Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Learning the Hard Way

Yesterday, I wrote about something we all have in common: our humanity.  Another word for this is depravity: the notion that we are born with a proclivity towards sinful behavior.

As my son's baseball coaches try to beat into his team's brains - not IF, but WHEN you fail...and you WILL fail.

So, we're all gonna screw up.  

But, we do have the ability to limit the mistakes we make.  One of those ways is to learn from the mistakes of others.  Whether it's an issue of addiction, lying, cheating, stealing, negligence, ignorance, or greed, we can all heed wise counsel from those who have gone before us into those murky waters. 

But, do you want to know the sad truth?  We rarely look at what has happened to others as a result of their poor choices.  

I was listening to a sports talk show a couple years ago.  The host was debating with callers about one particular athlete's proclivity toward making bad decision after bad decision.  And, the host of the program made an interesting statement.  He said, "There are countless examples of other athletes who have made poor choices that he (this athlete) could have learned from.  But, the fact is that we only learn from our own mistakes."

Much has been said about Todd Gurley and Jameis Winston these past several days.  Every talking head on TV or radio has brought up Johnny Manziel, A.J. Green, Cam Newton, and others who have been in the spotlight, and have made unwise choices.  They say things like, "How could Gurley have done this - especially after what happened to Johnny Football last year?"

Simple - he didn't have guardrails in his life, and he drove off the cliff.  He decided to take things into his own hands instead of looking for wise counsel.  He rationalized, rather than using reason. Reason is the first thing to go out the window when temptation comes calling.

Could Todd Gurley have thought about others who have made the same mistake he was about to make? Sure he could have.  All of us have stories of our own failures and miscalculations that we could use to implore others to make better choices.  But, ultimately, they have to choose to apply this wisdom, not ignore it.

I find it interesting when I hear people making such harsh remarks about OTHER people who slip, fall, or fail.  It's really easy to be the judge when they are up on that high horse.  Normally, when I hear judgmental and ultra-critical remarks from someone, I can almost always tell you where it's rooted: pride and an over-abundant sense of self-worth.

Being puffed up with self-pride is in indicator of a lack of humility.  You know what kind of person has humility?  A broken person.  Those who have been broken - and who have admitted that they are broken - are the most joyful, appreciative people in the world.

If you are cynical, critical, and harsh, my bet is that you have never experienced that brokenness.  You do have the opportunity to change, and learn from others who may have pushed others away, lost friends and family, or created an attitude of bitterness that hovers over them. Or, you can disregard those examples, and learn the hard way. The choice is yours.  But, understand that the fallout of your choices reaches further than you may be able to see in the mirror.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You, Gurley, and Chubb Have Something in Common

This article is not about Todd Gurley in any way.  It applies equally to all of us.  But, let me use last week's story about Todd Gurley allegedly accepting money for autographing memorabilia as the springboard.

One of the most ignorant statements I saw last week after the story came out, and Gurley was subsequently suspended, was made by one of the most die-hard Dawg fans in the land, and it said this: "In Chubb We Trust."

Now, it may have simply been a supportive remark to help rally the Bulldog Nation around the freshman tailback, who was named the starter for this past weekend's game.  But, it hit me a bit differently.  Todd Gurley, as far as we have known, has been a terrific example to many both on and off the field. Until last week, Todd Gurley was probably the Heisman front-runner. He is a hard worker. He serves the community.  He visits sick kids in the hospital. He is humble.  He is a great teammate.

But, here's the truth about Gurley: he is human.  He made a mistake.  He made them before he signed memorabilia for money.  He will make more mistakes.

And, here's another bit of truth: Nick Chubb is also human.  He has made mistakes, and he will make many in the future.  Hopefully, he won't make the mistake Gurley made (or another NCAA or team violation), but he will mess up some time in his life.  Maybe not at UGA - but somewhere down the road.  We all do.

So, to say, "In Chubb We Trust" just didn't seem right to me.  How can we place our trust in another human being, just hours after we discover what Gurley had done?  Why would we want to?

Matt Chandler, in his book The Explicit Gospel, talks about how we, as fallen creatures, always seem to look in the wrong places when we are trying to find pleasure and satisfaction in this life.

"The majority of human beings believe that people and circumstances exist to make them happy," he writes. "We believe the brokenness inside will be satisfied by things outside.  If we're not happy, who's to blame?  People and circumstances.  Do you see how this doesn't even make sense - broken people expecting broken people to fix them or expecting good things to do God things for them? It's a ridiculous notion, if we can think rightly about it."

We are all broken, sinful people.  You are. I am.  So, if we are all in this quandary together, why do we look to have faith or hope in one another? If the transmission in my car goes out, do I want to swap it for a vehicle that is missing an engine? Of course not. I want to find something more reliable, something safer that can get me where I need to go.

If you continue to put your hope (or happiness) in people, your life will look a lot like the Scream Machine roller coaster.  You'll subject yourself to high highs, low lows, dips, turns, and you will get jerked around.  

But, there is an alternative.  The true Life Giver is always there for us to guide, protect, and comfort us.  And, He alone can fill our hearts with the joy for which we so desperately search.

In God We Trust.