Remembering people for their best: What Kobe’s death can teach us about life.
Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and 7 other people were killed in a horrific helicopter crash this week. While there have been many tributes posted about his accolades and legacy, there is one particular issue that is troublesome to deal with.
In 2003, Kobe Bryant allegedly raped a 19-year-old girl. A lot of ink has been spilled about how to deal with this aspect of his past. Are we to gloss over it as if it never happened? Is it cruel or callous to mention while discussing his life? If so, how much time needs to pass before someone can address it? A week? A month?
I’ll let the professionals handle that question, but it did lead me to think about something. Are we to label people only based on their lowliest actions? This is not at all God forbid a way to minimize the pain he caused this girl but purely an existential question regarding all people. Wouldn't we all rather be viewed as the sum of our entire existence and not simply as a one-liner for people? In office settings, we often deal with finite definitions of people rather than their totality. “He’s rude.” Really? That’s all he is, rude? “She’s such a pain in the neck.” A pain all the time or a pain with many redeeming qualities?
There is nobody in the world who doesn’t have positive and negative qualities. How much emphasis we chose to spotlight each one is solely up to us. A few years ago I was discussing my team with someone in HR, and with each passing employee she only mentioned their downside. I said half-jokingly, “Is there anybody on the team you do like?!”
I honestly don’t know what the correct response is regarding Kobe’s rape case and perhaps there isn’t one. He was extremely supportive of the WNBA and wildly popular amongst female players. So perhaps that shows people were willing to overlook, forget, and forgive his transgression.
Employees will often take the lead from their manager. When we label someone as something, so will they. Employees are infinitely more complicated than a one-word description, especially a negative one. By choosing to accentuate the positive attributes of someone's character we can set an example for others to follow.
RIP Kobe. We learned a lot of lessons from your life, and now from your death as well.