Lesson learned: own up to your mistakes.
In the midst of all the human interest stories surrounding the Olympics, one of the more powerful reminders came in the form of an act of vandalism by a swimmer. Being a former swimmer myself, the story captivated my attention. At first, my preconceived biases framed my perspective, e.g. look at the tragic crime in Brazil. It is clear the country was not in a position to protect all the athletes and tourists. As the story unfolded, the tale flipped as it became clear the swimmers were not the victims but the instigators. Rather than own up to their reckless behavior, they attempted to hide it.
In our house we have a simple rule: do not hide. Come clean. Tell us if you did something wrong and we will work with you.
It is surprising how often human nature bucks against common sense. Hiding almost never works yet we rationalize and conspire in the hope that we will not get caught. Oftentimes we come up with some clever tale in order to escape responsibility. Somewhere in our mind is this flawed thought process that says it is better to hide than to be honest.
A couple of observations:
- Hiding from our mistakes only conflicts our soul. Rationalizing one part of our life impacts all other areas. Once we make a decision to sacrifice integrity in one area it begins to erode other areas. The standard has been compromised.
- Hiding erodes our relationships. Genuine friendships are built on transparency and personal accountability. Relationships are strengthened not in the absence of hurt but rather when we own up to something we did. Do you think the other swimmers involved in the vandalism will be quick to trust the primary instigator? Trust was damaged more by the hiding than the act itself.
- Hiding leads to far greater consequences. Millions of dollars will be lost from endorsement deals over this one act. Enough said.
- Hiding dilutes our relationship with God. Concealment in our personal life eventually leads to the same behavior with God. Confession is lost. Rationalization with God is put forth. And even though we know God sees everything we begin to act as if this is not true.
Lesson learned: own up to your mistakes.
I am watching the Olympics on Monday night. The track and field events begin to air. Up next is the 110 meter hurdles. The runners are getting set. They crouch into position. The camera zooms on various athletes as they raise their bodies up. The starter says “sets” then shoots the gun to begin the race. Immediately, a second shot goes off. There is a false start.
The replay is not necessary to see who started early. Wilhelm Belocian from France goes over the first hurdle before kicking down the second one. You can see the exasperation on his body as he realizes that his Olympic dreams are over. He has been disqualified from this event. Cameras show him laying on the ground completely crushed as the reality sets in. The rules of the Olympic Games dictate that a false start eliminates an athlete from completion. There is no second chance. There is no redo. It is over.
I cannot imagine the agony for this man. He has trained for years to get to this one moment. Hours and hours have been spent running in all conditions for the one chance to compete for his nation. At his national trials, he beat out numerous countrymen for this opportunity. The buildup. The work. The sacrifice. The excitement that flowed through his body must have been electric as his name was called, “In lane 3, Belocian from France.” Then, in a second, he is in defeat without even a chance to run. For the rest of his life he will remember this moment.
Oh, if only an official came over and said, “You made a mistake. It happens to everyone. We are going to give you a second chance. Get back in the block and let’s try again.” This would be a glorious moment. Some would say this is unfair. He blew his chance. Others would celebrate it as a tremendous display of grace to an athlete simply wanting to do his best. If such a chance was given, it would have been life-changing for the hurdler. He would have been more careful, focused, and appreciative of the chance to compete again. Regardless of the outcome, he would have returned home to his nation with pride knowing that he gave it his all. He would have basked in the grace.
Not having a second chance eliminated this.
I am thankful that the Olympic rules do not apply to my spiritual life. God is not a one and done God. He does not say, “You have one shot at this. If you mess up you are done.” In the midst of my failure, He comes over and says, “Ok, that was not good. You shouldn’t have done that. Now, let’s try again and get it right this time.” He is gracious. He is patient. And He loves to give second chances. To be honest, He has given me hundreds of chances in some areas. And for this I am thankful. It encourages me to be more focused in these areas. I sit back and bask in His grace.
Rejection is a powerful experience.
Inside of us are longings for acceptance and worth. We want to matter to someone or something. We want to feel loved by another individual. We want to feel valuable to a company, organization, or church. We want to have a sense of true belonging.
Rejection shakes those pursuits. It causes us to question our core.
I have seen individuals wrestle in the wake of rejection. I have counseled people in the emotional aftermath of a job loss or breakup. A person fell in love only to find one day the other person decides to end the relationship. A man works at a company for twenty-five years only to show up to his job one day and be informed that he is fired. A parent tries to repair a damaged relationship with a child only to be scorned.
There are numerous reasons we don’t like rejection. There is a loss of control as rejection is not up to us but rather up to someone else. It is a blow to our ego in that we are viewed as not adequate. It shakes our courage as we put ourselves out there only to have our emotions dashed. It hinders our trust by causing us to question the relationship or the possibility of a future one.
As I think about this common human experience, a few thoughts come to mind.
- Christ understands rejection. Jesus was rejected by his closest friends. The cross was an experience of abandonment and rejection. He was alone. He was forsaken. In the midst of our rejection, we can find one who fully understands these emotions.
- Rejection is NOT the final word. Jesus died. Jesus rose from the grave. Even though rejection surrounded his death, it did not have the final word. Hope emerged from his death. Oftentimes the moment of rejection feels like the end of the world. It is not. There is hope that emerges on the other side as new relationships are formed and new opportunities are opened.
- Rejection is not absolute. Loneliness and frustration are normal. However, they are not the true reality as believers. We might feel alone. In truth, we are never alone. The hope of the cross is the promise that we will never be forsaken. God is with us in these emotions.
Rejection is part of life. However, it is not the essence of our life – that is found in Christ Jesus who absorbed the rejection of the world in its totality and flipped it on its head by extending grace to the very ones who abandoned him. Christ brought redemption from the pain of rejection. And so, for us, there is always hope even and especially in the midst of these experiences.