Broken Men; Broken Heroes; Broken Cisterns

Craig Glass

19 Posts Published


November 12, 2012

“Armstrong Severs Ties with Livestrong Foundation.”

“General Petraeus: I showed extremely poor judgement.”

Those were the headlines that faced the world on CNN online this morning. Two men of formidable accomplishment, and of almost incomparably high standing, came face-to-face with their character flaws in front of the world. One, the most highly awarded cycling racer in history, the other the most revered US military leader in the past decade. Both now encountering the stunning personal fall from grace that results when the hunger for accomplishment and significance destroys one’s own sense of values.

God created the male heart with a deep longing for impact and respect: impact in a cause greater than ourselves and respect from those we care most about. Those are not sinful longings; they are God-designed. We rightly admire the man who selflessly gives his strength for a noble cause; we respect the man who consistently puts the needs of others over his own.

Despite the applause our culture gives self-absorbed businessmen, athletes and entertainers, most of us find something stomach-turning in their arrogance. That’s why we long for heroic figures we can openly admire—a man who wins his own battle with cancer and forms an organization that raises millions for the healing of others. Or a man with the intellect and relational gifts that could have led to success in any field, who instead puts his life at risk while turning around a disastrously-led war effort. And it’s why we are so disappointed when they not only betray our view of them, they betray some of our most basic common values—you don’t cheat in sports, and you don’t cheat on your wife.

What can we learn from their mistakes?

We are prone to placing our significance in the wrong things. The deeper we place our faith in accomplishments or possessions, the more likely we are to risk our own reputation in the pursuit of those empty goals. Lance Armstrong, a proponent for healthy lifestyle, exercise and charitable giving, apparently filled his own body with illegal performance-enhancing drugs for years, so he could lay on a couch and stare at the 7 jerseys he stole. General David Petraeus, a military and political giant, apparently betrayed the trust of his wife of 37 years, so he could hear another man’s wife, 20 years younger say, “You’re the bomb.”

We long for significance. That’s OK. When deceived, we believe that significance comes through fame, glory, accomplishment, wealth and praise. That’s a lie.

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” This passage is calling for those who have turned their backs on God to repent and pursue him as the source of life-giving water. The principle applies in the current case, too. Like Armstrong and Petraeus, we can be easily deceived into believing the world’s standards for impact, respect and significance. Sadly, we will eventually learn they are broken cisterns; they simply can’t hold the water we seek. Like drinking saltwater, we come away even thirstier, and we risk becoming so thirsty that we will destroy our reputations and relationships in the process.

Men, do you long for significance? Then embrace your relationship with God as your source of living water. Do you want impact? Then commit your life to something larger than your own gratification. Do you long for respect? Then put others, your wife, your family, before yourself. That’s what a real hero does.


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