The next time you're in an airport or in a large public venue, take a moment to pause and just look around.
When I was a kid the television show Dragnet was a primetime hit. Each week the character Detective Joe Friday would open the show with the following observation:
There’s a million stories in the City of Los Angeles, and when politicians get themselves into trouble, I go to work. My name is Friday and I carry a badge.
Perhaps I was drawn to that observation because I was from Los Angeles, too. But the idea that everybody has a story still resonates with me over 40 years later.
For example, the news the past few days seems to be focused on fallen athletes.
Two of the most prominent potential inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, were passed over by sportswriters due to their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
And we learned the other night that Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong is planning to sit down with Oprah Winfrey and admit to blood doping -- and ask the public to forgive him.
It would be easy to grow cynical over the fate of these fallen stars, to point a finger and deride them for not only their private and their public sins, but also for the bad influence they've been on our children.
Years ago, when I was young, Simon and Garfunkel sang longingly, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you..."
Setting aside these individuals who allegedly broke not only rules but laws, I’m struck by how unfortunate it is that role models like Tim Tebow or the Redskins’ RGIII are so easily mocked or criticized these days. People would rather pull down than lift up.
But in thinking about the likes of Armstrong, Bonds and Clemens, I'm reminded of the fact that before I begin to push them down in order to lift myself up (however guilty they may be), it's important to face facts:
I get it.
But what do I take?
If I'm honest with myself, I realize that I sometimes take myself too seriously.
I sometimes take the gift of God's grace too lightly.
I take my morality, look at my happy marriage, and in a weak moment, find myself tempted to feel superior to the guy finding his way through his fifth divorce.
There have been other times when I take too much and give too little.
I don’t take drugs, but I do, all too often, take and embrace the ways of the world more quickly than embracing God’s Word.
One of my favorite observations from C.S. Lewis addresses this issue of pride, of thinking too highly of ourselves and our own righteousness, and not fully realizing that we're all sinners saved by grace.
“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.”
So before we're tempted to take another person to task for something they did or didn't do, perhaps it would be good for us to take hold of a mirror and take a look face-to-face with ourselves and the facts of our own life.
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