Lance Armstrong is not the first athlete who ever cheated. And I’m pretty sure he won’t be the last. To be honest about it, I don’t even feel especially let down by his behavior. The more I learn about him, the less surprised I am by what he did. We should have seen it coming.
I didn’t feel especially let down by all of the baseball players who used steroids to cheat – Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens – even though I’ve been a lifelong baseball fan.
Athletes act badly so often that, really, who can be surprised anymore? What’s more surprising in the athletic world is when an athlete turns out to be decent and generous and principled.
I can’t say I’m all that surprised either when a Washington politician is caught cheating (or otherwise acting badly). Like athletes, they act badly so often that the scandals are titillating (for a day or two) but not surprising.
I do feel a little let down when one of them is caught, however, and that’s because I want them to be better than they often are. But I’m almost never surprised. Bill Clinton? We should have seen that one coming too.
I have to say that I feel quite a bit more let down when I hear that religious leaders have cheated. Mostly, that’s because I am one. I want people in my line of work to have the highest moral standards, and generally speaking I believe they do.
And I have done my best to live my own life with integrity, and though I’m hardly perfect – please, no email inquiries – I believe those of us who tell others how to live ought to be held to a higher standard. I can’t say I like it, and I wish it weren’t so, but I think it’s true.
Several years ago one of my mentors confessed to “inappropriate behavior” and resigned his position. It was a widely reported scandal. And at the time I remember having a strange mixture of feelings. I was let down, yes, and terribly disappointed, but the feeling was stronger than that.
Anger was in the mix, but so was fear.
I remember thinking that if he was capable of doing what he did, then most people – in similar circumstances – might be as well. I’ve long since gotten over the anger. And though he doesn’t need my forgiveness, I’ve forgiven him anyway. But I still have the fear.
And that may be why I feel just a tiny bit more grace when I read about a scandal. I know that “but for the grace of God” that scandal could involve me.