The Celebrity Lie

The Celebrity Lie

Brian WilliamsThis week, the media shredded NBC News Anchor Brian Williams for telling tall tales. His embellishments and fabrications may have fatality tarnished his credibility.

Host Anderson Cooper said Williams’ tales, which included seeing a body float by his hotel and facing roving gangs during Hurricane Katrina, don’t sound like simple misremberings because every one of them make Williams sound brave and bolstered his standing.

Bernard Goldberg said there are only two possible reasons for Williams’ stories. “One is that he’s delusional. I mean…mental illness. And the other is that he just flat-out lies a lot. If he simply lies a lot, it’s because that’s what celebrities do all the time. They go on TV shows, and they make up stories, because in the United States of entertainment…being uninteresting is the greatest sin you could commit,” he said.

wild adventure

wild adventure

You’ve heard the news, perhaps ad nauseam. My point in writing about this sad demise of an otherwise nice man is to point out something humanly deep that lurks in all of us. 

I believe we are all susceptible to what I’d call Walter Mitty moments. We want to be in some great adventure or love story that is more exciting and colorful and wild than the mundane aspects of going to work, paying bills, and sweeping out the garage.

captivating romance

captivating romance

Every ad on TV seems to play on this theme, proclaiming that you need this car or that brand of mascara. Dating sites promote the idea that you deserve to be happy. Vacation industries paint their version of paradise as your goal. But do we buy in? Do we let the culture sow seeds of discontent, comparison, and coveting?

It’s okay to dream big about your purpose in life. It’s also fine to have a bucket list of things you want to experience while you’re here. Even Walter Mitty’s character, as retold in the current movie version starring Ben Stiller, steps out of his small confining world into the adventure he’s fantasized about to become a new man—a man who lives a fuller, enriched life. I was cheering for him.

exciting or boringBut what’s dangerous about Brian Williams’ crushing story is the lie in our culture that says life has to be larger than life, as a way of life. If things are not high-octane all the time, then it’s boring—or worse—others might see you as boring.

Two thousand and fifteen. New Years concept.And that’s the second lie—that we have to be amazing, beautiful, daring, witty characters in the story of our lives—a lie that nurtures narcissism. Maybe Williams feared he was not interesting enough in the celebrity world and told stories of who he’d like to be.

I remember a dinner party where a couple men had had one too many drinks. They ribbed each other with demeaning jokes about who was going bald. I was in a different mood inside. A quieter person by nature, I was tired of their antics that didn’t seem all that funny.

Abruptly, the man on my right turned and faced me. In a loud voice so all could hear, he said, “You are a paragon of boredom!” It was insulting. My cheeks felt burning hot. I think I left the table. I wasn’t joining in and therefore viewed as dull. He could think that if he wanted to. But his comment was also ironic, because I’m rarely bored with life.

Crowd at concertHow many of our kids join in the party culture or accept sexual hookups or drugs to pursue that larger-than-life feeling? Have they bought the lie? Do they fantasize about living like rock stars, Victoria’s Secret models, or athletic icons? By comparing their lives to that illusion of happiness and success, do they feel restless and bored with ordinary life? Do we?

Vector silhouette of family.Let me close with a tribute to my friend. When her father died, she took on the care of her mother, an Alzheimers patient. In addition, as a single parent she is raising a Downs Syndrome daughter. She gets weary and lonely at times, but remains dedicated to what is now her family. “At least I’m not in Afghanistan,” she joked. It wasn’t a real comparison of discontent. Despite her circumstances, she finds joy in her day.

photoThe teacher at her daughter’s preschool made a red heart out of construction paper and cut it up like puzzle pieces. Each child had to put the heart back together, gluing it on a white background. Her daughter struggled some with the task but managed to get the pieces in the right places though she left spaces between them. My friend, who is very wise, noted that a broken heart is an enlarged heart, leaving cracks for God to enter in.

Others may see her life as boring or confining or uninteresting. But she is free from the “celebrity lie” as Goldberg put it. She is not giving place to discontent or comparisons—coveting some seemingly glamorous life. She is living fully in the realm that God has given her.

Are you?


  1. This makes me think of something our family says: If you have to take a vacation to get away from it all, perhaps you should examine how you’re living. Or ‘living.’ Existing?

    In fact, Virginia Woolf said that the creative mind needs a dull life – wait, that’s not how she said it, but that high excitement and stimulation prevent depth and contemplation. That’s not quite it, either, but I know I appreciate it and dread having to go out and have lots of wild fun somewhere when God has already given me so much to see and tend to and appreciate and give Him thanks for. My life is richest when I’m exactly where He settled me.

    Thank you, Susan, for yet another deep observation and wise words. Blessings.