Image source: Mark Evans (available for purchase)
The obvious response to that title is; don’t cheat. Or possibly, if you cheat you will be caught. Maybe even, quit while you’re winning. (Or, any more than 6 wins in a row and people will start to talk!)
Like many people around the world I watched his interview with Oprah on Friday riveted to my seat. Never before in my life had I witnessed someone with no comprehension of what I assumed to be a fundamental moral principle; cheating is wrong.
I have to admit up front that I don’t really care one way or the other whether he cheated or not. In fact, I find professional sport to be quite a perplexing thing. (You mean we pay people millions of dollars to play sport… not lead our countries, teach our children, cure our diseases… but play sport?)
I would have been more outraged had he been a leader of a country, or a medical practitioner, or a judge, or someone for whom his actions (in relation to winning the Tours de France) had a dire impact on humanity. He rode a bike. (The bullying tactics he employed (suing people he knew to be telling the truth) are a whole other ball game! (Pardon the sporting metaphor!))
When I tuned into watch the interview it was purely from a sociological view point (which is a nice way of saying I was curious – like train wreck curious!).
While watching the interview I tweeted my thoughts. (It’s one of the things I like about social media – I can watch something in my lounge room all alone and still have a real time conversation with someone else watching it in their lounge room (hopefully while they wear pants!) and see someone else’s perspective.)
The interview was psychological gold. Here was a man publicly admitting that he cheated, at a professional level, in front of the entire world. (Admittedly his hand had been forced, but he could have chosen to say nothing. Although I don’t think that’s in his nature…) And the crazy thing, he didn’t see a problem with the fact that he cheated.
When in your lifetime are you ever going to get the opportunity to see a sociopath give (what appeared to be) candid answers to some pretty weighty moral questions? (Hopefully the answer to that is “next to never”.)
My tweets reflected this vein of thinking. I was watching the interview from a point of pure curiosity. I had no vested interest in what he did. I don’t feel strongly about the sport or about his conduct, I just wanted to see his answers.
So colour me surprised when a friend pointed me to an article on news.com.au titled; “Social media users mock Lance Armstrong as interview with Oprah Winfrey airs“. There in amongst such pillars of society (my tongue is firmly in my cheek) as Piers Morgan and Donald Trump sat little old me.
…screen capture♥ of the news.com.au article…
As I read through the tweets that news.com.au had selected I had to wonder why mine had been included…
I wasn’t mocking Mr Armstrong as the headline claimed, in fact I was doing just the opposite. I was clinical towards him and at times I found myself, not defending him as such, being disgusted and outraged at the vitriol being directed at him. (Here’s a thought: isn’t the bullying of Lance Armstrong through social media as bad as his bullying of people through the legal system?)
…this tweet pushes my buttons on every level…
I was actually more shocked with the reaction from the public towards a man who was now being humbled in front of the world over something that started with a sporting event then I was by anything that he said during the interview. Again, it’s not like he lied about curing cancer or say, profited from personal information that was gathered via illegal means and then published in a London tabloid… (Who would do that, Piers?)
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way defending his actions. In fact I hope that the people that he bullied, threatened, belittled and sued over the years get some closure and a personal apology (and can forgive him and move on). Bullying by anyone, regardless of social status, is unacceptable and I hope we will one day live in a world where that practice no longer exists.
However, I’m not so naive as to think that Lance Armstrong is the only man (or woman) on the planet to have ever lied, manipulated, bullied and threatened to get what he wants. The difference is in this case he did it in the public eye and then admitted that he never thought what he was doing was wrong.
I could go on for hours about how fascinating I found the interview and how thankful I am to have been able to gain a glimpse into how his mind works. (Seriously, this is the interview they’ll be playing in all Psychology course the world over from now on!) But the thing that I really took away from the whole event is just how quick we are as human beings (as opposed to the dolphins that can tweet!) to point at someone else and take delight in their short comings.
I once read a quote that said; “when you point your finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”
Image source: Mimi and Eunice
This was all I could think of when I read the tweets flying around making personal attacks against Mr Armstrong.
Hand on heart I know for a fact that no one can make a claim that they have lived their lives without fault. Sure we might not have cheated our way into winning the Tour de France seven times and landing $75 million in sponsorship deals, but I’m sure we can all think of a handful of times (if we’re being honest with ourselves) where our behavior has been questionable.
Whether it’s something as simple as not returning change to a cashier when they’ve given you more than they were supposed to (guilty!), or cheating at words with friends by looking up a dictionary (guilty!) or whether you’ve parked in a metered parking bay and not paid the fee (guilty!); that’s all cheating. Maybe you (like me) knew at the time that it was wrong, whereas Mr Armstrong is admitting that he never thought what he was doing wrong – but you still did it.
You just didn’t have to have a one-on-one sit down with Oprah Winfrey and admit to the world that you did it. (I consider that a good thing; Oprah would make you sweat!)
In this day and age I find the speed (thanks to social media) at which people are willing to throw around judgement and condemnation to be saddening and scary.
What has happened to our compassion people? When did it become hip to kick a man when he’s down instead of offering him a hand to get up?
It’s times like these I like to think of the quote; there but for the Grace of God, go I. (It’s also coupled with the quote: “Let any one of you who is without sin cast the first stone…” (abridged from John 8:7)) One day it could be you having your dirty laundry aired to your friends and family and wouldn’t you like to think that when you fall there would be someone there to help you get up again? And doesn’t what we say about others really just reflect on the sort of person we are? (What does that tweet say about you Piers?)
So here’s what I think you can learn from Lance Armstrong; compassion. Compassion for your fellow man that’s also coupled with forgiveness.
♥ The screen shot has been truncated so that I could get the header and my published tweet on the same page.