I could hardly believe my eyes when I watched the video replay of Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans stomping the head of a Dallas Cowboy lineman. To add insult to injury, the downed lineman had lost his helmet. It took 30 stitches to sew up the cuts. It was almost surreal. It’s hard to believe that even in the heat of the battle, anyone as disciplined as a professional football player could do something so dumb. And now we hear that he’s been suspended for five games, and Albert will have an uphill battle just to regain his focus and reputation.
But the only difference between Albert Haynesworth and many of us, is that his dumb deed was done for the whole world to see. You and I both know that people do dumb things every day, including you and me. The thing is, what do you do after dumb? I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and here is my suggestion for all the Dave Ravers.
After you’ve done something really, really dumb:
1. Face it. Once you’ve done something really stupid, you can make it worse by avoiding it, by acting as though it didn’t happen, and by trying to pretend that your deeds are invisible. But everyone, from your family to your friends to your co-workers, knows exactly what you have done. Too often we think we can hide things by not acknowledging them. But the truth is, most people already know. So the best thing to do is face it.
2. Confess it. Confess that you did it and that you’re sorry for it. One of the things that Albert Haynesworth did do to help redeem a really dumb situation is, after being ejected from the game, he stayed and talked to the press. He faced it and confessed it, which is the smartest thing he could’ve ever done.
3. Own it. When you do something dumb it’s tempting to try to place the blame on other people, to shift the responsibility. The smartest thing you can do after doing something dumb, is own the fact that you did it and you’re responsible for it. Facing, confessing, and taking responsibility are marks of maturity.
4. Look and learn from it. After we’ve done something really dumb we tend to want to turn away, not think about it, run away from it. But if we do that we are doomed to repeat the same behavior. Take the time to look at what you’ve done. Figure out why you did it, what your motives were and where your weaknesses are. Learn how to protect yourself from it in the future so you don’t do it again.
5. Talk about it. Gather good people around you, people who love you and will give you grace. Talk openly about what’s happened and how you truly feel about it. Don’t hide it by saying, “It’ll go away,” “I feel ok,” or “That’s just life.” Talk about the real issues with people who will give you empathy.
6. Listen to it. By that I mean listen to what your trusted friends say back to you. It will be hard to hear because they will have to say hard things, but if you’re open to hearing them, it can help you avoid tragedy in the future.
7. Guard against it. Put boundaries in your life, where other people hold you accountable and responsible, that won’t allow you to go into places where you are tempted or weak.
8. Fix it. By that I mean, change your behavior. Change the way you approach relationships and responsibilities. Change something. Just to be sorry about it doesn’t fix it. Only you can make the internal changes and bring about the disciplines that can truly change it for good.
9. Forgive yourself for it. After you’ve faced it, confessed, and owned it; after you’ve looked at it to see what you can learn from it; after you’ve talked to trusted friends and listened to their guidance; after you’ve guarded yourself against repeating it and fixed internal issues that led you to do it in the first place, forgive yourself for it. Continuing to beat yourself up, talking about “what ifs,” and living in regrets only leads to anger and the repeat of the same behavior. Ask God to forgive you, ask others to forgive you, and most of all, don’t forget to forgive yourself.
10. Remember the key. The key to turning a dumb, stupid thing into a good and positive thing is to remember that people will not remember you for the dumb thing you’ve done as much as they will remember what you did afterward.
If Albert Haynesworth takes time to face this reality, deal with the consequences and become a better, stronger man, what we will remember is how he’s redeemed himself, how he’s come back to realize his full potential; how he’s rebounded, how he has recovered. We love the underdog. We love those who come back from adversity and tragedy. So remember, it’s not the dumb thing people will remember. It’s what you do after you’ve done the dumb thing. If you do the dumb thing again, and again, and again, you will be remembered as a dumb person. But if you redeem it, you’ll be remembered as a winner.