People aren’t heroes for making apologies. And I understand that in today’s celebrity-worshipping culture, we will forgive anything as long as you sound like your special, little feelings are sad about what you did. I know that ‘sorry’ is no substitute for character.
Still, genuine repentance is so rare, from our celebrities of course but even in our churches, that I was hoping – perhaps unrealistically – to hear repentance from Lance tonight.
Why use the word repentance instead of apology? To my way of understanding, an apology is easy and is only the first step in repentance. Real repentance looks like this:
1. I’m sorry that I ___________. (That’s the apology. And for the record, I’m sorry that I hurt you is not an apology.)
2. I was wrong to do that because _____________.
3. I understand the damage I caused, which includes ____________.
4. Here’s what I’m doing to repair the damage I caused.
5. Here’s what I’m doing to change, so that this won’t happen again.
6. Please forgive me.
I especially want to hear that Lance is repentant, not because I feel betrayed by him. And not because I’m concerned about the state of his soul any more than I am for yours or mine. I wanted to hear him be repentant because my sons looked up to Lance. Their daddy is a cyclist, so their respect for cycling is great. They’ve grown up cheering for Lance, reading his biography, and believing he was a hero.
I tried to temper their enthusiasm over the years. He was, I reminded them, someone who left his wife and children to spend more time with rock stars. He was, I said over and over again, arrogant and ungracious in interviews. But they believed that he was a sports hero, and that he hadn’t used drugs to win.
You may say that it’s easy to be repentant when you have no choice but to confess. But that’s not true. Surely you’ve been defiant in face of your own brokenness. We may not all be Tour du France champions. We may not be drug users and cheaters and defamers. But we are all broken, most of us no less so than Lance. And we, like Lance, need forgiveness.
He wasn’t my hero before tonight, but he was one of my kids’ heroes. So tomorrow, I’ll show them parts of the interview and talk them through my understanding of repentance. And then I’ll ask them to forgive him.