So this week news broke that Lance Armstrong is a doper. In fact he is more than a doper, he is a cheater and with his cheating he has taken the dreams and imaginations of millions of people and flushed them down the toilet. He has taken a movement of cancer awareness/financial support and dumped a truck-loan of monkey manure on it. He has perpetuated a web of lies. He has floated arrogantly above the rules, above accountability and above the truth. And now his life is in free-fall.
Or did he?
At the end of the day, Lance is just a dude. He is a dude like me. Once upon a time, on a day a long, long time ago… he may have even been a boy at the time… he was told he was good at something. He was good at riding a bike. Those are euphoric words: “you are good at….”
Every child just wants to know they are good at something.
The first time Lance took drugs probably had nothing to do with doping. It was innocent stuff: recovery from injury, healing from illness, under doctor’s orders. With the sort of life that he has lived, he has ingested drugs a thousand times for perfectly legal and virtuous reasons. One does not dope overnight.
The first time was probably totally reasonable. He may have taken a slightly larger dose of a prescribed medication. It made him feel stronger, maybe believe he was healing faster. The next time the dose was a bit larger, ever so slightly larger.
Then one day the real illness happened. It wasn’t the injury. It wasn’t even the drugs. The real illness: He lied.
It started small. He lied about a dosage. He lied about a substance. He tried to hide it. I am sure he swore to himself that he would never do it again. So he covered it up
Then he lied about the cover-up.
I am convinced that at some level we are all insane. One form of insanity comes when we start to believe our own lies. It is so insidious that our tether to truth unfurls and suddenly, we simply float away.
I tell stories. It is what I do. On some very real level, it is who I am. I am a storyteller. There is nothing more euphoric than to unleash laughter across a crowded room. There is nothing more identity-infusing than to watch a room sink into sorrow and reflection over a well-spun story.
And then there is the moment. The moment you realize that the story is twice as powerful if it is embellished by just 3%. That is a nice return on investment: twice the impact from a 3% increase. And what could be wrong with 3%. That is not even really a lie, is it? But then three percent becomes five and five become fifteen. You get what I mean.
This process seems positive, even necessary. It is justified as love: “People love stories, they are moved by stories, they are changed by stories… for the good. The better the story the more I am blessing and serving.” One author friend of mine’s need to justify this insanity moved him to invent a literary genre: “Creative Non-Fiction.”
The amazing thing is you get to the point where you can’t remember where the truth ended and where the embellishment took over
Like I said, “insanity.”
Lance lived the best of all stories. And the best stories stick.
So what did Lance do? Did he abuse us all… perpetuate a conspiracy… and molest the hopes and dreams of a generation? I guess from one perspective he did.
From another perspective… a boy once told a lie. Then he did what we all do, he started to believe his own lie. He got to the point where he lost the line between where the truth ended and the embellishment took over.
So now what? I have a humble suggestion.
Can we give the guy a break? Right now the dude has had his dirty laundry drug into the light. His house of cards has been dumped into a paper shredder.
And maybe, just maybe, if we give him a break, then you will have mercy on me the next time my laundry comes to light.