So today when I arrived at work, I discovered Jarryd Hayne had quit the NFL in a bid to play for Fiji at the Olympics.
Admirable, but I’m very disappointed. I’ll explain why in a minute, but first let me give you some background. I am not a huge NFL fan—you could count the number of games I’ve watch on your fingers and I still don’t fully understand the rules. I didn’t have a bet on Jarryd Hayne making it (in case you’re wondering, no I don’t bet). I’m not a Parramatta Eels fan discouraged that he will land at a rival club (even though I live five minutes from Parramatta stadium, I’ve always preferred AFL to Rugby League anyway).
We become armchair experts. We love to see people succeed but we love to predict their failure even more.
I’m disappointed because since his resigning, I’ve discovered I really wanted him to succeed. I needed him to succeed. Here’s why.
In a world where we are told we can do anything we want to, few of us try, less of us succeed. I did want the fairy-tale finish, the underdog-come-good story that inspires and astounds us. He could have scored a touch down or at least seen his bottomed out team taste a few victories before giving up the gridiron. Instead, he’s walking away to chase his next dream, his Olympic dream, this one apparently ticked off. After being so stubborn for so long, after denying the swirling rumours, after improving and learning and persevering he’s quit. If he couldn’t do it, after showing such commitment, what hope do the rest of us have?
But he has the right to chase his dreams. Maybe it will come out that the new coach didn’t rate him. Maybe he knows he won’t get much field time because the off-season acquisitions showed him so. He saw his days were numbered and he jumped. Maybe. And if so fair enough because if he saw the writing on the wall, he might as well leave Babylon in time. Maybe he saw the 49ers were just as bad this year and didn’t want to be part of a losing season. Maybe just didn’t fit into the coach’s game plan. If any or all of that is true, only time will tell and fair enough. The Olympic jaunt doesn’t seem certain either so it could be a long holiday for Hayne.
But that’s not what really gets me riled up.
It’s seeing media headlines saying, “it’s only been a matter of time.” In other words, they are implying that his bid to become an NFL star was doomed from the outset, we all knew it would be a challenge and now the dream has ended—“we told you so.” People are coming out from everywhere, some of the people that were saying he could make it are now criticising him.
That’s what disappoints me. In fact, it really annoys me.
Jarryd Hayne last year in his 49ers uniform. [Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]
The media covered the story blow by blow. We knew what Hayne had for breakfast, who his locker was next to, what he did in his spare time, how much improvement he’d made in the off-season—it didn’t stop. We heard from Australian experts, American experts, sports journalists, Hayne himself. We heard from everyone.
It’s a pervasive attitude in today’s society, driven by the media, embraced by the masses. We need to know everything about the latest story. We become armchair experts. We love to see people succeed but we love to predict their failure even more. We watch in fascination as celebrities get new relationships, counting on the fact that they won’t last forever, they won’t stick at it and we’ll be around to watch the train wreck.
Unfortunately, it is also an attitude that lurks in the church. In two places it raises its ugly head. Every so often one of our members or pastors will have a lapse of moral judgment, a breakdown or a break up and we’ll dissect the body with our brothers and sisters. “Well what could you expect coming from that background.” “It was only a matter of time, they weren’t truly converted you could see that.” Or, “I always thought their sermons were weak, it’s because their heart wasn’t in it.” Now the truth comes out.
We come by it honestly—it’s the way the media communicates, it’s the way society talks. But as Christians we’re called to be better. We’re warned away from gossip. And if we could see it coming then we are partially responsible. Why didn’t we support that person earlier? Why didn’t we confront them in a Biblical way, privately and humbly with prayer, before it all came to that? Why are we content to sit back and be armchair experts? Because it feels better when it happens to someone else. We don’t want to get involved in others lives because it’s messy and it can hurt and, besides, we’ve got our own problems to deal with. But it is an attitude that lacks the love of Christ.
We do the same thing when it comes to new church initiatives or new church plants. When they fall or fail we are quick to point out all the things they could have done better or why they weren’t right to begin with.
Yet all of us are so deeply afraid to fail, that we don’t try new things. We don’t go out and chase our God-given dreams. We don’t step out of our comfort zones and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Those people that try and fail are discouraged by their failure because they find no support coming from the rest of the church.
Instead failure should be a learning experience, one that brings personal and institutional growth. How often do the big TV networks release shows that bomb. But still they keep making innovative television until they have the next big hit on their hands.
I want to wish Jarryd Hayne well. I hope he finds happiness and fulfilment and can shake off all the negativity that has found him as someone trying to break out of the box. And I want to wish our church well. Let’s have the courage to try new things, to support those that don’t look or act like us or those that struggle, and to stop the analysis and the negative talk and start building God’s kingdom.
Jarrod Stackelroth is associate editor of Adventist Record.