Lance Armstrong and the False Self

Last week, Lance Armstrong admitted to doing what many people suspected – using performance enhancing drugs and methods to help him win seven Tour de France titles in his cycling career. Now we are being told about the depth of the lies, covering up, and discrediting of others that was necessary to perpetuate the good guy/great athlete image.

Just for context, I am an extremely marginal follower of cycling. Olympics and Tour de France. I know what the yellow jersey means, but I cannot tell you much more. So, I was in the category of admirers of Lance Armstrong that took him at his word while he was competing.

Yet, as the interview unfolded, nothing that he told Oprah was a surprise. Lance has just done on a larger stage what every one of us does in our own lives.

Lance wanted significance. His sense of self was being reflected to him through winning and the applause of fans. He did what was necessary to feed his identity. That is the enticement of the false self. Creating a sense of wholeness and significance. Determining what it is that will make you say “I’m OK.”

When we are led by our false self, the identity that is created forms our lens. Our values and sense of right and wrong flows through that filter. That is why when Oprah asked Lance if he felt he was doing anything wrong he could respond with a confident no.

Like all of us, Lance is a broken image bearer of God. We all long to be fixed. Even apart from God our souls long for restoration. What the false self attempts to do is provide something spiritual (wholeness) though the standards of this world (what do I do? what do I have? what do people think of me?).

For Lance, his athletic skill provided a way to cover himself and temporarily avoid his brokenness and shame.

Pastors do this when the size of their church becomes the motivating factor for how they see their self and lead their congregations.

Husbands do this when the happiness of their wife or having the love of any woman becomes their self definition.

Women do this when their kids determine their value.

We all do this. It is the old nature, the false self, seducing us with the LIE that wholeness is available apart from God.

The good news is that Jesus provides the path to freedom. Our true self is defined in relation to His love – the Gospel story. That definition is not based on us – our performance, our righteousness, our popularity – it is entirely based on the truths that He loves us, He came to redeem us, He will not leave us, and after we’ve walked the path with Him and allowed Him to strip away what is false in us, He will restore what was once broken.

That is my hope for Lance. That the confession is not just an entry into another way to satisfy his false self. That it is the beginning of awareness of the depths of his own brokenness and an entry point for the Spirit.  Then he can experience rest.

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