I grew up on the West Coast — shout out to my Oregon readers! — and have sports allegiances particular to California. My dad was from Oakland, so I embraced the sports teams of his day: the Raiders in football and A’s in baseball. When it came to basketball, however, I was glued to national broadcasts of Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers, the 80s powerhouse that won 5 NBA championships, and they became my team of choice for hoops. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that I even knew Oakland had an NBA team (the Golden State Warrior, a team I love to watch today because of the amazing Steph Curry!).
As a Laker fan, I’ve been spoiled with 10 championships since 1980. They won 5 in the 80s, 4 in the 00s and one in the 10s. It’s almost like being a Yankee fan in baseball — you get spoiled with championship teams and whine and complain when your team has a couple of off years. That’s me.
This year, the Lakers are making headlines for less glamorous activities than winning championships. Kobe Bryant is in his final year as a player, and is making the rounds of his farewell tour. The team has been awful, truly one of the worst in the NBA this season, while posting their worst record in Laker history. They do have some talented, up-and-coming players, though, who hold a bright future for the franchise.
One of these young players, however, has made some news lately that has been disturbing. Point guard D. Russell recorded a video of another player, N. Young, talking about his trysts with other women — while he was engaged to a prominent LA celebrity. Months after the video was taken, it mysteriously surfaced on several social media sites and, as is customary in our culture today, it went viral allowing everyone to express an opinion.
Rumors from the LA locker room indicate that Russell has been largely shut out by teammates. Initially he sat alone at meals, and other players would move away from him when he sat near them or tried to engage in conversation. There is a lot of disgust and distrust as this “prank” played out differently than Russell claims he intended. I can only imagine how fractured his friendship with Young must be. After all, how do you move forward when you don’t feel like you can trust your friends?
What got me though, was that Russell was the exclusive target of everyone’s ire. Sports radio hosts blasted him as a lousy teammate who would never again be trusted. As a 20-year-old athlete, many said his career would forever be tainted by this action. There is a lot of speculation about whether or not he will be able to recover from this complete lack of judgment.
But I’m asking this: what about the complete lack of judgment on Young’s part? If the video is accurate — if it wasn’t, I don’t think it would be receiving all of this attention! — then why aren’t we asking about whether or not we can trust Young? After all, if he is engaged to one woman, but, as the video suggests, he’s fooling around with many other women, shouldn’t his character be up for analysis, too? Revealing secrets is despicable behavior, but isn’t cheating on your spouse (or fiancé) equally worthy of public scrutiny and shame? Is revealing someone’s sexual immorality a worse public offense than the immorality itself, or a greater character flaw?
The irony of people feeling like Russell is somehow an untrustworthy man (which his actions would support!) while feeling pity for Young (a man whose actions were equally untrustworthy!) reveals something of our human nature that bothers me. The notion that a good and trustworthy friend keeps secrets about immoral and/or self-destructive behavior is troublesome, and it should be to anyone wanting to live the Overboard Life!
I do not want my friends to guard my secrets of sexual immorality or addiction or greed or [insert your sin here]. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a big difference between discretion and secret keeping. I’m not suggesting that if I confessed to an immoral relationship that I think my best friends should be broadcasting my failure on twitter, but neither should it be kept from those who are directly affected (my wife, my pastor, those who support our ministry etc…). I need my closest friends to love me too much to let me struggle with sinful and bad choices on my own. My best friends need to know that you are only as sick as your secrets, and believe that true healing comes when your life is brought into the light of God and His Word.
In Proverbs 27:6 Solomon writes, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted…” Later in that same chapter, he writes, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” A trustworthy friend isn’t one who lets you live a destructive life without saying a word, or one who promises to guard your immoral behavior as a tightly kept secret. Rather, a trustworthy friend is one who loves you too much to let you continue down a path away from God. I want friends like the ones Jesus describes in Matthew 7:5, friends who acknowledge their own brokenness and are willing to help me with mine.
Can you trust your friends? Can your friends trust you? I’m thankful for iron-sharpening friends in my life, friends who call me out in my sin, friends who encourage me through my struggles and friends who won’t keep a secret that would do more harm than good. I need these friends in my life, to become who God wants me to be, so that I’ll be ready to do what God wants me to do. I can trust my friends, can you trust yours?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life — especially your friendships! — is better on the water!