SO, brothers Eli Manning (New York Giants) and Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) can’t talk to each other. Playing for opposing football teams, and playing in the same quarterback position no less, their football secrets must trump brotherly love.
Imagine if this happened in the courtroom: brothers, one the defense lawyer and the other the plantiff’s. Or if it happened in an elementary school classroom, with a teacher teaching her own sister. Actually, this did happen in a Denver classroom some 20 years ago, when the younger sister called her older sister — in their home — not by her first name, but “Ms. Lauer.”
Better yet, husband and wife can be on opposite sides of a political campaign, which also happened with James Carville, Democrat, and his wife Mary Matalin, Republican, advising opposing presidential candidates.
These professional conflicts leave you wondering how competing relatives relate to each other the rest of the time, not to mention, how their parents feel. Reminds me of something attributed to the parents of the first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann. Chaim was a Zionist and he had a brother who was a communist. Their mother said (to this effect): “If Chaim is right, we’ll go to Palestine. If [I forgot the name of Chaim’s brother] is right, we’ll stay in Russia. We can’t lose.”
They lost, since both Chaim and his brother won. Communist Russia, however, didn’t seem too attractive.
They went to Palestine.
Not to mention the many families torn apart by the American Civil War (and, presumably, other civil wars). Even a personage as high as Mary Todd Lincoln had siblings who fought for the South. Once, some of them even visited the White House!
Needless to say, no reconciliation took place.
ALL of which raises the issue of professional ethics, even when adherence to them divides families, at least to an extent. OK, the NFL isn’t the Civil War, but it’s got to be uncomfortable for siblings to be professional opponents just the same.
Professional ethics: A psychologist, for example, opposes abortion. A client comes to him and wants advice on how to deal with her husband after she has an abortion. The psychologist may not say: Don’t have the abortion.
Defense lawyers accept clients who have committed a crime. The lawyers may not say: “You have no choice but to plead guilty.”
A counselor is consulted by the teenage son or daughter of someone who wronged him (the counselor). The counselor may not steer the teenager wrong.
A journalist is a member of a club. The club’s president wants disproportionate news coverage. The journalist may not provide it.
A doctor typically will not treat his own parent or child.
How do clergypeople fit into this? May they “sell” their religion and promote their view of right and wrong? It seems that a clergyperson should be able to say: “Have you thought about reconsidering your position on abortion?” or “You really should plead guilty.”
Of course, a clergyperson might favor abortion or believe the person should get off. The point is, professional ethics for the clergy often seem to fall into a gray area.
This greater latitude is subject to abuse. A member of the clergy may have a deep love for and profound relationship with a family, one of whose members has committed a victimless crime. Professional ethics: The police must be called. Professional temptation: “I can handle this better than the police; I’ll do it my way.”
THE truth is, these types of conflicts affect us all, whether we have a professional life or not. Examples:
I want to see my child follow in my professional footsteps; my child doesn’t want to.
I had a fight with a couple who are my cousins; their daughter, ignorant of the fight, comes to me for advice on a sensitive matter that involves her parents.
I am shown a way to evade a tax; no one will ever know.
You get the idea. You don’t have to be Eli or Peyton Manning to need to rise to a professional level, whether in one’s professional or private life.
I am reminded of a story told by Dr. Kenneth Kauvar. One of his relatives had a business that went bankrupt during the Depression. He and his customers were wiped out. Very unfortunate. Nevertheless, while it took him many, many years, he wouldn’t rest until he paid back each and every one of his customers.
No one expected this. The law didn’t require it. This might be the rare case in which the ethical demand embraced both professional and private life.
Conflicts of interest and temptations in life are countless. Professional standards hardly eliminate them.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News