Reflecting on those most dreaded statements a parent can tell a child, my friends and I nearly unanimously agree the worst is: “I’m very disappointed in you.” You can feel that punch in the gut…the knowledge you’ve let a loved one down. That their trust in you is broken. That you now carry the responsibility of righting whatever wrong you committed. And as a child of a loving family, I rested in the comforting knowledge that I was still loved, disappointment would ease, and pride would once again shine forth.
Twitter has been all a flutter this week in light of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah over his decision to publicly admit to the world he used performance enhancing drugs while competing as a cyclist. His use of these banned substances directly contributed to his winning the Tour de France an astonishing seven times. His popularity and fame allowed him to spearhead the Livestrong campaign—using those little yellow bracelets—to unite, inspire, and empower those fighting cancer.
I admit I’ve been disappointment by the barrage of excessively negative comments, essentially equating him to: “a soulless psychopath,” a “sociopath, narcissist, liar,” and a “natural born politician” (which I’m interpreting was intended to be derogatory).
As I reflected on Lance, I considered how as a society we create heroes in our midst: athletes, politicians, actors and musicians, authors, teachers, and community leaders…. Because of the work they do, we place them on pedestals so high they can rarely maintain a balance. And when their humanity, their flaws, their brokenness seeps through, we immediately sound the alarms, raise our fists in anger and declare “I am very disappointment in you.”
And OK, we might be disappointment. The image we had built up in our minds of who that person is has shattered. But whereas a loving parent allow a child to redeem themselves, we demonize and declare our once hero worthless.
Two Tweets inspired me with hope that it does not have to remain this way. One acknowledged the lesson to be learned isn’t “don't have heroes,” but rather "know your heroes are flawed." The second reminds us that our hero “Lance's accusers, like me, you and everyone else breathing, are different from him only in degree, not substance.”
In other words, who among us is not flawed? And who among us, despite those flaws and brokenness, isn’t capable of great, positive, and world-changing things? Who among us does not deserve an opportunity for redemption, forgiveness, and love?
Besides, if we trust in a loving and forgiving God, then as we will read this Sunday from Isaiah, regardless of the disappointment you evoke, eventually: “you shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her…for the Lord delights in you.”