Whenever I read a person’s biography, or especially his or her autobiography, I get a strange feeling that I know the person. A couple of years ago, I read George W. Bush’s book Decision Points, and I got the sense that if I called George on the phone, he would gladly accept my invitation to come over to my house and play catch with me.
When I read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, I learned the background story to the person that make me enjoy 30 Rock.
Last week, I read Lance Armstrong’s book It’s Not about the Bike. He told his story of being raised by a strong-willed mother, his early career as a cyclist in his teenage years, his terrible battle with cancer, and his return to cycling. He shared his love of all things Texas, his passion for driving fast cars, and his extreme training regiments. Just reading about the way he trains made me want to get off the couch and go get a pizza from Domino’s. He was burning enough calories for the both of us.
For some strange reason, I connected with his story. I think the only things we have in common is that we both like Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Shiner Boch, and Texas.
But I hate what he is going through right now. He is no longer in the news for his amazing career as a cyclist. He is in the news because of accusations that he is a cheat. No one cares about his Tour de France victories anymore, because those titles were taken away from him. Now you can read columns about how his world is collapsing all around him. 11 of his teammates have come forward to accuse him of cheating. The International Cycling Union has turned against him. His sponsors are leaving him. People are throwing away their yellow Livestrong bracelets.
It is like the baseball players who breaks records and is then accused of using Steroids. It is the football coach that wins championships but has them stripped away because of illegal recruiting. It is the preacher who has an affair with a secretary. It is the chemistry teacher who decides to start making millions of dollars as a methamphetamine manufacturer.
I think that we forget that everyone has baggage. Nobody is perfect. I’m not saying that Lance Armstrong is innocent, nor am I saying that he is a cheat. I am saying that he has a wonderful story, and this chapter of his life is probably pretty miserable for him.
I think, as a general rule, compassion is better than judgment.
Chances are, there are people in your life that are having a hard time. Maybe it is their own fault because they made some bad decisions. It’s possible that it is not their fault at all, and they are merely collateral damage. Either way, they need someone to stand beside them. They need a constant in their life that will surround them with compassion, not judgment. They need someone that will listen, not give advice.
It’s possible that Lance Armstrong feels surrounded by critics and abandoned by his allies. When your failures and faults make headline news, it’s probably difficult to stay positive.
Compassion is better than judgment.