By Stephanie Morris-Graves
Full disclosure: I've never cared much for Lance Armstrong. Long before everyone was all abuzz about doping allegations, and maybe even at the height of the seven-time Tour de France winner's battle with testicular cancer, there was something about Armstrong that didn't set well with me. Maybe it was his arrogant demeanor coupled with the fact that he always seemed so downright angry. So, for years, I'd been waiting for the hammer to come down on this guy concerning the doping allegations that have swirled around most of his professional cycling career. And when it finally did, I was pleased. Finally, he'd have to face the music. No longer would he be able to bully people into believing him. No longer would he be able to enjoy all the perks of being everyone's Golden Boy--a position he solidified when he beat cancer and then returned to cycling to compete again. But what I hadn't prepared for was a confession, a public mea culpa where he seemingly came clean.I eagerly tuned in to watch his two-and-a-half-hour interview with Oprah. I questioned his motives for confessing after all these years of speculation and his adamant, defiant denials--denials that included lawsuits against his accusers. I wondered if this was some kind of PR campaign that he hoped would ultimately lead to him being able to compete again; after all, that's what a narcissist like Lance Armstrong would do. I'd prepared myself for a half-hearted confession and more arrogant defiance.
But I got something different. Armstrong answered every tough question Oprah asked. He admitted to lying, he admitted to bullying his teammates, he admitted to being willingly led by a culture that said that cheating was fine, and he admitted to not fully understanding how abhorrent his actions were. He told Oprah that doping in the cycling world was like having air in your bicycle's tires or having water in your bottle. It's what everyone did. But his admissions weren’t what fascinated me. It was watching the process of a dishonest person evolve into an honest person right before our eyes. Armstrong wasn't a broken man in that interview, nor did he come across as particularly humbled by the ordeal; he was, however, coming to terms with the motivations for his egregious cheating and lying and the kind of transformations he'll have to make in order not to find himself in repeat circumstances.
Lance Armstrong has made it no secret that he is not a man of faith and does not hold to any religious beliefs, which might explain why he chose to worship himself by winning at all costs. But Christian or not, there comes a time in all of our lives where a major change to our very core has to happen in order for us to go on. As believers, we are on a continual journey to become more and more like Christ. But even then, there are times when there is something that God wants to change in us that will require us to lay everything on the line, to empty ourselves in complete surrender, become wholly vulnerable and trust God to make it right. It's not magical. We stumble our way through it, like Lance, not completely broken, but knowing that God still wants more. Most of the time it is an ugly, painful process that is fear-driven. There's the fear of what we'll be like if we let go of our old self and embrace the change, and there's the fear of what we will be if we don't change. The good news, though, is that as Christians we know that we can completely trust God's redemptive love. He never allows us to be torn down without plans to restore us to something more beautiful than before. His mission is to create in us clean hearts, but it starts with dealing in complete truth. Oprah ended the interview by asking Armstrong what the takeaway is from his story, but before he could fully answer, she offered him the words of Jesus Christ: “The truth will set you free.”
Stephanie Morris-Graves is a publicist and freelance writer. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband and their two children.