My message for Lance Armstrong: It's more about trust than forgiveness

The recent furor over Lance Armstrong's "confession" to Oprah Winfrey has been analyzed every which way. People are wondering if it's appropriate and even necessary to forgive such a public figure. Media guru Phil Cooke offers his perspective on why, for Lance Armstrong anyway, it's not about forgiveness; it's about trust. As a working film producer and media consultant to some of the largest and most effective nonprofit and faith-based organizations in the world, Phil is an expert in how messaging comes across to a discerning and often critical public. 

Phil's most recent book is Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media. This article originally was published on

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Trusting God Instead of Self

In my book, Why Trust Jesus?, I refer to Augustine’s journey and wrestle with trust, but as I have been taking a course this semester at the University of Dallas with Dr. William Frank, I decided to come back and revisit that theme of trust. I still agree with what I wrote in my book, Why Trust Jesus? but I wanted share another one of my short papers that I wrote for this class. I will eventually submit a couple more papers on this Conversant blog about Augustine.  If you have read the Confessions multiple times or are brand new in studying Augustine, please write your comments and let me know what you have observed in the text.

In Book VIII of Confessions, Augustine recollects the experience of internal turmoil, indecisiveness, self -knowledge, and temptation of old memories and habits. Augustine encounters Lady Continence, urging him to trust God. Throughout this eighth book, we see multiple pictures and stories, each in its unique way, reinforcing one of this book’s main themes of trusting God rather than self. As Continence speaks, trust seems to be such a simple act, but complex emotions including fear, lust and pride are at stake. Continence challenges, Augustine, "Why do you stand on yourself, and thus stand not at all? Cast yourself on him. Have no fear. He will not draw back and let you fall. Cast yourself trustfully on him: he will receive you and he will heal you.”[1] Trusting God, specifically through Jesus Christ, was included in the final passage that brought a peaceful light streaming into Augustine’s soul. “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in strife, and envying; but put you on the Lord Jesus Chris, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscence.”[2]

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No Other Way: Lessons on trust and obedience

Lately I have been spending time in the Bible reading the story of Abraham.  I have heard and known the gist of the story of Abraham going to sacrifice his son Isaac, but in my reading I was struck by the level of faith and obedience Abraham exercised in this encounter with God.

In Genesis 22:1 God calls out to Abraham, and his response is “Here I am.”  Abraham’s response shows how ready he was to do whatever God was calling him to do.  He was fully surrendered to the call.  Such a call is reminiscent of the call of the prophet Isaiah, and Samuel as a little boy. Isaiah the prophet responded to God’s call in Isaiah 6:8 with, “Here am I.  Send me!”

As a young boy Samuel thought the call of God was the priest Eli calling out to him from another room.  Samuel goes to Eli and says, “Here I am; you called me.” (1 Sam. 3:8)  Samuel went through this routine three times before Eli recognizes it is God calling Samuel.  When Samuel hears God’s fourth call, he responds with total surrender, recognizing the voice of the Lord, by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  Without knowing what God’s call would be, Abraham, Samuel, and Isaiah are ready to do the will of the Father.

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Trust Me Because

I have a hard time trusting people. This is not new; I think I have been this way for a long time.  But it’s new to me, because I’ve just realized it.  If I meet someone at the office, or on the street, or at church, or in my neighborhood, and I’m not sure what they want from me, then I’m holding back.  They’re not getting all of me—at least not until I know what role I’m supposed to be playing in this relationship.

I should clarify.  I have a hard time trusting people that I’m not sure I can trust.  Which means that I can trust, sometimes fiercely, those who have proven to be faithful and trustworthy.  But if the track record isn’t there, I’m hesitant to let go of my heart.

I spoke with Renee Johnson, the Devotional Diva, this morning, and we got to talking about God’s faithfulness in our lives in terms of His provision.  She brought up the idea of a little kid asking his parents each day if they were going to feed him tomorrow.  She said the parents would surely say:  “Yeah…and duh.”  I love it; of course any child should trust his parents, but then the same could be said of us.

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Trusting in That Which is True

“I like to go hear my dad speak.  It makes me feel safe.”  

“What do you mean?” my wife Erin replied to this surprising comment from our nine-year-old son, Micah.  Erin had been discussing with a friend the connection between our knowledge of God and our experience of Him, when Micah cut in.  

Micah continued, “At night when I’m afraid, I think about the things Dad says about God and who He is.  It makes me feel safe.”  With that, Micah simply affirmed what the adults were discussing.  Micah has heard a lot of apologetics in his short nine years of life.  My kids attend a number of my events each year, and apologetics, theology, and philosophy are woven into our everyday conversations.  Micah is growing in his knowledge of the truth.  

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Horses and Chariots

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  Psalm 20:7

Lately, I have been reflecting much upon the idea of what I trust in.  With so many people out of work, I am finding some in my classes re-thinking why they do what they do. 

I recently had a student tell me that she had once had aspirations to be a model, and she intermingled with all the right crowd.  She became rather well known, but always had this feeling that if she didn’t say or do the right thing that she would be expelled.  She had a constant fear of failure.  She felt as if there were expectations placed upon her that she must meet or else rejection would occur.

It is so easy to put our trust in security, in a stable job, in a ministry that seems healthy, etc.  But what happens when this rug gets pulled out from under us?  What happens when we lose a job, or are asked to resign from a ministry and we feel like we don’t measure up?  

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Turn your back on Jesus (The only time it's okay)

"But when you were afraid of Nahash, the King of Ammon, you came to me (Samuel) and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. All right, here is the king you have chosen. Look him over. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request." (1 Samuel 12:12-13 NLT)

I love it. A paradigm shirt or a paradoxical meaning. In one sense are are to turn our backs on worthless things by not sinning against the Lord. Never to turn our backs on Him.

“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people (1 Samuel 12:20-22, NLT).

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