POSTED ON JUNE 16, 2010:
Humility Before Pride
A lot to be learned from the umpire's accident
Two weeks ago, Detroit Tigers' pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from throwing the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. One out away. And then the unthinkable happened.
The entire world watched that evening on every news channel as first base umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base changing Galarraga's perfect game to a mere one-hit complete game. Not quite the same. I sat at home watching the replay again and again thinking to myself, "That did not just happen."
If that wasn't crazy enough, the response by both pitcher and umpire probably shocked me even more. Put yourself in Galarraga's shoes. You just got a perfect game stolen away from you, and all he does is look sheepishly over in the direction of umpire Jim Joyce and give a wry little smile.
I'm not an angry person, but I can only imagine my reaction after such a blown call. If I were Galarraga, I would have been first in line to let Joyce know my opinion.
There's a passage in Proverbs 29:23 (NLT) that says, "Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor."
What Joyce might have lost in regards to respect as an umpire that night, he gained back 10 times over in regards to personal character. Joyce watched the replay, saw that he had blown the call and then proceeded to stand there as the majority of the Tigers organization let Joyce know what they thought of him.
Joyce just stood there and took it. After the game, instead of dodging the issue or fading into the backdrop, he went and sought out Galarraga to give him a personal apology. When Joyce issued a public statement you saw a man who was truly repentant and broken.
He just messed up and there were no take backs on this one. "I cost that kid a perfect game," Joyce said.
It was an amazing picture the following day as Galarraga handed the lineup card to Joyce who is fighting to hold back the tears. I've never seen an umpire cry. Galarraga gives Joyce a pat on the back that implies, "It's over, and you're forgiven."
It's funny because the following day I expected to hear people ripping Joyce for missing such an obvious call, and instead I listened as people praised him for his willingness to man up, admit the mistake and genuinely share his remorse.
In my opinion, Joyce gained more than he lost that day.
There is something about genuine humility that is really attractive. People are drawn to people who are willing to look smack dab in the face of disappointment or failure and be real. Joyce could have deflected the blame, avoided the situation or fallen back on his previous umpiring resume, but he didn't. He simply took it like a man.
I always look to leaders who show this pattern of humility. If you're following someone who won't admit when he or she is wrong, you might want to find someone else. To me, these kinds of people aren't playing the game or hiding behind some sort of veiled façade.
They're real people with nothing to hide. They realize that they are imperfect human begins who will inevitably make mistakes, and they're not going to pretend like they don't.
Maybe authenticity is so attractive because so many frauds exist. People who display a personal persona of being an expert or having it all together just to find out it's all a big show.
There's not a short list of examples from which we could pull from throughout the past decade. From major religious leaders to politicians to well-respected athletes, we have all sat back and listened to the gruesome details unfold of leaders caught in unimaginable scenarios.
Instead of hearing genuine heart-felt apologies, many times what we hear is more like a political statement that skirts the whole issue. We are given an apology that seems to be a result of getting caught, not sincere repentance for the action. This causes many people to look at leaders through a lens of cynicism waiting for the next giant to get chopped down by a litany of character issues, scandals, etc.
That's what I think was so appealing with this whole blown call scenario. You saw a pitcher who had every right to be ticked off who acted in genuine forgiveness. You saw an umpire miss a call that will go down in Major League Baseball history, stand up and show genuine class and humility. He wasn't just going through the motions. Anybody watching could tell this was the real thing.
I think it's out of these tough situations that real character (or lack thereof) is revealed. I look at this entire story as an amazing example of how to respond in the midst of adversity. Who would have thought the road to redemption wouldn't be a well-written statement or a properly articulated defense, it would be genuine humility?
Matt Nelson is the lead pastor at City Church.
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