It's been a rough few days for my sports heroes. I've been a cycling fan since the late '90's and a Notre Dame fan since the late '80's.
During the Lance Armstrong era I didn't miss a single significant stage in the Tour De France and loved the sport so much I began to race road bikes myself. I cheered Lance on and loved the fact that he destroyed his competition. (who can forget the "look" in 2000?) Although I never respected his personal life you could say I was a huge fan of Lance Armstrong as a cyclist. There's actually have a huge poster in my office of Lance at the Tour of Georgia. Watching the Oprah interview last night was sad but not surprising.
This season for Notre Dame has been magical. I've seen every play at least twice and relished a season initially believed by most would leave Notre Dame with at least 3 losses. Although the Irish were crushed by the Tide in the national championship game this season will be remembered positively for a long time. With a top 5 recruiting class and stout defense Notre Dame truly is "back". Much of the success for Notre Dame this season can be attributed to the play and perceived leadership of Manti Te'o.
The last few days have been interesting, confusing and sad. From Lance's admission of zero integrity (although not shocking) and the Manti story yet to be completed, these high profile stories paint a gloomy picture of integrity in our culture. The stories of telling the truth or obeying the rules, even if it hurts, are becoming less and less of a norm and more of a distant memory.
So here's what I've been thinking, instead of taking this time to condemn and throw stones I've decided to take a look at my own heart. No, I've never taken performance enhancing drugs or created an imaginary friend but I do have my own issues. My own heart can be challenged and tempted to be untrue.
A little Lance in me.
Being naturally driven with a "do whatever it takes" attitude there can be a tendency to cut corners and push the system to the limit to get things done. While listening to Lance I even catch myself thinking "everyone was doing it" and "Lance was just leveling the playing field". These thoughts aren't ok.
You see, God is truth and as his follower I'm called to reflect his grace, beauty and character. If this "do whatever it takes" attitude pushes past reasonable integrity it's basically saying God isn't big enough and needs me. Silly isn't it?
A little Manti in me.
Ok, at this point I'm assuming Manti had at least a little awareness of the hoax and played along for publicity or because he was embarrassed. I hope he's totally innocent and if he is forgive me.
Here's my connection. It's possible for me to catch myself exaggerating to make myself look a little better than I am. Sometimes it's not exaggeration but avoidance of someone seeing my weakness. With pride always at my doorstep the desire to be loved and respected can lead to little breaches in integrity. I'm sometimes tempted to posture myself in ways that put me in the best possible light.
Listen, Lance screwed up royally and has and will continue to face the consequences. It's likely that Manti allowed an inspiring story that made him look good get out of hand. He is and will continue to face the consequences. But if you love Jesus, instead of condemning perhaps you should feel compassion. Instead of throwing stones perhaps we should use stories like Lance's and Manti's as an opportunity to look at our own personal integrity. The church and it's leaders have enough Lance and Manti stories to tell for years to come.
We have no right to condemn until we look into our own hearts and if we look at our own hearts my guess is we won't be as condemning.