I’m guessing you’re wondering what “abruti,va” means. According to a friend of mine from France, “abruti, va” would be the French equivalent of the words “utter douchebag.” I find it very apropos.
Lance Armstrong is an utter douchebag, and he is so for a bevy of reasons that have already been talked to death. He has wrecked countless lives. He has stepped on so many people. He is a bully, a fraud, a cheat, a liar. If he wrote a third book, he could call it “I, Douchebaggius.”
And here is why I believe his admission and remorse: because he was that same douchebag last night with Oprah.
If someone is a certain way his entire life, and then in the course of, say, a month, he or she metamorphosizes into someone unrecognizable, my alarm bell goes nuts. I’m not saying that a person is incapable of changing. I’m saying that a leopard doesn’t change his spots overnight.
In last night’s Oprah interview, from the word go, he came across as unlikable. He was a tick smug, passively combative, arrogant, and a brooder.
Here’s what he wasn’t: sniveling, groveling, overly emotional, throwing himself upon the mercy of the court, or partaking in much boo hooing. In short, he was Lance, and he was believable.
Oprah threw a softball or two, but more often than not, I kept barking at the TV, “Whoa! Good question! Let’s see the answer.” And in all honesty, he came across as…well…honest.
Oprah’s lightning round: “Did you do blah blah blah?” Every answer: “Yes.” An admission of guilt.
“Did you think you were cheating?” Answer: “No.” Ballsy, even for he who hath less than most.
“Did you care who you hurt?” Answer: “No.” Asshole.
“Have you reached out to people you have hurt?” “Yes.” A start…one of the twelve steps.
“Have they forgiven you?” “No.” An admission of powerlessness…another one of the twelve steps.
This was as harsh as any Catholic confession I can ever remember partaking in, and I’ve had a couple of doozys…especially the first one after my seventeen-year break from the sacrament. It was going to be so long that I actually called a priest friend of mine and asked, “Can you spare an hour…and your judgment?”
And let me tell you this: whether you’re caught, whether you feel guilty, or whether you have to do it under oath, confession…sucks. Only he’s not doing it in front of a priest who acts as the studio audience, and has the power given by God to man on earth to absolve you of all your sins. This is the first of what will be many, and he did it in one of the most public ways possible.
He could have easily given an interview with the Wall Street Journal or the New Orleans Times Picayune…love the name of that paper. Instead, he gave it to Oprah…a person who is respected by many for her works, but is also respected for not sparing the rod when she has to. There is not another person on earth he could have given that interview to where he would have looked more genuinely remorseful…
…which is exactly how he didn’t look last night. It’s another reason why I believe him, or at least most of what he said. He didn’t just admit to doping. He admitted to being a douchebag. He admitted to hurting people. He admitted that people were telling the truth about him. He admitted that he was a bully in going after them. He admitted to reaching out to them. And in a very painful and uncomfortable moment, he admitted that from many, he will never be forgiven.
Imagine that for a second…to do something so heinous that you will never be forgiven. Ever.
I can’t say that I am different from some of the people that have been hurt by him. In my own life, when I was younger, I was picked on…primarily in eighth grade. I was a new kid in a new school who grew up in a different part of town. I was overweight, wore glasses, and didn’t know how to act around new people. I made two friends all year, and was picked on pretty harshly. It was a miserable year. A few people stood out as those whom I would not give a flying squirrel about if they were floating face down in a river.
But about three years ago, one of those people actually reached out to me on Facebook, saying, “I want you to know that I was pretty mean back in the day, and I’m not that same person anymore, and I really want to apologize to you.”
And like that, all was forgiven. I am horrendous about holding grudges…will probably hold some until I die…but the simple act of genuinely apologizing is all it ever takes to erase a wrong with me.
Lance Armstrong never did anything to me, so it’s not my place to forgive. And he even admitted that if he had done a couple of things differently, he wouldn’t be sitting down with Oprah having this conversation, which was a piece of sheer douchebaggery.
But I’m a believer in God, and God moves in mysterious ways. I don’t think God is about perfection in humanity, because none of us are perfect…me being the person at the front of that line. But God loves a comeback, loves redemption, and I think Mr. Armstrong started his path last night.
And as for the good he has done, it does not outweigh the bad, because life is not a zero-sum game. If he did 51% good versus 49% bad, he has not been a success. The only way for the bad to become any way successful is for atonement to be present for the wrong. He took his first steps on the journey last night.
And many will say, “Well, he only did that because he was caught.” He even said as much last night. But for those who feel that way, I pose this question: how many “growth” or “epiphanal” or “healing” moments have you arrived at by the path that you, yourself, chose?
I have never been that fortunate.
I’m not saying that you, or anyone, needs to forgive the guy. He has obviously hurt so many people so profoundly, and he’ll spend the rest of his life making up for it. I’m not even saying give the guy a chance.
I think all I’m saying is that I’m proud of him for taking the first step on a road that he did not choose. It’s the same road which he will never be able to exit, and I think he not only knows it, but he’s starting to embrace it. There is something so liberating about confession. Sure, it can be horrendous going through it, but dare I say I walked out of my big one with the weight of seventeen years of guilt erased from my shoulders. It felt like I was being carried on the shoulders of angels out of the room, getting pats on the back and an occasional high five, knowing that I was finally released from the shackles of my ill-conceived choices. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.
And I just want to leave you with this. Mr. Armstrong, if you ever have occasion to read this, I wish you well on your road, and thank you for helping to bring cancer into our consciousness. For all your douchebaggery, you did something noble and right. As a fellow survivor, I will be forever grateful.
In other words, “Merci, abruti, va.”