Lance Armstrong: Hero or Villain?

I am a self-admitted dummy when it comes to anything sports-related (my poor husband).  But I have been pulled into this Lance Armstrong ever-evolving story. I usually hate when my husband watches SportsCenter (which is whenever he wins the fight for the remote) but I have been sucked in for the past few days.

Lance just offered to be interviewed by Oprah, and all of America got to have a front row seat as the curtain was lifted and the thoughts and feelings of this intriguing athlete were revealed.  I was hooked.

I like a good cut-throat analysis as much as the next girl, but it seemed a bit overkill how everyone seemed to be picking apart every little thing, from his body language to how he controlled the tone of the interview and how he never seemed uncomfortable at all.  As interesting as all of these tidbits are, I was most drawn to one thing he said after Oprah asked him why he continued to lie not only to the public, but to himself.  The words continued to turn over in my mind all night through the next day.

It finally hit me—the heavy words that rolled out of Lance’s mouth are the same words that define much of our human experience.

“I was trying to control the narrative.”

Six simple words. The words that capture a life system that makes us the hero in our own stories, and others the villains.

I didn’t hear those words and silently condemn him. I heard the words and silently condemned myself, because I recognized their voice in my own life. Lance articulated in one short sentence how he tried to manipulate the story that was being told so that he could have what he had worked for, longed for, and fought for with blood, sweat and tears.

Can’t we all relate?

None of us want our stories to be boiled down to an ugly sound byte that seems to erase all the goodness in our story. None of us want all the pure motives to be doused in fire by the defiled ones.  Why does it seem to come down to that so often? And why are we so obsessed with presenting ourselves in a way that highlights our best features and disguises all of our worst? Why are we so set on controlling the narrative?

I can pinpoint every major crossroads in my life, and how those life-changing moments hung on one critical decision.

Would I try and control the narrative? Or would I acknowledge, recognize, own, and submit to the true narrative?

The choice I made in these moments changed the entire course of my life.

When I first saw that my life was falling apart at the oh-so-wonderful age of 16, I was faced with a choice. Do I acknowledge that I wasn’t the hero in my narrative and that instead I was often the villain? Or, do I re-write the story so that in my own view I am the one who is smart enough and good enough to fix myself?

When I was in a painful relationship with a guy who I allowed to treat me horribly, do I own the truth of what I did to attach myself to a person who thought so little of me? Or, do I blame him for victimizing me?

When I felt broken-hearted from staying in an unhealthy church situation too long, did I submit to the true narrative that I stayed because I was weak? Or, do I create a new narrative that told a story of me leaving because I was strong?

Lance stands at this same crossroads.

He has acknowledged that he has tried to control the narrative. But has he submitted to the true narrative yet?

I think the very reason that answer is ambiguous is the same reason that all of his fans are still unsettled. There is a difference from denying the true narrative, to acknowledging it, to submitting to it. Denying it leaves us the hero. Acknowledging it leaves us the spectator.  Submitting to it leaves us truly changed.

We don’t want Lance to be a spectator in his own life.

We don’t even know him but we want him to have some kind of transformational moment where he sees the light.

It is in this state of perception that we catch a glimpse of what God sees when He looks at our lives.  He doesn’t want us to simply acknowledge or “believe” the truth. He wants us to “see the light” and surrender to it.  This takes great humility, courage, and most importantly…faith.

I feel sorry for him when I see him struggling through this psychological mine field. I think it differs from pity in that the sadness I feel for him is the sadness I feel for myself.  I wish it was easier to be honest, to be brave, to have faith. It’s just not.

We want to control our own narrative more than we want to be true.

I want that to be different, don’t you?


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