Cam Newton, grow up! But only if I let you...

By now you've all seen or at least heard what happened. Cam Newton, the Carolina Panther's MVP quarterback and emotional leader, sitting sullen before a bank of hungry reporters. His answers are brief, his mood dark. Having just lost the biggest game of his career barely half an hour before, he's still trying to process it all while the world is demanding that he give a polished thesis of the results. Finally, after only a few minutes and within earshot of an uber loud opponent's comments, Newton abruptly stands and walks away from the interview, leaving the media with all sorts of ways to spin what they had just witnessed.

Yes, Newton could have responded better and most talking heads and Monday morning quarterbacks have been very critical of him for that. But of course, that's easy for us to say. When the team that I cheer for loses, I usually am not gung ho about it. In fact, I can get a little bit sullen myself and I didn't even get close to sniffing the field of play.

What I've been hearing this entire NFL season as the Carolina Panthers have shot to the top is that, while they are a solid team with legitimate talent, Cam Newton lacks maturity on the field and he can't lead them all the way. Why have people said that? Is it because he actually has fun with the game, gives balls away to little kids when he scores, and celebrates on the sidelines the success of his teammates? Heaven forbid a leader do that. Or could it be that off the field he give back to his community and hasn't been found in any police blotters? Alas, it rubs many the wrong way and there have been cries all season for this young man to grow up.

But here is the problem with that. Many want Newton to grow up, but only on their terms. 

Most leaders who find themselves in a situation like Cam Newton's - having to rebound from a major disappointment or failure - learn from these moments whether we allow them to or not. Cam has been criticized for being a poor leader, but what we don't see is what is going on behind the scenes with his coaches and teammates. You see, this young leader is surrounded by other leaders who no doubt are speaking as wise voices into his life. None of them have publicly lashed out harshly at him because, well, that's not what leaders do. And frankly, if all he did was give a less than stellar interview after a heartbreaking loss - minus any screaming or throwing of objects, which didn't happen - then the Panthers really don't have a whole lot of damage control to do.

This whole docudrama reminds me of someone else who had a much worse moment in the spotlight, yet rebounded remarkably well. The apostle Peter started the whole awful interview concept to begin with. Before his big blunder-fest, Peter was with Jesus declaring that He was indeed the Messiah (Matthew 16:6). Bravo, Peter! Way to lead the pack! 

But fast forward a short amount of time and we see Peter dropping the ball big time. Confronted by others about his association with the newly arrested Jesus, Peter denied ever knowing the guy. Not once, but three times. In fact, he became so eager to clear his name that he publicly cursed as evidence that he and Jesus were strangers. On the biggest stage of his life, and before the eyes of those who are eager to hear his side of the story, Peter blows it.

The rest of the story turns more tragic before a beautiful ending that is still being written. Jesus is crucified, which doubtless would have happened even if Peter had declared his allegiance from a mountaintop. But then, history turns on its ear as the grave that held the body of Jesus bursts forth in glorious emptiness as He conquers death and leaves His death shroud behind.

When Jesus and Peter link up later on a beach, the scene is much different. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, and three times Peter publicly declares that he does. Do you know what just occurred in that incredible moment? Redemption. Growth. Restoration of a leader.

Not to be lost in all of this is the fact that Peter was already a leader - he had been with Jesus for over three years, serving by His side. And Jesus knew that one moment of failure was not enough to define the life that He had called Peter to live. So He reminded Peter of who he was and what he was called to do, and with a newfound energy Peter took that challenge and began his path of altering the course of history for the glory of God.

True leaders grow from adversity while others fade. Peter did just that, and if you know Jesus then you can be grateful that Peter moved on after what seemed an unforgivable moment. Because that's what leaders do. 

Give Cam some time to process what he's been through. I promise that if he is the leader that I think he is and listens to the voices of truth that surround him, he will rebound well from this. Some won't accept anything that he says or does from here on out, but that's okay. Leaders will always have their share of haters and they will thrive off of their venom. As for me, I'll be watching him again next season and cheering him on, because I don't believe this leader has come close to seeing his best days yet.

1 comment:

Lori Clark said...

Oh Sterl, hope you are right. Clearly, he has not made some ideal choices of late (this, and the whole unwed fatherhood thing if definitely not ideal). I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now...since that IS what Christ gave to Peter, and ME.:)

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