Darius Fleming is a linebacker for the New England Patriots. As his team prepares to face the Denver Broncos this Sunday for the right to play in Super Bowl 50, Fleming’s heroics off the field are making as much news as his play on it.
He was driving home from practice last week when he came upon a three-car collision. A woman was trapped in her car. “I saw her panic on her face,” Fleming said later. He kicked in the passenger side window and pulled the woman to safety, cutting his leg in the process. He needed twenty-two stitches to close the wound.
Here’s where the story takes a sad turn. The website TMZ Sports published a story claiming that officials had no record of the crash Fleming described. Critics soon began asking if he made up the story to disguise an injury or to raise his stock with the Patriots.
Then it was discovered that the local police department had, in fact, responded to an incident matching Fleming’s description. According to their report, the woman in question told an officer that a person “kicked in my window, I think he was a Patriot.” Fleming later tweeted, “People are quick to try and bring you down…so sad.”
Why are so many today more willing to believe bad news than good?
It could be that we’re disillusioned by heroes who fail. From political leaders to business executives to pastors, we’ve seen so many men and women we trusted turn out to be less moral than we thought.
Or perhaps we would rather criticize heroic people than emulate them. If we feel guilty for not measuring up to someone’s standards, our problem is resolved when we lower them to ours.
Two related principles follow.
One: Don’t measure success by popularity. If you do something worthwhile, someone will criticize you for it. Shortly after Jesus met Moses and Elijah atop the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–13), he faced the opposition of religious authorities (Matthew 19:3). It wasn’t long before the sinless Son of God was abandoned, tortured, and murdered. He warned us: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
Two: Don’t act in ways that justify your critics. Jesus noted, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake” (Matthew 5:10, my italics). A Spanish proverb suggests, “If one person calls you a donkey, think nothing of it. If three people call you a donkey, buy a saddle.” Will Rogers’s advice was worth remembering: Live in such a way that you can sell your family parrot to the town gossip.
In Nehemiah 11 we read of “mighty men of valor” who risked their lives to stay in Jerusalem as it was being rebuilt (v. 14). The rest of the nation “blessed all the men” who did this (v. 2). When we act with courage, others take note and are inspired by our sacrifice.
Abraham is another example of living with public faithfulness. Genesis 21 reports that “Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in all that you do'” (v. 22). Can people say the same of you?
As my high school minister used to say, if you’re not running against the devil, you’re probably running with him. Choose wisely.
Note: I’d like to invite you to our Spring Leadership Lecture, exploring the life and leadership of Ronald Reagan. Join the The Institute for Global Engagement, a partnership between Denison Forum and Dallas Baptist University, on Saturday, February 6 at 7:00 p.m. at Dallas Baptist University for an evening with Jim Kuhn, former Executive Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and author of Ronald Reagan in Private: A Memoir of My Years in the White House, Dale Petroskey, President of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce and former Assistant Press Secretary to President Reagan, and Dr. Jim Broaddus, President and founder of Broaddus & Associates and former Commanding Officer at Camp David during the Reagan Administration. Tickets are free, but registration is required. Please follow this link to register.