Monday, January 21, 2013

Let them without sin cast the first stone...

Never, in my life, have I been ashamed of being Jewish. Nor have I ever been ashamed of loving the state of Israel – I proudly call myself a Zionist. In my lifetime, I have been faced with international issues with Jews & Israel – from Bernard Madoff to expansion of settlements into the Shtachim, from scandals involving corruption in Israeli government to terrible behavior by Jews in community leadership positions. Yet, still, my devotion to Judaism and Israel is unwaivering.

There have been leaders in my life that have met with challenges. I proudly voted for Bill Clinton, not once, but twice. So did the majority of the country. Were we all saddened and ashamed, personally, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal came to light? You betcha. But when foreign media attacked our President, we, communally, defended the office. We defended our President against critics, sometimes having to acknowledge personal wrong-doing, but reminding them not to throw the office under the bus, regardless of our personal views.

As a mother, I often take a non-traditional approach to apologies. I'm constantly telling my children that I would much rather they never say, "I'm sorry," if they don't mean it and they will repeat the wrong-doing. I don't want false apologies, I want to see that they are willing to change their ways. I want to see action speak louder than the "I'm sorry."

So, after watching both episodes of the Lance Armstrong interview on Oprah, here's my take:
  • Lance messed up. He made some really lousy choices during his cycling career to feed ambition. However, it should really be noted that Lance was hardly the only one who made that poor choice. In fact, it was the minority that didn't make the bad decision not to take performance enhancing drugs/treatments.
  • He's got an ego. Tell me something I didn't know. What celebrity, politician or athlete doesn't have an ego? I mean, to be a competitor at that level, you can have some humility, but you have to have enough of an ego to say to yourself, and everyone else, "I am so much better than everyone else that I can win."
  • Lance has an Achilles Heel: Pride & being stubborn. Rather than admit to being wrong, in his younger (and perhaps more immature later) years, he'd rather deny his transgressions than confess that he did something wrong.
  • Unlike all the other athletes that have admitted to, voluntarily or otherwise, Lance took his fame and fortune and did something remarkable with it for the good of humanity. He took on cancer survivorship with a vengeance like no other person has to date. He leveraged every opportunity to promote the need to raise awareness for prevention sake, to strip cancer fighters of any stigmas, and to inspire those battling the disease to live strong. This does not mean that the ends justified the means, but there is a good man and a good heart there, who had his ego bungle a lot of great things up for him.
  •  Critics complain that Lance was not genuine in his apologies and it was all lip service. While I will hardly call him my BFF, I've had the opportunity to see him speak in person several times now, and I've had the chance to chat with him one-on-one. I think people were expecting a far more emotional tone in his voice or facial expression. That wasn't my take at all. He's a very matter of fact kind of guy. Yeah, he can laugh, get emotional, etc. But he was absolutely in his, "I'm not bullshitting about this," mode. He was dead serious. (And, FYI, that "I didn't call her fat" line, IMHO, wasn't meant a s a dig or anything. My guess is that he was trying to lighten the mood and it just came out all wrong. Something, I am guessing, we have all done when we try and insert some humor into something to break up an awkward moment.)
  • He's finally allowed himself to be aware that:
    • His doping cost him the rewards, victories and triumphs that he doped for in the first place.
    • Denial was not the best idea.
    • It may very well be too little, too late to recover trust and admiration as he'd had before.
    • He betrayed fans and others by refusing to suffer the consequences earlier on when he might have been able to salvage his career, his position and his reputation much earlier. 
    • He has suffered a terrible loss - his ties with LIVESTRONG - and he very clearly is devastated by that loss.
    • He needs help. And he's getting it, with this admission a first step.
    • He wants to be a good father.
My son refused to watch the interview. He dug his heels in and refused. I was so shocked, as typically, any mention of Lance in any media outlet has him obsessively riveted. Lance is one of Zach's heroes, without question. Without a doubt, the highlight of his life was meeting Lance in 2011 at his house and then riding with him and Team RadioShack during the LIVESTRONG Challenge. He wouldn't tell me why he wouldn't watch it, but angrily said he'll never watch it.

I finally got him to break down yesterday and tell me why he didn't want to see it. He said that Lance had let him down. He said that Lance was a liar and a no-good-cheat. He said he never wanted to see Lance Armstrong again.

I have to tell you, I was furious, and I lashed out at him. I can't recount the number of times my son has been caught red-handed breaking rules - some large, some small - at home, at school, etc. My son will go to the grave before he ever confesses, and it is short of waterboarding that will get him to finally admit his wrongdoing. So when he dared criticize Lance for coming clean, trying to start to make amends, on top of all the charity work and kindness he, personally, has shown me, our family, and my son, I lost it. In the past 3 years, Lance has done more positive things and been a far greater role model to my son than his own father. Lance screwed up big time. But he's now openly admitting to what he did and is paying the consequences. He's not lying anymore - he has no reason to cover anything up anymore.

I turned the tables on my son and I told him that I wished he could behave the way that Lance is now - admit to the wrongdoing, show remorse, get help, try and make amends, and make himself a better person - than to sit there and brew with anger, conceal mistakes and never admit to anything.

We continued to debate for almost an hour. I asked Zach how he would feel if, after losing everything, and then apologizing, people treated him the way that he was treating Lance. Finally, by the end of the conversation, both of our anger waned. Zach understood what I was trying to explain to him. He sees that what Lance did on Oprah should be seen as a real-life lesson on how not to handle getting caught doing something wrong in the sense that Lance waited too long to be able to make half the reparations he would have been given the opportunity to much earlier on. That admitting guilt as soon as your caught often means a punishment that pales in comparison to that which comes after trust is lost.

But, even then, Lance is still showing enough remorse that he's trying to apologize and put actions to those words.

Zach is going to watch the interview. And he, like many others, may become angry and sad and disappointed throughout.

But I'd like to think that my son, and many others, including you adults who read this blog, can be enlightened and mature enough to see that he may have done some pretty disappointing things in his past, but this is a man who did a hell of a lot of good, and that he's trying. Perhaps instead of trying to beat the man while he's doing, we should all let ourselves, and Lance, lick the wounds a bit, and when the time is right, be ready to support him when he needs us, just as he supported millions of cancer fighters when we needed him.

Am I disappointed? Sure. His dope-free story was amazing. But even with the doping, his story is still incredible.

And in some senses, I have even greater admiration for Lance than I did before the interview. In his own unique Lance-Armstrong-way, he is showing great humility, he's showing remorse, and he's trying, even when he knows it may be too late to recover, he's still trying.

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