Eight years ago, if I said the name ‘Lance Armstrong’, it would elicit a much different reaction that today (2013). I have a framed series of autographed photos commemorating his seventh Tour de France victory hanging prominently on the wall of my office. It was a gift from my father, who is a cancer survivor.
Recently, a visitor asked me if I planned to take the photos down. I answered ‘No!’
What once inspired perseverance and success a few years ago is now a striking reminder of hubris and the dangers of compromising morals.
It’s easy to point a finger at Lance Armstrong. However, he is just another example of moral failure in our society. I admit that I have had my own moral failures in my past. I don’t blame anyone else but myself. That does not stop me for standing up for what is right.
Here is the deal. Lance Armstrong’s actions point to an epidemic that has infected our society. Moral failure is everywhere. It is in our schools, government, sports, arts, businesses, places of worship and homes. Humans have this powerful ability to deceive ourselves and rationalize taking the wrong action. We build a narrative in our minds to justify it. Sometimes we go so far as to deify ourselves, become the purveyors of our own morality and are not subject to morals outside our own (society). This is dangerous territory.
How does Moral Failure happen?
Somewhere along the line Armstrong wanted something so badly that a tiny thought entered his mind that he could possibly have a better life if he made this small compromise. He was aware that others were completely out of control, but he was not one of them. Lance was in control of his life (deception). Over a span of time, he began to entertain and rationalize this tiny thought as a necessary path to justifying an action in pursuit of success. Then one day, that thought manifested itself into an action. Unfortunately for everyone, it was the wrong action. To Lance it seemed like ‘no big deal’ because he had surrounded himself with a wall of rationalization defended by an army of supporters that encouraged him.
If the process I just described to you sounds familiar, it should. It is a part of being human. The key to fighting moral failure is to recognize it and name it. Here is the crux of the issue of moral failure.
Our culture does not teach or value morality anymore. It’s not ‘Politically Correct (PC)’ to speak in terms of ‘right and wrong’ or ‘good and bad’. The PC crowd will argue that they are ‘right’ on this issue. Of course the PC crowd is making a moral judgment by taking the position of being ‘right’. As a culture, we have decided that truth is relative to the individual and so is morality. Essentially, we are ejecting truth from our society.
Armstrong did what he felt he had to do to win. So, what? If we don’t teach our children morals in our homes, schools and universities because it’s not ‘Politically Correct’, why are we surprised when these children become adults and break the law?
Lesson from Lance:
I traveled down that destructive road and a healthy reminder staring at me from my wall is a good thing. Maybe you have too. Most importantly, there is hope for ‘the other’ Lance, this Lance and everyone else. For me, that Hope is found in the person of Jesus Christ and the map for living is found in the Bible. It’s interesting to see pieces of my own life reflected in others (even in failure). He defeated cancer. Can he win victory over this? What would that look like?