Seth Kahan
Author, consultant

Seth Kahan

Change expert and author who has advised executives in 50-plus organizations, including Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps and NASA. He can be reached at


Benefit of the doubt

Q: After serving prison time for running a dogfighting operation, Michael Vick has come back stronger than ever -- as a football star, and, some would say, as a man. Do you think Vick has succeeded in redeeming himself? If so, how much does his artistry on the gridiron and our love of the comeback/redemption narrative to have to do with it?

Vick has won our admiration. He is great to cheer for. He is a superstar on the gridiron. In that regard, he is stronger than ever.

Has he redeemed himself from his dogfighting past? Not sure. I am a dog lover and cannot delve into his past transgressions without turning my stomach.

However, I leave redemption to a higher authority. There comes a time to let go of the past and build a positive future. Vick served his time and now seems intent on turning things around. I give him the benefit of a doubt as a pass to a better future.

Redemption is a grand story -- it makes for good table talk. But, that is not the crux of this situation. Today, this is about his marvelous performance in contrast to his jaded history, not as a result of it.

By Seth Kahan  |  November 22, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  The comeback Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Wanting to believe | Next: It's not about football


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Hey Seth, what do you "advise executives" on?
How to get away with corporate crime and not get caught?
It couldn't be advise about ethics, for you have none.

Posted by: FriendofKeyserSoze | November 22, 2010 11:00 PM
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The problem with the redemption narrative is that it seems to assign an equal status to very disparate sorts of social crimes. To compare the forgiveness we seek for saying something hurtful to a friend to that we seek after we torture animals for pleasure seems ridiculous. I suppose this "all sin is equal" idea comes from the old, "Let he is without sin cast the first stone," a comment that shuts down debate by suggesting that all manner of sin is equal.

The problem with Vick's transgressions are that they suggest a much deeper and more disturbing character and psychological flaw. To say Vick should never be forgiven is melodramatic, but it does seem reasonable and wise to say, "I'd keep a careful eye on a person who took pleasure in inflicting suffering on living creatures."

In the la-la land of celebrity, it seems "the bad" continue to be rewarded with opportunities. But for the rest of us, I suspect those opportunities for redemption are far less common. A non-superstar's life would likely be ruined by the same sorts of scandals that the more famous in society are better able to bounce back from. Redemption, it seems, is best reserved for celebrities, and by conveniently forgiving them when they happen to be leading our football team to victory we can pretend that we are forgiving to all.

Posted by: kingpigeon | November 22, 2010 4:40 PM
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Eighteen Months in federal prison is a long time for one to seek solace with one's self and seek to right the wrong they've done.

In the case of Michael Vick, he has done just that and has exhibited a level of contrite that speaks volume of the intended purpose of his trangression to society. With that said, he has paid his dues by doing his time and is also working behind the scenes to help others from making similar mistakes.

I cheer for him because he doesn't expect any favors but has become a better person on and off the field as a result. Yeah without sin cast the first stone!

Congrats to the Eagles organization who took a chance on him and allowed him to blossom into a better QB with a better work ethic and staggering playing stats. The one time villain is now a hero in his own rights and most Americans are forgiving wheter to athletes, politicians or musicians.

Posted by: ridimup | November 22, 2010 12:16 PM
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