Downright Good Thought: Idol worship … why it will let you down.

In the fallout of Lance Armstrong’s confession, I felt the need to say something on the matter. Not that he’s a washed up liar or he’s “just like all the other pro athletes”; no that’s too easy. While many will rush to throw blame on him for being a horrible human being, we forget that in the grand scheme of things – we are all human. We are fallible; we make mistakes.

Unfortunately, in the case of Mr. Armstrong, his was on a very public and grand stage. His betrayal is enormous due to his Livestrong message. A message which encompassed a honing of one’s own strength to overcome all adversity. This message of Lance’s, albeit touching and uplifting, was eventually faulted for one reason: Lance Armstrong represented Livestrong; he was the brand of his own brand. He represented courage; he represented determination; but most of all, he represented hope. And hope is not a commodity to be thrown around when you have the weight of so many others upon you. Hope tugs at the hearts of those who are touched by it so to betray hope is to break the heart to pieces.

This is why Lance’s betrayal is so great. The hope that someone stood for and what they endorsed has been tarnished and thus, we must add another name to the list of dirty, little liars and cheats who tried to beat the system. It’s a disgrace to all parties involved (the fans included of course), but the experience should teach us a valuable life lesson. You shouldn’t place all your hope in one person: they will always, in some fashion, let you down. Yes, it is important to have role models, to look up to our mentors and be comforted by their strength, but never should we reserve our last hope in that of another human being. Our true strength, trust, and hope should reside in a much greater source: God.

If you are shaky on this statement or feel like I’m speaking in fluff, I ask that you to consider this for a moment. Do you or do you not believe that human beings are meant to bear the burdens of others? That we somehow, in some way, are meant to carry around the hope and strength of other people? We can encourage, yes; and we can support, lift up, even praise, yes; but we can’t expect ourselves to bring all the support necessary to help and change people’s lives. A changed life is experienced by the one who is transformed, not the journeyman who accompanied the lost traveler. But in addition to that, we should not idolize others to the point that we place our very livelihood and ideals in their image. A person’s image is breakable; like glass and when it is strained, it cracks. So when that glass shatters, its shards will cut all who gathered around it.

The message and hope that God brings is unbreakable and his image is always pure. There are no broken shards to shield yourself from. I feel badly for Lance and how this all went down – I really do and perhaps we as witnesses had something to contribute to his fall from grace. Somewhere along the line, he may have felt too much pressure to perform, like he had no way out; he may have forgotten what he stood for and what he was bringing to the people who believed in him. If he were able to “walk the walk” of his brand, then this never would have happened. So there is another lesson to be learned from this: if you are going to speak it, then you must also walk it. Plain and simple. Easier said than done? Well, of course.

Now, are all pro athletes who promote better behaviors or inspirational merchandise terrible human beings? No, absolutely not, but we must be weary of our “idol worship” as it pertains to these individuals. Even if he did cheat and lie about his PED use, he may have still touched the lives of millions, encouraging them to live better, healthier lives. And that idea alone is worth something more. It’s an ideal greater than any man or sports hero, most of all Lance Armstrong. Lance’s image may be broken, but the Livestrong message should not be. Will Livestrong survive this debacle though? I suppose only time will tell.

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