After the NFC conference championship game Richard Sherman, the outspoken defensive back for the Seahawks, was all the rage. His end-of-the game antics and his postgame interview went viral. I must admit I had pegged him for a thug, just another example of an ego-inflated athlete with no regard for sportsmanship. For the most part, it was a mess of his own making, but our collective reaction reveals some of our flaws as well. Here's a few things I take from the hype:
1. People will judge you for even momentary lapses in judgment. If after the NFC post game fiasco Sherman game to me for advice I would remind him that regardless of what kind of person you are people will judge you based on isolated events. That is not fair, but it is true. I would tell him, and I remind myself, that people will take things out of context; they will judge you not necessarily on your body of work but on those momentary lapses of judgment. We can’t control people's reactions, but we can control our actions. Try not to give people fodder to speak poorly of you. Take Paul's advice in Ephesians 5:15, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise."
2. Before rushing to judgment, make sure you know the whole story. As Richard Sherman's story started to unfold an image much in contrast to the ranting athlete began to unravel. Sherman's a good guy from a rough neighborhood. He was a good student and he is a good teammate. It became apparent that our judgments may have been as off target as a Peyton Manning pass in the Super Bowl. As much as we want to make a judgment based on isolated events, take the time to know the person. So often people react uncharacteristically when under pressure or in the heat of the moment, and that appears to be the case with Sherman. This is one reason why Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matt. 7:1)
3. Do what you can to change people's perceptions. After the Super Bowl Sherman made it a point to go over to Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning to offer his congratulations for a great season. He didn't have to do that; he may not have even wanted to do that. It appears to me that Sherman wanted to shed that image he had inadvertently created two weeks before. When we dig ourselves into a hole it is our job to get ourselves out, and we can do that by going out of our way to change the mistaken image we have created. It is often easier to stew with resentment and wait for the other person to make the first move to reconciliation. Take responsibility for your actions and do something to restore your reputation.
It was quite a few weeks for the Seahawk defensive star, but it turned out well. I actually found myself liking this kid and was impressed how he was able to convert me into his fan. People make mistakes, but Sherman's story teaches us that mistakes don’t have to have the final word!