To the watching world, it appeared that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was disgraced when he was removed from office last year on charges of scandal. But he didn’t see that himself, so he kept going out there on television and radio, again and again, refuting allegations and challenging his accusers with almost convincing argument and bombast. Now his trial has begun, and the oddest thing happened when he had to listen, not to his accusers, but to his own voice…

This may be a reach, but there’s a message (besides how not to be governor) for us all in this little AP story about the trial.

Rod Blagojevich says listening to FBI wiretap recordings at his corruption trial has been difficult.

The tapes of his conversations have been at the core of the prosecution’s attempt to show the former Illinois governor tried to use his power for personal gain. He has been heard spewing profanities, arguing with his wife and often asking about how much money he can make in one job or another.

As he headed back to court Thursday, a spectator asked if it was hard to sit and listen to the hours of recordings. He nodded and said, “Yes, it’s painful.”

Never mind that he also says he’s being taken out of context. That’s all part of the process of damage control.

What stands out here is a recognition of bad behavior, maybe some palpable remorse, maybe some shame? Nobody likes to have a mirror held up to them of them at their worst, so they often rail at the mirror instead of taking a good look at what it reflects.

It’s easier to be sorry when we’re caught. Blagojevich wasn’t even sorry then, or publicly, anway. When we think someone overheard something unseemly, that’s when we may regret saying it. We’re sorry, but sorry that we got caught.

We’ve had a string of ugly eruptions of anger and profanity and out of control behavior by celebrities and celebrity athletes and politicians that have gone public. Alec Baldwin, Brittany Spears, Mel Gibson, Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, Democratic congressman Bob Etheridge…among many others.

News headlines these days are filled with reports of angry voters and angry partisan politics.

It’s always them. Never us.

Former Congressman J.C. Watts, a true statesman and leader, famously said:

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”

And that was back around 2002, when he was still in Congress. All the more true today.

Blagojevich’s pain provides a learning moment. For those who just aren’t motivated to do the right thing, even when nobody’s looking, here’s another thought: Act like someone’s always watching and listening….because they usually are.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....