The Peloton Commercial Scandal: This Is The Real Story Behind What We Saw

She was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was an unusually aggressive form of breast cancer. She needed multiple surgeries. She needed several months of very harsh chemotherapy. It weakened her to the core. She lost all of her hair, and she had a lot of very debilitating side effects. She nearly died — twice — from life-threatening infection. It was a very rough go at it. Then, she got the news: she was cancer free. All of the scans came back negative. It was such a wonderful success.

Throughout her grueling chemotherapy treatment, she would mention, often in passing, that she would love to get a Peloton at home. Even after she beat the cancer, she would still be weak. She was afraid to go to the gym, because it would take a long time before her immune system would come back to its original strength. She needed something that was convenient, right at home, that would help her build her strength after nearly losing her life to cancer. And so, he bought it for her. On the one month anniversary of her being declared cancer free, the Peloton was delivered to their home. And the rest of the commercial tells the story after that.

This isn’t the real back story. I made that up. But, it could very well have been. In fact, there are an infinite number of back stories. That’s why it is hard for me to understand the backlash to that commercial.

Of course, it is entirely plausible that her husband in the commercial was a sexist pig, and he bought her the Peloton with the threat of, “you either get in shape, or I’ll leave you for someone else.” But why was that the immediate story that came to mind? Why was the immediate assumption that the reason was underlying sexism? This whole episode is instructive to the state of mind of many of us in our society.

I learned in leadership training that we all construct a story in our head when presented with a set of facts. That story determines the outcome of a conversation we are having with someone, such as our spouse. And, the story we construct tells a lot about our state of mind.

What can this whole situation over the commercial teach us? What lesson can we learn? Clearly, this tells me that I should not be so quick to judge a situation. This tells me that I should not be so quick to judge a person that I see. This lesson is something that I need, we all need, every single day.

The stories we construct in our heads, when presented with a set of facts, tells a lot about our state of mind.

There is so much division in our society today. The differences we have — whether political, racial, ethnic, religious, or socioeconomic — are not differences that are celebrated, but rather differences that are demonized. If someone is not like me, that he must be the enemy. This is so very wrong. This is something that we must resist, with every fiber of our being.

Honestly, I was incredulous when I heard about the scandal over this commercial. I watched it several times, and it was only inspired each time. This this whole hubbub serves as a potent reminder: I need to check my story that I construct in my head when I am presented with a set of facts. And, as much as I want to make that story a negative one, I should exert every effort to make that story a positive one. It is a lesson I need every single day, because I make this mistake every single day.

Reflections on Faith by Hesham A. Hassaballa. Books: “Beliefnet Guide to Islam” and “Noble Brother,” the Prophet Muhammad’s story entirely in poetry.