There was nobody happier than I was when term limits ended my official position in 2008. I was tired of feeling responsible for all the problems that needed to be fixed in our state. I was also tired of getting beaten up in the press and having my enemies constantly trying to take me out. As a private citizen, I thought I would be able to be behind the scenes, work on my friends’ campaigns and not be in the crosshairs each and every day.
Unfortunately, my marriage was in bad shape by that time; and even though I was out of office, things continued to get worse. In early 2009, we separated; and by October, we were divorced. I tried to tell everyone it was a good thing for me; but inside, it really messed me up. After all, we had been married almost 20 years and had raised three wonderful kids.
I was a 42-year-old successful divorced man, whose personal life was not turning out like he planned it. My dad was a Baptist preacher, and the best parents in the world had given me a perfect childhood. I was a family values conservative Republican who was not supposed to have these types of problems. I won’t go into details, but my life was not reflecting the teaching my parents had taught me, nor was I being the example I wanted my kids to see.
I don’t know if you believe in God or not, but I do! In December of 2009, God finally had enough of my hypocritical ways and got my attention. After spending the night with a lady I had reconnected with on Facebook, I was charged with felony assault. The press, along with my enemies, had a heyday. I immediately shut down my consulting business. Soon after that, I was notified that I was a target of a federal grand jury investigation surrounding my handling of a bill in the 2005 legislative session.
Needless to say, I started 2010 with no job, very few friends and lots of time on my hands. As bad as my troubles were at the time, looking back now, I’m thankful for them. Life passes by so quickly, and very few of us get the chance to sit down and contemplate what is important. My troubles gave me a chance to analyze my weaknesses. With my pride stripped away, I was able to honestly evaluate my past actions. I saw how foolish I had been to put my family on the back burner. I learned how bitterness towards my enemies made me a bitter person toward everyone around me. The hardest thing for me to admit was that I wasn’t the same friendly and caring guy who had gone to Jefferson City in 2000.
Most of my friends say, “Rod you were not that bad, you handled it well. You were polite and treated everyone with respect. We liked you then, and we like you now.” I’m very thankful for those friends and their friendship, but I know the prideful thoughts I was thinking, and I know I should have handled things better.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m thankful for all the successes I was a part of. I’m also grateful for all the kind people I met along the way who helped and encouraged me. But I wish I would have worked less and stayed home more; been more forgiving and not gotten bitter at my opponents; been less prideful, less judgmental and more understanding. Plus, I wished I had lived the personal life I believed, instead of being such a hypocrite. Of course, I can’t change the past. I can only look to the future and focus on learning from my mistakes.
Life is wonderful for me now. Each morning, I wake up and thank God for the day. I spend more time with my family and stay connected with my friends. I have a lovely new wife, a great job and a contentment I never knew in my first 42 years of life. I was never convicted in the assault case, and the grand jury suspended their investigation into the ethics allegation and never charged me with a crime. I have slowly begun gaining back the respect I lost from my bad choices, and I am even back in politics.
Let’s face it. Sooner or later we are all going to make a mistake; we are all going to do something stupid that we regret.
Sometimes these mistakes go unnoticed and don’t cause us much trouble publicly. But for those in the limelight, their mistakes are written about, analyzed and discussed in the public square.
It happens to celebrities, business leaders and athletes; but it also happens to parents, kids and everyday people. Anyone who has made a mistake that becomes public has a problem; and how you deal with it will either make it a bigger problem or put it in the rear view mirror.
Just in case you’re thinking, “It can’t happen to me!” think about this: Powerful politicians, corporate leaders, pro athletes and Hollywood stars all have opponents, enemies and even subordinates who believe it is in their best interest to help promote problems for them. The more powerful or well known you are, the more likely it is that others are looking harder to find the mistakes you make. Additionally, the press desperately needs scandals to generate readers/viewers, and most reporters dream each day about breaking the story that takes someone down.
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