Like thousands, I’m a fan of NFL football. The examples of courage, perseverance, and excellence inspire. The sportsmanship, the opportunity to show physical strength, and the immediacy of tactics are impressive. But what stands out to me the most is the opportunity that sports and football provide to rebuild after adversity.
What is adversity? Adversity is defined as a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty (Merriam-Webster). We all know, from our own lives, that difficulty is not just physical, but mental. The decisions we make, the reception they get, and the outcome they create don’t just affect us, but often send a torrent of ripples or waves through a larger pool of people.
That is what has happened with the resignation of Jon Gruden from the Las Vegas Raiders football team. Emails have surfaced that indicate derogatory thought toward people, and he wrote it to others. The last was reportedly sent three years ago.
While many applaud his resignation, I find myself feeling mercy. We can all look back with a grim finger pointing severely to things we said or did that we wish we hadn’t. But what is gained by another loss of the human spirit, retreating in shame and embarrassment?
Reading about the interactions with Jon Gruden's team managers, I wonder, was there an opportunity given for restoration? Did the bigger impact of hurt come in the emails or will it be felt more in the handling of the situation after discovery?
There is a story in this week’s Christian Science Bible Lesson (which also serves as the Sunday Sermon in church) where a woman is brought before a council of decision-makers. She was caught in the act of adultery and her sentence was death by stoning. Jesus was consulted on her fate, and, when consulted, he was quiet. When he finally looked up at the circle of men surrounding her, he asked any without sin to cast the first stone. He didn’t ask if they had also committed adultery, sin isn’t the exact this or that. He just asked any of them who had done something against their highest sense of good, to cast the first stone. Faced with their own thoughts and actions, the men left, one by one until the woman was left alone, alive, and allowed to begin anew. Jesus also freed her from condemnation, but commanded that she “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11, KJV Bible)
The woman was absolved, not by a person, but by mercy. Mercy is a Godlike quality, an attribute of the Christ-spirit that Jesus showed us how to live and engage in our own actions toward others. Are we keeping mercy alive in our society, in our individual lives, in the collective conscience of America?
I look at the Jon Gruden situation and wish that he had been faced with management that considered the spiritual impact of this situation. It could have been a wonderful opportunity to slow down, allow for discussion, and show what mercy and grace look like.
I pray daily that my life and that the court of human opinion better reflect the God that we know in Christian Science, acting wisely to prevent problems, or invoking a sense of mercy and justice to keep the human spirit improving. “The attributes of God are justice, mercy, wisdom, goodness, and so on.” (Science and Health, 465:14)
Jon Gruden may have some things to learn about God and His attributes of wisdom and kindness, but don’t we all? As we demand justice in a situation, are we demanding the right kind of justice? Are we providing people the opportunity to show their reformation and hold their position as the “better man” they may have become? I don’t know Jon Gruden personally, but I do know that we are all evolving to be wiser, kinder, and still pursue rightful activity and purpose, fulfilling it with excellence.
How we balance mercy and justice must be better weighed in our considerations in order to keep the human spirit alive and show our society’s improvement, person by person. To that end, we are tasked daily. Understanding God as a Christian Scientist, gives us some guidance on that point. Its Founder, Mary Baker Eddy, says, “A clear-headed and honest Christian Scientist will demonstrate the Principle of Christian Science, and hold justice and mercy as inseparable from the unity of God.” (Miscellaneous Writings, 266:13)