If you have tuned into SportsCenter today you know there have been some crazy incidents headlining the sports world. The story of Lance Armstrong and his taped conversation with Oprah during which he reportedly confesses to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) has dominated the conversation all week, inside and outside of sports. Talk radio is a buzz with discussion on whether Armstrong, and other athletes like him, will ever be able to recover from the damage they've done by using PEDs and then lying about it.
It is easy to pile on Armstrong. Many people are hurt by the fact that they athlete they looked up to is a cheater. All of Armstrong's athletic accomplishments are tainted and his reputation as an inspirational athlete and person will forever be in question. It is understandable that people would upset.
However, I'd like to offer something else to the conversation. Here's 5 things we should keep in mind before we get to upset with Lance Armstrong and others like him.
1. Everyone makes mistakes.
Yes, your mistakes aren't as big as the ones Armstrong made. The consequences of your mistakes may not be as sweeping as his, but it would be foolish to think you're somehow a better person. You just have a smaller stage. Also remember you probably haven't done as much good in the world as Armstrong has either. (see Romans 3)
2. Everyone looks for a way to evade responsibility for their mistakes.
Armstrong lied about his drug use for years. He blamed others and deceived millions. But I've been doing that since I was a kid. So have you. Well maybe we haven't deceived millions. But still, no one wants to take the blame for their mistakes. Corporations have blown up by lies. So have marriages and friendships. Lying, blaming, and hiding are behaviors as old as human kind. We shouldn't be shocked when see this kind of behavior played out in front of us. The tendency is alive in us all. (see Genesis 3)
3. Most people have no idea how they'd respond under the same pressure.
From a far it is easy to say that Armstrong never should have lied about his drug use. Or for that matter, he never should have used drugs in the first place. However, before you rip Lance, consider that you have no idea what you'd do if you were in his place. The pressure of sponsors, the seduction of success, the addiction to approval, and the greediness of the human heart have powerful pulls on people in strange ways. Until you're in his biking shoes, I'd be careful casting too much judgment.
4. There is a certain relief we feel in seeing someone else hung out to dry.
This is more of a subconscious thing, but seeing someone else get busted for something we could be busted for, sort of takes some of the pressure off us. This is especially true when the outsider is someone with notoriety It makes our 'little' sins seem less significant when someone's 'big' sins are discovered. We'd never admit it but it is true nonetheless. Saying "I'd never do that" minimizes the way we feel about the things we would do.
5. Everyone needs grace and forgiveness.
Lance Armstrong has a road to recovery that will be much more grueling than any of his Tour De France races ever were. He will have to apologize to many, rebuild trust with even more, and prove over an extended period of time that he is worthy of receiving another chance. But he deserves that chance. There's a short saying that every person, and every Christian in particular, should remember. Forgiven people forgive people. It's that simple. (see Matthew 18)
The story of Lance Armstrong is the story of ME. A liar, cheated and deceiver who got busted.
However, in receiving grace and forgiveness from Jesus Christ, and from others around me, I have been able to restart my life and rebuild the reputation I ruined. How then could I possibly withhold that same grace and forgiveness from Armstrong or anyone like him?
Our past does not define us. What we do with our past and how we move forward from it does.