I admit, I’m not only fairly certain that Lance Armstrong cheated, but I have been for quite some time. However, I am seeing a large number of sports writers and others who are asking the question, “does it matter?” Seemingly they are not asking whether it matters if Armstrong cheated or not but whether it matters to the legions of supporters that all of the evidence seems to indict him.
I am often accused of being cynical, probably accurately so. Fine, I’ll take my cynicism if you will be willing to admit that part of many people’s paradigms are built upon emulating “successful” people. If the claim is that I see negative because I want people to fail – not true, but a claim nonetheless – then those who ardently support public figures when they fail claiming some sort of conspiracy theory, must be willing to accept that their paradigm is built upon admiring “successful” people.
I am afraid that too often we see our heroes, our role models, as being larger than life and we willfully overlook their faults so that we can strive for their results. We want the same success that they have. If we are truthful we might would agree that we even desire the adoration that they receive. In a very true sense we also want to be rewarded for our hard work and we see these individuals as having achieved that reward.
Does anyone remember that this is the same Lance Armstrong who divorced the wife who nursed him through cancer? Have we forgotten that this is the same “humble” guy who left a no-name individual to pursue Cheryl Crow, a noted singer who’s connections probably furthered Armstrong’s attempts to raise money? Are we willing to overlook these shortcomings and then pretend that this guy would never cheat?
The indicators are there. Professional riders are now slower than they were in Armstrong’s heyday – an event almost unheard of in the world of professional sports today. Armstrong doesn’t stop defending himself until a multitude of his former teammates – not 2 or 3 but 10 (!) stand ready to speak against him.
So what do we do? Do we not have hero’s? Do we not have individuals that we look up to? Do we discard all of the “good” that Armstrong did?
For the sake of the argument let’s begin with the last. I have spent a lot of time in Matthew 5-7 over the last few months. Either we believe that God can and will provide, or we seek to produce what we desire on our own. Armstrong has certainly given and raised much money to fight the disease of cancer. As a believer who cares for individuals I am thankful that he has been a giving person. As a believer who trusts in a Sovereign God I would say as Mordecai said to Esther, “relief and deliverance will arise from some other place.” (Esther 4)
Yes, we can and should look up to individuals. In fact the Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth that they should imitate him – as he imitated Christ. We should be able to define whether those we admire are followers of Christ. If they are not then we should be greatly restrictive in the respect and admiration that we have for them. If we will examine our motives for such admiration I believe we will see that much of it is self serving.
I believe we can have heroes but I believe that we must recognize them as individuals with failings, lusts, and a fallen sinful nature just as we are. Don’t build them up to be something that will harm you if they fall. Be willing to examine and record the weaknesses in their life. Not so that you will have an advantage over them but so you are able to better notice the weaknesses in your life. Be honest, beginning with yourself
And the next time you are reaching for the LIVESTRONG bracelet, pause, and remember what some have done to achieve where they are. Then remember the words of the Apostle Paul: 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3