People always talk about how great leaders face their fears and overcome. While that is true, I believe there is one thing that is even more difficult for any great leader – or anyone for that matter to do – and that is to face their shame. To face their shame after they have personally failed in character – in the moment. There was a moment after the Cavs had won the championship last night, where one player – Draymond Green from Golden State – had the courage to face his shame.
Last night LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 finals deficit and win the championship – against the Golden State Warriors who had just come off the best regular season in history, with the first unanimous season MVP – Steph Curry.
Golden State lost their composure in the last few games of the series, and Draymond Green kind of led the way in that loss of composure, leading to his suspension in game five. In fact, it was likely Green’s taunting of LeBron James that help light the competitive fire in James to do what had never been done before – coming back from a three games to one deficit.
Draymond took some cheap shots – both physically and verbally – at LeBron James throughout the series. I believe that James intentionally taunted Draymond throughout the series to try to make him lose his cool. But, at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own actions, and Draymond was responsible for his.
I remember when the Chicago Bulls finally defeated their arch-nemesis – the Detroit Pistons – to advance to the finals many years ago. Isaiah Thomas and his band of sore-losers checked out of the game with a few seconds left and went to the locker room so they didn’t have to congratulate the Bulls and watch them celebrate. To me, and to many others, that really tarnished Isaiah Thomas’ legacy, and is probably a demon that has haunted him ever since. A brief moment of character deficiency in the heat of battle – that could never be fully atoned for later.
The same moment came to Draymond Green last night. After losing the championship, Green went back to the locker room and had an opportunity to think. He heard that small voice inside of him – urging him to do the right thing. Urging him to face his shame, swallow his pride, and go back out there and congratulate LeBron. I am sure, in that moment, it was a real struggle. Fortunately for Draymond, he overcame his shame, swallowed his pride, worked his way through the pandemonium with purpose, found LeBron, gave him and big bro hug and congratulated him. Here is what Draymond had to say later about that moment:
“Like I said, I hate to lose, but you learn something from everything. I take pride in being a high-character guy, and to just leave the floor like I did, I wouldn’t have been able to — I wouldn’t have felt right about myself for a long time if I didn’t go back out there and congratulate those guys on what they accomplished. So, once I sat down for a minute, I knew that the right thing to do was to go out there and congratulate them on a great season, great series, and on winning the ring.”
Kudos to you Draymond for doing the right thing. While I am not a great professional athlete, I know all about being in a position where I need to decide if I am going to face my shame or not. They do not come in the heat of NBA championship battle – but in battles on a much smaller stage – with my wife, my kids, my coworkers, the baseball teams I coach.
I am very competitive and very type A. In the heat of the moment, I have a tendency to say things I shouldn’t say – and will later regret. I know what it’s like to hear that still small voice inside of me, urging me to get up and go make it right. It’s difficult. I am so disappointed that I failed – once again – that I want to run, hide, and hope it just goes away. It takes an enormous amount of personal courage to swallow my pride and face those moments after I blow it.
They are normally not huge, newsworthy, life-altering character deficiencies. Usually they are just related to the things I say in the heat of the moment, the way I treat people, the way I carry myself. Usually only for very short periods of time as well. Because I am normally able to control myself, I can sometimes try to excuse my harsh behavior in heated moments. I am under a lot of pressure at times. Everyone loses it every now and then.
Fortunately for me, I have some friends and people close to me who can encourage me to be the best I can be – which at times means facing my shame. Just recently I was in an urgent situation at work for a couple weeks requiring long hours, high stress, and lots of close personal interactions. I did better than I usually do, but I had several moments of not being who I want to be. I allowed myself to succumb to the heat of the moment several times when I should have been able to fight through it.
God’s small voice is always there to encourage me to own it, make it right, and find a way to do better in the future. I took the time to share my issues with a few close friends and mentors in my life. I also took the time to own up to it to the people who were directly affected by my loss of cool in the moment.
Those situations are always very uncomfortable for me – but afterwards, I always know it was the right thing to do. I wish I could say that I have always, in every situation, had the courage to face my shame – but I can’t. I have missed many opportunities in the past, and probably will in the future. But, each time, it is becoming a little easier to do. Each time I do it, I am more likely to face my shame again, and less likely to put myself in the position where I need to face my shame in the first place. Progress not perfection.
I am grateful that Draymond was able to face his shame on a national stage. I suspect he will look back at that moment, as a defining moment for him, professionally and personally. Draymond might have lost the basketball game – and a basketball national title – but he won his character back. Over the next 50 years or more of life he has left, I bet that will prove to be most valuable.