What remarkable humility. Eisenhower was prepared to say, “If there was any failure, it was my failure. If you need to blame someone, blame me.” He was not going to try to explain the failure away or find some excuse for it, nor did he seek to lay responsibility at someone else’s door. He was going to simply admit that he had failed. He was a wise man who apparently understood something that the majority of people in our country don’t get.
A few days after that interview the news broke that evidence has been uncovered that former baseball player Pete Rose bet on baseball games while he was still playing. Rose, whose on-field performance would have made him a slam dunk to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame, has been banned for life because of his gambling. He claimed for years that he never bet on baseball. Then he finally admitted that yes, he had bet on baseball, but not while he was playing. He has maintained this charade for more than 25 years, and now there is evidence that he has been lying the entire time, to absolutely no one’s surprise.
Sadly, had Rose immediately confessed his gambling, which is a direct violation of the rules of Major League Baseball, it is certain that the public would have forgiven him. I have no doubt that if he had been honest and open about his problem all along MLB would have also forgiven him and lifted the ban quite some time ago. He would now be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. But because of his mule-headed dishonesty I suspect that he has no chance of ever seeing that ban removed. Brian Williams made the same mistake. Instead of excusing and minimizing the problem he needed to own up and ask for forgiveness. It would be humiliating and painful, but the result would be forgiveness because people would see that he understands and admits his wrong and is sorry for it, instead of trying to excuse it or make it not so bad.
In their book, Mistakes Were Made, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson address the common human inability to see and admit wrongs. They wrote, “Most of us find it difficult, if not impossible, to say, ‘I was wrong. I made a terrible mistake.’” They go on to say, “Our efforts at self-justification are all designed to serve our need to feel good about what we have done, what we believe, and who we are.” The “admission” of Brian Williams was a classic example of exactly what they wrote about. Sadly, what Williams, Rose and so many others fail to comprehend is that the path to healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and personal growth is to openly admit our failings and wrongs. The list of well-known people who have failed to grasp this is long, including recent examples like Lance Armstrong, quarterback Tom Brady, and a list of politicians too long to write down.
A long time ago the apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins he (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The gospel of grace begins with admitting that we are in need of grace. It begins with admitting our failing and wrong. We will never accept a Savior unless we think we need one. In fact the depth of our love for God will be determined by the depth of our awareness and acknowledgement of our need for forgiveness. Spiritual health and closeness to God begins with seeing and admitting our sin.
In fact, the act of seeing and admitting our failings is also crucial to personal growth and to closeness to other people. Is it not obvious that if I don’t see a problem or a failing in me I will also not see the need to resolve the problem or grow in the area I have failed? Have you ever had a relationship with a person who could never admit he or she was at fault? Such a person is difficult to be around. In their efforts to promote and protect themselves such people drive others away. How ironic that the thing we find nearly impossible to do, to simply say, “I was wrong, it was my fault,” is the thing we most need to do to be close to God, close to other people, and to grow as a human being.