Waiting in the airport today, my family chipped away at a crossword. We were stuck with only a few clues left to solve, so needless to say, stakes were high. In a family where crossword answers are like currency, one can feel pressured to do the unthinkable under certain circumstances.

Google.

No, no, I wouldn’t dare sacrifice the integrity of a crossword for mere familial respect. Still, it’s tempting. Not that the approval of my family is particularly elusive, but in the crossword world of acclaim or shame the pressure can be intoxicating.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the diabolical puppet masters who, armed with money and prestige, seized the glory of acceptance letters at the expense of millions of honest students. All this, just to solidify a position at Yale, Stanford, or USC? How could they betray the American populace? This is War-Pigs-Black-Sabbath level corruption, right?

Wait, wait, wait — cue the record scratch. How did we get here? Before her induction on America’s Most Wanted list this Tuesday, Lori Loughlin was known only as a beloved icon from Full House; maybe the most wholesome TV show known to man. It’s all too easy to cast a disgraceful light on the lives of the accused cheaters, but what really happened?

This is a story of Parenting Under the Influence.

A 2016 email discovered from Loughlin’s husband sheds light on their condition:

“I have some concerns and want to fully understand the game plan and make sure we have a roadmap for success as it relates to (our daughter) and getting her into a school other than ASU!”

“Getting [them] into a school other than ASU” might as well be the motto for this entire scam; these parents put hundreds of thousands of dollars and incarceration on the line to emblazon a prestigious name on their children’s diplomas. All this, when satisfactory state schools were still on the table. Stepping back from the competitive world of college admissions, such actions taken at such risk do not seem to reflect the reasoning of a sound mind. This story reflects the actions of parents intoxicated by the pressure of acclaim or shame.

With the audience of my family to judge my crossword resume, the intoxication was mild and sound judgment could prevail. For these actresses, CEOs, and fashion designers, however, the acceptance of their peers was harder to garner. Among the elite, Yale, Stanford, and USC are not schools for a bright future but universities to pad the stat sheet.

So why are these high-octane parents so wary of the ASUs of life? My unqualified diagnosis: they’re performing in front of the wrong audience.

It seems that, with lives under constant threat of harsh judgment by elite peers, these parents have developed distorted standards for performance. If we’re to think of this as intoxication = human insufficiency x the judgment of our audience, the parents charged with cheating were far too impaired to be trusted operating the vehicle of parenting.

But then, who isn’t?

The factor of ‘human insufficiency’ might as well be set at ‘1’ given that none of us can avoid the ASUs of life. Therefore, we can expect that at any level of judgment we shall thus be condemned by any audience we choose; condemned to insufficiency, intoxication, and an unhealthy self-image. Maybe we can mitigate the damage by qualifying our life by our ability to meet the expectations of easier audiences. Still, who among us wants their gravestone to read: “My Cousin Kenny thought I was cool”? In the words of Tolkien, “the praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.” Who then is both kind in judgment and deserving of our lives’ efforts?

With God as our perfect audience and judge, we can rest in knowing that His standards for our performance have already been met. And among those deserving our lives’ efforts, He takes the cake.

With most of our lives consisting of Parenting, Dating, and Working Under the Influence, it might be time to sober up and move past the ASUs of life. After all, I hear it’s quite the party school.