There’s a falseness lurking beneath the surface of America’s new war with Charlie Sheen. While the man fits the police blotter description of a reprobate lothario, assailing him for his recent behavior is like suddenly getting angry about the rising cost of gasoline. Charlie was struggling with substance abuse, prostitution, handguns, and sanity long before he changed his name to capitalize on his father’s success.
Years before Charlie Sheen became one of America’s hottest homeland defenders he was Carlos Estevez: Santa Monica High School drop out, and youngest son of Actor Martin Sheen. Carlos’ innability to attend classes may have kept him from graduating, but his predilection for all things forbidden wasn’t standing in the way of his success; it was standing in the way of his dignity. When you are good looking and talented, people don’t look at you the same way they look at other people; they look at you and they see dollar signs.
For the past 25 years, the entertainment industry has been more than happy to let the man with the blood of a tiger and the DNA of an Adonis self destruct as long as he didn’t get all Robert Downey Jr. on us, because as long as he showed up to work they made money off of him… our money. To be fair, Charlie was also cashing in on himself like Jay Leno at a Doritos factory, blowing money as quickly as he made it. Starring in bombs like “The Arrival” and “Terminal Velocity” became the way he kept himself off the streets and well stocked with vice. This became a sad pattern until he stumbled into the opportunity of a lifetime: The chance to play a less dangerous version of himself on “America’s Favorite Comedy”.
“As Two and A Half Men’s” fundamentally philandering and desperately despicable Charlie Harper, he got to do everything he liked to do in real life, minus the violence, all while keeping the same first name. America loved watching Charlie, drink, lie, cheat, and womanize in the presence of a child so much that he became the highest paid television actor in history. Which brings us to the true reason that he’s currently being torn apart for doing the things he’s always gotten paid to do, he doesn’t have to obey anymore. At $1.8 million per episode, Charlie no longer “danced for the man”, “the man danced for him.”
For the folks at CBS it’s like letting your pit bull off leash and then being surprised that he’s bitten you. Sure it was OK when he was biting everybody else, but now that he can foreseeably live forever on what he makes for two months work, he can’t be brought to heel. Charlie isn’t doing anything new, he just doesn’t have to be quiet about it. The people responsible for feeding and housing the monster want to be back in control, but the tiger is out of the bag.
We mostly laughed at Denise Richards (who got off lucky in comparison to Kelly Preston) or any one of the numerous women Charlie DIDN’T pay for sex, but the issues have been there for years. His crimes were well publicized, not lurking below the surface like a spectral Wraith, they were in our faces like high heat off the arm of Ricky Vaughn.
Because using talented people as commodities doesn’t happen in ministry does it?
Since it usually feels like a stroke of providence to find a talented individual, we often choose to believe the best about them; but what happens when their considerable talent meets with success? A talented individual with poor self control, or high levels of self admiration, quickly becomes a nightmare to work alongside after they’ve developed a “following” or a “fan base”. Their self-centered motivations not only wreak havoc on our ministry, but they crush the people we’re trying to care for, and they ultimately stall themselves in their spiritual journey. Worse than these things though is that this kind of leader doesn’t call people to follow Christ, they call people to follow themselves.
Leaders looking to staff and support their ministry have an obligation to not only look beyond the talent of a musician, speaker, or child care worker to see who they really are, but also support and develop the character of anyone that they bring onto their team. This means walking beside our leaders in humility, not using them as building blocks for success.
The ability to look beyond what someone can do for you, or how they make you feel, and discern what God wants done IN and FOR them becomes mandatory for anyone shepherding the hearts and inspiring the minds of others. It’s only out of this motivation that we can actually release people to accomplish what God wants to do THROUGH them. When we dedicate our self to the process of knowing someone and guiding them into submission to Christ, EVERYONE reaps the rewards of their abilities as opposed to just a few. Focusing on the needs and the shaping of our leaders is paramount because we can’t lead a large number of people to God’s call without leading many individuals there first.
In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul stresses that our ministry is accomplished as we play our individual role with humility and that we don’t defeat evil by exploiting it, but overcoming it with good.
Charlie’s recent meltdown is a sad reminder that trying to use people for their talents always backfires because we can’t actually control them. In the end they’ll have a right to be angry with us and their inevitable attempts at retribution become spectacles that demand an audience. Staffing with this in mind is key because ministry isn’t entertainment, regardless of how ugly a spectacle it can become.