What’s keeping Irvin Mayfield from coming clean about his role in the diversion of at least $863,000 in New Orleans Public Library Foundation funds to his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra in 2011-12? Is he afraid? Is he hiding something?
I know Mayfield, not nearly as well as his friends but probably better than many others in the community, and I suspect the answer is much simpler than suggested above: It is mere pride.
Anyone who has dealt with Mayfield knows that behind his magnetic charm — and the young Grammy winner oozes charm — is an outsized ego. Like all self-promoters, especially those who have enjoyed huge success — Mayfield does not suffer from a lack of self-esteem. It takes enormous self-confidence, and of course talent, to do what Mayfield does on stage and in the nonprofit sector. But success often brings a mountain-sized dose of pride, which is probably what’s stopping Mayfield from admitting his mistakes and, more importantly, apologizing for them.
“That will never happen,” another prominent jazz musician (also a Grammy winner) recently told my wife, Gambit publisher Margo DuBos. Both were lamenting Mayfield’s recent troubles, and Margo suggested that Mayfield could do a lot to resolve the situation by simply apologizing. The fellow Grammy winner, who knows Mayfield well, has no doubt that Mayfield’s misplaced pride won’t allow him to do that.
That’s too bad, because a humble and sincere admission that one has done something wrong, followed by a heartfelt apology, is cathartic not only for the transgressor but also, in this case, for his many fans. Prideful people (think: politicians) wrongly believe that admitting a mistake makes them took weak, when in truth it makes them appear that much stronger for being able to own their failures and accept responsibility. Deep down, people want to forgive. A sincere apology makes it easy.
I suspect that Mayfield is spending a great deal of time these days (and, if history is any guide, also a considerable amount of money) seeking high-powered public relations advice. If his advisors are telling him to remain in hiding, he’s getting ripped off. Instead, he need only consult the Book of Proverbs, which has a great deal to say about pride. The most oft-quoted verse fits Mayfield’s situation to a T: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
That verse (Proverbs 16:18) is often quoted in literature as “Pride goeth before a fall.”
Mayfield, like all humans, is far from beyond redemption. The first step on the road to his redemption begins with checking his ego and his pride at the door. If he can’t summon the strength to do that, his pride will do him far greater harm than his mistakes as a library foundation board member.