How do you forgive a lie?
How do you forgive a lifetime of lies?
How do you know that the liar - in his / her confession - is not still lying?
Over the last year the noose of truth has been slowly but surely tightening around one of our generation's most revered sportsperson. Lance Armstrong. Record-breaking Tour de France winner. Cancer survivor. Champion. Philanthropist. Motivator. Brand.
For years the murmur of dissent has been there. For years he denied it - and built up a formidable army of defenders. After all, he was never 'caught' with a doping violation....
We face the same in our day to day living.
So many of us slip by life with a variety of untruths. Some of us become so adept at lying that it becomes our native tongue. Where we actually trick ourselves into believing that what we are saying is true. One of the most pitiful sights is seeing people who have lied so much that only they are still being deceived. When everyone else has long since seen through the facade, and only that person is still carrying on 'as if nothing happened.'
Truth is based on trust. I has to be earned. Lying cuts at the core of who we are. It eats away at our relationships.
We have gone through a season of dealing with lies at our work - from people who we trusted and poured our lives in. Its devastating to find out that so much of what went on was false.
And its also so hard to rebuild.
For one, you just don't know how much of the 'new' person is really 'new.' Each statement, each step forward brings back the mental question: "are we back to the lying, or is this trust-worthy?" Its only after a long painful amount of trust-building - verified, consistent, good-faith words-matching-deeds - that we can resume and rebuilt what the lies have destroyed.
It is no wonder that most don't want to go through this - they prefer to 'run away' and 'start afresh.' The problem is that most continue to lie in their 'new places.'
For the person who lies - the own self-delusion is usually still so strong that it continues to deceive them. Most people 'confess' only when they are caught. And usually only when they are caught so badly that they see no other way out.
Lance Armstrong fits this to a T.
Listen in on a bit of his 'confession' to Oprah (the irony of this lady becoming a minor deity is brilliantly put by my dear friend Sao Tunyi on his blog.
Here is Lance:
"I looked up the definition of a cheat: to gain an advantage. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field."
So what he is saying is... I didn't cheat - because I was not trying to get an advantage that was unfair. Its a chilling picture of the spirit of the age - do whatever seems right to you. You are the final arbiter of right and wrong.
Lets back up and hear this bit (courtesy of the BBC sports website)
In a key exchange Winfrey asked: "Did it feel wrong?
Armstrong replied: "No. Scary."
"Did you feel bad?"
"No. Even scarier."
"Did you feel that you were cheating?"
"No. The scariest."
Armstrong continued: "The definition of a cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field. I didn't understand the magnitude of that. The important thing is that I'm beginning to understand it.
"I see the anger in people, betrayal. It's all there. People who believed in me and supported me and they have every right to feel betrayed and it's my fault and I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologise to people."
One of the people that Lance cheated is Rick Reilly, who spent 14 years defending Lance's lies. He has given his response: here.
The sad part of it all is that Lance only has said all this because he has run out of options. Some lines from a fairly light-weight Paul Simon song (You can call me Al) captures Armstrong and the spirit of the age:
I need a photo opportunity
I want a shot at redemption
Don't want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard...
As much as all this makes your stomache churn - there is a small silver lining.
And that is that the harsh fall opens at least a glimmer of hope for real redemption. Judging from Lance's pretty melodramatic episode with Oprah he is more interested in jigging out of a hard spot once again. Just another chapter in the Livestrong episode. And that is true for most habitual liars.
But spare a thought for those who are still living the lie 'successfully'.
How blessed it is to be brought on your knees - if that leads to truth and new life.
My prayer for Lance and others (myself included) is that we will not try to wriggle out anymore. We will not believe in our own fantasies. We will have Godly sorrow that leads to repentance. And that we will show forth the fruit of repentance before we slip back into the limelight.
no man is an island, a continent to himself...