronald Wolfe says:

    Yes, I do believe people deserve forgiveness, as most religions promote this even if they dont practice it. Of course, I also believe to be forgiven, the sinnner (all of us) must be truely regretful of their actions, and be sincere in their apologies to those afected. Does that make everything better? Absolutely NOT! However to keep a grudge, hatred toward that person will hurt the victim even more so by keeping hatred in their heart. The old adage, ‘I WILL FORGIVE YOU , BUT WILL NOT FORET WHAT YOU HAVE DONE” Seems to be a good attitude. Yes, forgiveness certainly is very difficult to do and requires someone very strong, and of course it all depends on the crime/sin/misdead performed, yet My belief is that We must all strive to forgive, yet not forget.

    1. revbarbara says:


  2. Dreamsinger says:

    If any of us non-celebrities did what folks like Lochte, Deen, and Duggar did, I doubt that we would be forgiven at all. Not by Christians, not by non-Christians. The reputations and future livelihoods of at least two Brazilian citizens, not to mention the rest of the U.S. swimming team, were permanently destroyed by Lochte bearing false witness for financial profit — and last I recall, that was a no-no in the Ten Commandments.

    Deen is simply a Southern woman who was destroyed by her own deadly sins of pride and vanity. Freedom of speech doesn’t come for free, any more than freedom itself. The price is consequence, and only the person using the Free Will do do the crime must be the one who does the time. She is an adult, and a very influential one at that, therefore due to her inability to make proper decisions regarding the treatment of others, her fall was only inevitable.

    As for Josh Duggar… I don’t think there’s a word to describe his actions. Especially since his father was running for a state office, campaigning under the platform of “Christian family values” that included having to stone Josh for what he was doing during that time. I can’t think of anyone who would forgive me if I tried that on my 12-year-old stepdaughter, to be honest.

    But here’s something to also consider, and maybe it’s because I don’t identify myself as a Christian.

    There’s an old curse, “May God have mercy on your soul, and forgive you for the things I cannot.” We forgive for other people’s actions, because we do them as well. But when someone does something that we don’t or won’t do to harm others, it’s more difficult to be okay with the idea of forgiveness. I can very easily forgive Paula Deen for being a crude, low-class person, more so than Lochte, because while I don’t approve of calling anyone the N-word (let alone a woman the C-word) I am from the South and that’s how Old Money talks down here. I don’t do it, I don’t approve of it, but that’s my father’s generation and I am not my father.

    I can forgive Lochte a lot easier for lying than I ever could a child rapist like Duggar, because I have been known to lie but I refuse to force myself on a child because I know it’s wrong even without the law telling me. My conscience is what defines my humanity, while Duggar’s religion is what defines his.

    So I can continue to harbor a grudge of hatred and disgust with any of those three, and destroy myself in the process, or I can forgive them while considering them dead to me. There is a difference between “forgiveness” and “absolution”, and we have no godly authority to dispense the latter.

    “Let the dead bury the dead, for the living still need tending to.”

    1. Brother John says:

      Thank you for yet another thoughtful, well constructed comment, Dreamsinger. There’s a grey area between forgiveness and passive acceptance. We humans all make mistakes, but some do not learn from them or make any effort to correct them if they believe they’ll be forgiven. If their actions harm others, they should not be tolerated, ignored or forgiven.

      “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

      The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. Albert Einstein

      When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me. Emo Philips

  3. Miranda Allison Young says:

    I would say that we should forgive them when their errors were minor and they have shown remorse for their actions. However, for major errors with no remorse, they do not deserve to be forgiven. But, God tells us to forgive and we should follow him.

  4. mary therese lemanek says:

    Holding someone to a higher standard and forgiving them are not mutually exclusive. I do not know about Paula but Ryan Lochte and Josh Duggar have positioned themselves as role models and professed to hold admirable values. We do expect behavior that is in line with their public persona.

  5. Tom Jaynes says:

    In discussing this, the editors have said something we are all overlooking. They make reference to Matthew 6 14:15. The verse clearly outlines forgiveness. “When you forgive others who have sinned against YOU, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” The people sited, Lochte, Dean and Duggar, have committed no sin against ME. Their sins were against others, whose place it is to forgive. It is not my place to forgive, for I have not been sinned against by these people. Certainly I can and do pray for those who have committed acts of sin against others and place no greater emphasis on one than another for the severity of their sin. They are all worthy of my prayers.
    My relationship with my Supreme Being is not altered in any way by the actions, good or bad, of anyone else. Only my actions can change that relationship. 1Corinthians 12:13 comes into play here. As Paul said to the church in Corinth, “Who am I to judge those who are not in our church. Do we not judge those who are within? God will judge those who are not. Rid yourselves of the evil ones among you.” In short, Mind Your Own Business! The standard I have for myself is much higher than the standard I would impose on anyone else, including public figures.

    1. Tom Jaynes says:

      The reference is 1Corinthians 5 12:13

    2. Brother John says:

      “Rid yourselves of the evil ones among you” has some ominous overtones, Tom, and may very well have been the justification for the extermination of a multitude of heretics, witches, blasphemers and other “non-believers”.

      1. Thomas Jsyned says:

        You are right! But the caveat here is those who belong to your church! Read the whole chapter and then reconsider you view.

      2. Tom Jaynes says:

        Thank you, John. The reference is to rid the church of its evil members, not the public at large. We are not God’s policeman for those who do. It share our beliefs. God will take care of that. We need to be less concerned about those who are outside our own personal belief system. This is what Paul is saying in these verses. What celebrities or public figures do in their lives is of little or no consequence to me and does not affect my relationship with the supreme one iota. Pray for them, definitely. Condemn then, no way. I will not sit in the judgement seat. To your point, self appointed policeman have killed off many persons as an exercise in control over the masses. They will pay.

    3. Greg says:

      Thanks Tom for your thoughts. We are all so quick to judge aren’t we? I agree that forgiveness should be given to those offended not everyone. While the mentioned celebrities made unacceptable choices to most of us, it is not our place or more importantly the media’s place to dwell on them. We should all take a lesson to speak impeccably about ourselves and others with every breath.

  6. Lee Boutell says:

    Lochte has paid a heavy price for his 30 second fib to someone with a camera. He lost millions of dollars in endorsements and media marketing plus he lost some rights to compete as a swimmer. He has apologized and showed remorse. Let’s be forgiving people and allow him to make something positive out of his life. Taking away his income and his ability to make a living in his field is harsh punishment, and I believe way too high a price for his one weak moment in the media spotlight. The pubic loves to put celebrities on the pedestal and then knock them off at any perceived inadequacy.

  7. Sandy R says:

    We are people of God– and we should forgive– to err is human

  8. CraigLC says:

    Celebrities will always be held to a higher standard. It’s not that I think we expect more, but I think people like to see that these larger than life “entities” are human like the rest of us and make just as many mistakes and are just as fault ridden as everyday people. I think it’s a catharsis of sorts where people can look at celebrities and make judgments on them, as if they should be above the same life problems everyday people face.

    Maybe that’s a cynical look, but I think on a general social level, people have a “need” to know that these people who make millions of dollars and who are adored and revered by so many are also as fallible as we are. And therefore when they do show their human side in the media, they are held more accountable.

  9. Bob says:

    The ‘holier-than-thou” Duggers were complicit in the crimes of the son. They knew what he had done and concealed the truth, all the while vilifying others in the name of Christianity. On the other hand, Lochte was bieng young & arrogant by thinking he could get away with his childish actions by lying, and Dean was condemned by comments made many years ago. I, too, have lied to get out of trouble….and I, too, was brought up in the South and have said the “N-word” many times. But like Dean, I stopped using that hurtful and derogatory word as I matured. I also stopped lying and became willing to face the punishment for my actions. For me, that’s the difference; Lochte was arrogant, Dean was adhering to old customs that she admitted.was no longer her world view. The Duggers? They continue their hateful message while trying to hide their sins behind the Bible.

  10. Paul R Walsh says:

    Celebrities are human just like the rest of us, we all make mistakes some mistakes are just unforgivable, a minor slip by any celebrity is carried around the world in minutes because of technology, Lochte is an idiot for lying to the world, Miss Dean is a Southern Racist that hasn’t quite evolved into the 21st Century, and they should be punished for their transgressions, when they stand before the altar the will be held accountable for their actions trust me.

  11. John Owens says:

    Not that my opinion matters, but I think celebrities are carrying too much weight, anyway. People put too much on them, sex objects, role models, all that. They’re just PEOPLE. They are no more unique than anyone else, and they have strengths and weaknesses like everyone. They have to eat and bathe and go to the bathroom, they get sick and sad and sometimes drunk or grumpy just like regular people, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THEY ARE! I think we could all help them more, by treating them like regular people. They need to remember that is what they are inside. Yes, if they mess up, we should forgive them, but only to the same extent that we would forgive our co-worker or fellow church member or next-door neighbor. No more, no less.

  12. Greg says:

    It’s no wonder that our society is so conflicted. Simply reading the postings published here by “religious leaders” confirms my belief that organized religion is indeed man-made with too many contrasting varieties. I accept all opinions as just that, an opinion. I have my own opinion based on the reality I have come to accept developed through my life experiences. You are free to agree or disagree as you wish. However, please don’t quote scripture, any holy book, or individuals to incorrectly support your positions and try and sway independently thinking people. Our world would be such a better place if we would simply treat each other with respect and compassion.

    1. Donald R Becker says:

      Oh, I don’t know, Greg. Seems to me you have to expect people to quote scripture here. It is a church, after all. An odd one, in that the Minister gets to decide what he believes in, of course, but that’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? So play fair. Just remember: they get to quote whatever they like. And you get to ignore them.

  13. eliud colbath says:

    PAULA Deen used the N Word.How many people her in the U.S has not.We all are not clean of these.Most of us at one time or another have called each other derogatory names.White Black,HISPANIC ETC. RICH ,Poor,Middle class. IF WE CAN FORGIVE THAT MAKES US A BETTER PERSON.If we dont then no one will judge you.You decide.Here we use it a a weapon.There is so much ignorance that ppolitics place a very great nemesis that we are blinded by what is really true.This tactic is used by the left or D emocrates.The Democrates explode your emotions to distract from the real issues.Jobs the economy the budget ..etc.Hilary is going to open our borders.Estimated at least 6 million immigrants in the next 10 years.the middle class will literally disappear.That will be the end of the US. Will you forgive her?

  14. Donald R Becker says:

    I think practicing forgivness is a good exercise…. for the one who forgives. Carrying around anger and resentment is an aweful heavy burden which I think we can all do without. Yes we are all human; we are all fallible. But we can try to improve. Forgivess is a step on that journy.

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