by Dr. Ed Hastings,
Scholar in Residence, ISSCD
I come to this Blog this morning wanting/needing to address this question, especially in regards to two very public sports figures: Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o. Of course, I want to forgive them, but do I also want to be duped by them or other figures again? Can I give them a second chance? I want to answer ‘yes’ to that question, but do I set myself up again to be disappointed, to be stepped on, to be tricked?
From where does this need to place public figures up on a pedestal come? Why do I want there to be someone that will follow through and stay true? Does that say more about me than it says about these figures?
USA Today, on 1/18/2013, lists several of the other more prominent public figures who have let us down in recent times: Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Arnold Schwarzennegger, Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff. This betrayal is nothing new, but perhaps the media has made these stories more public than we would like. Prominent figures have tended to let us down more frequently than build us up.
From a ‘Sports and Spirituality’ angle, what is the best response to Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o? (I mention him because I have written about him in this Blog previously). At the Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development, we want to be about reporting the Good News, rather than the bad.
My response actually comes from the Wisdom of the Early Church Fathers and Mothers. They say “Don’t judge anyone; we do not have the right nor the wisdom to judge others.” They also say, “Be kind, because you never know what battles others are fighting.” They know that we all have battles to fight; they know that none of us is beyond judgment. The only one who has the right to judge is God. It is too easy to criticize others, especially when we do not really know the whole story.
So to the question, can I forgive them? I say “yes,” through the grace of God. Even if there are no guarantees that there are more lies, that they will do it again. I am aware of my own frailties, inconsistencies, weaknesses and tendencies and I pray that others will forgive me. None of us is perfect; we are all human. Jesus never called us to be perfect (as in sinless), so how can we put others, no matter who they are, “under the microscope.” Jesus hung out with the sinners; they were his friends. He chose not to hang out with the self-righteous.
And in case you might think this is being too easy on the list of characters mentioned above, or letting them off the hook, the wisdom of Anglo-Irish dramatist, George Bernard Shaw might suffice:
“The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he/she is not believed, but that he/she cannot believe anyone else.”
Not being able to believe anyone else is quite a heavy burden to carry around.