On a network talk show yesterday, Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall talked about his struggle in the last year to come to terms with a troubled life that had earned him the dubious title, “The Beast.”
While successful on the football field, Marshall has had a history of violence and bad behavior off the field since 2004. The last straw apparently was a domestic battery incident last year–although this time it was his wife who came after him with a kitchen knife, allegedly in self-defense.
Charges were dropped and Marshall later would say his wife was not to blame, implying his own behavior provoked the incident. More importantly, Marshall finally admitted what had been apparent to those around him for years: he needed help. A 3-month intensive therapy program confirmed he has Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP), an emotional disorder characterized, in part, by anger, impulsivity and frequent mood swings.
Marshall says it was like turning on a lightbulb in a dark room. He learned he had no filter for regulating his emotions, no “switch” that made it possible to turn off his aggressive behavior when off the field. When he finally stopped making excuses and blaming everyone else for his troubles and faced himself honestly, change was possible.
He admitted it was tough to be vulnerable and go public about his BPD in the macho world of professional sports. But once he did, other players, Hall of Famers, and even umpires, began to approach him with questions about whether they or a loved one might need similar help. He’s now launched a foundation to increase awareness of BPD. As a touching coda to his turnaround, in January he was named MVP after scoring an amazing four touchdowns in this year’s Pro Bowl game.
A heartwarming story, right? Bad Boy Turns His Life Around? I hate to admit it, but as a somewhat jaded journalist and former PR professional, my first thought was actually, “His handlers deserve a bonus for reframing this guy’s story and saving his career.” A friend chimed in with, “Here we go again. Another celebrity running off to rehab to get themselves off the hook for their disgusting behavior.”
Why is it so hard to simply accept Brandon Marshall’s story at face value? Why would we not root for all these kind of stories to be true? Do we secretly resent other people getting their act together because we haven’t been able to do it yet? Or do we think they “got off easy” and resent that no one ever cut us any slack? Or how about the argument that if we could afford 3 months of intensive therapy with the best doctors and an army of spin doctors to rebuild the bridges we burned, we might look like heroes, too.
Ewww. Not exactly a picture of grace and a lame excuse for not addressing our own junk. It’s even a subtle form of spiritual prejudice, as if we have the inside track on the condition of other people’s hearts and have grown hazy about what God thinks of a judgmental attitude.
Henri Nouwen in Bread for the Journey, says, “We may think we’re judging people fairly, but “our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there. People different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being ‘other.’ Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at ‘those other persons’ as equally loved…then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.”
Remember the scripture in Matthew 7 where Jesus warns against judging the speck in someone else’s eye without taking the plank out of our own eye? If Jesus were walking around in the flesh today, I picture him saying, “Hey, you wearing the really big Self-Righteous pin! Give it a rest. Did you forget the Self-Righteousness Police were decommissioned two centuries ago with my death on the cross? There’s only one Judge and it’s not you.”
Let’s retire our Self-Righteous pins and join the club that Brandon Marshall probably belongs to: Grateful for Another Chance to Get It Right.